Dr Joseph Morrow, the Lord Lyon King of Arms, at the opening of Scotland’s parliament. He is followed by the Duke of Hamilton carrying the crown of Scotland.

The Clan Hay Society’s new lecture series, delivered via Zoom, got off to a flying start on Thursday 6 May, with a talk from Dr Joseph Morrow CBE, QC, FRSE, the Right Honourable the Lord Lyon King of Arms, on the Court of the Lord Lyon.  We were joined by an enthusiastic audience of Hays from across the spectrum of the society’s membership, from Norway in the north to South Africa in the south, and in time-zones from Western Canada to New Zealand.  The Chief, the Earl of Erroll, was in the chair, and led a relaxed and convivial evening that was enjoyed by all.

Thomas Robert Hay, 11th Earl of Kinnoull and Lord Lyon King of Arms

The Lord Lyon traced the evolution of his ancient office from its origins, deep in our Celtic past, in the role of High Sennachie to the pre-feudal king of Scots.  The first reference to a Lyon herald is contained in the archives of the Bruce family at Broomhall in Fife, in a charter of King Robert the Bruce, so it is at least 700 years old.  It is a role that has been held by two Hays, the 10th and 11th Earls of Kinnoull, who were successively Lords Lyon King of Arms for a period of 70 years, from 1796 to 1866.

Lyon is best known as the chief herald of the realm, but his office has developed differently from those of his counterparts in England and elsewhere.  As well as his heraldic responsibilities, Lyon is also a judge of the realm and a minister of the Crown.  Unlike, for example, his English counterpart, Garter King of Arms, who is simply an official in the department of the Earl Marshal of England,  Lyon is a Great Officer of State in his own right.  In these various capacities, the Lord Lyon presides regularly in his own court and performs the lead role in all matters of state ceremonial in Scotland.

HIs lecture went on to take us through the process of achieving a grant of arms, how a new coat of arms would be developed, the considerations involved in deciding whether arms should be granted, going on to discuss the component parts of an armorial achievement, and who might be entitled to which components.  He finished by taking us on a ‘world tour’ of Scots heraldry, looking at the influence of Scotland’s heraldic tradition throughout the world, principally via the arms granted to Caledonian societies in places as diverse as China, Australasia, Africa, and among the many Scottish organisations across the North American continent.  We are grateful to Dr Morrow for sharing his time and knowledge, and for engaging so readily with members who were keen to discover more, in the course of a very happy virtual event.

The next lecture takes place on Saturday 5 June at 7.00 pm, UK time.  We will hear from Burgess Hay, of Burgess Bagpipes in Forres, in a session entitled Meet the Bagpipe Maker.   We will then take a break for the summer and the online lecture series will resume from September.  Speakers during the Autumn will include Professor Steve Murdoch of St Andrews University, Kirsty Archer-Thompson of Abbotsford House, and the Very Rev Dr Emsley Nimmo, Dean Emeritus of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney in the Scottish Episcopal Church.  Online activity for this year will conclude in December with pre-Christmas drinks hosted by the Earl of Erroll, in an event entitled Meet the Chief.