The Scottish System

Mr Harold Storey has very kindly sent me this book plate of Lord Courtauld-Thompson. He says that the 1st and 4th quarterings are for Thomson. His father, surname Thomson was from Edinburgh and he assumes that the arms were granted in London since they don’t follow the Scottish pattern where everybody of the same surname is assumed to descend from the original Clan Chief who will have had a simple shield. This shield goes down the senior male heir, who will always be the Chief. All other members of the “family” are entitled to apply for a “differenced” version of the Chief’s shield. That shield will then pass to his eldest son (only), and so on. Younger sons (and so junior branches) have to apply for a differenced version of their father’s arms. So the farther away you are in blood from the chief, the more differenced your shield will be, but is should still be recognisable as a variation of the Chief’s shield.

If it ever existed, the original Thomson shield will have been a stag’s head with 2 or 3 small charges.

Thomson, Thoms and Macthomas


Mr Harold Storey has also sent me an article from “The Double Treasure”, the magazine of the Heraldry Society of Scotland No.17 (1995) entitled “Thomson, Thoms and Macthomas” written by John Hamilton Gaylor. In the article, Mr Gaylor states that the commonest versions of the name are Thomson and Thompson, and arms for eight of them were matriculated in the early years of the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland, which opened in 1672. The coats show a consistent Thomson them – argent, a stag’s head cabossed either gules or proper, and on a chief either azure or gules various small charges – which was maintained in fifty one out of another fifty three matriculations down to 1973. The Thomsons, larger than many names in the number of their matriculations, therefore demonstrably comprise a clan, deficient only in never having had a chiefly line recognised by the Lord Lyon.

Mr Naylor goes on to state that the arms of Thoms and Thom are quite different….On armorial evidence we have … three distinct and independent groups, Thomson, Thoms and M’Combie – and assorted Thomases…. Another name derived from Thomas … was MacTavish. The only arms matriculated from the name down to 1973 were two coats, one of which was a differenced version of the other, showing them to be cadets of Campbell. The point of interest was that the basic gyronny coat of Campbell of Lochow was simply quartered with typical Thomas arms. It is said that MacTavishes regard themselves as a clan rather than as a sept of Campbell. If this is so, perhaps they should make common cause with the Thomsons, a name adopted by many MacTavishes on emigrating from the Highlands, and seek to establish a chief whose arms would be quite distinct from, and on the armorial evidence, more appropriate than those of a cadet of Mackintosh, from which the arms of MacThomas of Finegrand were to some extent derived.