Clan Scott by Keith Scott
                          A Condensed History of Clan Scott
Associated FAQs: CLAN CHIEF: His Grace, The Duke of Buccleuch (pron. Buck-loo) and Queensberry CREST: A stag trippant, proper, attired and unguled, or. (And …. for the  rest of us; a stag,  walking with foreleg raised, naturally coloured, antlered and hoofed, gold …. to translate the heraldic terms) MOTTO: Amo (I love [fr. Latin]) GAELIC NAME: Scot, Scotach RALLYING CRY: A Bellandean (or Bellendean). Bellendean, in Roxburghshire, was the central gathering place of Clan Scott. The "a" has caused a lot of speculation but really who cares if it comes from the Gaelic "an" (meaning of), the Anglic "at" or the French "à" (meaning to). It was the rallying cry and the Borderers knew well what it meant: "let's get together, there's clan business afoot!" PLANT: Blaeberry; The plant has long been used in Scotland. In addition to the nutrient-rich berries providing food, blaeberry has been used as a herbal remedy for digestive problems and diabetes and to strengthen capillaries in the circulatory system. The juice of the berries has also been used as a dye, providing a blue colour for both linen and paper. TARTAN: There are a dozen tartans associated with the clan, the most widely used, the Red and Green, are shown above. SEPTS: the following names are associated with the Clan as septs: Laidlaw, Langlands, Geddes, and Napier as well as place names used instead of Scott such as Harden, Balwearie, and Buccleuch. As well, spelling changes over time and location have increased the list. TRADITIONAL LOCATION: the Middle March of the Borders, in West Teviotdale, Ewesdale, Eskdale and Liddesdale. ORIGIN: It is hard to have any certainty about this since the Borders were a mix of Britons, Angles, Danes as well as the Scots that Malcolm II encouraged to settle. Also, who can know what progeny Roman soldiers left behind? My own theory which, like all others, is unprovable but does offer some logic is that the term "filius scot" applied to early names meant just that, it denoted that the bearer was indeed a son of one of those Scots Malcolm settled in the region to lessen the Anglo-Saxon influence.
               The outlined area in these maps show where the border clans held sway. The Scotts were one of those border clan that came to prominence during the fifteenth and sixteen centuries. By then the independence of Scotland  had become assured but there continued to be patchy conflict across the border. Generally the rulers of each nation preferred to avoid open warfare, England because of its ambitions  elsewhere and Scotland for the opportunity to reap the economic benefits of peace. Peace though was not something the Borderers welcomed, on either side. The Borderland is a rugged landscape of moors and mountains hewn by ancient glaciers. Swift  rivers bisect stretches of heathland (or moss as it was known in that area). Passage through this natural maze was difficult and confusing. Cut by rivers and streams, forced to detour by bogs and thrust aside by rocky boulder-strewn hills, this land did not welcome any unfamiliar with it’s ways. Sparsely populated, having borne the brunt of successive invasions going in both directions, its people had, of necessity, become somewhat willful and distrustful of the national authority. They were an independent lot, used to looking after themselves when the world turned against them. Inured to suffering and danger, self- sufficient and wise in the ways of war, they were unruly subjects for their nation’s sovereigns and all too ready to strike out for their own profit. The years of warfare had generated local animosities, not just with families on the other side but within their own national communities. In fact many names in the borders were to be found on both sides, a result of the shifting alliances and pressures of the uncertain times. Feuds were common and raiding (or reiving as it was known) had become a way of life. For three centuries the Borders was the scene of widespread rustling, raiding and theft with all the attendant spilling of blood. Alliances and feuds were common and ever-changing. So common were the depredations that the Reivers gave the words bereavement and blackmail to the English language. {As a word of explanation, blackmail as it was practiced by the Border Reivers is better known today as the paying of “Protection” money} The notable Border clans included, beside the Scotts, the Armstrongs, Elliots, Humes, Johnstones, Kerrs and Maxwells. Of those families or clans with both Scottish and English branches, the chief amongst them were the Bells, Grahams, Halls and Nixons. The English families most noted for their contribution to the Border strife numbered Charlton, Fenwick, Forster, Heatherington, Musgrave, Robson and Storey. These are the names that made their mark on the Border and, one way or another, became part of the history of the Scott clan. This is especially true of the Kerrs with whom the Scotts had several famous feuds and rapproachments. After the Scoti left Ireland and established themselves in Scotland from about 500, they gradually absorbed the Picts, Britons and Angles to establish the land we now know as Scotland. After Maclcolm II’s victory at Carham, he encouraged some of his Scots soldiers to settle the March so as to have a reliable buffer between his newly conquered Anglian subjects and their kin in Northumbria. The development of the clan might be traced back to these “filii Scoti” (or sons of the Scots), of whom the earliest mention was of “Uchtredus filius Scoti” who witnessed charters 1107-1128. Against this hypothesis is an argument raised that Uchtred (Uchtredus is the Latinised form) was of Anglo-Saxon origin. But since many others of proven Celtic ancestry also bore that name (i.e. Uchtred, Lord of Galloway) I don’t see it as of any more significance than the popularity of the Spanish name Linda amongst Finns. Uchtredus had two sons, Richard, ancestor of the Scotts of Buccleuch and Sir Micheal ancestor of the Scotts of Balweary. A descendant of this line, Sir Michael who died circa 1235 was the famous "Wizard"; one of the most learned men of his time. Another Sir Michael was a staunch supporter of Bruce and later of David II. He was killed fighting at Durham in 1346 leaving two sons. From the line of Harden originating in the 14th century, sprang one of Scotland's greatest men: Sir Walter Scott of Abbotsford. From the 1450 until 1603, the Scotts were at the height of their powers and could produce 1,000 men in battle. In an era of constant feud and