Thursday, April 6, 2017

Heraldry in the Choir Stalls of the Memorial Chapel, Glasgow University, Part 1

There is a wonderful display of heraldry in the choir stalls in the Memorial Chapel at the University of Glasgow. It is here that the University displays the arms of its Chancellors from its foundation in 1451 through today.

If you have an interest in knowing more about any of the University's Chancellors, there is a list, with links to a short biography of each Chancellor, on the University’s website at

Because it's a good-sized choir, with lots of coats of arms, I'm going to break it into two parts. Today I'll do the the right-hand stalls (as you face the altar) with the newest and oldest coats of arms, and next time the left-hand stalls.

Here's an overview of the stalls on the right-hand side. (You should be able to click on any of the pictures to see a larger version.)

At the far left, closest to the altar on this side, is the arms - I believe; I have not been able to confirm the identification of these arms elsewhere - of the current Chancellor (since 2006), Sir Kenneth Calman: Argent on a fess azure between an open book argent bound gules, a garb gules marked or, and an oak tree erased fructed proper an arrow fesswise point to dexter proper.

In the next choir stall, we find the arms of the three oldest Chancellors (the dates in parentheses are when they became Chancellor of the University):
     William Turnbull (1451): Argent a bull’s head cabossed sable.
     Andrew de Durisdeer (1455): Argent on a bend azure three acorns or. (I have not been able to confirm these arms in the sources I have to hand.)
     John Laing (1474): Quarterly: 1 and 4, Argent a pale sable; 2 and 3, Argent three piles in point sable. )Here again, I have been unable to confirm that these arms are those of Laing. There are, though, several coats of arms belonging to Erskine based on Argent a pale sable. But given their placement in the order of Chancellors, and my confirmation of the others, these two shields pretty much have to be for de Durisdeer and Laing.)

Moving along, we find the arms of:
     Robert Blackadder (1483): Azure on a chevron argent three roses gules.
     James Beaton (1508): Quarterly: 1 and 4, Azure a chevron fess between three mascles gules or; 2 and 3, Argent on a chevron sable a lion’s head(?) an otter's head erased argent (for Balfour). (Thanks to reader Margaret Sainte Claire for the blazon corrections. Apparently, when there is a chevron in two of the quarters, my fingers want to make it a chevron in the other two quarters, even when it is obviously a fess!)
     Gavin Dunbar (1523): Or three cushions within a double tressure flory counter-flory gules.

In the next segment, we have:
     (Another) James Beaton (1550): Quarterly: 1 and 4, Azure a chevron fess between three mascles gules or; 2 and 3, Argent on a chevron sable a lion’s head(?) an otter’s head erased argent (for Balfour).
     John Porterfield (1571): Or a bendlet sable between a stag’s head erased and a hunting horn sable garnished gules.
     James Boyd, of Trochrig (1572): Azure a fess checky argent and gules in base a cross crosslet fitchy argent. The Lyon Ordinary gives for Boyd of Trochrig: Azure a fess checky argent and gules between in chief two crosses crosslet fitchy and in base two mullets argent.

Continuing on, I find that we are missing the arms of Robert Montgomery (1581), because next we have:
     William Erskine (1585): Argent on a pale sable a round buckle or.
     Walter Stewart (1587): Or a fess checky azure and argent overall a bend engrailed and in sinister chief a rose gules barbed and seeded proper.
     Nothing for yet another James Beaton (1598), whose arms are found above.
     John Spottiswoode (1603): Argent on a chevron gules between three oak trees eradicated vert a boar’s head couped or.

And next we find:
     James Law (1615): Ermine a bend between a mullet and a cock gules.
     Patrick Lindsay (1633): Gules a fess checky argent and azure.
     James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton (1642): Gules three cinquefoils ermine.

And finally, coming to the end of the choir stalls on the right-hand side as you face the altar, we have:
     John Thurloe (1658): Azure a chevron ermine between three cinquefoils argent. (Again, I have been unable to confirm these arms for him in other sources.)
     William Cunningham, 8th Earl of Glencairn (1660): Argent a shakefork sable.
     Andrew Fairfoul (1661): Argent three parrots proper.

As I said, a wonderful display of heraldry!

Next time, the choir stalls on the other side of the aisle.

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