Clan Armigers - Information on this page

You will find information about the following topics on this page:

Journey to Arms - Stephen Buchanan's experience in petitioning the Lord Lyon for matriculation of his ancestor's coat of arms

A Call to Arms - You, the Clan, and the Clan Chief - An open letter to all Clan members with surname Buchanan

What is an Armigerous Clan?  - Information about the status of the clan

Clan Buchanan Armigers - Information about the currently known Clan Armigers

Clan Buchanan Scottish Armigers to 1907 recogised by Lyon Court - Information about the Coats of Arms registered with Lyon Court

Journey to Arms by Stephen Buchanan (21 May 2012)

The life we want for ourselves is buoyed upon the confluence of relentless streams of circumstance, providence and personal endeavour. Underpinning this river of life, like a gigantic aquifer, is a vast wealth of history and heritage. In my journey, I have chosen to tap this spring and with it have come some droplets of disappointments but mostly a font, nay, a cascade of colour and satisfaction.

About two and a half years ago, not long after I met Malcolm Buchanan of Canberra, he spoke to me about Scottish armigers (people who have a Scottish coat of arms), the renaissance of the Clan Buchanan chief, and a number of other things which I considered total nonsense. How could this otherwise smart, high achieving, self-made person spend any of his time seriously thinking about these anachronisms? In any case, he listened patiently to my concerns, shared his ideas and slowly I came to reverse my opinion about the importance of Scottish armigers and their role in the health of a vital 21st Century clan. I considered petitioning at this time for a grant of Scottish arms but the cost seemed a little prohibitive. So, being an armiger was for other Buchanans, not for me.
I started researching my family tree with little more than the names of my father and grandfather. It was just the challenge to know one’s roots that drove my research. I started with Queensland vital records, National Library of Australia newspaper archives, etc to establish the family tree in Australia; and then Scotland’s People,, etc to establish the tree in Scotland back to the late 1700s; however, finding Malcolm Gray’s Buchanan of that Ilk and Collaterals family tree on was most exciting as it seemed to contain one of my ancestors. The next leap forward in my journey was finding on Claude Buchanan’s Buchanan Heraldry website a Scottish armiger named MacIver Buchanan, and noticing that the place name Gartacharne appeared in MacIver’s lineage, my research, and Buchanan of that Ilk and Collaterals. (I, like many others, initially confused the farm of Gartacharne, Stirlingshire, and the nearby village of Gartocharn, Dunbartonshire. With the help of Carol-Ann Hemfrey, a Buchanan historian at Drymen, I was able to clearly identify the Gartacharne farm story and what I believed was my family’s history there.)
Once I determined that MacIver Buchanan had matriculated his arms from that of an ancestor (I didn’t know which ancestor at this stage), that his grandfather, Walter Buchanan, appeared to also be my great-great-great-great-grandfather, and that I could get the actual records to prove this, the prospect of becoming a Scottish armiger started to have credibility. (Arms matriculated from those of an ancestor are less expensive than a new grant of Scottish arms.) Still, there was the nagging concern of whether my research was accurate - there was no story in my family of Gartacharne – in fact there were no stories about Scotland. This is in contrast to Angus Carrick-Buchanan who, when he petitioned about 20 years ago to matriculate the arms of an ancestor, knew he had armigers in his lineage and could prove the lineage.
I then pored over the Court of the Lord Lyon (the heraldry court of Scotland) web page, thoroughly scoped out the process and wrote the Court an initial letter. I drafted and sporadically redrafted my petition, asking Malcolm Buchanan, Claude Buchanan and a lawyer friend for comments. I also occasionally emailed one of the Lyon Court staff, Bruce Gorie, who refused to spoon-feed me but still I gleaned some very helpful information. I progressively procured birth and marriage certificates to substantiate my petition, first Australian and then Scottish. Unexpectedly, I won tickets for two to fly to Scotland and the idea of personally presenting my petition to the Lyon Court on St Andrew’s Day 2010 took shape (to this day I still don’t remember buying a ticket at the Bundanoon Highland Games in the Scottish Australian Heritage Council raffle). My wife, Carolyn, and I reviewed and adjusted our finances so I could quickly purchase all the remaining certificates. Eventually it was compiled and, on an unseasonably snowy Edinburgh morning, delivered as planned to the Lyon Court where I finally met Bruce Gorie and the Lyon Clerk and Keeper of Records, Elizabeth Roads, MVO.
