21 May saw the last in the Spring session of the Clan Hay Society’s lecture series, when we heard from John Malden, Slains Pursuivant to the Earl of Erroll, Chief of Clan Hay.
John has been at the heart of Scotland’s heraldic establishment for close on 50 years, a founding member of the Heraldry Society of Scotland, a society he has served successively as Editor, Secretary, Chairman and most recently as President. He was originally appointed an officer of the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, Scotland’s principal court of chivalry, as Linlithgow Pursuivant Extraordinary, before being promoted to the office of Unicorn Pursuivant in Ordinary. On his retirement from Lyon Court – compulsory on reaching the age of 70 – he was appointed Slains Pursuivant to the Earl of Erroll in 2016. His current office is first recorded in 1404 although it is almost certainly much older, dating from a time when all the principal nobility of the land would have maintained their own personal officer of arms. There are now only four of these private heralds who have official recognition, all of them serving some of the oldest and most senior nobility of Scotland, the others being Endure Pursuivant to the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, Garioch Pursuivant to the Countess of Mar, and Finlaggan Pursuivant to the High Chief of Clan Donald.
In the course of a lively, inspiring and lavishly illustrated talk, John took us on a fascinating journey through the coats of arms of the Hay kindred. He began by explaining that the undifferenced arms of Hay – the instantly recognisable three red shields on a white background, properly belong only to the Chief, the Earl of Erroll, and that every other Hay who is granted arms by the Lord Lyon will have that device with an appropriate ‘difference’ to signal that clansman’s place in the family. We are grateful to him for an enlightening evening.
The society’s lecture series now breaks for the summer and will resume in September with a talk on the Hays of Smithfield, from Sandra Whitson. Full details of this and further fixtures for the rest of the year will be released in the coming weeks.