The armorial gravestones found at Dunlichity are a very sound foundation for the design of the Chiefly arms matriculated in 1967, since they represent a design actually in use by MacGillivrays in Strathnairn as early as the 18th century. However, this is not the earliest use of arms by MacGillivrays on record. Armorial seals on documents dating back at least two centuries earlier are quite different in design and have their own story to tell.

Conjectural drawing of seal of Farquhar of Dunmaglass, 1549
Farquhar Seal 1549
The earliest instance of a MacGillivray chief using armorial bearings is found in the form of a seal of wax and resin attached to a document among the early papers of the Mackintosh chiefs. This was the customary way of "signing" documents at the time. On a letter of revision for the property of Dalmigavie is the seal shown at left, attributed by the legend upon it to "farlandi makinkier"--or "Farquhar McConquhy McAnkier," the patronymic name of Farquhar MacGillivray, 1st of Dunmaglass. The document is dated 19 September 1549. (The drawing at left and others on this page were done not from eyewitness but from the descriptions in heraldic blazon given in Scottish Armorial Seals by William Rae MacDonald, 1904.)
Even earlier than this are arms, shown below, depicted on seals attributed to two sons of Farquhar, Duncan and Alexander, on deeds connected with the Campbells of Cawdor and the lands of Dunmaglass and dated 1535.

Arms from seals of Duncan and Alexander, sons of Farquhar of Dunmaglass, 1535.
Duncan & Alexander, sons of Farquhar, 1535
These are among the earliest armorial bearings found anywhere in the Clan Chattan. They demonstrate that, although the Strathnairn MacGillivrays never officially recorded arms in the Public Register as mandated by law in 1672, they did use them in their normal business dealings in a customary way entirely consistent with prevailing uses of heraldry.
It will be immediately obvious that these examples are very different in design from the present Dunmglass arms on record and the armorial stones at Dunlichity on which those are based. As with many early arms, they are simple and unquartered, with a stag's head or its antlers as the principle or only charge. What is the significance of the stag? It must surely be as a mark of the patronage the MacGillivrays owed to the Thanes of Cawdor for their newly-acquired property of Dunmaglass in Stratherrick. Dunmaglass is first found on record as belonging, first only in half but by 1419 in whole, to the family of Calder, the original Thanes of Cawdor and hereditary Sheriffs of the county of Nairn.
Arms of Muriel Calder, heiress of William Thane of Cawdor, Cawdor Church, 1513.
Cawdor Arms, 1513
At left, are arms from Cawdor Church, dated 1513 and attributed to Muriel Calder of that Ilk, granddaughter and sole heiress of William, Thane of Cawdor. Here a stag's head cabossed (facing front and with the neck not shown) is the principal charge. There are also arms at Cawdor Church, dated 1458, for her grandfather William, the Thane. These show simply the stag's head cabossed, but with a buckle between the antlers (attires) instead of the star (mullet).
The Calder family lost Cawdor, the thanage and the sheriffdom when this Muriel, an infant at the time, succeeded her grandfather William in 1493. Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll, appointed as ward for Muriel, kidnapped her and married her to his third son John in 1510, securing at Cawdor a new northern branch of the vastly acquisitive Campbell hegemony. As the new Thanes (Earls) of Cawdor, this branch of the Campbells added a stag's head cabossed (sable, attired gules) to the first quarter of their arms to signify the acquisition.
The need to raise funds to prosecute territorial campaigns elsewhere motivated the Campbells to wadset (mortgage) Dunmaglass to the MacGillivrays, probably already resident there, for the sum of 1000 merks. The document sealed by Duncan and Alexander's arms in 1535 is probably at least related to this transaction.