Nine-months after my visit to the Lyon Court, with the arrival of a letter in mid-August 2011 from the Lord Lyon King of Arms (the sole judge of the heraldry court of Scotland, W. David H. Sellar, Esq) approving my petition, my link to the main Buchanan stem (chiefly line) via the Buchanans of Leny seemed firmly established in Scottish law, and I experienced a profound sense of place in a clan history that stretched back 900 years to the Clan’s founder, Anselan Buey O’Kyan. There remained a few administrative matters to be resolved but I felt deep in my bones that I was well over the hump. 
Negotiation with the Lord Lyon continued intermittently for five-months as we crafted a mutually acceptable crest and motto.
Unlike English coats of arms where the motto is not part of the grant from the Collage of Arms (the heraldry court of England) and can be changed at the discretion of the armiger, the motto on Scottish arms is part of the grant, and is negotiated with and approved by the Lord Lyon. Some Buchanan armigers use the Chief’s motto, CLARIOR HINC HONOS (usually translated from the Latin as ‘Brighter hence the honour.’) Others choose the maxim by which they live their life. I wanted to find a middle ground. My motto would be my reply to the Chief’s motto. As my descendants would have to live with my choice, I needed something that spoke of my and their deepest values. We chose SOILLEIRE ANN AN CRIOSD (usually translated from the Scot’s Gaelic as ‘Brightest in Christ’).
The crest, likewise, can be a perpetuation of the Chief’s, but again I wanted something that captured the multi-generational experience of military service to our country of birth, Australia, by my father, my elder son and myself. As we served in combat units, a weapon was considered appropriate. However, modern weapons like rifles are not usually acceptable for Scottish arms and as I wanted to continue the Australian theme, a traditional Australian aboriginal weapon was preferred over a sword or Lochaber axe. I discussed a number of options with aboriginal men who were serving (or had recently served) in the Australian Defence Force and for whom I had much respect, like WO1 Colin Watego. I decided upon a black (aboriginal) hand holding an unadorned asymmetrical fighting boomerang as a simple, strong and distinctive crest, and one that respectfully depicted a traditional Australian warrior. 
In late 2011, Lord Lyon proposed to draft a Warrant to the Lyon Clerk to prepare the Letters of Patent for the granting and production of my arms. In early 2012, I received an email from the Court asking for a little more information to fortify a particular link in my lineage. Despite a flurry of research into a diminishing pool of Scottish sources; I had no more to offer. Shortly after, I received a letter from the Lord Lyon advising that the matriculation of arms could not proceed but that he would entertain a new grant of arms.  Frankly, I was stupefied with indignation and frustration. After a little self-pity, I realised that I had a rich heritage as both a Buchanan and an Australian of Scottish Highland heritage. I put the disappointment behind me and accepted the Lord Lyon’s gracious offer.
Previously, I needed to only concern myself with the motto and crest as the shield of the arms was prescribed by the Lord Lyon as he heraldically illustrated my lineage. Now the shield was almost a blank canvas. I elected to retain the distinctive Buchanan black lion rampant and border on a field of gold but wanted to craft something that spoke of my Australian heritage. Again in consultation with the family, we came up with the idea of a Buchanan in the Australian outback under the Southern Cross (two strong and emotive Australian images). This translated to an enarched base of Tenné (burnt orange or ochre), upon which the lion appears to stand, and in the top right-hand corner is the Southern Cross to which the lion appears to gaze.
Two and a half years ago becoming a Scottish armiger was not a consideration, yet by the grace of God and with the help of Malcolm Buchanan, many others in the Clan Buchanan Society International, and the wider Clan, it is now occurring. Becoming a Scottish armiger provides me the opportunity to be recognised as a Clan representative in Scottish law; to help establish a council of armigers to conduct Clan business; to facilitate the clan-folk to explore and enjoy their unique Buchanan, Highland, Scottish heritage; and in due course, to help re-establish the Clan leader.
I would encourage all clan-folk, who are able, to seriously consider becoming a Scottish armiger. Regardless of where you are from, if you think I can help you in this endeavour, you are welcome contact me.
Steve Buchanan
Sydney, Australia
CBSI, Oceania
A Call to Arms - You, the Clan, and the Clan Chief

