Free worldwide delivery

  • 0 items
  • £0.00

Free worldwide delivery

Origins and Tartans of Barclay

7 April 2017


Aut agere aut mori (Either Action or Death)

There are two competing views of where the Barclays of Scotland originated. Historians and genealogists often point to Berkeley in Gloucestershire as their origin. But another theory, supported by historian, GWS Barrow, points to the small village of Berkley in Somerset. Whichever is correct, it’s generally accepted that the name is French in origin and came to Britain after the Norman conquest of 1066.

The name, originally de Berchelai, is said to be an Anglicisation of the French beau (beautiful) and lie (meadow) and the Barclay name is generally held to be descended from one Roger de Barchelai who came to Britain with William the Conqueror. Roger’s son John, it is told was granted lands in Towie in Aberdeenshire by King Malcolm III, who had married Margaret of Wessex (St Margaret of Scotland). Given it is thought that John de Berchelai (de Berkeley) came to Scotland with Margaret, this seems the likely start of the Scots Barclays.

The first prominent Barclay is Walter de Berkeley, first lord of Gartly, who was appointed Great Chamberlain of Scotland in 1165 by William I (The Lion) but his line ended in 1456 with the death of Walter, Canon of Gartly.

Another branch stems from Theobald de Berkeley who settled in north east Scotland in the 12th century, and his descendant, Alexander, acquired the lands of Mathers in Aberdeenshire through his marriage in 1351 to Catherine Keith, sister of William Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland. Their son, Alexander, is attributed to changing the spelling from Berkeley to Barclay.

Alexander’s descendant, David, was forced to sell Mathers and his son, also David sought his fortune in the Thirty Years’ War, serving as a volunteer under Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and achieving the rank of major, before heading to England to fight on the Royalist side in the English Civil War. He was appointed Colonel of a regiment of horse, but returned to Aberdeenshire after the war was lost to Cromwell and purchased the lands of Urie.

Barclay had been imprisoned for a short time by Cromwell and there had become a Quakers. His son Robert, also a fervent Quaker, published Apology for the True Christian Divinity, a rationale for Quaker thinking and a defence of the Quaker faith. Robert was also appointed Governor of East New Jersey and also made many missionary visits throughout Europe, often in the company of William Penn.

Incidentally, Robert’s grandson, David, was one of the founders of Barclay’s Bank.

Rather in contrast to the Quakerism of David and Robert Barclay, two members of the Barclay Towie branch settled in Riga, Latvia as silk merchants. Their descendant, Michael Andreas, was the Russian Field Marshall of the army which defeated Napoleon in 1812, a feat for which he was made Prince Barclay de Tolly.


Crest Barclay

Out of a chapeau azure turned ermine, a hand holding a dagger, proper.


There is no recorded Barclay tartan before its appearance in Vestiarium Scoticum, where the green Hunting version is recorded. The Dress tartan appears much later, and is usual with the so-called ‘dress’ tartans, probably takes its rather bright yellow colours from ladies evening dress colours by the Victorians and turned into men’s evening dress.

The tartan is a symmetrical sett and pivots around the small red and green threads for the Hunting and the white and yellow for the Dress.

Barclay Hunting AncientBarclay Hunting Modern

The Hunting tartan, available in Ancient and in Modern, features a large blue and green check with a green overcheck on the blue and a red overcheck on the green with a threadcount of (ancient) R2G32B32G2.

Barclay Dress Modern

The Dress tartan features a large black and yellow checks overchecked with white and yellow resulting in a threadcount of W2Y12K12Y2.

Origins and Tartans of Barclay Origins and Tartans of Barclay Origins and Tartans of Barclay


Any comments?

Back to Blogs Index