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The Patersons







Paterson of Bannockburn crest
Paterson of Bannockburn
The Patersons, although never a formally structured clan, are many in number and may be found all over Scotland (and, of course, additionally in England and Ireland). Two hundred years ago their main areas of concentration were in Cromarty, in Ayrshire and in the Borders. With no chief and with no one of their name bearing a great title they have not been thought famous, but many held lands and many more ranked with the richer tenantry. The arms shown here on the right were once believed to be the generic bearings of their name, but since that time the principal charge of Paterson arms has become the pelican.

The etymology of Paterson is simply "Peter's son". Charters tend to support this. In Perthshire in the reign of Robert II the lands of "the Brewland of Methven" were granted to "William filio Willielmi" by the resignation of "Roger filio Patricii", the Latin form of Peter or Patrick. It thus appears that the "Brewland of Methven" was in the possession of a family of Peter's sons as early as 1371-90. In the same reign a crown charter confirmed a grant by James Douglas of Dalkeith to "David filio Petri" of the lands of Garmyltoundunyng. The Patersons here are thus vassals(3) of the great house of Douglas, which accounts for them being in Lanarkshire, the original territory of Douglas, and this may have been the springboard for their move into Galloway and Ayrshire.

Of the Border branches all that is known is that several Patersons figure in Pitcairn's Criminal Trials for "aiding the Englishers" ~ in other words, taking part in some of those feudal misunderstandings with the Crown, which sometimes led the gentlemen rievers of the "debateable lands" to fraternise with "our auld enemies of England" when they believed the "liberty of the subject" to be disrupted unduly in the suppression of their forays.

The Galloway branch achieved some notoriety in Covenanting times and is commemorated in the popular air ~

The Black and the Brown gaed through the town,
But Paterson's filly gaes foremost.

In heraldic terms there appear to have been two distinct branches ~ the Northern or Highland, and the Southern or Lowland. Balfour blazoned the first of these Sable on a cross cantoned with four lions' heads erased Argent five eaglets displayed of the field (see top right). There was some doubt as to whether the eagles might be alerions (eagles with no beaks or feet), and here they have been emblazoned with red beaks and feet.. Sir George Mackenzie (1680) blazoned the arms of the Southerners Argent three pelicans feeding their young Or in nests Vert (see top left, Paterson of Dunmure). Nisbet (in 1722) quotes Pont's MS (1624) ~ "The Patersons designated of Dalkeith, of old, carried the same with a chief Azure charged with three mullets Argent."

The "chief Azure charged with three mullets Argent" is, of course, the chief from the Douglas arms, and Dalkeith is now a name more readily associated with the Douglas castle there. The Douglas chief, plain or embattled, continues through the remaining arms we feature here.

Sir Hugh Paterson of Bannockburn(2) was in 1745 host to Prince Charles, the Young Pretender, who, it is alleged, fell in love with his daughter while on the way south towards England. His arms were matriculated as Argent three pelicans vulned Gules, on a chief embattled Azure as many mullets of the field (see right), with the crest of a right hand holding a quill and with the motto of "Hinc orier" (Hence I rise)".

The first of the Patersons of Dunmure (top left) received the property as a gift from James IV, to whom he was "servitour". Descendants of his house achieved distinction in the profession of law (two being baronets ~ Sir Hugh Paterson of Bannockburn and Sir William Paterson of Granton). Others rose in the church, two, father and son, being bishops at the same time, the elder in Ross, and the younger in Galloway (from which he was eventually promoted, via Edinburgh, to Glasgow).

George Paterson of Seafield, second son of John, Bishop of Ross, bore the arms shown here on the left ~ Argent three pelicans feeding their young Or in as many nests Vert, on a chief Azure a mitre of the second between two mullets of the field.

Of all the Patersons, William, born at Skipmyre Farm in Dumfriesshire, the founder of the Bank of England, is the most famous. After some years in the West Indies he returned to promote his Darien scheme in Hamburg, Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Edinburgh, and although he was with some justice believed the best financier of the age, it was a disaster. He was a fierce supporter of the 1707 Union of Scotland and England, and was elected to the first united Parliament.

He did not matriculate arms, but in 1776 another London merchant, George Paterson, had recorded Argent three pelicans feeding their young in nests proper, on a chief embattled Azure a besant between two mullets of the field.

Another Londoner, John Paterson formerly surnamed Hart, bore Argent three pelicans vulning themselves Gules, on a chief embattled Azure a boar's head erased Or between two mullets of the field.

Another famous Paterson not known to bear arms was "the Pricker". He was reported in 1662 as follows ~

There came to Inverness one Mr Paterson, who had run over the kingdom for trial of witches, and was ordinarily called the Pricker, because his way of trial was with a long brass pin. Stripping them naked, he alleged that the spell-spot was seen and discovered.

After rubbing over the whole body with his palms, he slipt in the pin ; and it seems, with shame and sorrow being dashed, they felt it not, but he left it in the flesh, deep to the head, and desired them to find it and take it out. It is said some witches were discovered ; but many honest men and women were blotted and broke by this trick. In Elgin there were two killed ; in Forres two ; and one Isabel Duff, a rank witch, burned in Inverness. This Paterson came up to the church at Wardlaw ; and within the church pricked fourteen women and one man brought thither by Chisolm of Comar, and four brought by Andrew Fraser, chamberlain of Ferrintosh. He first polled all their heads, and amassed the heap of hair together, hid it in the stone dyke, and so proceeded to pricking. Several of those died in prison, being never brought to confession. This villain gained a great deal of money, having two servants. At last he was discovered to be a woman disguised in men's clothes. Such cruelty and rigour was sustained by a vile varlet impostor!




1.  Additional coats of arms of this family can be found here>>>

2.  Sir Hugh, 1st Bt of Bannockburn, in the son-in-law of Catherine Douglas, daughter of the 1st Marquess of Douglas

3.  (in the feudal system) a vassal is a person granted the use of land, in return for rendering homage, fealty, and usually military service or its equivalent to a lord or other superior; feudal tenant.



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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024