The arms of the Ormistons are three red pelicans on a silver shield, and Ormistons
of the present day are entitled to such arms, if they can prove their descent from
The pelicans are "vulning" themselves and are sometimes shown in their "piety," that is, standing in their nests feeding their young by pecking their breasts, so that drops of blood fall into the mouths of their young. The nests, however, should not be shown in the family arms, but only the birds pecking themselves and drops of blood falling.
A pelican feeding its young adorned the altars of many of the temples of the Egyptians, and was emblematical of the duties of the parent, and the symbol was often used by the Christian church as the emblem of self-sacrificing charity.
In 1296, with other Ormistons, John de Ormiston signed the "Ragman Roll" or instrument of submission to Edward I of England. The seal of this John, attached to the Roll, shows the pelican, which afterwards became the armorial bearings of the family.
From an old manuscript book of the sixteenth century, the arms of the Ormistons of Teviotdale was a shield containing three pelicans vulning themselves; and the banner of James, the Black Laird of Ormiston, was a silver field with three red pelicans feeding their young with drops of blood pecked from their breast.
James obtained possession of his estate in 1550. He was one of the conspirators in the murder of King Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley), husband of Queen Mary, on 13 FEB 1567. On 12 MAY 1567 he was knighted by the Queen.
In DEC 1567, he was convicted of treason, in his absence. His estate was forfeited and he was outlawed. He was present at the battle of Langside in MAY 1568, and was in communication with Queen Mary when she was interned at Carlisle prison that same year.
On 10 NOV 1573, he was betrayed, and, after a gallant fight, was captured at Jedburgh and taken to Edinburgh Castle. There he confessed to his part in the assassination plot, and he was hanged on 14 DEC 1573.
James was mentioned by Sir Walter Scott as the prototype for the Baron of Avenel in "The Monastery."
(Reference source: Ormston, W. J., The Ormistons of That Ilk, London, 1933.)
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