Sunday, June 10, 2007
Gang Warily, Drummond
That handsome shield you see at the top is the ancestral coat of arms for the family Drummond. Normally, I would not pay all that much attention to heraldry, as it is as dead a matter for most people as studying Latin, or expecting Al Gore to actually cite his sources for the outrageous claims he makes. But I have discovered a bit about my family’s beginnings, which seems strangely familiar to me.
The first known Drummond appears to be a fellow named Maurice, the commander of the vessel which saved Edgar the Atheling and his sisters from the usurper Harold. Maurice, it seems, was the son of George, and a grandson of Andrew, the king of Hungary. The passage was difficult and it seems Maurice was pursued fro a while by Harold’s men. When the passengers were brought safely to Scotland, it is said that for his gallantry in the mission, Maurice was given the name Drum-onde, which in Gaelic means a high wave, and his coat of arms features three wavy bars to symbolize the sunset waves of the North Sea. Fanciful perhaps, but interesting to me.
It is also interesting to note that Sir Malcolm de Drummond was attached firmly to the cause of Robert the Bruce, and at Bannockburn it was Malcolm who devised the way to unseat the feared English cavalry – by spreading caltrops before the horses. Explaining his plan to Robert before the battle, Drummond warned the men who would fight near him to “gang warily” – that is, to watch their step since he would have caltrops all over the place. That’s how that motto got onto the family seal.
The Drummonds made a name for themselves as stout defenders of Scotland’s freedom from England. They were also strong supporters of the Jacobites, and found themselves in many battles because of it. Reading through the family legends from ancient times, and recalling stories my father passed along from our recent years, I was struck by how often my family has been loyal to causes, well beyond the point where men more frail in their convictions would flee. I was also well aware that my family gets into scraps far more often than ordinary folk do, and well beyond the number which prudence would commend. With that in mind, it seems to me no surprise at all to find that I am no deserter from President Bush, simply because turning coats has gained fashion among Republicans, nor that my words should – often – cause a protest and controversy.
I am my father’s son. And near as I can tell, that has been our tradition for going on eight centuries, at the least.