Many people who come to Culloden are interested in their own family history and the ties they may have with Scottish culture. One of the most popular questions we get asked is for information about clans and visitors own family connections to their clan heritage.
One area of interest is the mottos of clans. Every clan has their own motto and whilst some have simple or clear meanings, others can be more complicated, and some have great stories connected to them. Today we thought we’d pick a few of our favourite clan mottos and stories to share with you.
Firstly, the motto of Clan MacGillivray which is ‘Touch not this cat’. The MacGillivray motto has existed for some 300 years or more and in its full version is ‘Touch not the cat bot a glove.’ Often people can mistake this as meaning ‘don’t touch the cat unless you are wearing a glove’, however, the true interpretation is ‘touch not the cat without a glove’. A cat is said to be without a glove when its claws are extended. Therefore the motto is a warning to others not to tackle a MacGillivray when their claws are showing.
One of the most famous mottos now is that of the Fraser of Lovat clan, which is ‘Je suis prest’, or ‘I am ready’ in English, and is well known thanks to the popularity of Outlander. The motto is in French as the clan originates from France. Indeed some believe the name Fraser stems from the French word ‘Fraisier’ meaning strawberry which incidentally is the clans plant badge.
For a good story regarding mottos it is nice to look at Clan Brodie. The Brodie clan, whose home, Brodie Castle, is just down the road from Culloden, has the simple motto ‘Unite’ which is nice and easy to understand. When you visit the castle you can enter the dining room with its gorgeous plaster work ceiling and see the elegant dining set. Each piece of the set has the clan motto delicately portrayed in its centre right underneath the coat of arms. Unfortunately though on two of the pieces the word has been misspelled and instead of ‘unite’ the pieces read ‘untie’. An unfortunate mistake to make. With just two letters the creators have completely altered the meaning of the ancient clans motto. Now of course it serves as an excellent story for the tour guides!
These are only a few example of clan mottos but each clan has its own and during fighting these may have been yelled out by the fighting soldiers to strike fear into the opposition and rally the clans to join together to fight.
We hope you enjoyed this very short look at mottos and as always please like, share, tweet, comment and let us know of any stories you’d like to know more about.
All the best, K & D