Clan Armstrong

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Clan Armstrong
Mac Ghillieláidir[1]
Clan member crest badge - Clan Armstrong.svg
Crest: An arm from the shoulder, armed, Proper[1]
Motto Invictus maneo (I remain unvanquished)[1]
Region Scottish Borders
District Liddesdale[1]
Armstrong of Mangerton arms.svg
Clan Armstrong has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Historic seat Gilnockie Tower
Last Chief Archibald Armstrong of Mangerton
Died 1610

Clan Armstrong is a Lowland Scottish clan of the Scottish Borders.[2] The clan does not currently have a chief recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms and therefore it is considered an Armigerous clan.[2]

The Clan is currently represented globally by the official Clan Armstrong Trust in the Scottish border region. The President of the Armstrong Clan Trust is Micheil Armstrong of Mungbyhurst CA,FCI,FSA SCOT, KLJ. The Clan Trust has a museum in Langholm, Dumfriesshire, which holds the biggest archive of Armstrong history in the world. Clan meetings take place each summer with a formal gathering every second year.


Origins of the clan

Traditional origins

According to the legend and tradition, the first of the name Armstrong was Siward Beorn (sword warrior), who was also known as Siward Digry (sword strong arm).[2] He was said to be the last Anglo-Danish Earl of Northumberland and a nephew of King Canute, the Danish king of England who reigned until 1035.[2] The Armstrong chiefs are said also to have been related by marriage to Duncan, King of Scots as well as William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.[2]

Recorded origins

The Armstrong name was common over the whole of Northumbria and the Scottish Borders.[2] The Armstrongs became a powerful and warlike clan in Liddesdale and the Debatable Lands.[2] Historian George Fraser Black lists Adam Armstrong in 1235 as being pardoned for causing the death of another man.[2] Black also records Gilbert Armstrong, steward of the household of David II of Scotland, as ambassador to England in 1363.[2]

15th, 16th and 17th centuries

Armstrong tartan

In around 1425 John Armstrong, brother of Armstrong of Mangerton in Liddesdale built a strong tower.[2] The Armstrongs were able to raise three thousand horseman and were said to be at one point in control of the debatable lands.[2] In 1528, Lord Dacre, who was the English Warden of the Marches attacked the Armstrong's tower but the Armstrongs retaliated and burned Netherby.[2] The power of the Armstrongs was seen by James V of Scotland as a threat to his own authority.[2] According to tradition, James tricked John Armstrong of Ginlockie to a meeting at Hawick where the king hanged the Armstrong laird without further ado.[2] King James continued his treatment of the Armstrongs when they failed to support him in 1542 at the Battle of Solway Moss.[2]

In 1603 the Union of the Crowns brought an official end to the Anglo-Scottish Wars of the Borders.[2] In 1610 the last of the Armstrong lairds was hanged in Edinburgh for leading a raid on Penrith, England.[2] This was followed by a ruthless campaign by the Crown to pacify the Borders.[2] As a result families were scattered with many of the them seeking new homes in Ulster, particularly in County Fermanagh.[2] Armstrong is now amongst the fifty most common names in Ulster.[2] There has been no trace of the Armstrong chiefs since the clan was dispersed in the 17th century.[2]

Modern clan history

Clan Armstrong Centre in Langholm, Scotland

Amongst the many distinguished Armstrongs are Sir Alexander Armstrong who was an Arctic explorer, and also Neil Armstrong who was the first man to walk upon the Moon,[2] taking with him a piece of the Clan Armstrong tartan.[3][4] The Armstrong Baronets are descendents of Gilnockie [5] Comedian Alexander Armstrong is a descendant.[6] Although there has been no trace of the Armstrong chiefs since the clan was dispersed in the 17th century, there is a powerful and active clan association and the Clan Armstrong Trust was established in 1978.[2]


Gilnockie Tower, home of the Clan Armstrong

Castles owned by the Clan Armstrong have included amongst many others:

  • Gilnockie Tower, also known as Hollows Tower, a couple of miles north of Canonbie in Dumfriesshire.[7] It was apparently built in 1518 but there was probably an earlier strong hold on the site.[7] It now houses a Clan Armstrong Centre.[7]
  • Mangerton Tower, one mile south of Newcastleton which is near to the English border.[7] Nearby is the Minholm Cross which was erected in about 1320 to commemorate the murder of Alexander Armstrong in Hermitage Castle.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Clan Armtrong Profile Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 Way, George and Squire, Romily. (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 352 - 353.
  3. Goddard, Jacqui (2009-07-20). 40 years on Armstrong recalls 'step for mankind'. The Scotsman (Edinburgh). Retrieved on 2009-07-20 from
  4. Phillips, Iain Zaczek Charles (2009) The Complete Book of Tartan. Lorenz. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
  5. A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, 1852 Burkes Peerage and Baronetage 1852. Retrieved 12 Dec 2014.
  6. "Interview: Alexander Armstrong on bringing variety back to Saturday night TV". The Scotsman. 26 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Coventry, Martin. (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. pp. 14 - 15. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.

See also

External links