war, they generally gained at the expense of other families. That such lawlessness was allowed to exist can be laid to an official if unacknowledged desire to allow a buffer to exist that served as a first line of defence against invasion. Left to their own devises, the Borderers honed their natural raiding skills. After peace was imposed on the region, many went to the continent to fight. The moss troopers of the Borders were considered to be the best irregular cavalry in Europe. When raiding, or riding, as it was termed, the Reivers rode these hardy nags or ponies renowned for the ability to pick their way over boggy moss or rocky hill. Their riders generally wore light armour such as brigandines (a doublet into which small plates of steel were stitched or riveted)  and a metal helmet; hence their nickname, the “steel bonnets”. They were armed with a lance and small shield and sometimes also with a bow or the light crossbow or "latch". Later on in their history they would carry one or more pistols. They invariably  carried a sword and dirk as well. They may not have owned much but they did not stint on their horses and weapons. These were life and death; they provided protection but, more importantly, put food on their table. The border land was a harsh environment and, even as sparsely populated as it was, was not a land of miilk and honey. Raiding supplemented the meager existence the land provided. Their weapons and horses had another purpose too. War came all-too-often to these border lands. It was then that their nation’s rulers changed their attitude of benign neglect to urgent demand for their service. When they fought as part of an English or Scottish army, Borderers proved difficult to control as many had relatives on both sides of the border, despite laws against marriage across the border. They often would claim to be either nationality, describing themselves as “Scottish if forced, English at will and a Reiver by grace of blood”. They were badly-behaved in camp, always ready to plunder, known for disobeying orders and their loyalty was always open to question. At battles, such as Ancrum Moor in 1545, borderers changed sides in mid-battle to curry favour with the likely victors and, at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547, William Patten, an observer, noticed that the Scottish and English borderers were talking to each other in the midst of battle and, on being spotted, put on a show of fighting. After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the clan system in the borders was doomed as it would be later in the Highlands. Frontier warfare could not be tolerated in the centre of a united realm! From this time, the Buccleuchs became great nobles rather than clan chiefs. In 1600, the Lordship of Scott of Buccleuch was created and raised to an earldom in 1619. Anne, the daughter of the second Earl, Francis, who died without a male heir, married James, Duke of Monmouth, bastard son of Charles II. James was created Duke of Buccleuch. Although he was subsequently beheaded and discredited for rebelling against his uncle James VII, the title passed to their eldest son. The 3rd Duke succeeded to the Douglas Dukedom of Queensberry. These pages are not the medium to present a full history of our clan but some tales need to be told and some explanations given to properly appreciate our clan’s history. The Scott’s strength lay in the Middle March, which as Fraser mentions in his history, The Steel Bonnets, “contained as choice a collection of ruffians as ever was seen in one section”. These included the Kerrs and Elliots as well as the Scotts. Two of the most bloody feuds in the Borders were those between the Scotts and the Kerrs and the Scotts and the Elliots. To help regulate the neighbourhood, the authorities in Edinburgh would usually select a local leader as warden, a post often held by Scotts. A similar approach was taken by the English crown and so thieves and murderers policed thieves and murderers, a situation entirely to the Borderers liking but one that ensured the lawlessness would continue. Only in extreme cases was royal authority brought to bear. Raiding could be mounted in small companies as spur of the moment forays or large well-plotted assaults. In 1532, Walter Scott of Buccleuch led 3,000 lances into England. Of course any raid could be followed by pursuit (or trods as they were named) and the raiders would resort to ambush or by taking hidden ways to escape. Another inevitable consequence of the raid was the reprisal and hence the cycle repeated. Raiding didn’t always mean cross-border forays and as often as not, the raiders would include members of families on opposite sides of the border. Borderers found more in common with each other than with the nations from whence they came and often closed ranks to the outside authorities The Scotts did not always come off best, a case in point being the raid on Jedburgh. In February 1572, the Scotts joined with the Kerrs of Ferniehurst to seize the town of Jedburgh, one of the major Scottish Border towns. The attack proved abortive as the Kerrs of Cessford joined with the burgers and a force of musketeers and riders sent from Edinburgh proved too much a mouthful. Any writing about the Scotts on the border would not be complete without the tale of Scott of Buccleuch and the rescue of Kinmont Willie. This worthy had been take illegally by the English and imprisoned in Carlisle castle. Rebuffed in his official attempts to gain his release, Buccleuch determined to avenge the affront and free the prisoner. To this end he assembled a group of eighty of the toughest Border rivers saying that if eighty could not do it, eight hundred would fare no better. He had help also from the English side, from the cross-pattern of alliances, marriages and blood- kinships that spanned the border. Armed with the intelligence his help provided and the Border spirit that no difficulty daunted, he set about s task. That he actually succeeded and freed a prisoner from one of the most secure locations in England became the inspiration for the ballad of Kinmont Willie.
No history of the Borders can be complete without mention of the one essential to the reiver, his horse. It provided him with the mobility required for successful raiding for war or plunder. Their land demanded a sure-footed hardy breed that could thrive where others would wilt, much like the borderer himself. The border horses were small, 13-15 hands, mixes of Galloway ponies and Hobelars.
L'Histoire du clan en Francais The Ballad of Kinmount Willie To Return to my Home Page