Scottish History



From earliest times it was the custom of nations, clans and families to adopt a symbol which, when borne upon standard or shield, furnished an easy method of distinguishing different units or individuals from one another in the confusion of battle. In medieval times, the science of heraldry was based on this custom. As long as men fought with their faces bared, there was no problem distinguishing one from the other. However, when complete armor was adopted and men could no longer see their friends and antagonists’ faces, they were forced to adopt distinguishing marks by which they were easily identified in battle and in peace. These marks or symbols were usually worn on helmets, shields and banners. On the helmet it was called a crest; on the shield it was called a charge; on the banner it was the symbol of the family, or clan or nation. Each family, clan or individual had its own symbol by which it was known. In ancient times, a badge or symbol was a sacred thing, and for a tribe or family to adopt the symbol of another was an act of dishonor. From medieval times to the present, the symbol of Clan Forsyth has been the Griffin, a mythological winged creature, with the head of an eagle and the body of a lion.


The symbol of Clan Forsyth – the Griffin

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In feudal times, to prevent repetition and confusion among the wearers of coats-of-arms, as the marks or symbols were called, special schools and colleges whose business was to know and keep record and order among the innumerable markings of the nobility developed. The lions of England and Scotland, the lilies of France, and the eagles of Germany are derived from these markings, and every knight and noble family had their own special bearings or symbols, coats-of-arms and crests by which they were known.

In the beginning, arms or symbols were assumed simply as a distinguishing mark. Later when they became more complex, they were given for some deed or as an honor especially conferred. Strictly speaking, a coat-of-arms is hereditary and belongs to the head of a family, or with certain manifestations, to his immediate kin. The crest or badge can be borne by any of the blood of the family.

The ancient history of the Forsyth family can be traced, not only by the name, of which there are several variations, but also by its symbol the Griffin.



Among the greatest nations descending from the Aryan or white race, whose original home was the great central plateau of Asia, from which it wandered south and north and west, were the Gothic and Teutonic tribes. From these tribes came the Franks, the Norsemen and others, including the Scots. The name of Scot is derived from the saint called Saint Skint, but the name Scot also means man of the North or Northman. Gothic comes from the word Cat or Got, meaning a man of war. The Scots, like their brethren of the North Aryan race, were tall with hazel, gray and blue eyes, brown and yellow hair, very fair complexioned, and were of the purest Gothic Aryan blood. They belonged to the Scandinavian division of Teutonic stock.

Among the Scandinavian people, the most important event from the dim prehistoric past was the arrival of Odin. According to historians, Odin was the chief of a Scythian tribe of warriors, which immigrated from the East and fought its way North, passing through Germany into Scandinavia. Through superior intelligence, skill and bravery, Odin brought the natives into subjection and established a kingdom. He made an alliance with the King of Sweden, and the Romans never conquered his kingdom. Odin is thought to have reigned about 70 B. C. Most likely Odin was a great and wise ruler, who of necessity in such an age was also a great warrior and statesman who organized his people and gave them laws and permanently established them. After his death, tradition, following its usual course, built about his memory a mass of attributes that in the course of years became divine, and finally caused him to be worshipped as a god. To Odin was attributed the invention of Runic writing and poetry; and a knowledge of astronomy and the arts, sciences and magic. He became the personification of all that was heroic, wise and good, and according to the ideals of his people, the predominant ideal figure of his race, its god. This was the normal course of mythology and tradition among races in their infancy before the dawn of letters in Greece and Rome.

The symbol of Odin was the raven. It was also the symbol of the wild, marauding Norsemen of ancient times. From this symbol comes the black eagle used in the arms of Germany, Austria and Russia.



The name Forsyth is first found in the Mythology of Odin. Balder, called “The Beautiful and Good,” was the son of Odin and his wife, Frigge. He was worshiped as a beautiful, youthful warrior, whose wisdom and valor were as well known as his beauty and goodness. To Balder and his wife Nannie, was born a son, Forsite, “The Just.” He was known as the honorable and honored one. He is said to have been king of that part of Northern Europe known as Friesland, where his palace, Glyner, was celebrated for its magnificence and for the fact that no petitioner was turned away without a hearing and without receiving justice. His reign was noted for peace and harmony.


