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Arms of the Thomsons.

The Thomsons are a numerous tribe with no common ancestor, but that all who bear the name may account themselves clansmen of “an honourable community” is incontestable owing to a 16th century Lord Lyon recognising one as Representer of the Name and then recording the arms of Thomson of that Ilk (as shown here on the right in an extract from what is known as “Workman’s Manuscript” dating from 1565-1566).
Thomson of that Ilk
The identity of the early Thomsons of that Ilk is not known, although their existence as a specific clan (i.e. separate from the rather wider “honourable community”) is on record in the Border area north of Carlisle (where they had a reputation as troublemakers). Successive Lyons have accepted the existence of an unknown Chief and granted arms to Thomson Petitioners as indeterminate cadets.
Thomson of that Ilk
from an illuminated
16th century manuscript
in Lyon Office
To illustrate how Lyon can difference indeterminate cadets while still retaining the generic nature of the Chief’s arms, a selection of granted and matriculated arms is presented below.
With the red head and antlers of the Chief’s arms ~
Thomson of that Ilk John Thomson
Thomson of Gourlabank
John Thomson
Thomson of that Ilk
Thomson of Gourlabank
With a brown head and red antlers ~
Robert Thomson Thomson of Charlton
John Thomson
John Thomson
of the Board of Excise
Robert Thomson
Thomson of Charlton
With a brown head and antlers ~
Rev. Francis Thomson
James Thomson Thomson of Fairliehope Andrew Thomson
Rev. Francis Thomson
James Thomson
Thomson of Fairliehope
Andrew Thomson
With the field per pale and the head and antlers counterchanged ~
Mitchell Thomson Thomson of Fauchfield
Thomson of Cocklow
Mitchell Thomson
(Edinburgh 1891)
Thomson of Fauchfield
Thomson of Cocklow
And, finally, one with a red head and blue antlers ~
Thomson of Duddingston
Thomson of Duddingston
Buck's head
Final Thoughts

Of course, in presenting these variations on the generic Thomson arms we recognise that we have moved well away from mediaeval times when such small differences could not have been identified in the mud and blood of the battlefield. (“Yes, I can kill this one because he has a lozenge between two stars on his wavy red chief, but not that one with the crescent instead of the lozenge!” ~ No, not even in Hollywood!)

The arms here above right are included in anticipation of readers’ queries about the second and third quarters of the MacTavish of Dunardry arms. The principal charge there, unlike all the Thomson arms featured above, is a buck’s head caboshed, not a stag’s head, and in the blazon published on the website of the MacTavish Chief it is quite unambiguously a buck’s head. (The significant difference between a stag and a buck is in the shape of the antlers.) The picture on the MacTavish website is wrongly drawn with a stag’s head, but where there is a conflict the text of the blazon is the authority, not the drawing.
The most that can be said about the inclusion of these arms (above right) in the matriculation of the Laird of Dunardry is that, acknowledging the anglicisation of MacTavish as Thomson, they hint at a Thomson connection (the buck being an animal similar to a stag). But it is not a close connection to the Chief of the Thomson Clan, Thomson of that Ilk (see left), and the arms indicate this by the buck not being a stag, by the antlers being golden instead of red, by the chief being given an engrailed partition line, by the change in tincture of the chief’s charges, and by the addition of the cross crosslet fitchée between the two mullets.
Stag's head
The inclusion of the buck quarter in the MacTavish of Dunardry arms certainly does not, as has been suggested, signify that the MacTavish Clan includes all Thomsons, or that the MacTavish Chief is also the Thomson Chief. In any case, it is well established that no one can be Chief of two clans, and the Thomsons quite definitely and irrefutably form a clan (one that is much, much larger than Clan MacTavish, and one whose Chief was armigerous at least two centuries before the MacTavish Chief).
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