The Clan Craig

Information provided by:

Michael A. Craig, President,
Clan Craig of America
11514 - 15th Ave. NE Suite 531
Seattle, WA 98125


"Vive Deo et Vives"
(Latin - Live in God and You Shall Live);
"J'ai Bonne Esperance"
(French - I have Good Hope)

The surname Craig is one of great antiquity. It originated in the area of the Picts, the eastern portion of Scotland, where they (Picts) were allowed to settle on condition that all their Kings agree to marry an Irish Princess. The Picts are considered to be among the most ancient of the founding races of Scotland. Bede, a respected historian (born 673), estimated that they came to Scotland some fifteen centuries BC, from France. From some early documents researched such as the Inquisito, 1120 AD., the Black Book of the Exchequer, and others, records of the name Craig were produced in Aberdeenshire where they were seated from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066.

The surname Craig was found in many different forms and spellings, From time to time it was spelt Craig, Craigh, Creag, Creagh, some of these are still used today. The name Craig emerged as a Clan and developed in their original territories of Aberdeen where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity, seated at Craigfintray Castle in Kildrumie in that Shire. This Northern Clan is frequently associated with the Gordons, but their first records appear in Ayershire and Lanarkshire to the south about 1180. There were two other branches, one of which is listed separately, the other was closely associated with the Huntly clan. Several of the Clan rendered homage to King Edward I of England on his brief conquest of Scotland in 1296. By 1300 they had moved to Aberdeen and Forfar, John Craig brought out his whole Clan (est. 1,000 warriors) at the battle of Culblean in 1335. They were granted Estircrag in 1440, where this important branch developed in Berwick. Several of the Clan were elected to Scottish Parliament. The Clan seat is at Riccarton, the last known Craig Chief was Thomas Craig of Riccarton who died March 13, 1823. He left no known male heirs.

Among the oldest Chiefs of Clan Craig researched is William Craig of Craigfintray, Co. Aberdeen who would have been born sometime in the latter half of the fifteenth century. Next in succession came Alexander Craig of Craigfintray; next came William Craig of Craigfintray, afterwards Craigston, Co. Aberdeen; next was Sir Thomas Craig, b. 1538, d. 1608; married Helen Heriot. Sir Thomas was a great institutional writer on Scottish feudal law, his work Jus Feudale is still referred to by lawyers today.

Thomas' son, Sir James Craig of Craig Castle and Craigston of Co. Aberdeen, became one of the Scottish undertakers of the Ulster Plantation (N. Ireland) in 1610. It has been determined that if a person's Craig forefathers came to America from N. Ireland, there is a good chance that he was a descendant of this James. This would be especially true if he or she emigrated before the Revolutionary War and a few years thereafter. His descendant, James Craig, became the first Prime Minister of Ireland in 1921, having been an organizer of the Ulster Volunteer Force in the struggle against Home Rule. He was then elevated to the Peerage, taking the title 'Viscount Craigavon'. The new town of Craigavon in County Armagh was named after him. The Craig Coat of Arms needs three ingredients to constitute it; metal, colors and fur: silver (or the color white) signifies serenity and nobility; the fur, ermine, depicts dignity and nobility; and the dark band across the middle represents repentance or vengeance. The most ancient version has been found in the Armorer's Book.

The Craig crest, which includes a chevalier on horseback grasping a broken lance in bend Proper, is representative of a group of 'broken men' from other clans who had sought, and were granted, the protection of the clan. There are two Clan mottoes, the most common being in French - "J'ai Bonne Esperance" - 'I have Good Hope', the other in Latin "Vive Deo et Vives" - 'Live in God and You Shall Live'.

The Craig tartan, of which there are also two, developed from two different sources. One as the result of the Earl of Mar allowing the Craigs to add the color red to his own black and white tartan. The other traditional one, reported to have been designed circa 1957 by Dgn. MacGregor- Hastie, was formulated from the colors of rocks, (Crag) from which the name Craig originated, hence the colors gray, green, black, yellow, and orange on the tartan.

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