Title: Re:ad hoc Derbhfine
Posted by: Anthony Maxwell
Date: 20 March 2002
The Lord Lyon Has just issued new guidelines for the holding of a
Guidelines for the holding of a derbhfine meeting
There are generally five circumstances in which a meeting of the
derbhfine might take place.
(1) Where the appointment of a Clan Commander is sought.
(2) Where a blood link to a past Chief is very likely but is not
conclusively proved and it is wished to propose a particular person to
be confirmed as Chief.
(3) Where the main line of descent from a past Chief has died out and it
is wished to confirm the Representer of another line as Chief.
(4) Where no identifiable descendant from the last known Chief can be
found and it is wished to propose a particular person to be confirmed as
(5) Where a "clan" which has never had a Chief seeks the appointment of
Various factors need to be considered in relation to each of these. In
the case of (1) the genealogy of the applicant is not particularly
relevant. What is important is that the applicant has the support of the
In the case of (2) and (3) it is more likely that there will not be a
derbhfine but that Lyon will be asked to confirm the applicant as Chief
for aught yet seen, but the clan may wish the derbhfine to meet. It is
important that there should be no known likelihood of a competing claim.
In the cases of (2), (3) and (4) it is important that there should be
general support from the members of the clan and also that sufficient
time has been allowed for any competing claims to emerge and to be dealt
In the case of (5) there is also the question of whether the group
should be accorded the status of a clan.
Two factors have applied in the past. Firstly there has been a rule of
thumb that a 20 year period should elapse between the appointment of a
Commander and the meeting of the derbhfine to consider a proposal for a
Chief. Secondly the traditional function of a meeting of the derbhfine
is a forum to discuss what to do rather than to consider a specific
proposal. Both of these factors require further consideration.
The 20 year period between the appointment of a Commander and a proposal
for Chief has not always been applied in the past but has been
frequently referred to in discussions with applicants. Many existing
Commanders understand it to apply to them. Twenty years seems a very
long time in an age of rapid communication. Five years is probably too
short to allow a Commander to establish himself, get an organisation
going, make himself known to clan members worldwide and allow clan
members to judge whether the Commander is the right person for the job.
But 10 years should be sufficient time for all this to happen. Twenty
years seems unreasonably long.
It will be important, if an application is made for a Commander to be
considered for Chief, to know what activities the Commander has
undertaken since his appointment and whether there is any
dissatisfaction with him as well as whether any alternative candidate
may have emerged. In judging whether the members of the clan are
satisfied it will be important to bear in mind that in a number of cases
the Commander may have pushed himself forward and may have discouraged
other candidates from coming forward as alternatives.
The traditional role of a meeting of the derbhfine as a forum for
general discussion is probably now out of date. At a time when most clan
members would have been in Scotland, would have known a large proportion
of their kinsmen and would have found it relatively easy to meet
together, it made sense to consider calling the principal men in a clan
together for a general discussion. But now that clan members are
scattered all over the world, exist often in substantial numbers and
know only relatively few of their kinsmen, it is difficult for members
of the derbhfine to be confident that they know the wishes of the clan
members in general. It is also unreasonable to expect people to travel
from distant parts of the world to a clan meeting without their being
given a clear idea of why they are being asked to attend and it is
desirable for those who are unable to attend to be able to make their
views known. It therefore seems sensible for the role of a meeting of
the derbhfine to change to one which has a specific clear purpose and
also for a means to be provided for those unable to attend to make known
Procedure to be followed in future
(1) In future there will normally be a minimum period of 10 years
between the appointment of a
Commander and an application for a person to be considered for Chief. A
Commander will normally be appointed for a 5 year period and
re-appointment for a further 5 years will be considered by Lyon without
any further derbhfine being required. Where a 20 year period has been
either set down or advised in the past, this will no longer apply.
(2) The following rules must be observed in the conduct of any meeting
of the derbhfine. These are designed to ensure that members of a clan
generally are aware of what is proposed and have an opportunity to make
their views known.
(i) One of HM Officers of Arms, or a person approved by Lyon, must be
appointed to supervise the meeting of the derbhfine. This must be
arranged before any notice under (iv) below. The fee charged by the
supervising officer will be a matter for the clan.
(ii)The supervising officer's role is to act as an impartial Chairman
and to make an objective report to Lyon.
(iii) The members of the derbhfine will be as provided for in Lyon's
1992 Rules a copy of which is annexed. However these new Rules will also
provide a means whereby non-armigerous and non-landed clan members can
express their views. The supervising officer and the derbhfine will be
made aware of these views but the derbhfine will not be bound by them.