Hon. William McGillivray
of NW Co., 1801.
Hon. William McGillivray, 1801
It is over 250 years later before we find arms officially matriculated in the Public Register in Scotland for a MacGillivray, in this case the Hon. William McGillivray, born in Strathnairn the son of Donald McGillivray of Dalscoilte, near Dunmaglass, and Chief Superintendent of the NorthWest Company fur trading consortium in Montreal. Soon after taking over management of the company in 1799, William visited Scotland and purchased the old MacGillivray holding of Pennyghael on the Isle of Mull. He also matriculated the arms at left with Lyon Court.
Though William was a native of Strathnairn, where the armorial stones at Dunlichity had been in place for some years, these arms bear no reference to them at all. Instead they seem clearly inspired by the association of Dunmaglass with the House of Cawdor, and perhaps by the seals already mentioned. The Galley of Clan Chattan, distinguished by its blue and gold colour scheme, is writ large--very large indeed, though enclosed by a curious bordure of white (argent). But the Cawdor/Dunmaglass charges surely come next in prominence. The stag's head couped has pre-eminence as the Crest, and the Motto, "Be Mindful," comes straight from the Cawdor arms. Centered on the chief in the top part of the Shield is the unmistakeable stag's head cabossed sable attired gules of the Cawdors. The two cross crosslets fitchy that flank it are less easy to explain. As the only MacGillivray arms officially recorded up to the 20th century, a certain definitiveness appears to have been attached to William's achievement.
When the late Col. George Macgillivray of Thunder Bay, Ontario, three times a claimant to the Chiefship and ultimately appointed as Commander of the Clan, acquired personal arms in 1947 (see Armigers of the Clan), the stag again was an important element in the design: as Crest, with the Motto "Be Mindful" this time rendered in Gaelic as "Faichil Ort"; and cabossed sable attired gules on a gold field in the first quarter of the Shield, exactly as it appears in the Cawdor arms.
Dr. Angus MacGillivray, 1914.
Dr. Angus MacGillivray, 1947
Even so, the stag motif did not have a complete monopoly among MacGillivray matriculations. In 1914, long before the 1967 matriculation of the Chiefly Arms, the arms at left were entered in the Public Register for Dr. Angus MacGillivray, an opthalmic surgeon residing in Dundee, Scotland. Dr. MacGillivray claimed descent from a family resident in the Lagg township of the old Dunmaglass estate. Among the MacGillivray stones at Dunlichity there is a very weathered, and strangely altered, stone in the outer graveyard bearing the name "Lagg," the date 1761 and arms in the Dunlichity style that was a model for the 1967 Chiefly Arms. Dr. MacGillivray was clearly quite familiar with these stones when he matriculated personal arms in 1914. During the 1950s, he also pressed a well publicised claim on the Chiefship of the Clan itself, going so far as to publicly style himself "MacGillivray of MacGillivray." Lacking sufficient documentation, however, he never acquired official recognition as Chief from Lord Lyon during his lifetime, which ended in 1947.

Pottinger 'Reconstruction'In 1961 the popular clan map "Scotland of Old" was published by the late Sir Ian Moncrieffe, Albany Herald, decorated in the margins by Don Pottinger, then Unicorn Pursuivant, with the arms of no fewer than 174 Scottish chiefs and family heads. Number 101, shown at right, was designated "MacGillivray of Dunmaglass." It was annotated to indicate that, since no arms were actually on record for a chief at that time, those illustrated were a reconstruction based on recorded cadets of the name or old armorials. It is obviously very similar to the Hon. William's arms, substituting a hand palewise couped at the wrist and apaumy gules for one of the cross crosslets fitchy, and the name "Dun-ma-glas" for the Cawdor motto. The Dunlichity stones as well as Dr. MacGillivray's matriculation were apparently overlooked, or overruled by the slight preponderance of the stag and galley motifs among recorded clansmen's arms. This clan map is still widely sold and circulated.
Likewise, until quite recently when the crest and motto from the chiefly arms of 1967 have become more common, merchants purveying bonnet badges and other clan regalia have consistently offered up the stag's head and motto "Dun-ma-glass" for use by MacGillivray clansfolk. Meanwhile, as a mixture of the two versions is still on the market, it is clearly a source of confusion for MacGillivrays which is the proper one to use. Let it be said that there can now be no doubt that the devices from the 1967 Chiefly Arms--as Crest, a Cat sejant guardant, its sinister forepaw raised in a guardant posture and its tail reflexed beneath; and as Motto "Touch Not This Cat"-- are definitely the correct ones for use as a Clan crestbadge by MacGillivray clansfolk at large.
Still, it remains something of a mystery why such an early and persistent symbol of Dunmaglass as the stag is absent from the armorial stones at Dunlichity. And it is a pity too, perhaps, that this handsome and distinctively Highland beast, and its associations with the early history of Dunmaglass, should now be banished altogether from the recorded Chiefly Arms, which are, after all, designated "MacGillivray of Dunmaglass." This is all the more so since wild herds of the native red deer seasonally roam the hills and moors of Dunmaglass, which in recent times has generated a significant income as a shooting estate because of this.

Bruce P. McGillivray, FSA Scot

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