Coats of arms originated in 12th century Europe as devices on shields and surcoats. Their purpose was to identify armored knights and their followers in battle. The coats of arms and later crests and mottos evolved into a non-military identification of families.
Irish families do not seem to have used coats of arms earlier than the 16th century. How these devices came to be used in Ireland is not clear. According to Sir Dermot MacDermot, the earliest representation of the MacDermot coat of arms appears on a 1617 Grant from King James I to Brian Og MacDermot. See pages 520-523 MacDermot of Moylurg (1997).
The coats of arms of the MacDermot and MacDermot Roe families are the same:
Dark Blue: 3 boars' heads
The crests of the families are sometimes described as a boar's head and at other times as a demi-lion rampant.
While the MacDermots and MacDermots Roe have the same coat of arms, the families have different Latin mottos. These evidently were adopted later since they do not appear on the older coats of arms.
The MacDermot Roe motto is "Honor Probataque Virtus" which means "Honor and Proven (demonstrated) manliness". The MacDermot motto is "Honore et Virtute" meaning "Honor and Virtue". Many thanks to Peter McDearmon Witt for translating the Latin to English.
From his study of Irish heraldry, Sir Dermot concludes that Coats of Arms and Crests were of minor importance to ancient gaelic families such as ours. He speculates that Irish who were educated by the English in the 17th century may have acquired an interest in heraldry as an aristocratic status symbol.
Nontheless, symbols are powerful methods of communicating identity and purpose. In this light, we have added the motto "Justice and Charity" to the MacDermot Roe, Biatach's website banner. The motto refers to the MacDermot Roe service as Biatach, the official responsible for caring for the poor and homeless in the Kingdom of Connaught. The MacDermot's Roe service as Biatach represents a commitment to the ideal of charity and social justice. It deserves to be recalled.
Copyright Biatach 2014