Scottish and Irish arms
June 2008 / June 2016

Scottish and Irish arms : overview

THIS overview contains a description of the arms, places them in their historical context, and offers some comments about claiming the arms.

Description of the arms

The most widely used Halliday/Haliday/Holliday arms in Scotland and Ireland and, to a lesser extent, England, display a sword rising out of a crescent, with the Scottish flag in the canton. The crest is usually a boar's head. The motto is usually "Virtute parta". There have also been other arms associated with Hallidays in Scotland, i.e. those on the gravestone in Canonbie churchyard, and those at Tulliebole Castle, but they appear to be of historical interest only.

Meaning ? — What does the design of the shield mean? To quote a former Lord Lyon King of Arms, Sir James Balfour Paul : "If we knew the origin of the older coats we should probably find that there was a reason for all the charges on them, that none had been assigned on mere arbitrary grounds. In the majority of cases these reasons are now lost." BPHS

The inclusion of the Scottish flag is unusual. It's been described as a "reward",NSH but for what? Various suggestions have been made, but none seems conclusive.

The existence of several different versions of the arms can be attributed to the law passed in 1672 that coats of arms must be differenced (modified) for the use of younger sons and junior branches of a family. In some, the colour of the sword has been changed, in others the field (background) has been changed. In others, additional elements such as a chief or a star have been added.

Crest — The boar's head which forms the crest is a common charge in Scottish heraldry.BPHS

Motto — The motto "Virtute parta" has been translated as "produced by virtue". In Scotland, a motto is officially recorded with the arms, and therefore may not be changed at will as it may in England and Ireland.

Historical context

The origins of the arms appear to be unknown. They have evidently been in existence for around four hundred and fifty years, although they have not necessarily been in continuous use for all that time. More than half the known users of the arms lived or live outside Scotland : some in England, others in Ireland, some in north America.

16th century — The earliest reference to the arms appears to be in Workman's Manuscript (c1565), where the arms are captioned 'Halyday', apparently without any further details.SSA

An Act of Parliament passed in 1592 restricted the use of coats of arms to noblemen, barons, and gentlemen, and prohibited "the common sort of people" from bearing them.LKA 1592

17th century — In 1608, Sir John Halliday had his arms sculpted above the entrance to Tulliebole Castle (Kinross-shire).RCAHMS, SSA They depicted a chevron between three cinquefoils. By the time of his death in 1619, however, Sir John appears to have adopted the arms depicting the sword, crescent, and canton, and the boar's head crest.SSA These have become known in reference books as the 'Halliday of Tulliebole' arms.

In 1672, an Act of Parliament made it illegal to use arms in Scotland unless they had been registered ('matriculated') by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.LKA 1672 Younger sons' arms had to be differenced before they were registered. This law is still in force.

18th century — Although matriculation of arms had been compulsory in Scotland since 1672, it was apparently not until the 1770s that any Halliday registered his arms. Nevertheless, the arms are reported to be depicted on the gravestone of John Halliday of Castlemains (Kirkcudbright), who died in 1756, which suggests that he had used them in his lifetime.HBHG

Three Hallidays matriculated arms in the space of ten years : Robert Douglas Halliday in 1775;BPO John Delap Halliday in 1779;BPO and Dame Henrietta Halliday in 1785.BPO All three arms were differenced. How these three Hallidays were related to other is not clear.

The arms had evidently spread beyond Scotland. Robert lived on the Isle of St Croix – is this in Nova Scotia? John came from a branch of the family in Antigua and later settled in England. Interestingly, while he used the differenced arms which he had matriculated, he used a different crest and motto. His brother Francis also used his arms, crest and motto.OWIB None of this, presumably, would have been allowed if they had lived in Scotland.

In Ireland, Dr Alexander Haliday (with one 'l') of Belfast is known to have used a bookplate displaying the arms in 1753.HBHG, HFB So are other Irish Halidays in the second half of the century.HFB Their claim to the arms is unclear as, according to the Dictionary of National Biography, both Alexander's father Samuel (1685-1729) and grandfather Samuel (1637-1724) were Irish-born.

