Coat of Arms



Recommendations on coat of arms usage for Clan O’Crowley

The following recommendations have been issued by the Clan the Council.  Its intent is just to provide guidance to the Clansmen and Members in the wearing of heraldic devices indicating clan membership or allegiance, establishing recommendations on heraldic display during clan gatherings and in daily life. Whether the Clansmen and members will follow these recommendations is up to every individual, but with this note we hope to inform and answer questions related to heraldry, encourage proper practice, while preventing purchasing “arms” from unscrupulous commercial outfits which have little to do with historic accuracy nor have authority on heraldic matters.

The guidelines set forth are we believe an acceptable compromise between our past practices and Heraldic authorities rules as to the proper usage of heraldry. The authority for Ireland is the Chief Herald of Ireland; Clans of Ireland, an association affiliated to the Department of Arts and Culture, may also provide some recommendations. Some of these guidelines are inspired from Scotland King of Arms, Lord King Lyon, where an established and official clan system has been regulated for past centuries, this one being entirely dependent upon usage of arms.

Few heraldic rules;

-          Coats of arms are granted to individuals only; these are transmitted only through the male line. The daughter of an armiger may display her father’s coat of arms quartered with her husband’s.  Coat of arms are an individual property legally protected , in the same way a patronymic  or nobility title are, it is an incorporeal hereditament.

-          Coats of arms maybe granted to organisations or societies, for example the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland have arms since 1764, County Council are other examples. This practice is not relevant to us as a Clan.

-          Clan arms or family arms do NOT exists in Ireland, nor in the United Kingdom, nor in any country except Poland. Rules in France and Germany, do allow for members of the same family to use their undifferentiated ancestor arms, if of proven lineal descent from the individual who was granted these arms.  Crests and ranking crowns are used as differences in these instances. In these countries, this is also true of established families of Irish descent

-          Historically Chief of Clans are armigers. The clan may display the Chief‘s arms with his agreement or any of the heraldic devices he has been granted or inherited. Chiefs of Clan were hereditary within the rules of Tanistry (elected within a hereditary college of cousins up to the 4th generation). Sub chiefs or chieftains were appointed the same way or by the Chief who also appointed offices.

-          Most hereditary lines of Clan Chiefs have been lost due to the collapse of the Gaelic  society and by the end of the 17th century the clans were no longer in existence. Only a few of the hereditary Chiefs are still in existence and they are called Chief of the Name and Arms. Though the process of recognising a hereditary Chief via a Ad Hoc Derbh Fine assembly is valid, the O’Crowley Clan has not yet appointed a direct descendant of a former reigning Chief (two known lines subsisting; Co Clare and France)

-          Edward MacLysaght, first Chief Herald of Ireland in 1943, who had the same prerogatives and powers as the first King of Arms of Ireland (styled Ulster King of Arms) in 1552, was of the opinion that in order to reflect the Irish historical clan based society the English system of arms had to be modulated. Thus, he proposed to extend the use of the clan Chief arms in the form of a plaque to be displayed at home. Clan members would not be able to use these arms in their own right on seal, paper etc.... The Clan Chief arms being the last Chief arms recorded.

-          Clan Badge: in Scotland the registered practice for clansmen and members is to display and wear the Chief’s crest (which is the figure on the helm in a heraldic achievement) as a Clan Badge. This practice which has appeared in Ireland is not against heraldic rules. The Clan Chief’s crest is displayed within a strap and buckle, the strap and buckle denotes allegiance to the Chief representing the clan. it should be pointed that the strap and buckle device is not Scottish, it was adopted by the British Army regiments in the 19th century, it is also a practice in France for livery buttons.

We use and display on our clan banner O’Crowley arms that have long been registered.  While the wild boar symbol on these arms must have been used for centuries in one form or the other, the first record of arms is in 1562 with the recorded death of Cormac O’Crowley of Carbery, Chief of the Clan and Lord of Kilshallow, Esquire. This is subsequent to The MacCarthy Reagh, Prince of Carbery receiving homage, on behalf of Henry VII, from  independent Chiefs of Carbery, O’Donovan, O’Mahony, O’Driscoll and O’Crowley in 1496.  By doing so they acknowledge as overlord The MacCarthy Reagh, who in turn recognized their Lordship along with a payment of a Chief fee. This process was made at the instigation of Henry VII who recognised The MacCarthy Reagh as overlord of Carbery.

