William Craig of
Craigfintray, Aberdeenshire, had two sons, the younger of whom was killed at the Battle of
Flodden in 1513. His other son William (1501-90) became minister of Holyrood and assisted
in the drawing up of the National Covenant in 1580. Sir Thomas Craig (1538-1608) a direct
descendant of the elder son of William, acquired the estate of Riccarton, Edinburgh.
The surname Craig is one of great
antiquity. It originated in the area of the Picts, the eastern portion of
Scotland, where they (Picts) were allowed to settle on condition that all
their Kings agree to marry an Irish Princess. The Picts are considered to
be among the most ancient of the founding races of Scotland. Bede, a
respected historian (born 673), estimated that they came to Scotland some
fifteen centuries BC, from France. From some early documents researched
such as the Inquisito, 1120 AD., the Black Book of the
Exchequer, and others, records of the name Craig were produced in
Aberdeenshire where they were seated from very ancient times, some say
well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at
Hastings in 1066.
The surname Craig was found in many
different forms and spellings, From time to time it was spelt Craig,
Craigh, Creag, Creagh, some of these are still used today. The name Craig
emerged as a Clan and developed in their original territories of Aberdeen
where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity, seated at
Craigfintray Castle in Kildrummie in that Shire. This Northern Clan is
frequently associated with the Gordons, but their first records appear in
Ayershire and Lanarkshire to the south about 1180. There were two other
branches, one of which is listed separately, the other was closely
associated with the Huntly clan. Several of the Clan rendered homage to
King Edward I of England on his brief conquest of Scotland in 1296. By
1300 they had moved to Aberdeen and Forfar, John Craig brought out his
whole Clan (est. 1,000 warriors) at the battle of Culblean in 1335. They
were granted Estircrag in 1440, where this important branch developed in
Berwick. Several of the Clan were elected to Scottish Parliament. The Clan
seat is at Riccarton, the last known Craig Chief was Thomas Craig of
Riccarton who died March 13, 1823. He left no known male heirs.
Among the oldest Chiefs of Clan Craig
researched is William Craig of Craigfintray, Co. Aberdeen who would have
been born sometime in the latter half of the fifteenth century. Next in
succession came Alexander Craig of Craigfintray; next came William Craig
of Craigfintray, afterwards Craigston, Co. Aberdeen; next was Sir Thomas
Craig, b. 1538, d. 1608; married Helen Heriot. Sir Thomas was a great
institutional writer on Scottish feudal law, his work Jus Feudale
is still referred to by lawyers today.
Thomas' son, Sir James Craig of Craig
Castle and Craigston of Co. Aberdeen, became one of the Scottish
undertakers of the Ulster Plantation (N. Ireland) in 1610. It has been
determined that if a person's Craig forefathers came to America from N.
Ireland, there is a good chance that he was a descendant of this James.
This would be especially true if he or she emigrated before the
Revolutionary War and a few years thereafter. His descendant, James Craig,
became the first Prime Minister of Ireland in 1921, having been an
organizer of the Ulster Volunteer Force in the struggle against Home Rule.
He was then elevated to the Peerage, taking the title ‘Viscount
Craigavon’. The new town of Craigavon in County Armagh was named after
The Craig Coat of Arms needs three
ingredients to constitute it; metal, colors and fur: silver (or the color
white) signifies serenity and nobility; the fur, ermine, depicts dignity
and nobility; and the dark band across the middle represents repentance or
vengeance. The most ancient version has been found in the Armorer's Book.
The Craig crest, which includes a chevalier
on horseback grasping a broken lance in bend Proper, is representative of
a group of 'broken men' from other clans who had sought, and were granted,
the protection of the clan. There are two Clan mottoes, the most common
being in French - "J’ai Bonne Esperance" - ‘I have Good Hope’,
the other in Latin "Vive Deo et Vives" - ‘Live in God and You
The Craig tartan, of which there are also
two, developed from two different sources. One as the result of the Earl
of Mar allowing the Craigs to add the color red to his own black and white
tartan. The other traditional one, reported to have been designed circa
1957 by Dgn. MacGregor-Hastie, was formulated from the colors of rocks,
(Crag) from which the name Craig originated, hence the colors gray, green,
black, yellow, and orange on the tartan.
