he extensive records held in Scotland show that armorial ensigns have been used by individuals bearing the name of Anderson (and later by MacAndrew and Gillanders) for some 500 years. The mark of a free warrior and his specific identification (particularly in battle or tournament), was the original purpose of armorial ensigns when they first began to appear around the middle of the 12th century. This fundamental aspect of armory has never (in principle) disappeared - despite the abuse and encumbrances imposed upon this “gentle art & science” over the last 800 years or so. That it remains a mark of honour is indisputable, and embodied in the process of arms being granted, is the ennoblement of the recipient by “Letters Patent” issued by the heraldic authorities in the British Isles.
Amongst the collection of books now kept at the Lyon Court in Edinburgh is a manuscript compiled from about 1566 called the “Workman M/S.” It contains many contemporary depictions of the arms of Scots who were prominent at that time. As it was being compiled the folio pages became full and entries were continued on the verso pages and among the latter is depicted a coat-of-arms ascribed to “Anderson of that Ilk” (seen here to the right). It is unclear whether this manuscript ever formed part of the official records of the Lyon Court and it is not possible to state with certainty that this drawing referred to any particular individual. The caption would suggest that the arms belonged to one who had been recognised as Chief of the arms & name of ‘Anderson,’ but such a conclusion cannot be made without an element of doubt. The arms incorporate a saltire (St Andrew’s cross) alluding to the origin of the name.
Some two and a half decades later, these same arms appeared in a manuscript called “Armoiries des Maison Illustres d’Ecosse” (now housed in the ‘Koninklijke Biblioteck,’ The Hague, Netherlands) along with other arms ascribed to ‘Andersone,’ again with a saltire, stars and a crescent. These same arms appeared on a tombstone dated 1627 in the churchyard at Dumbennan, just outside Huntly in the north-east of Scotland, indicating arms for one “Alexander Anderson of Bruntstane” (shown left).
From the 16th century onwards there is much evidence of Andersons using coats of arms and several of these families have come to prominence at various times since. Apart from archival records, it is also possible to see evidence of Anderson arms in stone carvings throughout Scotland.
To the left are the arms of “Anderson of Noth,” shown on a stone in the old burial ground at Kennethmont, near Huntly. ‘Patrick Anderson of Milton of Noth’ was the eldest son of Alexander Anderson of Bruntstane above.
From a younger son, sprang “Anderson of Westerton & Ardbrake” who enjoy a significant status to this day. In the old kirkyard at Botriphnie in Banffshire, memorials can be found for this family (see right) who adopted boar’s heads in their arms in respect of intermarriage with ladies from the house of Gordon.
The Andersons of Newbigging & Kingask in Fife, registered arms in the Lyon Court in 1780, claiming descent from the Ardbrake line. Yet the arms (known to have been used as early as 1665 - see carved stone and arms to the right), whilst retaining the three stars and a crescent configuration, has a chevron rather than a saltire.
There is further evidence that two other lines descend from the Westeron/Ardbrake/Kinneddar Andersons. The Lawyer family of Anderson of Inchyra were known to have born arms (although never registered) which are shown here to the left.
Other Andersons springing from the group in the ‘Laich o’ Moray,’ recorded arms in the twentieth century and now have their domicile in Canada. Their armorial bearings are shown on the right.
The stone to the far right is to be found in the entrance porch of Strathdon Church and show the arms of the Aberdeenshire family of Anderson of Candacraig in Strathdon. They held this estate for ten generations, and although there is no known connection, the motto “Stand Sure” and the oak tree crest (left) are the same as that for the house of Ardbrake (Westerairdbreck). Unfortunately, this coat of arms has never been registered with the Lyon Court and remains unofficial. However, the tinctures used have been determined by careful examination of the remnants of polychrome on the memorial stone which dates from 1757.
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The Advocate brother to the Laird of Westerton, Alexander Anderson, subsequently acquired Ardbrake, but his son settled at Kinneddar in the Laich o’ Moray near Elgin in 1691. The saltire (St. Andrew’s Cross) was retained in his descendant’s arms but with different tinctures (see right).