The arms are recorded in 1637 for the funeral entry of Lord Kinsale, de Courcy who married to Maud daughter of Cormac O’Crowley referred above. The arms of de Courcy and O’crowley are shown empaled (side by side).

The arms were then again recorded in 1638 (Eillen daughter of Dermot McTeige O’Crowley of Toom, wife of the O’Leary Chief), and then in 1698 with all other Chiefs of Clans by James II Herald (Athlone Pursuivant) then in exile in France, lastly Pedro O’Crowley in 1778 residing in Cadiz, son of Dermot O’Crowley, a descendant of Cormac O’Crowley of Carbery 1562 referred to above.

So strictly speaking by displaying these arms we are not complying with heraldry rules, the usage of these arms is restricted to a direct descendant from a former Chief of the Name who would have had right of use of these arms (through inheritance ).  However, in the absence of such a hereditary Chief, we may reasonably claim that this patrimony is now vested into the Taoiseach and the Clan Council or Derbhfine to ensure historical continuity.


Banner display: 

Recommendation is to display the banner for Clan gatherings or events where the Taoiseach is attending, or the Tánaiste, or any Clan Council member per de facto delegation. Maybe used at weddings, funerals or any formal function of former Taoiseach. Former Taoiseach may elect to have their own banner with the O’Crowley arms made for display at home only.

Clansmen and members:

Coat of Arms display on a plaque at home per Chief Herald of Ireland Edward MacLysaght’s guidance.

Should a clansman or member wish to wear a heraldic device the recommendation is to use the Clan Badge which is the crest within a strap and buckle. The Clan Badge may be worn in the form of a broche, kilt pin, on clothes and hats or bonnets. The Clan Badge may also be worn sewed on clothes such as a jacket or on any jewellery including buttons except as a seal.

Display of Coat of Arms on a pin or lapel is acceptable at clan gatherings and other functions as it is currently done, but we highly encourage the wearing of the Clan Badge instead.


Armigers, that is individuals who have in their own right coat of arms (either granted or inherited) properly registered from a recognised heraldic authority may “bear, use, shew, advance, set forth, on banner, stationary, seal or otherwise “in accordance with the rules of the relevant heraldic authority.


Clansmen and members may use the Clan Badge on stationary provided it is used on its own. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and former Taoiseach may use the Clan Badge with the following into the strap and buckle;

Taoiseach : Taoiseach Clann O’Chruadhlaoich

Tanaiste : Tanaiste Clann O’Chruadhlaoich

Former Taoiseach and Clan Council members : Officer Clann O’Chruadhlaoich          


Clan Badge for Clansman

Clan Badge for Clansman

Clan Badge description: an arm erect gules (red) holding a spear pointing upward sinister (leftward) ways proper (of natural colours), over a torse argent (white) and azur (blue) The clan badge in pewter, either as cap badge or a kilt pin (ideal for ladies) is available through the CrowleyClan website.



O’Crowley Chief Coat of Arms per records since 1562

O’Crowley Chief Coat of Arms per records since 1562

We strongly recommend and are encouraging clansmen to apply for a grant of arms and become an armiger in their own right with no restriction on heraldic devices usage. Application should be made to the Chief Herald of Ireland if you can provide proof of your Irish ancestry, or else to your country of residence heraldic authorities. This would help maintaining the heraldic system alive, while contributing to the clan.

We do not recommend designing yourself a coat of arms for your own use. It would not publically be recognised (this is the role of the heraldic authorities), and in some countries you may fall under potential fines if you have designed a coat of arms already in use.


list of relevant Heraldic Authorities;


-          Ireland; Chief Herald of Ireland

-          Scotland; Lord Lyon King of Arms

-          England and Wales;  The College of Arms,  Kings of Arms, London

-          Australia; The Heraldry Council of Australia

-          Canada; Heraldic Canadian Authority, Chief Herald of Canada

-          New-Zealand; The College of Arms, Kings of Arms, London







references:   - a great article on Irish heraldry