McLaughlin Arms and Motto

   The motto, in Irish, is translated "Remember your Promises." Betham renders the motto "Cuimnig do geallamnaca," while MacLysaght gives us "Cuimnig ar do geallamnaca," which is often misread as "Cuimnig an bo geallamnaca" because of the similarity between the letters "b" and "d" in handwritten Irish script.
   This is the McLaughlin of Tirconnell (Donegal) Coat-of-Arms as it appears in Sir William Betham's transcription of the "Linea Antiqua" and in McLysaght's "Irish Family Names."


   A version of the McLaughlin arms was recorded in France in 1702 by James Terry, the Athlone herald, granted to Anna McLaughlinl, daughter of Capt. Darby MacLaughlin, 1st Lieutenant, Earl of Antrim's Regiment (Confirmation of Arms and noblity). Darby MacLaughlin. was said to be the "first or Chief of that most ancient and noble family of the MacLaughlins, to which belongs the aforesaid Whitecastle of Inishowen." The accompanying pedigree however cannot be fitted into any known line from the McLaughlins of Whitecastle.

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Click to hear the Motto in Irish

   The Coat-of-arms pictured here were originally displayed on a banner by the chief of sept as the representative of the sept as a whole. They were not hereditary in any sense, since the chief of sept was elected by the ancient Irish custom of derbhfine, under which any man whose grandfather had been chief was himself eligible for the chieftainry. Some years ago, Edward McLysaght and others in Ireland came up with the concept of sept arms, in which they decided it was permissible for anyone bearing the McLaughlin surname to display these arms as his own. Purists in heraldry will vociferously object to this decision, since many of the old Irish chieftains received English titles during the 1600's and registered the ancient clan engignia under their own names in Dublin, incorporating the ensignia into their own coat-of-arms and making them hereditary under primogeniture under the English system.

   I personally agree with McLysaght that these are sept arms, and that anyone who can trace his ancestry to Donegal, Londonderry, or Tyrone, and thus is probably a descendant of the McLaughlin of Tirconnell sept should be entitled to display these clan arms as he or she wishes. As to the symbolic meaning of the arms, whatever signifigence the lion rampant between two swords, over crescent moons, ever had is now lost in antiquity, although we may note the lion is an very common symbol of royalty throughout Europe.This is the offical description of the arms as given by MacLysaght:

"Per fess azure and gules, in chief a lion rampant
or between two swords erect argent pommels and
hilts or, in base three crescents argent"

   Of the other McLaughlin septs of Ireland, the only sept important enough to have their own clan emblem were the O Maoilseachlainns (O Melaghlins) of Westmeath. All of the other McLaughlin septs of Ireland were relatively minor offshoots of more important families and thus never important enough politically to develop their own clan emblem.

   The ancient Irish never practiced heraldry or devised a system of Coats-of-Arms as was prevalent on the continent. These arms are more accurately described as "clan symbols" or "emblems" and are only pictured on the traditional heraldic shields for convention's sake.

Ancient Irish Arms

   O'Donovan, in his notes the the "Battle of Magh Rath," p. 349, notes several instances of old poems mentioning the battle standards of a few Irish chieftains.

Bearings of O'Doherty

Mightily advance the battalions of Conn,
With O'Doherty to advance in battle,
His battle sword with golden cross,
Over the standard of this great chief
:A lion and bloody eagle,
Hard it is to repress his plunder,-
On a white sheet of silken satin,
Terrible is the onset of his forces.

Bearings of O'Sullivan in the Battle of Caisglinn

I see mightily advancing in the plain
The banner of the race of noble Finghin,
His spear with venomous adder [entwined],
His host all fiery champions."

Bearings of O'Loughlin Burren

In O'Loughlin's camp was visible on a fair satin sheet,
To be at the head of each battle, to defend in battle-field,
An ancient fruit-bearing oak, defended by a chieftain justly,
And an anchor blue, with folds of a golden cable."

Other passages from the Battle of Magh Rath describe banners used in the battle.

"Mightily advance the battalions of Congal
To us over the ford of Ornamh,
When they come to the contest of the men,
They require not to be harangued.
The token of the great warrior of Macha,
Variegated satin, on warlike poles,
The banner of each bright king with prosperity
Over his own head conspicuously displayed.

The banner of Scannlanh,—an ornament with prosperity,—
And of Fiachna Mor, the son of Baedan,
Great symbol of plunder floating from its staff,
Is over the head of Congal advancing towards us.

A yellow Lion on green satin,
The insignia of the Craebh Ruadh,
Such as the noble Conchobhar bore',
Is now held up by Congal.

The standards of the sons of Eochaidhj
In the front of the embattled hosts
Are dun-coloured standards like fire
Over the well-shaped spear-handles of Crumthann.

The standard of the vigorous lung of Britain,
Conan Rod, the royal soldier,
Streaked satin, blue and white,
In folds displayed.

The standard of the king of Saxonland of hosts
Is a wide, very great standard ;
Yellow and red, richly displayed
Over the head of Dairbhre, son of Dornmor.

The standard of the majestic king of Fcabhail
(I have not seen such another)
Is over his head (no treachery does he carry with him ),
Black and red certainly.

   Accorging to O'Donovan, this stanza (the king of Feabhail) refers to the Kings of Aileach in Ulster (Feabhail = Foyle). Red is featured prominently in the McLaughlin arms as we know them today.

The standard of Suibhne, a yellow banner,
The renowned king of Dal Araidhe,
Yellow satin, over that mild man of hosts,
The white-fingered stripling himself in the middle of them.
The standard of Ferdoman of banquets,

The red-weapoued king of the Ards of Ulster,
White satin to the sun and wind displayed'"
Over that mighty man without blemish.

   An Irish nobleman of the sixteenth century. He is armed for war in a suit of plate armour, as was the custom for both English and Irish officers during the period of Hugh O'Neill's wars. In contrast, common soliders on both sides wore little or no armour.(Hayes-McCoy, Irish Battles).

   Note the lion rampant and hand symbol on the sheild. The lion rampant is featured on the McLaughlin arms. The hand is a symbol found on O'Neill arms, kin to the McLaughlins.

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   An Irish horseman of the sixteenth century. As was the usual practice of the period, he is riding without stirrups and carries his lance, or horseman's staff, in an overhand fashion.(Hayes-McCoy, Irish Battles).

   Note again the lion rampant and hand symbol.

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