The symbol of Forsite, Forsate, Forsath, Forsyth, as it is variously spelled, the son of Balder, was the griffin, a fabulous creature, winged, with the head of an eagle and the body of a lion. The symbol of the griffin denotes vigilance and strength. The race whose badge was the griffin controlled the areas later known as Friesland and Denmark.

In Scottish history, one of the royal races that came from Scandinavia into Scotland bore the griffin as its symbol. In an old history of Scotland, one of the conquering Gothic clans from Scandinavia settling in Scotland in the second century was known from the standard of their chiefs bearing the symbol of the griffin. They were known as the men of the griffin race.

In the early history of the Forsyths in Scotland, they were known as the race of the Griffin because they bore the griffin as the symbol of their race. According to the ancient law of heraldry the griffin which adorns the frontispiece was exclusively the badge or symbol of Forsite or Forsyth, who first adopted it, and his descendants. The designation by this badge or symbol from generation to generation during a time when one family held a symbol, is excellent proof of descent when there were no surnames. In later times, contrary to ancient usage, others assumed the use of the symbol of the griffin. However, during the reign of Henry III a law was promulgated prohibiting families from adopting, a symbol previously used by another. By this law no one could assume a badge or arms without the king’s permission. This law restored the ancient law of heraldry.

The idea of the griffin goes back to classic times, and was well known to the Greeks and Romans. The crest of the Forsyths is a demi-griffin rampant. The demi part of animals alone was worn on crests, because it is impossible to wear the entire animal on a crest. On the shield the entire griffin was displayed. The arms of the family is three griffins rampant verde on a field argent, a chevron engrailed gules.



From the race that bore the griffin as their emblem, came Ethod, brother of Eugenius, King of the Scots. His son was Ertus, who married Rocha, daughter of Roderic, Lord and Prince of Denmark. Roderic had a son Fergus who assisted Alaric, King of the Goths, at the taking of Rome in 410 A. D. Fergus was later crowned King of the Scots as Fergus II. A younger son Roderic was brought up in Denmark and educated at the Royal Danish Court. He married a daughter of a Frankish noble of Austrasia. He bore on his shield the griffin, and his crest was a demi-griffin. His grandson was Arnulf, born near Nancy about 580. He married a daughter of the duke of the Franks of Austrasia. After her death he became bishop of Metz in 614. One of his sons was Ansighis, who married Begga, daughter of Pepin de Landin, mayor of the palace. His estate or lordship was known as Heristal. His son was Pepin de Heristal, father of Charles de Heristal (Charles Martel), who was one of the greatest administrators and warriors of his age, from 732 to 771. His power, based on the sword alone, extended from the Rhine to the Loire. He married Chrutude, and founded the great dynasties of the Carolings. Two sons, Pepin and Carloman, received equally the kingdom.

Charles Martel married second Sonahilda, the daughter of the Duke of Bavaria. One son, Roderic, was born in 726. He was called Grippo and surnamed the Griffin because he carried the figure of the griffin on his shield. When he grew to manhood, as a warrior he bore the demi-griffin crest, while his two half-brothers bore the crest of the kings and princes of the Franks, whose estates they inherited.

When Mattel died, Grippo received only a small part of the estate because the church did not consider his mother’s marriage an ecclesiastic one, even though it was within the customs of the Franks. Grippo objected and claimed an equal share as a prince of the royal blood. His half-brothers had him imprisoned in a castle in the Ardennes to prevent a realization of his claim. Fortunately he escaped and went to Friesland, now North Holland, where he was warmly welcomed because the people there still held in high esteem his ancestor, Forsite. It was there Grippo sought allies to regain his rights, and the Frieslanders were the first to give him aid. Idile, a Danish chieftain, and also a duke of the Bavarians, resented what he considered an insult to his relative the mother of Grippo, and he was determined to avenge it. During the contention there was some fighting, after which an agreement was made in which the half-brothers of Grippo gave him the government of twelve counties de Mansond, with the rank of Lordship de Mansond. However, spies surrounded him, and fearing he would be imprisoned, in 751, he went to Aquitaine. Three years later he attempted to join an army of the Lombards that had arisen against the Franks.

