Moffat Town :- A Short History of Moffat
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The Moffats were in Dumfriesshire by the late 1100s. They were first known as 'Movats' and 'de Movest' (indicating Norman descent) then became 'de Moffet'. The name of Robert de Movest was corrupted and given to the town (ville) as Moffat. They appear to have rapidly risen in power and influence; in 1268 Nicolas de Moffet was Bishop of Glasgow, in 1336 William de Moffete was one of three ambassadors to the English Court, in 1337 Walter de Moffet was Ambassador to France and by 1342 was King's Messenger to France, England and the Marches.
Moffats were amongst the first to join with William Wallace and were close allies of Robert the Bruce, Lord of Annandale and later King of Scots. The Moffats supplied 40 men and 40 horses at the Battle of Bannockburn, where Scottish cavalry totalled about 500 light horse.
The principal Houses of the Family were :-
In 1557, the then Chief, Robert Moffat of Auldtoun, was murdered in church by the Johnstones. In the same year - possibly as the last act of a long-running feud - the Johnstones set fire to a building in which the principal Moffats had gathered, slaughtering those who tried to escape. Following this, the Clan became leaderless and 'Broken'. By 1608 the last Moffat lands had been lost to the Johnstones of Annandale and the Scotts of Buccleuch under stress of the Commission of Survey (1604 - 1620). Following these events, most of the Family fled Annandale, many settling at Glencairn, north west of Dumfries and south of Moniaive.
The Clan had some respected members, even in their Glencairn decline. The Reverend Robert Moffat, D.D., the founder of mission work in South Africa, came from that area. Other Moffats had gone to Ireland, from where they went to the American and Australasian colonies.
The Clan was officially 'Landless' until 1730 when Alexander Moffat (1648-1731), tenant of Lochurr in Glencairn, bought the farm where he had resided since the late 1600s. As Alexander was of the Knock and Wauchope branches, through Thomas Moffat of Poldean, he could show a degree of continuity. Lochurr remains in Moffat hands to this day, visited by expatriate Moffats seeking the family. The family sympathised with the Covenanting cause, some members becoming preachers.
Francis Moffat, descendant of the Auldton branch, bought the farm of Bodesbeck in 1909, so re-establishing the family near Moffat; by 1920 he had added Crofthead and Craigbeck, his family having been tenants at those two farms since 1721. In 1983 the Lord Lyon King of Arms finally recognised Major Francis Moffat of Craigbeck (1915-1992) as being Moffat 'Of that Ilk' and Chief of the Clan. That completed the renaissance of the Moffat family.
On his death, Major Francis Moffat of that Ilk was buried in the Old Churchyard at Moffat. The Chieftainship of the Clan passed to his daughter, Madame Jean Moffat of that Ilk, long may her honour endure.
There are two main coats of arms :-
(1) : The Chief of the Clan : A variation of de Bruce post-1190 arms :
Sable a Saltire and Chief Argent : Being a black background with a silver-grey saltire and the upper part of the shield above the saltire silver-grey. Differences between branches of the family were shown by variations in colour of saltire and chief.
(2) : Moffat of Wauchope : A variation of de Bruce pre-1190 arms :
Argent, a Lion Rampant sable, Armed and Langued Guiles : Being a silver-grey background, with a black lion rampant with red teeth and claws. These arms were borne by Thomas Moffat of Wauchhope who fought under Wallace and Bruce. Undifferenced arms were borne by Alexander Moffat of Lochurr, a variation also being registered between 1625 and 1649.
The common Clan motto is 'Spero Meliora' - I hope for better things.
The Moffats : by Major Francis Moffat of that Ilk, 1987, published by Philmore & Co. Ltd., Shopwycke Hall, Chichester, Sussex. ISBN 0 85033 645 7.
A Short History of the Family of Moffat of that Ilk : by Robert Maxwell Moffat M.D. 1908. N.B. : Copies of this book are very rare and in private hands except for one copy in the Ewart Library in Dumfries.
Grateful thanks to David Moffat at Auldgirth for this information.
Website of Barry Moffat on the Moffat Clan.
Other Clan Moffat links welcomed !
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All text and images © 1999 Richard Edkins of Dalbeattie Internet.
Clan Moffat History started 21st March 2000.
Last updated 15th June 2003.