An important open letter to all clan folk whose principle surname is Buchanan.

Dear Clan folk,
I am writing to bring to your attention to what I believe to be a pivotal phase in the history of Clan Buchanan, being the potential reestablishment of the Clan leader after a 300 year hiatus. The Heraldry Court of Scotland (the Court of the Lord Lyon) advises that we have a chance of doing this if we can find sufficient clan folk who have a personal Scottish coat of arms (Armigers). The Clan needs its armigers in order to select a Clan Commander who will champion the search for the rightful hereditary Clan Chief. I have set out below why I believe this is important and what I have done about this.

Our clan was born out of the resistance of the Celtic folk of Ulster and Scotland to the Danish / Viking occupation of these regions in the 1000s. The lands known as ‘Buchanan’ were granted by Malcolm II of Scotland to Anselan O’Kyan (an Ulster prince), whose heirs became our Clan’s chiefly line. Sometime around the 1200s our forebears, high and low born, including the Chief, adopted the region’s name as their family name, thus the Buchanan Clan was born.

While our forebears fought bravely in many battles for our Chief, we were and are much more than warriors. In the annals of the Clan we have every class and trade: nobles, paupers, writers, wheelwrights, philosophers, maltmen, homemakers, traders, entrepreneurs, sailors, miners, weavers, doctors, churchmen, presidents, ambassadors, judges, used car salesmen, and almost any occupation you can imagine. (We even had a Robert Sylvester Buchanan who was selected to be an astronaut, though as far as I know he never went into outer space.) You and I as contemporary clan folk bring honour or otherwise on ourselves, our family and our Clan by what we do and omit to do.

The Clan Chief
We are presently missing one very important occupation – the Clan Chief. According to the Lyon Court we have been without a formally recognised Chief since the late 1600s. (The mathematicians among us will realise we have been without a chief for about as long as we had one.) Some authorities claim that the nobility bestowed on a clan chief was extended to his clan, a noble corporation. Presently, the Lyon Court recognises Clan Buchanan as a clan who formerly had a chief, an armigerous clan. (The Lyon Court doesn’t use the terms ‘noble corporation’ and ‘armigerous clan’ but the terms are otherwise in common use.)

Because the undifferenced coat of arms of Buchanan is the personal property of the Chief, under Scottish law its use by others (including a Clan Commander) is illegal and liable to prosecution. Even when not under Scottish jurisdiction, many clan folk who know and respect Scottish traditions will take umbrage at its misuse. The appropriate symbol for most clan folk to show their clan allegiance and pride is the Clan crest.

Clan Commander
The Chief’s office need not remain dormant and some consider it a matter of honour to re-establish the Chief. In the absence of a proven hereditary Chief, the Lyon Court has established procedures for a clan Family Convention (Derbhfine) to select a Commander.