In England, in addition to John Delap Halliday, there was Dumfries-born Thomas Halliday, who settled in Surrey. He is reported to have borne a differenced version of the arms, but the origins of this version are unclear.JWC

It is believed that the arms were also used in Virginia in north America. According to Holliday (2004), "the only tangible evidence of colonial period use of Holliday arms in Virginia was of the Scottish arms on armorial bookplates".HBHG

19th century — In 1823, Dumfries-born Sir Andrew Halliday had the arms granted to him, by the College of Arms in London rather than by the Lord Lyon.RGA The arms were, nevertheless, differenced, and quite extensively too. English law, however, does not require descendants to re-register the arms in their own names or to have them further differenced.

Thirty-five years later, in Ireland, Alexander Haliday of Antrim obtained a confirmation of the arms from the Ulster King of Arms.NLI The confirmation was not only to himself but also to other descendants of his father, namely his brother William and his sister Hortense. To qualify for a confirmation, Alexander would have had to prove that the arms had been in use in his family for at least three generations and at least a hundred years. This would have taken the arms back to his great-uncle, after whom he was evidently named.

In Ireland, as in England, it is not necessary for the arms to be re-registered and differenced for each member of the family.

In 1872, William Cosway of Devonshire changed his surname to 'Halliday' by Royal Licence. It appears that he then assumed the undifferenced Halliday of Tulliebole arms, without any authority.

20th century — The only 20th-century example of the arms that I've found belonged to Major Ruthven Halliday of Chicklade (Wiltshire), who was descended from a Dumfries Halliday who had moved to England in the 19th century. His arms, which appear to have been granted by the College of Arms, were differenced by adding two more crescents.BLG 1969

21st century — Early in the century, in 2006, Dr William Holliday of Texas, USA, matriculated the Halliday of Tulliebole arms with the Lord Lyon, based on a pedigree showing his descent from the Kirkcudbright branch of the family.LEM The arms were duly differenced for him. Reportedly, the matriculation was deregistered in 2012.HS

In 2012, Anthony Halliday of Canada matriculated the arms with the Lord Lyon.AH

Claim to the arms

Who today can rightfully claim any of these arms? Only the heraldry authorities can say for certain. The authority for Scotland is the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The College of Arms is the authority for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Chief Herald of Ireland is the authority for the Republic of Ireland. Their websites contain general guidelines about inheritance, and proving claims to historical arms.

The principles by which arms are inherited differ from country to country.

Scotland — Only the eldest son has an automatic right to inherit his father's arms. Younger sons who want to inherit the arms must have them re-registered ('matriculated') in their own names by the Lord Lyon. The arms will be differenced according to a system that has developed over the centuries.

It is illegal to use arms in Scotland if they have not been matriculated. An exception is made for sons while they are still part of their father's household.

Daughters do not pass arms on to their children unless they have matriculated them in their own names, or they are heraldic heiresses, i.e. their fathers have died and they have no brothers or brother's children to continue the arms.

England and Ireland — Unlike the situation in Scotland, all sons inherit their father's arms equally. Daughters have courtesy use of the arms during their lifetimes, but do not transmit them to their children unless they are heraldic heiresses.

Neither England nor Ireland requires younger sons to matriculate their inherited arms, or to have them differenced. Because of this, the versions of the Halliday arms registered in those countries can be inherited without differencing whereas, in Scotland where they originated, they have to be differenced.

Proving descent from a Halliday/Holliday armiger — To establish a clear right to inherit any of the historical Halliday arms, one would need to compile a pedigree showing descent from a lawful owner of one of those arms. Each generation (except one's father and grandfather) would need to be verified by means of documents such as birth, baptism, or marriage records. The services of a professional genealogist might be needed for such a project.

Who were the lawful owners of the historical Halliday arms? The official view in Scotland, Ireland, and England is that only people on record at the relevant heraldry authority are the lawful owners of arms.

This website has been created for interest and entertainment. It is unofficial and not connected with, or endorsed by, any authority or organisation. It is the product of the webmaster's research, and the content is his copyright. So are the illustrations on this page. Additional information, and correction of errors, will be welcome.
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