Updated: Sep 20, 2021
THE BIGGAR COAT OF ARMS
HERBY ILLUSTRATED IS OFFICIAL DOCUMENTED IN BURKE'S GENERAL ARMORY. THE ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION OF THE ARMS IS AS FOLLOWS
"AR.A BEND AZ BETW.THREE MULLETS GU"
When translated the blazon also describes the original colours of the Biggar arms as
"SILVER; A BLUE DIAGONAL BEND BETWEEN THREE RED STARS"
Meaning of Symbols and colours:
SILVER - Argent or white depicted by a white space, represents serenity and nobility.
BEND - One of the Honorable Ordinates. Blue: truth and loyalty
STAR - Honor and achievement. Red: warrior or martyr, also military strength or magnanimity.
Above the shield and helmet is the Stewart Crest which is described as:
"Pelican argent, winged, feeding her young in the nest."
Heraldic descriptions (blazons) featuring a pelican describe it variously as ‘in her piety’, ‘vulning’ or ‘feeding her young’. The pelican is depicted wounding her own breast with her beak and feeding the droplets of blood to her hungry chicks. This image of self sacrifice became a strong Christian symbol of self sacrifice.
In Skelton’s “Armory of Birds” it is described poetically:
“Then sayd the pellycane
When my byrats be slayne
With my bloude I them reuyue (revive)
Scrypture doth record,
The same dyd our Lord,
And rose from deth to lyue.”
Those that remained at Woolmet are the descendants of Major John Biggar who seemed to have survived the upheaval of the border Clans between 1605-1640. There is a Coat of Arms dating from this Biggar that is quite different from the Coat of Arms of the Biggar's of Kirkcudbrightshire.
There are only a few reasons to so change a coat of arms. One was the union with another house, in which case the greater house is placed on top of the under houses coat of arms. The example of this is the placing of the Stewart Pelican and her young on top of the original coat of arms of Woolmet house. The bend remains the same. In the revised Biggar of Woolmet house coat of arms, the pelicans head was severed; the bend was changed to a bar to disavow all claims to royal blood and descent.
This ploy did not seem to appease the powers that were for very long. John disowned all his male heirs, sent them to Ireland and married his daughter to a William Wallace, a nephew of Sir Thomas Wallace of Craigie, a Lord of Session and Justice. Wallace upon marriage to the heiress of Woolmet assumed her name and lands. Exactly why this was done remains a mystery. The transfer title does not state a reason. Given the turbulent times in which John found himself, and given his station and position, it is not hard to understand the attempt to preserve the family lands under a Biggar, even if the current Lord of Woolmet was not a Biggar by birth.
The exact relationship of Major John Biggar and Herbert Biggar III is not known at present, but what evidence there is seems to point to them not being brothers. Maybe they were cousins. Major John Biggar was beheaded on May 26, 1690.
Coat of arms were developed in the Middle Ages as a means of identifying warriors in battle and tournaments. The present function of the coat of arms (although still one of identity serves more to preserve the traditions that arose from its earlier use. Under most heraldic rules, only first sons of the recipient of a Coat of Arms are permitted to bear the ancestors Arms. Younger sons may use a version of their fathers Arms, but the rules of heraldry say that they must be changed("differenced") somewhat. If the bearer of the Coat Of Arms ("called an Armiger") dies without male heirs, his daughter may combine her father’s Arms with her husband’s Arms. This process is called "impaling." Although these principles seem formal today, they do give us an idea of the rich, protective traditions which surround heraldry through the ages.