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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 following was provided by Michael A. Craig

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 him.

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 Shall Live’.

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.

Craig - a Clan?
By Michael A. Craig

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 mottoes.

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 realms. ...

...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 ‘Clan’:

"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.

Great hopes,




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