A Commander’s duties are the same as those of a Chief, except the Commander has the additional duty to harness the Clan to search for the rightful heir. There are many issues and permutations but the most pressing matter before Clan Buchanan can conduct a Derbhfine is the raising of 10 or more armigers who broadly represent the Clan (ie, we can’t have 10 armigers who are siblings and 1st or 2nd cousins to comprise the Derbhfine). See the Lyon Court webpage for more details:

Who can become Clan Armigers
An armiger may be male or female, of any race or religion and can come from any country, but not all clan folk can become armigers. (The impediments to becoming an armiger are often those of heredity, place of residence or finances, and are not a negative reflection on the ineligible clan folk.) For those who can, becoming an armiger is an honourable service they can give to the Clan.

Why become a Clan Armiger
We live in very individualistic societies, where our worth is measured by our own achievements (academic, financial, heroic, etc) and relatives beyond our immediate family are largely irrelevant or are a curiosity. However, petitioning to matriculate the Arms of an ancestor or a new grant of Arms and becoming an Arms bearer of our clan:

  • 1.            Strongly identifies you with the Clan worldwide
  • 2.            Enshrines your ancient and dignified heritage in Scottish law
  • 3.            Captures a cultural heritage that can be handed down to your children, especially to first-born sons
  • 4.            Embodies family history in a romantic but tangible way by means of the actual personal coat of arms
  • 5.            Is an honourable service to the Clan.
  • How to become a Clan Armiger
    One can either matriculate the arms of an ancestor or seek a grant of arms for themselves or an ancestor.

    a.       If you can prove your patrilineal descent (father to child) from a known Buchanan armiger, you can petition to matriculate arms for yourself. The arms will be uniquely yours with Lyon Court specified differences from your ancestors arms (differenced). (Given the increased ease of genealogical research using online tools, this is a very real option for many.)

    b.       Alternatively, you can apply for a grant of arms (a new coat of arms) for yourself or a Buchanan ancestor. Again these are all unique (Arms are personal property).

    (1)     If you live in a Commonwealth country which doesn’t have its own heraldry court you can petition for a grant of arms for yourself or a Buchanan ancestor. (Sorry to our non-Scottish UK, Canadian and South African Commonwealth clan folk, you have your own national heraldry courts and regrettably the arms you might petition from your national heraldry court have no standing in a Scottish Derbhfine.)

    (2)     If you live in a non-Commonwealth country (eg, USA) or a Commonwealth country with its own heraldry court (eg, Canada), you can apply for a grant of arms for a Buchanan ancestor who you can prove lived in Scotland. You can then matriculate off this coat of arms.

    See the Lyon Court webpage for more details:

    The main reasons clan folk might apply for a grant of arms for an ancestor is to honour a key ancestor, to overcome some of the residency issues and to reduce expenses. Where two or more siblings or cousins want Scottish arms, there is a financial incentive in pooling to pay for a grant for an ancestor and then each matriculating from the grant - a matriculation is significantly less expensive than a grant. Using the present schedule of fees from the Lyon Court and assuming one wanted a shield and crest for the current generation, a grant for an ancestor (shield only) and two matriculations (shield and crest) (£1,344 + £867 + £867 = £3,078) is significantly less expensive than two grants (shield and crest) (£2,081 + £2,081= £4162). Note that the granted arms will also be inherited by the successive oldest surviving son for three generation but should then be matriculated anew.

    See the Lyon Court webpage for more details:

    My Journey
    In my own case, I knew that as a ‘Buchanan’ my ancestry was Scottish but my father focussed on our Australianness rather than anything Scottish so I never wore a kilt, knew details of my heritage or was particularly exposed to Scottish things like bagpipes, haggis, Highland Games, etc, though we did eat a lot of rolled oats porridge. About 10 years ago, my wife (also a Buchanan by birth) and I decided to celebrate our Scottish heritage and now my boys (young men actually) and I regularly wear kilts to both Scottish events (Scottish Gatherings, Highland Games, Kirk’n o’ the Tartan, etc) and other significant and ordinary events (weddings, graduations, funerals, dances, formal dinners, etc), and participate in a wide range of other Scottish activities. My wife, adult daughter and I even sing in a Scottish Gaelic choir. (As a career soldier, I’m sufficiently confident in who I am to wear a kilt and sing in a choir.) The celebration of my heritage has added a deep and rewarding dimension to my and my family’s lives.

