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The Cross Crosslet Fitchée

I believe that the hand holding a blue cross crosslet fitchée is the symbol of the Coarbs of St Moluag, the Abbots of Lismore.

There are several reasons for saying this.

It is a totem in the crest or shield of:

  1. Maclean of Duart.
  2. Quarterly, 1st, Argent, a rock Gules; 2nd, Argent, a dexter hand fesswise couped Gules holding a cross crosslet fitchée.

  3. MacLaine of Lochbuie.
  4. Quarterly, 1st, Argent, a lion rampant Gules; 2nd, Or, a lymphad sails furled, oars in saltire Sable, flagged Gules; 3rd, Or, a dexter hand fessways couped Gules, holding a cross crosslet fitchée.

  5. MacIntyre.
  6. Shield: Quarterly, 1st & 4th, Or, an eagle displayed Gules, beaked and membered Sable, charged on the breast with a plate;2nd, Argent, a lymphad, sails furled, oars in saltire Sable, flagged Gules, with a beacon on top of the mast Proper; 3rd, Argent, a sinister hand fessways Gules holding a cross crosslet fitchée.

  7. MacDougall of MacDougall.
  8. Crest: on a chapeau Gules furred Ermine, a dexter arm in armour embowed fessways couped Proper, holding a cross crosslet fitchée.

  9. MacDonald of the Isles.

    Crest: on a crest coronet Or, a hand in armour fessways couped at the elbow Proper holding a cross crosslet fitchée Gules.

Domlig or Cuduilig (the Hound of Leaves), an Abbot of Lismore circa 1150 was the progenitor of the Macleans of Duart and Morvern, and the MacLaines of Lochbuieand accounts for the reason they have the hand holding the blue cross crosslet fitchée in their arms.

Somerled’s descendents, MacDougall of MacDougall, and MacDonald of the Isles both have crests which depict an armoured hand holding the cross crosslet fitchée. Somerled considered St Moluag his patron saint and that the Lords of Lorn still consider Moluag to be the patron saint. In our 1544 charter of confirmation Argyll refers to Moluag as the patron saint “in honour of God Omnipotent, the blessed Virgin, and Saint Moloc, our patron” . Somerled was a great supporter of the Celtic Church, as already stated, he tried to get the Coarb of St Columba to return to Iona without success. Other examples of the cross crosslet fitchée can be found in various MacDonald Cadets.

The MacIntryres take their name from the Gaelic 'Mac an t-Saoir', meaning 'son of the carpenter'. Legend has it that their ancestor Macarill effected the betrothal between Somerled and Ragnhild the daughter of Olav the Red, Norse King of Man and the Isles. Olav was not keen on the match so Macarill bored holes in his galley and happened to be standing ready with suitable plugs when the galley began to sink! Thereafter he was known as a 'The Carpenter' and was a much admired follower of Somerled.

At the Argyllshire Gathering in 2003 a heraldic enthusiast told me that the cross crosslet fitchée had a special significance as it represented an evangelist, and that the cross crosslet fitchée as used in the West referred to St Moluag. St Moluag was famous for founding a hundred monasteries – mostly amongst the “heathen” Picts.

Therefore it is demonstrably used by families that were connected to St Moluag, and by families connected to Somerled -who considered St Moluag his patron saint.

Last updated 22 May, 2008