An­ti­quar­i­ans learn about the Court of the Lord Lyon

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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.

Ju­di­cial robes

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.

Next meet­ing

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.

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