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The Ross clan was erected in 1160 under Malcolm. In old Gaelic, "ros" means promontory, which is the dominant feature of Easter Ross. From this, the ancient Earls and the people took their name. In 1234 Farquhar Mac an t-Sagairt, lay abbot of Applecross, was created the first O'Beolan Earl of Ross by Alexander II of Scotland for suppressing the uprisings in Moray and Ross. The Earls of Ross became the most powerful of all the Highland chiefs in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the Earldom one of the most influential in Scotland.
Spem successus alit, Success nourishes hope.Arms:
Gules, three lions rampant Argent, armed and langued Azure.Crest:
A hand holding a garland of juniper Proper.Supporters:
(on a compartment embellished with juniper plants fructed Proper) Two savages wreathed about the head with oak and loins with juniper all Proper, that on the dexter holding in his exterior hand a club Gules resting on one shoulder Proper, that on the sinister holding a branch of juniper fructed Proper in his exterior hand and also resting on his shoulder.Badge:
A sprig of juniper fructed Proper.Plant:
Juniper plant fructed Proper.View the Heraldry Dictionary for help.
n the ancient Celtic tongue, a ros was a promontory, such as the fertile land between the Cromarty and Dornoch Firths. Those who bore the name rose to be Earls of Ross, and it is believed that the first Earl, Malcolm, who lived in the early twelfth century, allied his family to O’Beolan of the great Irish royal house of Tara, by the marriage of his daughter. The clan was sometimes also referred to as Clan Anrias, or Gille Andras, alluding to Anrias, a distinguished O’Beolan ancestor. It has also been suggested that another variation, ‘MicGille Andras’, ‘son of the follower of St Andrew’, derives from one of the ancient earls who was devoted to Scotland’s patron saint.
In 1214, Alexander II led his army to the north to put down the rebellion of the son of Donald Bane, a rival claimant to the throne. He was aided by the chief of Clan Ross, Fearchar Mac an t-Sagairt, which in English acclaimed him to be ‘son of the priest,’ alluding to his O’Beolan descent from the hereditary Abbots of Applecross. Fearchar was knighted by his king, and by 1234 he was formally recognised in the title of Earl of Ross. The earl’s son, William, received grants of land in Skye and Lewis. William’s son, also William, was abducted around 1250 during a revolt against the earl’s rule, and was rescued with help from the Munros, who were re-warded with grants of land and became closely connected to their powerful benefactors.
The Rosses were prominent in Scottish affairs and supported an alliance with Llewellyn the Welsh Prince, against the English. They fought at the Battle of Largs against the Norse invasion in 1263, and spoke in Parliament of 1283 in support of settling the succession to the throne on the infant Princess Margaret, the Maid of Norway. Young William survived to succeed his father as chief and Earl of Ross, leading his clan through the turmoil of the struggle to win Scotland’s independence. He was one of those who swore fealty to Edward I of England in 1296, and when he was captured at the Battle of Dunbar in the same year, he was sent as a prisoner to London. He was later released, but again fell into the hands of the English in 1306, when he was forced to surrender Bruce’s wife and daughter, whom he was protecting and who had taken sanctuary at the shrine of St Duthac at Tain. The king was at first enraged, but when the earl sued for pardon he received it, and the reconciliation was cemented by the marriage of Ross’s son to the king’s sister, Princess Maud. The clan fought with distinction at Bannockburn, and the earl’s seal was affixed to the great Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. Hugh, the brother-in-law of Bruce, fell at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.
The last chief to hold the earldom was another William, who died in 1372. Euphemia, his only daughter, claimed the earldom as Countess of Ross, but it eventually passed through the Macdonalds of the Isles into the hands of the Crown in 1476. The chiefship devolved upon William’s younger half-brother, Hugh of Balnagowan.
The Rosses were royalists in the civil war, and David, the twelfth chief, led almost a thousand of his clansmen against the forces of Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. The royalists were defeated, and Ross and many of his men were taken prisoner. The chief was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1653, while many of his clansmen were transported to the colonies in New England. His son, another David, succeeded to the chiefship when he was only nine years of age.
David died, without an heir, in 1711, and the chiefship passed to his kinsman, Malcolm Ross of Pitcalnie. The once-proud estate of Balnagowan had been terribly burdened with debt, and was eventually purchased by General Charles Ross, brother of Lord Ross of Hawkhead, whose family were from the Lowlands and were truly ‘de Roos’ of Norman descent. As such, they were, genealogically, complete strangers to the Celtic Earls of Ross but nevertheless managed to obtain a matriculation in the Court of the Lord Lyon of the undifferenced arms of Ross. Pitcalnie continued to be regarded as the chief by the clan, and he was acknowledged by the great Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, who wrote in 1740 hailing him as ‘brother chief’. In the risings of 1715 and 1745 the clan as a whole avoided Jacobite intrigues, although Malcolm, the Younger of Pitcalnie, joined the ‘Old Pretender’.
The chiefship was restored to the true line in 1903, when Miss Ross of Pitcalnie rematriculated the undifferenced chiefly arms. The chiefship eventually passed in 1968 to her heir, David Ross of Ross and Balnagowan, a descendant in the direct male line of Mac an t-Sagairt, who was Earl of Ross more than seven-and-a-half centuries ago. The chief’s grandfather, Sir Ronald Ross of Shandwick, was a pioneer of modern medicine who discovered the cause of malaria. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902.
Name Variations: Baron, Barron, Fairlie, Geddes, Rose, Ross, Anderson, Andison, Andrew, Andrews, Corbet, Corbett, Crow, Crowe, Croy, Denoon, Denune, Dingwall, Duthie, Fair, Gair, Gear, Gillanders, Hagart, Haggart, MacAndrew, MacClullich, MacCullie, MacCulloch, MacLulich, MacTaggart, MacTear, MacTier, MacTire, Taggart, Tullo, Tulloch, Tyre, Vass, Wass.
References:One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Neil Grant - 2000.
Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia; George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire - 1994.
Scottish Clans and Tartans; Ian Grimble - 1973.
World Tartans; Iain Zaczek - 2001.
Clans and Families of Scotland; Alexander Fulton - 1991.
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