Scotland the Brave

Coat of Arms Innes

The Coat of Arms of my Grandfather, Colin Webster Innes.

Last week we were blessed with a bagpiper playing in the school yard behind our house. He was obviously practising for something – he marched up and down along the back side of the school in a depression where he probably thought no one would notice him… its hard not to notice bagpipes playing.

I personally love the sound – it strikes some deep ancestral chord in my brain and makes me very happy. My husband, however, found it nerve wracking – he obviously doesn’t have any Scottish blood in him (that Welsh/French Hugenot!)

My maternal grandfather was a Nova Scotian Scot and proud of his long and celebrated heritage. His people lived in Nova Scotia since the early 17th century. It was on May 28, 1625 that his direct ancestor, Sir Robert Innes, became a baronet of Nova Scotia and was the first Scot to receive a land grant of 30,000 acres from King Charles I of England. The land was eventually parceled up and sold – and my Grandfather grew up on some of the remaining land in Porter’s Lake, Nova Scotia.

King Charles I at the Hunt by Anthony Van Dyck, Louvre

King Charles I gave my ancestor 30,000 acres of land in Nova Scotia – very nice indeed. This is one of my most favorite of paintings – Charles I at the Hunt, by Anthony Van Dyck, c 1635. Louvre


The red area shown on the map of Scotland is referred to as the Moray, and was given to Berowald in 1160.

The family history goes back even farther to Christmas Day in 1160 when the knight Berowald was given a charter of land for service to the crown from King Malcolm of Scotland. The charter included the land along the seashore between the rivers Spey and Lowssie and henceforward was known as the Barony of Innes.

Hortus_Deliciarum knights on horse

This is one of the nicest images I could find of Knights from the 12th century – so I can imagine Berowald looked somewhat similar to this when the King gave him his Christmas present in 1160. This painting is a 19th c copy done from the 12th century illuminated manuscript called the Hortus Deliciarum (the original was destroyed by fire). The original manuscript was made at Hohenburg Abbey in France in 1185 by Herrad of Landsberg – a Nun.

My Great Grandfather had been raised to believe that he and his family were in line to inherit the mythical and great Innes fortune. He did extensive research into the family history, even hiring a lawyer to travel to Scotland to push his case. The lawyer’s papers were, however, mysteriously destroyed by fire on-board ship while crossing the Atlantic.

By the time my Grandfather was old enough to take an interest in the family tree himself, the fortune was gone and it was discovered that my family had no claim to it anyway. But my Grandfather still carried on the with the research and even traveled to Scotland in 1961 to visit his ancestral home called Innes House. At that time the Lord Lyon of Arms was an Innes.

Innes House in Moray

Too bad my family didn’t inherit the Innes fortune and the lovely Innes House in Moray.

My Grandfather was a proud and persistent Scot, even after leaving Nova Scotia when he settled in New York. His neighbor in Bronxville, NY (Mr. Varley) liked to play his opera records very loudly on his porch in fine weather, and this drove my Grandfather mad. For revenge he would aim his stereo speakers out the back window and play bagpipe music even louder to drown out the arias… it must have been something to hear that battle going on.

My mother shared the same enthusiasm for her Scottish roots, and hand published a book in 1970 on the Innes History and Geneaology of the Porters Lake Branch, of which there were 7 copies made.
Innes of Porters Lake family history

The book my mother made of the Innes family history. My mother set the type, printed the pages on her printing press, designed & cut & hand printed the illustrations. She inscribed the initial letters by hand, and hand bound the book with a cover of Innes tartan. She even made little slip cases for several copies.

 The book is based on the research that my Grandfather wrote up and had verified in Scotland by the Royal College of Arms.
Innes family tree

The family tree dating back to Berowald. Double click to read.

I gather from reading the book that my ancestors were considered a pretty tough bunch even back then – for example in 1584 Lady Innes (Isabelle Forbes) took revenge upon her husband’s murderer:

“There was no mercy for him, for slain he was, and his hoar head cut off and taken by the widow of him whom he had slain, and casten at the King’s feet, a thing too masculine to be commended in a woman.”        from the book Ane Account of the Familie of Innes written in 1698

Way to go ancestral lady!

Lady Innes by Thomas Gainsborough

This isn’t the lady that rolled the head of her dead enemy to the feet of the king, this is a much later and more lady-like lady. Sarah, Lady Innes, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1757, Frick Collection.

I grew up learning that eating oatmeal and being a penny pincher were Scottish traits that my Grandfather and Mother both admired and shared. I do like my porridge every morning and I do worry about money all the time, but not to the same extent or with the same delight that was taught to me through family lore.

My mother made sure that we had Innes tartan around all the time. We had it made into pillows on the sofa, made into jackets, neckties for my father, vests, scarves, shirts, and of course homemade kilts.

Innes tartan

The Innes Tartan is in my opinion, one of the most vibrant and beautiful of the modern tartans.

The year before we were married my husband and I went to London for a couple of weeks and naturally I was thrilled to order a custom-made, authentic kilt in Innes tartan. Alas, I was a tiny wee lass then and the kilt only fit until I got pregnant with my first child – and then even letting it out didn’t help. It still sits in my closet waiting to be remade into something else… someday I will honor my family heritage and make something I can use out of it – a sleeve or the leg for a pair of pants perhaps.

My Grandfather called me a “Sturdy Wee Lass” when I was a toddler, and that I was. Sadly my Grandfather died when I was little more than 3 so I don’t remember him at all. But his legacy lives on in my heart – and someday I hope to go home to Scotland and visit the castle my people built all those years ago and listen to lots of bagpipes and eat lots of porridge.

Elizabeth Rose Safran age 14 by Bernard Safran

A portrait of me by my father when I was 14. My mother made the entire outfit I am wearing including the Innes Tartan kilt. Elizabeth Rose Safran, Age 14 by Bernard Safran 1974.

Lancelot fight with Sir Mados 1315-1325

When I was researching early images of knights I came across this and it is just too good to pass up so I include it to give that feeling of Medieval life and knights. I love all the characters, especially the horse on the left tentatively watching the bloody battle. Sir Lancelot is fighting Sir Mados in front of Arthur and Guenivere and the court. 1315-1325 France, N. (London, British Library, MS Royal 14 E. iii, f. 156v).







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