In 2003 the College of Arms in London granted armorial bearings to my father Robert. from the outset I was involved with designing the arms working with the Lancaster Herald of Arms, Robert Noel who kindly looked over every variation that I scribbled and advised me when and if it came close to looking like something else in their records of the College of Arms.
Designing a new coat of arms is not as simple as it might seem. Literally thousands have been designed and granted in England and Scotland in the last few hundred years and every one of them unique. To come up with a new design that looks different to anything else when you bear in mind it needs to be as simple as possible can be a bit tricky. The best heraldic practice is for simple arms easily identified that do not flout the well tested conventions of heraldry.
So where did I begin? Well a coat of arms can be one of many things and it will always reflect either aspects of history of a person’s family or more commonly reflect the individual who is to bear the arms. So who was my father? well he was an ordinary boy born in Tottenham in North London in 1938. Was he remarkable? well to me he was. It was he that gave me my love of history and art. It was he that always supported my work and in 2003 after a chat with my mother we decided it might be fun to have a coat of arms granted to him.
My Father was a history teacher, but it was not always so. He started out working in upholstery factories and as a bus conductor for London Transport. In the early 1970’s he decided to put himself through college and so after his long daily shifts at work he would shut himself away until the small hours of the morning working on gaining the necessary qualifications to go to college to become a teacher. He attended North East London Polytechnic and then went on to the University of London where he read history. His Thesis was on the Oxford Movement and it gained him a prize. He dismissed it and did not make a to do of it but that was who he was.
When designing the coat of arms the core point to consider was his career. My father had
a passion for Owls and so it would be easy to have used that on a shield but he was also the man who kept us all together and self sacrificed and I decided that a wolf’s head would be a suitable charge for his shield. The wolf in many cultures was considered a wise teacher but jokingly in the family my father was referred to as the ‘outlaw’ and in medieval history an outlaw was referred to as a, ‘Wolfshead’. So I settled on that but what else to go on the shield? Our name is Jamieson and it is of course patronymic of Scots origin and it is translated from the Gaelic MacKeamish or MacHamish meaning son of James. The emblem of St. James Patron Saint of Pilgrims is the Scallop shell and so I thought gold shells for James/Sun as a visual pun would be appropriate around the wolf.
For the Crest, (which by the way is not as most commonly misinterpreted the whole coat of arms but is only the part that sits on top of the helmet). I wanted to use an owl. My father loved owls but in itself it was not unique. My father also was an avid reader and someone joked he was never seen without a book in his hand. That was a flash of inspiration, a book chained to the owl so that it was always seen with a book and of course chained libraries were the traditional font of knowledge. Then thinking about history I thought a nice touch would be castle battlements for him to stand on. I gave the owl a coronet – my Dad said any fool could wear a crown and in his self deprecating moments referred to himself as a wise fool. The motto translated means, ‘More is in You’.
When my father was trying to figure out what to do with his life he saw Robert Bolt’s , ‘A Man For All Seasons’. There is a part in it and I am para phrasing where Sir Thomas More says to ambitious Richard Rich, ‘Become a teacher Rich it is a noble profession’ He always said that that struck him deeply. Later he took his exams at More House and he had one or two other coincidental encounters with Thomas More.
I think my father quite liked the coat of arms. He sadly passed away in 2016 but I and other members of my family remember him every time we look at it.
My thanks go to Robert Noel, Lancaster Herald for his patience with me and my copious scribbles and to the late Peter Gwynn-Jones, Garter King of Arms for indulging my medieval artistic whims. The Illuminated borders and the style of the arms were painted in a humble homage to the great work of John Whas and John Siferwas monks of Sherborne Abbey in Dorset and the beautiful Missal they produced in 1415 not a hundred yards from my parents home
This piece of art was a thanks to my Dad who encouraged my career and gave me the love of history and art that helped make it happen.
Andrew Stewart Jamieson.