Most clan and family societies proudly display their crests, which are based on the Coat of Arms of their current or past chief. However, the full Coats of Arms of these chiefs are the specific property of the current chief. They may not be used by any other individual or organization, without express permission.
The use of Coats of Arms (also called heraldic achievements) dates back to the 12th century when they were used by knights for identification. The number and variety led to great confusion. This led to the development of an official class of “heralds,” who regulated the registration of “heraldic achievements” or "armorial bearings." The monarch would grant these Coats of Arms and allowed them to be inherited by the first sons of each family. In order to better regulate armorial bearings, the Scottish Parliament established the office of the “office of lyoun king of armes and his brether herauldis” in the Lyon King of Arms Act of 1592.
Today, anyone can create and register his or her own personal or corporate arms. In fact at least seven clan and family societies have registered their corporate arms.
The first clan and family society to be granted its own Coat of Arms was the Buchanan Society of Glasgow, Scotland. This society was founded in 1725 as a charitable organization. The City of Glasgow granted a seal of Cause (charter) in 1752.
Originally, the organization used the Armorial Bearings of Buchanan of that Ilk as the arms of the Society. However, the group successfully petitioned Lord Lyon King of Arms in 1917 for its own corporate Coat of Arms. Although supporters (the falcons on either side of the shield) are not usually granted to Societies, Lord Lyon granted their use in this case.
In 1990, the Court of Lord Lyon granted the Murray Clan Society its own armorial ensign or heraldic arms. The Society arms are described on the 14th page of the 75th Volume of the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland.
In 1997, Dr. Johnnie Little, founder of the Clan Little Society of North America, secured arms for the Society. The design included four linked red rings on a gold background, representing the interlocked branches of the Society. The winged stirrup represents the prowess of the border reivers as light horsemen. The "silver" (white) St. Andrew's Cross on a black background is common to all Border Little arms, personal or corporate.
Also in 1997, the Clan MacNicol Federation was granted a coat of arms by The Court of the Lord Lyon. The grant describes the Federation coat of arms as “Per saltaire Or and Gules a hawk's head erased in chief of the Last and a sheath of four spears, points award, in base Proper, over all a hurt charged with a compass rose of eight point argent."
In 2000, the International Clan MacFarlane Society received its corporate Grant of Arms from the Court of the Lord Lyon.
In 2006, the Court of the Lord Lyon granted corporate arms to the Clan Currie Society, also known as the Learned Kindred of Currie. The same year, the Court granted personal arms to Robert Currie, the Commander of the Name and Arms of Currie.
In 2012, the Clan Crawford Association was issued Letters Patent from the Court of the Lord Lyon granting a coat of arms that integrates the designs of the two main branches of the House, Crawfordjohn and Dalmagregan.
Also in 2012, Clan Thom(p)son International received its Coat of Arms. The Ensigns Armorial were entered on the 61st page of the 90th volume of the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland.
The most recent Society to receive its Coat of Arms was the Clan Chattan Association . On August 4, 2022, the Lord Lyon presented the Letters Patent to President, John Mackintosh of Mackintosh at the Annual General Meeting in Inverness. (in photograph) The symbols included Scottish Wildcats, whortleberry, boxwood, and the motto ‘Together, Stronger’ in Gaelic.
The Court of the Lord Lyon specifically states that “Corporate Bodies such as local authorities, corporations, companies, limited companies, partnerships, schools or any other formally established group of people banded together for a common purpose may apply for Arms.” Instructions are provided on the Court of the Lord Lyon, specifically in “Information Leaflet No. 4 – Petition of Arms.”
Learn more at https://courtofthelordlyon.scot