Heraldry and Tartan
Arms, Crests, & Supporters
“Arms represent people or groups of people as though they themselves were present. The presence of a coat of arms acts as a substitute for the person even after death.”
-Neubecker and Brooke-Little, 1997**
The display of Fitzpatrick heraldic arms is full of colorful imagery, raging beasts and sharp lines, all of which are a feast for the eyes. The Fitzpatrick heraldic achievement consists of three main parts: first, the crest on top displays a black lion fighting a green dragon. Second, the arms (or shield) is black with a white saltire (“X” cross) below, together with a chief above (the blue stripe, with three gold fleur-de-lis). Beneath this is the third part; a written motto upon a scroll. The lion and dragon crest and the black and white lower part of the shield generally don’t change but the chief in the upper part of the shield and the motto do change occasionally, depending on which line of the family favours them. Sometimes the upper chief of the shield is white, with three red roundels; other times, the chief is blue, bearing three French gold fleur-de-lis.
Fitzpatrick Baron of Upper Ossorye
Sable, a saltire argent, on a chief of the last, three torteaux. Crest: On a wreath of the colours, a dragon reguardant vert standing thereon a lion guardant sable, dexter paw on the dragon's head. Motto: Ceart Láidir Abú (Might is right).
John Fitzpatrick, Lord Baron Gowran
Sable, a saltire argent, on a chief azure three fleur-de-lys or. Crest: On a wreath of the colours, a dragon reguardant vert standing thereon a lion guardant sable, dexter paw on the dragon's head. Motto: Fortis sub forte fatiscet (The brave may yield to the brave).
L. of Upper Osserye McGilpatricke in the Queen’s County
This chiefe B: charged with 3: Floru de Lycos O: was given to Barnaby L. of the Upper Ossory brother to Florence now lyvinge by the Frenche K: H: 2:
Carew Manuscript, Lambert Palace Library MS635f21v-22r-1, c1600
The Carew Manuscript illustrates the two versions of the Fitzpatrick arms. To the left with the white chief and three red roundals is that which is associated with the Baron Line in Ireland. Its origin and use has not yet been traced but it could be as early as 1312 because in that year ‘Sonnethuth Fitzpatrick [most likley Seaffraidh Fin Mac Gilla Patraic] was summoned to attend King Edward II in Scotland, along with other great Irish chiefs, so that probably he was at the fight at Bannockburn’ (Anonymous; 1854+). It would be likely that he displayed arms at such a time. This style of the arms with the Irish motto Ceart Láidir Abú was confirmed in 1913 to Frederick Thomas Edwin FitzPatrick.
To the right is the one with the blue chief and three golden fleur-de-lis and is associated with the Fitzpatrick line in England. Carew clearly tells us that this chief was given to Sir Barnaby Fitzpatrick by the French King Henry II. Sir Barnaby was ambassador to France for King Edward VI from November 24th 1551 to December 9th 1552, and this would appear to date the fleur-de-lis version.
Colours are fundamental to heraldic illustration and from the emblazons it can be seen that the principal Fitzpatrick colours are white on black, and other combinations are red on white, gold on blue, and black on green. Artistic illustration of Fitzpatrick heraldic emblazons has varied through the centuries. The emblazons show many versions which illustrate the achievement, differencing, and ineligibility of the nobility to whom they belong.
Ceart Láidir Abú is the motto associated with the Baron of Upper Ossory c. 1650. Ceart Láidir Abú is the motto preferred by the family line in Ireland. A popular translation of the motto is "Right Makes Might." That could have been a war cry of Fitzpatrick – Mac Giolla Phádraig people and their supporters at one time when they charged their enemies and looked their would-be killers in the eye. But whether that is an accurate translation is lost to time. Other possible interpretations have been suggested, especially in the context of the civilized and cultured aspects of the Giolla Phádraig.
The three words translate from Irish as: Ceart = Right/Correct; Láidir = Strong; Abú = Forever/Always; so literally, "Right, Strong, Forever"; and all manner of combinations can be suggested. In a different time, in a different place and in a different context, an American President used similar words when he said:
“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
Cooper Union Address; New York City, Feb. 27, 1860
This meaning has been discussed over the years at Gatherings and many preferred interpretations have been suggested. In times of peace when there is no need for a battlefield war cry the words of the motto have a different meaning when written:
"We will always be strong if we do what is right."
Fortis sub forte fatiscet is another Fitzpatrick motto, in Latin, and translates as, "The strong shall yield to the strong" or "The brave shall yield to the brave." This motto is associated with Baron Gowran, the Earls of Upper Ossory and the Lords Castletown.
* The Geoghegan decoration of the emblazon of shield, crest and Motto shown here was specially prepared and donated to the Fitzpatrick - Mac Giolla Phádraig - Clan Society by Eddie Geoghegan in 2000 AD to whom the Clan Society extend our grateful thanks.
** Neubecker, O and Brooke-Little, J.P. (1997) Heraldry: Sources, Symbols and Meaning, Tiger Books International, London.
+Anonymous (1854) A Pilgrimage to the Land of Leix and Ossory, The Dublin University Magazine vol XLIV, July-Dec, part I, II, III, p529, Trinity College Dublin.
Few Irish clans have their own registered tartans; yet the Fitzpatrick name has two. Both Fitzpatrick tartans are handsome plaids, probably inspired by the clan heraldic colours. The two registered Fitzpatrick tartans are listed with their own reference numbers by the Scottish Register of Tartans.
Bernard Edward Barnaby FitzPatrick, 2nd Baron Castletown, (d. 1937) and last claimant to the chieftaincy of the Fitzpatrick Clan, was a founding member of the Pan-Celtic Association, a leading member of the Gaelic League and a great admirer of kilts, tartans and bagpipes as valid expressions of Irish identity in the modern world. One of our own Clan Society members, the late Frank Meehan (d. 2012) of Portlaoise, Ireland, was a local authority on the Fitzpatrick tartan, and a great advocate of the kilt as a modern form of Irish dress. He founded the Irish Kilt Club, and received a letter of affirmation from President Mary McAleese. Frank attended multiple Clan Society International Gatherings wearing his beloved Fitzpatrick kilt, as early as 2000.
Fitzpatricks have begun the modern tradition of wearing these two tartans to mark significant events, such as weddings, family events and Clan Gatherings. Anyone may wear these handsome fabrics, but especially so if you have an ancestral or marriage Fitzpatrick connection.