Antiquarians learn about the Court of the Lord Lyon
Arran Antiquarians were honoured to have Dr Joseph Morrow, Lord Lyon King of Arms for Scotland, as their speaker for August writes Norma Davidson.
Dr Morrow is a Knight of St John, a Queen’s Counsel and a doctor of law. Appointed to office in January 2014 by HM the Queen, he was sworn in before the Lord President of the Court of Session a month later.
He is a member of the Faculty of Advocates and became a QC in 2015. In 2008 he was appointed President of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland.
He has served as the Queen’s Commissioner for the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland and as a first-tier Tribunal judge (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) and as President of the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland.
In addition to his judicial duties he has held the position of Labour councillor for a Dundee ward, was Vice Lord Lieutenant of the City of Dundee and Depute Lord Provost. He is incumbent of the Chapel of Glamis Castle, a past Chancellor of the Diocese of Brechin, an Honorary Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee and 108th Grand Master of the Grand Lodge for Scotland.
He admitted a passion for heraldry dating back to childhood when being taken to church twice on Sundays he passed his time during long sermons by studying the heraldry around the church.
Dr Morrow has a long connection with Arran having visited for the last 35 years to enjoy the serenity and peace here.
The court of the Lord Lyon has its own official arms and very impressive they are too. They are very colourful, red, blues and gold including the Saltire, lions rampant, thistles, the Imperial Crown, a shield, chain of office and crossed batons denoting authority.
The ancient office of Lord Lyon was created in 1313 and he represented the King and was basically the King’s messenger. In 1867 officers of arms were appointed. They have a wonderful ceremonial tabard which bears the Royal arms. The present officers include lawyers, heraldic experts and historians.
Only last week the court had its first public sitting outside of Edinburgh conducting their business in Glasgow. It is the last court of heraldry in the world who sit regularly. The English one sat last in 1947.
One of Dr Morrow’s predecessors impounded a British Airways jet because of inappropriate use of the Royal arms on the tail fins. He himself is presently dealing with football clubs misusing arms on their strips.
The Lord Lyon has wonderful judicial robes modelled on 250-year-old robes of the Scottish Parliament well decorated with ermine. He did have a crown which, over time, was lost to be replaced by subscriptions from the USA, but this can only be worn at coronations.
Arms used to be seen and recognised in battle and tournaments and the earliest example was between 1174-1204 on a Charter of Melrose.
The Public Registers record the arms of an individual, also their seals.
He encouraged us to look around and we would see heraldry all around, on buildings, in churches, on china and pointed out that Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is very rich in heraldry. The Merkat Cross which bears many examples is the location where Lord Lyon dissolves parliament. He showed and explained several coats of arms including the Earl of Errol, the Lord High Constable, the Edinburgh University Foundation, North Ayrshire Council, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Argyll and the Isles and possibly the most familiar – Caledonian MacBrayne.
A family cannot have arms but an individual can. Any ‘good and virtuous’ resident of Scotland can apply for arms.
When granted, the Letter Patent is handwritten on vellum which apparently is a very durable material and costs very little to maintain. The process of applying will cost you thousands of pounds.
He briefly touched on the Feudal Baronies which are now an anachronism and meaningless but still some people will pay up to £100,000 in the case of Bannockburn.
The Antiquarians were shown local arms, Largs, Rothesay, the Dukes of Hamilton and the Duke of Montrose.
It was a fascinating subject and a wonderful talk from the charming Dr Morrow.
The group’s next meeting will be in Brodick Hall on Monday September 19 when Angela Cassels will talk about the research she and Jim have done into their families’ military history. The meeting begins at 2pm and visitors are always welcome.
Liz Dale will run a field trip to Tormore on Saturday September 17. Please meet at King’s Caves car park in Machrie at 11.30am.
Bring a packed lunch and wear stout footwear. The field trip will last two to three hours and, again, visitors are welcome. Liz’s field trips are always good fun, well interspersed with her local knowledge.
Dr Joseph Morrow, Lord Lyon King of Arms for Scotland, is pictured with the antiquarian chairman and secretary.