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  • Writer's pictureAnne

Late, but in earnest.

Duncan family crest, ship under sails  with Disce Pati mottos, on Duncan tartan.

We’ve talked about doing one of those DNA ancestry tests … just for fun. Someday perhaps we’ll bite the bullet, but in the meantime, I have a good idea of where I come from. I’m a British Isles gal. My people hail from England, Scotland and Ireland. 

My maiden name was Duncan. I use it as my middle name now, and I’m proud of my Scottish heritage. Perhaps that’s one reason I love April so much. I mean, beside the fact that my birthday is on the 18th.

You see, April is Scottish American Heritage Month. A whole month dedicated to my fellow Scots here in the States. What’s not to love? 

Bagpipes. Tartans. Kilts. WHISKEY! 

Yes please.

It’s all of it grand, but I must say, my favorite thing about being Scottish has to be my family motto. Which is: Disce Pate. Which means: Learn to suffer. Oh, yes. Indeed we have.

While ours is definitely a keeper, it’s just one among many classic Scottish family mottos. Very “to the point” as a whole, I’d say, are the Scots. 

I’ve long been a fan of clan Kerr's motto: Late but in earnest. I mean, come on ... that’s fabulous, isn't it?

Just imagine my joy when I recently discovered the following gems:

  • Barclay: Either action or death

  • Buchan: Not having followed mean pursuits

  • Chisholm: I am fierce with the fierce 

  • Cunningham: Over fork over

  • Ferguson: Sweeter after difficulties

  • Livingston: If I can 

But the granddaddy of them all? Oh, that title has to go to the shared MacBean/MacKintosh/MacPherson motto:  Touch not the cat without the shield. 

There are no words.

Imagine some of them being used as a battle cry. Those crazy rebels.

When you see them listed together, it makes you wonder how they came to be. I’m no heraldic expert, but it seems as if some of them must’ve been made up on the spot. Perhaps after a late night with a fine Islay. I'm a whiskey drinker myself, and I know what the next morning can feel like. I picture it like this: The Laird appears at the Lyon Court, slightly disheveled and worse for wear, to apply for the Chief of the Name and Arms for his family.

Caught off guard, you might just blurt out the first thing that pops into your head.

Some people think better on their feet than others. I feel like that could explain the whole cat and shield thing: 

Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records: "Good morning, sir ... clan name?"

Clan Chief: "MacPherson"

LCaKotR: "Family motto?"

Clan Chief: ...

LCaKotR: "Sir?"

Clan Chief: ...

LCaKotR: "Something you like to shout headed into battle, perhaps?"

Clan Chief: "Uh ... well ... touch not the cat without the shield!"

LCaKotR: "Pure dead brilliant!"

In a similar situation, I’d probably come up with something along the lines of: Either sarcasm or death.

I'm sure you would be far more elegant. What motto would you choose to describe your family? 

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