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The Barclay Clan: A Tapestry of Scottish History

Element Description
CREST Out of a chapeau azure turned ermine a hand holding a dagger, Proper.
MOTTO Aut agere aut mori
TRANSLATION Either action or death
PLANT Unknown
GAELIC NAME Not specified
ORIGIN OF NAME Originally Berkely. The name signifies a birch field, and was assumed from the town of Berkely in Gloucestershire, England.
WAR CRY A Bellandean!

Introduction to the Barclay Clan

The Barclay Clan, a name steeped in Scottish history, has roots that reach back to the early medieval period. While often thought to have originated from Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, there is evidence suggesting their beginnings in Berkley, Somerset. This article delves into the rich and varied history of the Barclays, exploring their Scottish roots and notable contributions.

The Early History: From Berkeley to Gartly

The Barclays' journey began with Sir Walter de Berkeley, the first lord of Gartly, who was the Chamberlain of Scotland in 1165. The chiefship of the Barclays, through the Gartly line, continued until the 15th century, illustrating the clan's early influence in Scottish affairs.

The Towie-Barclay Branch

With the Barclay line of Gartly ending, the chiefship passed to the Towie-Barclay branch, stemming from Alexander, the Chamberlain's brother. This transition marked a new chapter in the clan's history, further solidifying their presence in Scottish society.

The Quaker Influence: From Conversion to Advocacy

A remarkable turn in the Barclay history occurred when Colonel Barclay of Urie and his son, Robert, embraced the Quaker faith. Robert Barclay became a prominent figure in the Quaker movement, advocating for religious tolerance and understanding through his writings and missionary work.

Military Prowess: The Russian Field Marshal

In stark contrast to the Quaker Barclays stands the figure of Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly, a descendant of the Towie branch. As a Russian Field Marshal, he played a pivotal role in defeating Napoleon in 1812, showcasing the clan's far-reaching influence.

Clan Barclay Today

Today, the Barclay clan, with its diverse history, continues to be a testament to the varied paths of Scottish clans. Their legacy, encompassing religious advocacy and military leadership, paints a vivid picture of the clan's enduring impact.

Clan Barclay Crest and Coat of Arms

The clan's crest, emerging from a chapeau azure turned ermine and holding a dagger, symbolizes readiness for action, while the motto "Aut agere aut mori" (Either action or death) reflects their commitment to principle and bravery.


From their origins in Berkeley to their notable figures in Scottish and European history, the Barclay Clan has woven a rich tapestry in the annals of Scotland. Their crest and coat of arms stand as enduring symbols of their storied past and their ongoing legacy.