(iv) Notice of any meeting of the derbhfine, in a form approved by the
supervising officer, must be given not less than 6 months prior to the
date set for the meeting, in all clan and clan association journals or
newsletters and on any clan or clan association website.
(v) The notice must state the date and place of the meeting and the
purpose for which it is to be held including the name(s) of any
candidate(s) to be proposed for appointment. it must give the name and
address of the supervising officer to whom further enquiries are to be
(vi) A further notice must be given not less than 6 weeks prior to the
meeting by public advertisement in a national newspaper circulating in
Scotland and the same notice must also be posted on the clan and clan
(vii) The notices referred to in (vi) must give details of the
arrangements for views to be submitted by non-armigerous and non-landed
clan members. The supervising officer will require to decide how this is
to be done but it should probably involve a paper containing the name,
address and signature of the sender being sent to the supervising
officer. It is recognised that the collection of views of clan members
is not an exact science. It is not the intention that the supervising
officer should have to decide whether a person who submits a view is or
is not a member of the clan. The purpose of this mechanism is to provide
a means for the rank and file to express their views. The derbhfine and
Lyon will have to decide what weight to give to them.
(viii) At the meeting of the derbhfine the supervising officer will,
prior to any decision being taken, inform the members of the derbhfine
of the -result of any views by non-armigerous and non-landed members
which have been submitted under (vii) above.
(ix) Non-members of the derbhfine may attend and speak but will leave
the meeting before any decisions are taken and members of the derbhfine
itself will be the only people to take part in any decision of the
(x) The report submitted to Lyon by the supervising officer will include
details of the various steps taken under the above procedure and in
particular, in addition to the decision and views of the derbhfine, will
refer to (and if need be comment on) the views of the non-members of the
derbhfine as expressed under (vii). The report will be confidential to
Lyon and should contain such information as the supervising officer
regards as being of importance to Lyon in reaching a decision.
AD HOC DERBHFINE
1. As from 1st May 1992 where a Chiefship or Commandership is to be
determined by means of an ad hoc derbhfine it will be necessary for any
candidate selected and recommended to the Lord Lyon King of Arms to have
been domiciled and habitually resident in Scotland for a period of three
years before such recommendation and submission and he, or she, must be
so domiciled or resident at the time recommendation and submission is
2. To avoid any possibility of last minute packing of an ad hoc
derbhfine I have decided that before any person can take part in a
derbhfine a Warrant authorising the preparation of Letters Patent of
Arms, or an Interlocutor authorising Matriculation of Arms, must have
been signed in favour of such a person at least a year and a day before
they take part in the derbhfine.
3. It should be borne in mind that membership of the derbhfine shall
consist of those who are in right of a Scottish Coat of Arms
(matriculated within the last three generations to cover the holding of
the Armorial Bearings on apparency), or owning at least a small holding
of land outwith a Burgh but which is not a mere building plot. The owner
of the Armorial Bearings, or of the land, will not require to be
domiciled/resident in Scotland.
4. It is emphasised that the Armorial Bearings must be Scottish and that
those with a Scottish surname, but with Arms granted by the English
Kings of Arms, or by the Heraldic Authority of any other State, will not
5. With regard to those with compound surnames, it is the last name of
the compound surname that will determine the Family or Clan to which the
owner of the compound surname belongs (see Findings in Fact (14) and
(15) and Findings in Law (2) and (3) in the Petition of Sir Hugh Vere
Huntly Duff Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Baronet, 1965 - Scots Law Times - Lyon
Court Reports p.3).
6. Eldest sons of armigers who have a right to the Arms differenced by a
label of three points may not vote. The position is frequently found
where a tutor or guardian has matriculated Arms for a younger
pupil/minor child and in such circumstances such tutor or guardian will
not be ill a position to record a vote on behalf of their child. Keeping
in mind the terms and provisions of 'The Age of legal Capacity
(Scotland) Act 1991' the vote of an armigerous child will be receivable
on that child attaining 16 years of age. If Armorial Bearings have been
matriculated for such a child for a period of a year and a day before
the sixteenth birthday that child will be in a position to vote on
attaining the age of 16 years.
7. Lyon will only receive a nomination following a derbhfine provided
that derbhfine has been supervised by an Officer of Arms or by another
person approved by Lyon who will submit to Lyon a Report on the conduct
of the proceedings.
8. Where a person has been appointed a Commander for a period of time
following a recommendation from an ad hoc derbhfine such a person may be
re-selected under the old regulations. It would seem unreasonable for
such people to have to seek re-submission under the new rules.