Crest Meaning: Anstruther

Posted by admin 17/06/2020 0 Comment(s)



Another surname from a placename in Fife. There is a good story behind this crest, with some less fun Latin grammar. Here we have two armoured arms bringing down a pole-axe and the Latin motto ‘Periissem ni per-iissem’.


A literal translation of the Latin is gibberish: ‘I might have perished, except I had perished’, but by a quirk of grammar means ‘I might have perished had I not persisted’.


The meaning behind this is explained by Walter Scott in the notes of his novel Waverly of 1834. Apparently, an ancestor of the Anstruthers was due to meet a rival, but learned that said rival was planning on killing him. Pre-empting this attempt, Anstruther confronted his enemy by ‘dashing out his brains with a battle axe’. This is frustratingly vague for Scott. Fortunately George Mackenzie elaborates in his 1680 ‘Science of Herauldry’: ‘Sometimes crests are taken from some considerable Deliverance: Thus the Laird of Anstruther gives two hands grasping a pole-axe, with the word Periissem ni perissem; because his Predecessor (as is commonly reported) did strike off the head of the Laird of Barns with a pole-axe, when he was coming to his house with an intention to kill him’.The laird of Barns is possibly one of the Cunningham lairds of Barns, although it is possibly this is little more than a later yarn to explain the crest, which seems to be a fairly conventional statements of martial prowess and gritty determination.


MKP 17 June 2020