Heraldry: a new shield

By Katharine Lochnan


It is thanks to the research and enthusiasm of Robert O Loughlin that this project was undertaken. A committee composed of Edward, John, Brendan and Katharine was formed and design ideas discussed. These were reviewed with the Herald Painter in Dublin. A consensus was reached that the design should be simple and confined to a shield consisting of not more than three compartments. It should refer to our sister O Connor clan, refer to the emigration of clan members to the diaspora, contain a spiritual reference and a reference to the sea.

O Lochlainn and O Connor Flag or Emblem c. 1170

The Corca Madruaidh split into the sister clans of O Lochlainn and O Connor in the 10th c. Our clan took its name from Lochlainn, a formidable 10th c. chief. It is not known whether he had Viking blood or whether, according to the fashion of the time, he was given a Scandinavian name.

The O Lochlainns and O Connors were originally one clan. The Book of Leinster, written at the Terryglass Monastery in North Tipperary between 1152 and 1161, mentions three Irish clans that took part in the Battle of Caisglinn, one of them the O Lochlainns. Referring to badges and devices used by clans to identify themselves it states:

“In O Loughlin’s camp was visible a fair satin sheet, to be defended at each battle-field; An ancient fruit-bearing oak, defended by the chieftain justly (the ancient symbol of the O Loughlin Buirrenn clan)”.

Keating’s “History of Ireland 1510-1644 AD” (pub. 1866) describes the “Bearings of O Lochlin, of Burren in Clare.

“In the host of O Lochlin
on the bright satin seen
In the van of his battles
To guard in the fray
Was an Oak old and fruitful
(A Chief its meet ward)
Ande eke, a Blue Anchor
With Gold Cable bound”.

The term “satin sheet” indicates that the emblems were painted on a flag or banner. This imaginary reconstruction combines the oak tree from the O Connor arms with a chieftain adapted from the 13th c. painted ceiling of the Cistercian Abbey on Clare Island.

The O Connors, who became kings of Ireland, appear to have adopted the oak tree for their own use leaving the O Lochlainns with the other elements: the chieftain defending and the anchor. These were used by Sir Michael when he registered his coat of arms in 1838.

Symbols and proposals [See also the .pdf file at the foot of this page]

Design Proposal 1

Viking Ship Symbol: Heraldry as we know it came into existence in the 12th century. Sometimes religious symbols or devices forming a play on the bearer’s name or occupation were used. For the O Lochlainns the Viking ship makes sense as, whether or not the name was adopted, it can be symbolized by the ship. This design incorporates the Viking style boat graffito at Corcomroe Abbey found on the wall of the sacristy above the earliest O Lochlainn burials. The boat is a Christological symbol that stands for journeys, sacred and secular, in this world and between this world and the next.

Anchor: The anchor has been associated with the O Lochlainn clan for a long time. The anchor is one of the armorial devices of the O Lochlainn family in consequence of their ancient territory, Burren, bordering on the sea. The motto in latin “Spes mea et fides tenere anchorane roboris”. This design has been taken from the tomb slab of “O Loghlin King of Burren Family Tomb”. The anchor is a symbol of hope and, when turned upside down, of death. The anchor is also a symbol of salvation and it is in that sense that it gave rise to the motto of Sir Michael O Loughlin “anchora salutis”.

Constellations: The stars represent the North Star and Southern Cross standing for the O Lochlainns in the diaspora.

Colours: The colours chosen are arbitrary. White stands for silver in heraldry.

Design Proposal 2

Cross: Same as Design Proposal 1 but with the Tau cross in place of the anchor. This cross is found on the County Clare arms and the original is in on the Burren. It is an ancient form of cross that finds its origins in Egypt. It stands for the unshakeable faith of the O Lochlainns.

Design Proposal 3

Colours: The silver ground has replaced the white ground behind the Corcomroe boat, and blue and saffron are the colours of Clare sports teams. Sports have played, and continue to play, an important symbolic and social role for the native Irish, especially under British rule.

Oak Tree: The oak tree was considered sacred by the Druids and became symbolic of kingship. Ruling families had at least one sacred oak tree outside their ring forts in the Middle Ages. The O Connors became kings of Ireland and appear to have adopted the oak tree from the 12th c. flag for their own use (this may be why Sir Michael combined the remaining elements in his device). The O Connor oak has been used to divide the lower compartments as a way of referencing our former sister clan. The uprooted oak tree with its spherical shape and acorns suggests the globe and the successful transplantation and establishment of the clan in the diaspora.


The motto “Anchora Salutis”: “Anchor of Safety” was used by Sir Michael. At that time it was fashionable to have a latin motto. Mottos can be in any language. As a gaelic clan it would seem appropriate for us to translate this motto into Irish: “Ancaire an tSlánaithe” (pron. onkayra on tlonaha). It has the additional benefit of being translated “Anchor of Salvation” which is closer to the original intent. This is also a way of incorporating the symbolism of the anchor into our heraldic device.

Heraldry 4pg A5 FINAL


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