In order to address some frequently asked questions as to whether Craig
was a recognized Scottish Clan, I began doing some research. Recently I
was referred by the Chief of Clan Russell to a book called the "General
Armory of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales" by Sir Bernard
Burke, Ulster King of Arms (1848). ‘Ulster King of Arms’ is one of the
persons in the UK responsible for the legal governance of Arms and those
allowed to bear them. The book contains a detailed description of Heraldic
history, the use and science of Arms, and a list of Verified Arms, by
family, with exact descriptions of each family’s Arms, including
To quote Sir Bernard, "The office of 'King of Arms' is of feudal
origin, and was one of the attributes of the pomp and splendor annexed to
feudal sovereignty. There is no trace of such an institution anterior to
the Norman invasion ... The primary duty of the English King of Arms and
Heralds, at the time of their establishment, corresponded with that of the
Heralds of foreign princes; they carried and delivered all messages of
importance to allies, enemies, and rebels, gave solemn defiances and the
denunciations of war, summoned cities, castles, etc. to surrender; made
propositions of peace, truce, and accommodation, and offered mercy and
pardon to rebellious subjects and insurgents...
They had also the cognizance, inspection, marshalling, and regulation
of coats of armour, and the several marks of distinction connected with
them; they received all foreign nobility and others coming to England to
perform feats of arms and gave safe conduct to them from their arrival to
the time of their leaving the kingdom; assisted at tilts, tournaments, and
feats of arms, and attended to the honor and reputation of military
persons, and to the safety, welfare, and defense of the King and his
...Family Arms being the general criterion which distinguished the
gentleman from the peasant, no persons were suffered to enter the lists to
tourney or exercise any feats of arms unless they could to the
satisfaction of the kings of arms prove themselves to be gentleman of '
Coat Armour'. And the ancient gentry took particular care to have their
arms embroidered on their common-wearing over-coats and would not suffer
any person of the lower class, although become rich, to use such tokens of
gentle birth and distinction ..."
The Heraldic Authority for England and Wales was delegated by the Crown
to four persons, ‘Earl Marshall’ (Duke of Norfolk) and three Kings of
Arms, ‘Garter’, ‘Clarenceux’ and ‘Norboy’; for Scotland it is
Lord Lyon King of Arms (dating back at least to 1371); and in Ireland, ‘Ulster
King of Arms’ (title created in the reign of Edward VI).
In feudal times the cloth coats embroidered with Arms, crests etc. were
used primarily over suits or armor to identify the combatants since
helmets covered their faces. They were also worn at tournaments for the
same reason and so the Heralds could announce who was tilting whom.
The use of such Armorial Bearings dates back at least to 1200, the
oldest known ‘Roll of Arms’ was made between 1240 and 1245.
The hereditary right to bear arms as a symbol of one’s station in
life was hotly contested and defended in courts of law and on the field of
honor. During the reign of Henry V, a proclamation was made prohibiting
arms to be worn by any who could not demonstrate an original and valid
right, excepting only those who had borne arms at the battle of Angincourt.
Abuses and disputes over these rights gave rise in the early part of the
sixteenth century to the ‘Heralds Visitations’, when official
delegations traveled the realm to compile a true list of verified Grantees
and Arms. The disturbed affairs in Ireland during this time made ‘Visitations’
difficult at best and only 3 are recorded from there in the early 1600’s.
Having said all this, I now refer to pages 238 and 239 of the "General
Armory" where four separate listings are found for ‘Craig,’
two having the Motto "Vive Deo et Vives" and two having "J’ai
Bon Esperance". Their appearance in this book clearly establishes
that they survived the challenge of the ‘Visitations’ and are passed
down from ancient times.
Then, from Webster’s New World Dictionary, I quote the definition of
"offspring, children, tribe <L. planta, offshoot], 1. An
early form of social group, as in the Scottish Highlands, composed of
several families claiming descent from a common ancestor, bearing the same
family name and following the same chieftain."
Considering the above it would seem there can be no doubt ‘Craig’
was a recognized clan in antiquity, albeit a smaller one compared to the
Campbells, the Gordons, and others. Many questions of course remain, such
as, what were the different branches, how do they tie together with each
other and with the Irish side, etc. I will continue my research and will
be grateful for input from any clansmen with information to share.
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