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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
IX. The Gaels


century, and held the hereditary office of standard-bearer, or bannerman, of Scotland since the days of Alexander III (1249—1286).

In earlier times the leadership of the van of battle, which the Bannerman represented, was held by the King’s royal Cineal Conaill cousins, the earls of Fife, chiefs of Clan MacDuff (as descendants of the last abbot of Dunkeld, also first earl of Fife). Taking into account the fact that the Scrymgeours arose in Cupar, the original demesne of the House of Fife, and also that they long held land in the barony of Dunkeld, it seems likely that the Scrymgeours inherited the sacred office of bannerman as a younger branch of the House of Fife. This would be consistent with the common practice of delegating hereditary duties to younger branches of the parent clan. This is supported by the arms of the family, which has the Royal "Lyon" of the House of Fife with the colors reversed (a common early method of marking cadetship or "cadency" in heraldry) and with the addition of a bent or "used" sword, as per the name. The name Scrymgeour is from the Old French "eskermisor"—"sword fighter" —a descriptive name which indicates that the original bearer was a skirmisher, that is, one who fights in the preliminary encounters of two opposing forces.

The task of the Bannerman was to carry the vexillum regi urn—the Royal lion-banner of Scotland—in the van of battle. This was an ancient function, for before heraldry came into general use in the latter part of the twelfth century, the armies of the kings of Albany had been led into battle by an abbot carrying a sacred reliquary, or vexillum. The specific reliquaries concerned here were, naturally, those connected with St. Columba: St. Columba’s crozier, which was used in this capacity at least as late as 918, but more especially the "Brecbennoch" or "Battle-Victory" (Gaelic "Cath-Buaidh") reliquary of St. Columba (St. Andrew was the patron saint of the kingdom, that of Albany and its later acquisitions, but the Royal House had by this time long since regained its position as the chief family of the Columban Kindred in Scotland, and so St. Columba was of course its patron saint).

The first-mentioned reliquary probably went back to Iona and then Ireland with the final exodus of the Columban clergy from Dunkeld, but the Brecbennoch stayed in the possession of the now unrivaled Royal representatives of the Cineal Connaill in Scotland, the House of Fife and the line of David I. In 1211 William the Lion gave custody of the Brecbennoch to the monks of his newly founded monastery at Arbroath, granting along with it the lands of Forglen "given to God and to St. Columba and to the Brecbennoch" in return for service to the Royal army with the Brecbennoch. After doing such service, presumably with the Brecbennoch, at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 the Abbot of Arbroath granted hereditary custody of the Brecbennoch to Malcolm de Monymusk (an estate in Aberdeenshire) early in 1315 "to be held by the said Malcolm and his heirs on condition that he and they shall perform in our name the service in the king’s army which pertains to the Brecbennoch,


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