In the meantime Carloman had entered a monastery and handed over his ducal rights to his brother, Pepin, who became the sole duke of the Franks. Pepin recruited his army from great warriors of the North to fight the Saxons and Lombards. Among these warriors was Fionnlock (Fion of the Lake), whose name is preserved in Fionne, an island off the coast of Denmark. Fionnlock was a royal Scottish chieftain who had gone to France to aid Martel. He was a relative of King Achaisus of Scotland, and one of the Scottish Auxiliaries among the Franks at this time. He was with the army that Pepin sent under two generals to intercept the army of the Lombards that Grippo had joined. He also bore the demi-griffin crest of his race.

The encounter between the two armies took place at Maurienne. Fionnlock was a friend of Grippo, and in the conflict, he saw the Grippo’s griffin symbol and tried to rescue him from his enemies. The numbers were against Fionnlock and Grippo was killed. Other ties bound these two men. Fionnlock’s young daughter had married Grippo, whose death now left the widow with two little children in poverty and distress.

When Pepin died in 768 he left two sons, Charles and Carloman. Carloman survived his father by three years. Following Carloman’s death, Charles became sole king of the Franks. The reign of Charlemagne, the great Frankish lord, who in fact and legend filled the world, now begins. One of his first acts was to appoint councils to inquire into the condition of his people–nobles, clergy, merchants and peasants. News came to him of Grippo’s princely family. He learned of the courage and honor of Fionnlock, and of his daughter, Grippo’s widow, and of her two promising sons. His heart was touched and he took them under his care, adopting them as his nephews. They were often called his sons, but it would have prejudiced his own sons’ claims to divisions of the empire had he adopted them as sons. It was a stroke of policy since it excluded their claims on the empire that might have been derived from descent from their father, Prince Roderic (Grippo). The elder son, Roland or Ronald, became the greatest of the emperor’s paladins, and duke of the marshes of Brittany. He bore the demi-griffin crest. In the annals of chivalry, he was called the flower of ancient chivalry, and his exploits were painted by the poets. The second son, whose name was Forsyth, was born in 753. He was named from the Gothic prince Forsite, from whom he was descended. Forsyth became a count of the empire, and he and Roland both bore the griffin inherited from their father, Grippo, and as paladins and counts of the empire, they also bore the double eagle symbols of imperial office. Roland married a niece of Charlemagne, while Forsyth married a daughter of the Duke of Aquitania in 810.

When Charlemagne was fighting the Saxons near Padderburn about 780, Roland and Forsyth were with him, and rendered valuable service. In 786 Charlemagne built a castle on the hill of Fronsac, twenty miles northeast of Bordeaux. He called it Forsyth in honor of his adopted nephew and of their common ancestor, the ancient King Forsite. He made it the capital of the district and appointed Forsyth as its defender. He gave Forsyth the herald lordship of the castle, the first Vicomte de Fronsac. Forsyth’s descendants became the lords of the castle, the imperial Vicomtes of Fronsac. Possession of the title in the eldest male line continued down to the eleventh century. The castle was one of the most powerful of Western France. The Emperor and the Franks had conquered the Saxons, and the castle was built as a restraining influence against them.

Fronsac was an ancient district in Aquitaine. It bordered on the river Dordogne. Its history reaches back to the Roman period. Hagaman Forsyth de Fronsac, a great grandson of the first Forsyth of the castle, was chief of stall of the Emperor, Charles the Simple, and his last legal adviser. He defeated all the enemies of the empire when Charles was betrayed by them, but later in 924, when they succeeded in defeating Charles, Hagaman was deprived of his rank, after which he retired to Forsyth castle. Because of his influence, Aquitaine refused to recognize the change of dynasty.

Grimwald Forsyth, the great grandson of Hagaman, was the last of the Forsyth name to hold the castle. He married Marie de Montenac about 1010, and they had four daughters and one son.

Before the eleventh century the Forsyths of Fronsac and the Tailefer families, who were counts of Angoulene, had intermarried. In 1030, Guillanone de Tailefer married the eldest daughter of Grimwald Forsyth and claimed one-third of the Fronsac estates as his wife’s dowry. Party feuds to get possession followed between the daughters as claimants of the castle and estates. One of them occupied the castle against the wishes of the king, who was the arbitrator of their disputes. The young son of Grimwald was deprived of his right of succession, and the castle passed into the female line. In the eleventh century, during the contention for possession between the claimants, the castle was partially destroyed.