    As I’ve researched my family tree, I slowly came to realise that due to the circumstances of my ancestors, I am entitled to petition the Lord Lyon to matriculate the Arms of an Ancestor. I have been intermittently researching and gathering evidence for my petition for 8 months and submitted my petition late last year. The ancestor whose arms I am matriculating from was 18 generations back but I have been able to link into the evidence of a 1st cousin 4 times removed who also matriculated arms in 1938 so I needed to only prove 6 generations. If granted, the Arms will be similar to my ancestor’s Arms (Buchanan of Leny) but the Lyon Court will specify changes to differentiate mine from theirs.

    Your Next Steps
    I believe we are on the cusp of re-establishing our Clan’s leadership and if you want to take the next step beyond celebrating your heritage to becoming an armiger of and for Clan Buchanan, let me know. My experience may help you research and gather evidence, and prepare your petition for the Lyon Court.

    Finding out if you are entitled to matriculate the Arms of an ancestor can be a rewarding challenge, both establishing your family tree and finding out if anyone in the paternal line has Arms. If you cannot establish a link to an existing grant of Arms, you may be able to petition for a grant of Arms for yourself or a Buchanan ancestor.

    Steve Buchanan
    Sydney, Australia
    scabd_buchanan at

    25 February 2011

    What is an Armigerous Clan?

    Clan Buchanan is an Armigerous Clan.

     A clan with a chief is a 'noble corporation' under Scottish law.

    Armigerous refers to the potential ability to bear a coat of arms.

    A clan which no longer has a chief is called armigerous because the undifferentiated coat of arms of the chief exist but cannot be used until a new chief is recognized by Lord Lyon.

    It does not mean that the clan has recognized armigers (members of the clan that have Coats of Arms granted by Lord Lyon).

    An armigerous clan is a Scottish clan, family or name which is registered with the Court of the Lord Lyon and once had a chief who bore undifferenced arms, but does not have a chief currently recognized as such by Lyon Court. Before 1745 all chiefs had arms; however, not all of these are recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, which was only established in 1672.

    In Scottish heraldry undifferenced arms are only held by chiefs or heads of clans, families, or names. A clan is considered a "noble incorporation" because a clan chief is a title of honour in Scotland and the chief confers his or her noble status onto the clan. Because armigerous clans do not have such chiefs, they are not recognized as noble communities and have no legal standing under Scots law.


    Clan Buchanan Armigers

    We have been in touch with most of the known (at November 2010) clan armigers (or a member of their family):

    * Michael Carrick-Buchanan of Drumpellier and Corsewall (Leny cadet), Scotland (Angus Carrick-Buchanan)

    * Claude Buchanan (Drummakill cadet), New Zealand

    * Mark Sean Buchanan (Drummakill cadet), New Zealand

    * Ian Gray-Buchanan (Carbeth cadet), Australia

    * The Clan Buchanan Society International is recognized by Lord Lyon as an indeterminate cadet as it has a grant of Arms from Lord Lyon

    * The Buchanan Society is recognized by Lord Lyon as an indeterminate cadet as it has a grant of Arms from Lord Lyon.

    We are very keen to hear from descendants of the cadet branches (see Clan Buchanan/Clan Names menu above).

    If you know of someone that thinks that they are descended from the Clan Buchanan chief or from an old Scottish or Irish family line please send me an email at [email protected].

    Malcolm Buchanan
    November 2010

    Clan Buchanan Scottish Armigers to 1907 recogised by Lyon Court

    Buchanan armigers on the Public Register of Scottish Arms up to 1907as listed on Scotland's People website:

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