Having worked at Macdonald Sporrans for well over a year it has quickly become apparent to me how much people value their Scottish roots. People as far flung as the USA, Canada and Australia feel a very strong link to their Scottish heritage and take great pride in discovering their family history. It is only natural then that people are keen to show off their heritage in the form of tartans and clan crest items.
Most people are aware of what a tartan is, but what is a clan crest? And why are they so important? A clan crest is a heraldic badge worn to show allegiance to an individual or membership in a specific Scottish clan. Clan crests consist of a crest and a motto/slogan and because these elements are heraldic property they are protected by law in Scotland.
Clan crests may be worn by anyone; however, those who are not entitled to the heraldic elements within, wear a crest surrounded by a strap and buckle. Those who own the heraldic elements within, may wear a crest surrounded by a plain circlet. The strap and buckle represents that the wearer is a follower of the individual who owns the crest and motto.
It is said that the traditional clan crest style is derived from Scotland’s turbulent past, where it was the custom for Clan Chiefs to give their followers a metal plate of their crest; to be worn as a badge of allegiance which fastened to their clothing with a strap and buckle. When not in use the belt was coiled around the crest and this convention is used in the clan crest badges of today.
It is common even nowadays for people to display their Scottish heritage through the means of clan crests. The most obvious way to do this is as part of a kilt outfit, but smaller clan crest items can be found such as belt buckles, cap badges, sgian dubhs and sporrans.
As many people are unsure of their heritage and which clan they belong to, this subject can sometimes be quite confusing. Luckily there are many websites out there dedicated to the topic and we would recommend checking out The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs website for further information. They even have a handy clan search tool!
We hope you found this blog informative and please feel free to share your clan history with us on Twitter, Facebook or the comments below.
FYI In case anyone wondered, it seems my family name Shand is a sept of the Mackintosh clan, who played a large role in the Battle of Bannockburn!