In the fifteenth century when the English were at war with the French under command of the Earl of Derby, they invaded Aquitaine, and in their course captured the castle. Shortly afterward it was completely demolished. Some time later a new castle was built by one of the Richelieus under the name Chateau Fronsac.

The second daughter of Grimwald Forsyth married Comte de Albert, the third Seig Caumont and the fourth Prince de Rohan. The descendants of these families held the castle and the Fronsac title for several centuries, and it was from these descendents, after 1472, came the following succession: Odet de Aydie, Vicomte de Fronsac of the princely house of Fix. Vicomte de Lantrac recognized by the King in 1472 as Vicomte de Fronsac, Jehan de Rohan, Seig. de Gie Marshall of France and Vicomte de Fronsac in 1491. His cousin, Jacques De Albret Marshall, of the princely house of Navarre, succeeded him. The king made him Comte de Fronsac in 1551. His cousin, Antoine de Lustract, was Marquis de Fronsac in 1555. During this time the family of de Caumont Duc La Force were bearing the title of Comte de Fronsac, having inherited the title from Rohan or Albret.

The title next passed to the Royal Bourbons in the person of Francis de Orleans Longueville, Comte de St. Poi, a descendant from a branch of the Valois family. He was a relative of King Henry of Navarre, who in 1608 raised the title to a ducal peerage, Duc de Fronsac. Armand Jean de Plessis Duc de Richelieu revived a claim to the title after the death in 1631 of Orleans St. Poi without direct heirs, and as Cardinal and Prime Minister of France attained a new patent in 1634. He claimed the duchy through his grandmother, a Rochelrouart, a descendant of Forsyth. At Richelieus’ death the title passed to Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde.

In 1646 his sister, the Princess de Conde, the next heir, became Duchess de Fronsac, and at her death the title passed to her cousin, Duc de Richelieu, with whose descendants it remained until the Revolution when the Chateau Fronsac castle was finally destroyed by the revolutionists.

While the castle and title were held in the female line there were times when different families in the succession were claiming the name Fronsac at the same time, but under different titles. It is believed that each branch of the family, the Vicomte, Comte, Marquis and Duchy, had a legal right to bear the title at the same time. The title of Vicomte de Fronsac of the Forsyths is imperial from Charlemagne, while that of Comte de Fronsac is from a grant from the royal house of Capet; Marquis was a grant from the house of Valois, and the Duchy was from the royal house of Bourbon.



In the seventh generation from Grimwald Forsyth and descending from his disinherited son, came Osbert de Forsyth. At that time he was the only descendant in the male line in the family, since the other male members had perished in the civil war of France. Osbert’s relatives in the female line, who had held the castle and the Fronsac estates for several generations, had divided the estates so that Osbert inherited very little. This led Osbert to leave France and go to Scotland, the land of his forefathers. At the time, Eleanor of Provence went to England to marry Henry III. Osbert, accompanied the princess, and had the opportunity to visit England. On such occasions, it was the custom to make up a convoy of ships. Eleanor was attended on this journey by all the chivalry of the south of France. There was a stately train of nobles, ladies and minstrels. Eleanor was treated with peculiar honors while on her way by Thibaut, the poet, King of Navarre, who feasted her and her company for five days and guarded them in person with his knights and nobles to the French frontier. She then embarked with her company, sailing from Bordeaux. They landed at Dover, and after a short stay in England, Osbert then crossed over to Armondale in Scotland. He bore the shield with the emblems of Fronsac and Angoulene beneath the demi-griffin crest of the Forsyths.

Between 1246 and 1250, Osbert is found established in Armondale, Peebles county, Scotland, where he bore the family name and emblems of Forsyth in Scotland. His place in Armondale was destroyed in the Bruce war after the battle of Bannockburn. The family also had a manor called Polmaise Merischall in Salkilh County, Stirling.


