The Enigmatic Douglas Stone: A Glimpse into Heraldic History

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In the heart of Edinburgh's historic Merchiston, a chance encounter with the lawyer, Mr. Robbie, a knowledgeable antiquarian, leads 'St. Ives' to a peculiar stone with traces of heraldic sculpture. As the two delve into its mysteries, they suspect a connection to the illustrious Douglas family crest, marked by a chevron and three mullets. However, due to the stone's battered state and missing tinctures, a definitive opinion remains elusive.

The stone's resemblance to those catalogued by John Geddie in Edinburgh's Grange Loan piques further curiosity. Among them, a memorial panel commemorates "Thomas Douglasius of Cavers," an honorable figure in business and city offices, who died in 1686. Erected by grieving heirs, including Richard Douglas, advocate, the panel reveals a fascinating snippet of the Douglas family history.


Among the other sculptured fragments collected in a ‘nook’, beside a canopied recess, is a memorial panel. Bearing a long Latin inscription, this is defaced and made only partly readable on account of a strip of two or three inches on the right-hand side of the stone having been used in sharpening a knife. This commemorates “Thomas Douglasius [Douglas]” of the Cavers branch of that illustrious family, a man honourable in business, the holder of offices in the city and its suburbs, and the possessor, according to the inscription, of many virtues, who died on the 9th of August “MDC_”. Geddie adds it was erected by Richard Douglas, advocate, Robert Bennet, and Robert Blackwood, the lamenting heirs under his testament.’ His footnote fleshes out that in 1679 the ‘second bailie’ of Edinburgh was a Thomas Douglas, and, according to the Register of Interments in Greyfriars’ Churchyard, one Thomas Douglas, merchant in Edinburgh, was buried 15th August 1686. He was ‘second brother to Douglas of Cavers’, and the son of Sir William Douglas of Cavers and of his second wife, a daughter of Sir James Macgill.

Geddie's research delves deeper, linking Thomas Douglas to the Lyon Office's recorded arms for 1680-87. Described as argent with a man's heart, three mullets on a blue chief, and a border bearing five crescents, the Douglas of Edinburgh arms epitomize heraldic elegance. The associated crest, featuring a hand holding a broken spear, and the motto "Do or die," further enrich the family's symbolic heritage.

As 'St. Ives' unravels the enigma of the Douglas stone, the layers of history, heraldry, and family legacy begin to unfold, offering a captivating glimpse into Edinburgh's rich past.


See also:
•  Douglas of Cavers

•  Thomas Douglas



Sources for this article include:
  • New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson (EdRLS),

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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024