Clan Forsyth

Clan Forsyth (Scottish Gaelic: Clann Fearsithe) is a Scottish clan.[1]

Clan Forsyth
Crest: A griffin sergeant Azure, armed and membered Sable, crowned Or
MottoInstaurator ruinae (A repairer of ruin)
Alistair Forsyth of that Ilk
Chief of the Name and Arms of Forsyth
SeatEthie Castle
Historic seatForsyth Castle
Inchnoch Castle


Origins of the clan

The history of the Clan Forsyth dates back to before the twelfth century and as is usually the case with families who date back this far, the derivation of the family's surname is uncertain.[1] If the name is of Celtic origin, then it may derive from Fearsithe, which is Scottish Gaelic for man of peace.[1] However, there is a tradition that gives a Norman origin from Forsach, who was amongst the Norsemen who settled on lands on the River Dordogne in Aquitaine, France.[1] The Viscomte de Fronsoc accompanied Eleanor of Provence to marry Henry III of England in London and from 1236 to 1246 lived at the English court.[1] This family are believed to have obtained lands in Northumberland and from there moved to the Scottish Borders.[1]

Wars of Scottish Independence

In 1296 William de Fersith appears on the Ragman Rolls submitting to Edward I of England.[1] Sometime after 1306, Osbert, the son of Robert de Forsyth, received a grant for the lands of Sauchie in Stirlingshire from Robert the Bruce.[1] During the Wars of Scottish Independence Osbert distinguished himself at the Battle of Bannockburn and received confirmation of the realm of his lands under the great seal in 1320.[1]

In 1368 Osbert's son was appointed as the king's macer and as constable of Stirling Castle.[1] Fersith the clerk received a royal pension of one hundred pounds from Robert II of Scotland.[1] Many prominent burgesses and civic dignitaries bore the name and the family became settled around Stirling.[1]

14th, 15th and 16th centuries

Sometime before 1488, David Forsyth of Dykes acquired his lands in Lanarkshire.[1] He specifically claimed the de Fronsocs as his ancestors and his seal bore heraldry similar to their arms.[1] Forsyth Castle which was at Dykes was demolished in 1828.[1] A branch of the clan moved from Dykes to Inchnoch Castle in Monkland and their descendants spread throughout Glasgow and Ayrshire.[1]

William Forsyth had been baillie of Edinburgh in around 1365 and his son, William, moved to St Andrews in 1423 where he subsequently acquired the barony of Nydie.[1] Alexander the fourth Baron of Nydie died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.[1] His grandson, James, married Elizabeth Leslie who was a granddaughter of the Earl of Rothes and a great-granddaughter of James III of Scotland.[1] The Forsyths fortunes were tied to their extremely powerful relatives and they acquired lands near the royal Falkland Palace.[1] John Forsyth was appointed the king's macer in 1538 and later Falkland Pursuivant.[1] The present chiefs of Clan Forsyth are descended from the Falkland Forsyths.[1]

17th, 18th and 19th centuries

Another branch of the Clan Forsyth settled near Monymusk and William Forsyth represented Forres in the Parliament of 1621.[1] Alexander John Forsyth was a pioneer in the development of modern firearms.[1] In the eighteenth century his work led to the replacement of the flintlock with the percussion lock.[1]

William Forsyth (b.1737), was a distinguished horticulturalist who went to London to study botanical gardens in Chelsea.[1] He was appointed Chief Superintendent of the royal Kensington Gardens and St James's Palace in 1784.[1]

Peter Taylor Forsyth (b.1848) was Principal of Hackney Theological College and in 1909 published his most influential work, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ.[1]

Clan chief

When, in 1672, Charles II instituted a public register of the clans the then chief of Clan Forsyth refused to attend. The clan was subsequently stripped of its recognition and the chief lost his legal title. This situation continued for the next 300 years until St. Andrews Day 1978 when Lord Lyon, King of Arms, accepted the claim of Alistair Forsyth, the Baron of Ethie, to become Chief of the Forsyth clan.

Alistair Forsyth resides in a French chateau having set up a Highland cattle ranch in Western Australia.[2]

Clan Castles

  • Ethie Castle, Angus & Dundee: About 5 miles north east of Arbroath, on minor roads 2 miles east of A92, about 0.75 miles west of the sea, at Ethie Castle. Now in private ownership. for more details.
  • Inchnoch Castle, Lanarkshire & Glasgow area: About 2.5 miles north of Coatbridge, on minor roads north of B804, about 0.5 miles north east of Mamock. (Ruin – Slight remains survive of a tower house).
  • Dykes Castle, Lanarkshire & Glasgow area: About 2 miles west of Stonehouse, on minor roads north of A71, just north of Glassford. (Ruin). Dykes was long a property of the Forsyth family and they built a castle here about 1350. The story goes that the family had defeated an English force and were given the property as a reward.
  • Nydie Castle, Fife, about 5 miles west of St Andrews, on minor roads north of B939 or south of A91, south of River Eden, 2 miles north and west of Strathkinnes, at or near Nydie Mains. (Ruin). Nydie was a property of the Forsyth family from 1435 to 1608. 'Needy' is marked on the Atlus Novus map of Fife.
  • Polmaise Castle, Stirlingshire & Clackmannan: about 3 miles east and south of Stirling, on minor roads north of A905, just north of Fallin, on southern shore of River Forth, at Polmaise. (Ruin). In the 14th century the lands of Polmaise Marischal were given to the Forsyths.
  • Ecclesgreig Castle, located just northwest of St Cyrus, a coastal village in Aberdeenshire. The house and estate has had multiple names and families associated with it throughout the ages. Initially it was known as Criggie, then Mount Cyrus and finally given the name Ecclesgreig by the Forsyth-Grants. It identifies in the Forsyth-Grant ancestry in the period after 1843. House is a ruin and in private ownership. for more details.

See also


  1. Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 140 – 141.
  2. Clan Forsyth Society - Clan Chief Retrieved 21 September 2013.
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