The journey of Osbert deserves special emphasis, since it was the turning point for life or extinction for the Forsyths. It might have been extinction had he not decided to leave the land torn by constant warfare where so many of his own blood had been killed. The Forsyths in every nation who have inherited the name are descended from Osbert.

Osbert had a son whose name was Wilhelm, who is recognized in the Chronicles of Scottish history as a feudal lord of County Peebles, who signed the Ragman Roll of Scotland in 1296. The Ragman Roll was an agreement to submit to the arbitrators of King Edward the claims of the thirteen competitors for the crown of Scotland, so that civil war between them might be avoided.

Wilhelm’s son, Robert I, moved into Stirlingshire while Robert Bruce was fighting for his crown against King Edward. Robert and his son, Osbert II, became partners of Bruce. They took a prominent part in the battle of Bannockburn. After Bruce’s victory in this struggle he became king of Scotland. In gratitude to Osbert for the valuable service rendered in this most notable battle of all Scottish history, Bruce gave him a feudal grant of land in County Stirling.


Bannockburn is a town of Stirlingshire, Scotland, about three miles southeast of Stirling Castle. The battle of Bannockburn was the most important battle in the history of Scotland, and one in which Osbert Forsyth was a trusted and valiant leader.

The English king, Edward II, appeared on June 24, 1314, with an army which surpassed every force that had as yet been led against Scotland in numbers and equipment, and was the largest that a king of England ever led. He had one hundred thousand men and forty thousand horsemen. Bruce was aware of the immense superiority of the enemy, and that there were two Englishmen to every Scotsman.

Bruce chose his ground of battle with admirable skill in the royal park between the Bannockburn stream and the Castle of Stirling. To break the ranks of the English horse, he constructed covered pits, and put steel spikes over the ground. The English had an easy passage to horses only in front of the Scottish position at the banks of the stream. Therefore, the English had no choice but to attack the Scots at that point. Before the battle began, as the sun rose, the Scots went down on their knees to pray. When King Edward saw this, he said: “See, they are kneeling to ask pardon.” “Yes,” was the answer, “they are asking pardon, but from God, and not from us. You will conquer or die.”

At the beginning of the battle, the English archers bent their bows and sent their arrows as thick as snowflakes. Tile boggy ground and steel spikes prevented the horsemen from riding quickly. The Scots stood firm, thrusting with their spears at the horses which, maddened with pain, hurled their riders to the ground, and dashed hither and thither flinging the ranks into confusion. While the battle raged, from a hill nearby, what looked like another Scottish army was seen to descend. It was only the servants who attended Bruce. However, the English thought they were another army, and lost heart, and were thrown into a panic rout.

From the point of view of glory and interest, this battle holds first place among the triumphant actions of the Scottish people. It made Scotland a free country.


Osbert Forsyth II’s son, Robert de Forsyth II, was one of the greatest military leaders of Scotland. He became the governor of Stirling Castle about 1360. This was the highest military command in Stirling Province.


Osbert Forsyth II became the governor of Stirling Castle 1360


Stirling Castle is a noble architectural pile, and it is placed on a great lofty crag fronting the vast mountains and tile gloomy sky of the north. It plays an important part in Scottish history. In 1304, Edward I of England took the castle after a three-month siege; however, Bruce retook it ten years later after the battle of Bannockburn. James II and James V were born in the castle, and here in 1452, James II stabbed the Earl of Douglass. The battle of Bannockburn where Bruce defeated Edward II, was fought two miles southeast of Stirling Castle.


This same Robert Forsyth became feudal Baron of Dykes, the first lord of Castle Dykes, which was in Lanark County, Scotland. Robert, who gained a victory over the English at the Dykes, built this castle around 1350. When the English invaded Scotland and were going to destroy the walls of Dykes, the king called for some one to stop the raid until he had time to mass his forces. Robert Forsyth volunteered to do this. How Robert stopped the English with less than four hundred men has been described in the following poem written by Frederic Gregory Forsyth of Canada, the present Vicomte de Fronsac:

From the hills we see them coming
In their stout array;
Insolent the English
Think the land their prey;
They have broken down the Dykes
In this their strong foray.
Who will be the one so valiant
As their course to stay?
Out spake one who falters ne’er
In council or in war–
He who bore a demi-griffin
On his crest afar.
Through the Dykes he’d chase the English with his clansmen true,
And with sword, Forsyth advancing pierced the arrow through.
When the King of Scotland saw
The chieftain straight and tall,
Who had stood with all his clan
A wall where stood the wall,
Hailed Forsyth to be the lord,
The baron of the Dykes.

The motto Instaurator Ruinae (Restorer of the Ruins) was approved and granted to the Forsyths of Scotland for their invaluable services at the battle of Dykes.
Dykes Castle adjoined Halhill, near Strathavon. Halhill was a manor belonging to the Forsyths of Dykes in County Lanark. The Forsyths moved from Dykes in the early part of the seventeenth century, after occupying it for two and three-quarter centuries. In 1628 the castle was in ruins. A part of the foundation remained until 1828 when it was entirely removed.


For successive generations, the Forsyths governed Stirling Castle. John, the son of Robert II, not only held the crown office at Stirling in 1379, but was also Baron of Dykes, and William, his son, held the same office in 1399.

In 1426 the son of William, who was Robert III, witnessed a charter of Robert Keith, Earl Marshal of Scotland. He married a daughter of Leslie of Roths.



The five sons of Robert are especially remembered for their establishing Glasgow University. The elder, John, was Baron of Dykes and bore the shield of Fronsac. There is no record that he held any professorship in the University, but his sons did. He married the daughter of Sir James Douglass.

Thomas, the second son of Robert III, Canon of Glasgow, used the Leslie seal of his mother (three buckles on a bend). He was an incorporator and founder of Glasgow University in 1473, and received from it a Master of Arts degree. In 1496, he became dean of the faculty as a recognition of his work and service. His son, in turn, became an instructor in the University. One of the younger brothers of Thomas signed the charter of the College in 1483, and was one of its instructors. Matthew, the fourth, was an elector to choose regents for the College in 1497, while Robert, the younger, was an officer. David I and Alexander Forsyth of Aberdeen, sons of John, were chosen to elect regents for the University in 1508.



David Forsyth was a Burgess of the city in 1478 and in 1487 Dom Thomas de Forsyth, Prebendry of Glasgow, endowed the chapel of Corpus Christie in the Cathedral. There are continuous records of the family as merchants and Burgesses of the city through the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. It was from Glasgow that members of the family settled in Argyllshire and Dunbartonshire and emigrated to Ulster, the Americas, South Africa and Australia.



David was also Lord of Dykes, and in 1492, his coat-of-arms appears in Sir James Balfour’s Heraldic Manuscript as Forsyth, Nydie was a castle in Fife that was held by the Forsyths. It is not known who built it or what became of it. The last of this family to hold the castle was Sir Alexander Forsyth in 1604. (David is also mentioned in the history of Stirling). By his title he was doubtless a baronet. The descendants of those who obtained the barony of Nydie were called the Forsyths of Nydie.

David’s son, David II, succeeded his father as Baron of Nydie and Lord of Dykes, and his son, John, succeeded to the titles in 1540. His arms as Forsyth of Nydie are in the Heraldic Manuscript of Sir David Lindsay, the principal herald of Scotland in 1542. However, in 1560, John transferred his estates of Gilcairnstorm, County Aberdeen, to Lord Gordon of Pittwig, to enter one of the military companies of France. When he entered the army, he assumed the title of Comte Forsyth de Fronsac. His brother, James Forsyth, signed a feudal charter before the lords commissioners at Edinburgh in 1560, as Lord of the Monastery of Dumblane. John’s son, David III, born in France, succeeded to Dykes in 1571. By act of Scottish Parliament, he was appointed a commissioner of revenue for Glasgow. The arms of Nydie were confirmed to his posterity through the families of Dykes and Failzerton by the Heralds College of Scotland. He had five children, as follows:

I. Margaret married Captain Jean Denys of Honfleur, and St. Vincent de Tours, France.

II. James, who was commissioner for Glasgow in 1602.

III. William, his successor as Baron of Dykes, who became commissioner of the Scottish parliament in 1621.

IV. Matthew was an Advocate (a lawyer).

V. Robert of Failzerton was in the French army. He was a claimant to the title of Forsyth de Fronsac. The arms of Nydie were confirmed to the Forsyths of Failzerton by Sir George McKenzie, King of Arms of Arms of Scotland.

William, son of David III, had three sons:

I. William, his successor, whose daughter, Barbara, married Baron Rello.

II. John, who was a Lord Commissioner of Scotland in 1652, and a member of the commission to meet the English Parliament to hear the plan of uniting the crown of Scotland and England. The Forsyths of Dykes were strongly opposed to unification. John was in favor of adopting the French language as the national speech, as a barrier against English settlement in the lowlands of Scotland. He regarded English settlement as a growing menace to integrity of the Scottish nation and to the independence of the Scottish kingdom.

John’s son, James, inherited the lands of Failzerton and Kilsyth from his mother, who was a daughter of Sir William Livingston. James was a famous preacher, a minister for the church in Airth in 1661 and at Stirling in 1665. His sermons were published in London in 1666. He was registered at Lyon Court as successor of Dykes and Nydie. He married Marion Elphinson, a daughter of the noted Bruce family, and the nearest line derived from the royal family of Bruce. Having no children, he adopted his relative, James Bruce, who succeeded as James Forsyth of Failzerton, alias Bruce of Gavell. This James was a member of the council of Stirling with the Duke of Hamilton.

The second son of John and brother of James, the minister, was Walter Forsyth, a regent of the University of Glasgow and titular Baron of Dykes. His will is yet in the documents of Scotland. He married his cousin, Margaret, daughter of Captain James Forsyth, who was a son of Robert of Failzerton. James became a captain in land and naval enterprises. In May, 1654, he was a prisoner of war among the English and escaped from the vault below the Parliament House where he had been confined. He married his cousin, Marguerite, daughter of Nicholas Denys, Vicomte de Fronsac, and royal governor of Acadia, Gaspesie and New Foundland.


By the 16th century Forsyth was a recognized Clan with its own Chief. However, at the time of Oliver Cromwell many of the Scottish Records were lost and as a result re-registration was necessary. This took place between 1672 and 1676 and our Chief failed to register.

For over 300 years the Clan was unrecognized. The Forsyths had entered historical darkness around 1650 when Cromwell’s ships carrying records of all the Clans as spoils of war, sank off Berwick on Tweed. The then chief failed to re-establish his claim to the name and his Armorial bearings when Charles II instituted a public register of Clans in 1672.


The Scots who migrated to Northern Ireland beginning about 1605 are generally referred to as ‘Ulster-Scots’, although sometimes in North America they are referred to as ‘Scotch-Irish’. Both terms most commonly refer to those Scots who settled the northern counties of Ireland during the Plantation scheme. However, there were Scots in Ireland as early as the 1400s, such as the McDonalds of County Antrim. There was also a steady stream of Scots migrating to Northern Ireland in the early 1800s as a result of the highland clearances in Scotland. It can therefore be considered that anyone whose ancestors migrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland from 1400 onward, is of Ulster Scottish descent, although the term Ulster-Scot was born with the Plantation scheme.

The majority of Scots who migrated to Northern Ireland came as part of this organized settlement scheme of 1605-1697. Plantation settlements were confined to the Province of Old Ulster, in the Counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Fermanagh, and Londonderry. As many as 200,000 Scots crossed the North Channel to settle in Ulster in this approximately 90 year period. The Plantation of Ulster took place in two stages. The first stage was confined to the two eastern counties of Antrim and Down. The initiative was taken by Scotish fortune seekers. Although the British Crown encouraged and co-operated with those responsible, it was fully a private venture. In County Down, the two leaders of the Scottish settlement were Hugh Montgomery, a Scottish laird from Braidstone in Ayreshire, and James Hamilton, who had begun his career in Ireland as a school teacher in Dublin in 1587. 

The following is a list of Scottish surnames, contained on Muster Rolls and Estate Maps of the eight Plantation Counties of Ulster for the period 1607 – 1633, which was the initial phase of the plantation scheme.




On St. Andrew’s Day 1978, the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, once again recognized the Clan Forsyth as one of the old Clans of Scotland, and Alistair Forsyth of that Ilk as the Clan’s Chief. Today, Clan Forsyth is an active Clan, with members throughout the world.