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Question re the Shetland Coat of Arms


Lynnie
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My dad always told me that the only birds on Shetland were seabirds. He also told me that babies were found under gooseberry bushes, so he may conceivably have been wrong about the seabirds. Nevertheless, my question........ on the Shetland Council Coat of Arms there is a raven. My question is why???

 

Can anyone explain?!

 

Ta very much

 

 

lynnie

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There are many more birds than just seabirds in Shetland.

 

The raven on the coat of arms is placed on the said of a viking ship, and the raven is prominent in Up Helly Aa - wings are used on viking helmets, and the raven can feature on the shields.

 

Shetland's birdlife is so varied that quite a few people have moved here from mainland UK primarily because of the variety here - especially at migration season.

 

http://www.ngw.nl/int/gbr/scot/images/shetland.jpg

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Well, I think that the raven has no relation to the Shetland bird life at all.

From Asser's "Life of King Alfred" to the Orkneyinga Saga (Jarl Sigurd) and other sources we know that the black raven appears as banner and/or arms of various Norse noblemen.

... and this bird is obviously enjoying his ride on a Norse longship ... ;-)

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http://www.paradisepark.org.uk/choughs/ leads to a Cornish site about the chough.........I was sure the SIC bird was a raven.....Shetland is way out of the choughs normal range

 

That's correct, but in the big (£40 cost) reference book about Shetland birds published last year, it says that there have been a few unconfirmed sightings of Choughs in Shetland but "surprisingly" the bird is on the coat of arms ????

 

No other expanation given.

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The Vikings had ravens on their boats as an aid to navigation. They would release one and watch where it went, if it came back to the boat, there was no land near but if it carried on in a particular direction, that was where land lay.

Another bird watched was the gannet. Gannets always go home to roost overnight, never spending the night at sea. In the darkening, the direction that most of the gannets were flying indicated the direction of land.

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... That's correct, but in the big (£40 cost) reference book about Shetland birds published last year, it says that there have been a few unconfirmed sightings of Choughs in Shetland but "surprisingly" the bird is on the coat of arms ????

 

No other expanation given.

 

Well sometimes such a mixter-maxter is simply due to some special kind of wisdom of the Lord Lyon King of Arms and his experts.

When an arm is granted the LLKoA delivers

a) a blazon, a written description of the arms and

B) a drawing, an example of what they think that the arms should look alike.

 

I don't know the blazon for the Shetland CoA but what I mean can easily be explained for the Orkney CoA:

There the blazon says that the supporter to the (heraldic) right should be an udaller, but the drawing showed a relatively small man dressed dressed in furs like the Inuit, a style of clothing later adopted by John Rae for his men and other HBC folks.

When a bit later the historian Barbara Crawford published a comment highliting the fact that the drawing and especially the clothing of the supporter might show anything else but not an udaller of Norse times, the LLKoA did not change the blazon but changed the drawing: The man grew up by about 1.5 feet, now has blond hairs and is dressed in a traditional Norwegian style. :wink:

 

Unfortunately OIC sticked to the old drawing til today with the result that some people call the supporter an udaller, while other folks talk about an HBC man ... if not an Inuit. :wink:

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  • 3 months later...

I found a website that which says:

 

Origin/meaning :

The arms were granted in 1975.

The blue shield with a Viking warship at sea recalls the old link with the Nordic countries and Shetland's reliance on the sea. Th blue and gold colours were taken from the old Earldom of Orkney, as the Shetland islands belonged to this Earldom during the Norse era.

The raven is taken from the arms of the Borough of Lerwick.

 

The supporters are a well known Shetland Pony and the unicorn with the badge of Scotland.

The motto 'Með lögum skal land byggja' is taken from the Icelandic Njáls Saga and is in old Norse, meaning 'By law shall the land be built up'.

 

http://www.ngw.nl/int/gbr/scot/shetland.htm

 

However, this may be wrong as on several different websites (ie: wikapedia and awnsers.com)

 

They both say that the writing on the coat of arms means:

 

"With laws lands shall be built".

 

So maybe the first website is dodge?

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  • 2 months later...

I would suggest that the most likely reason is the connection with Norwegian Viking culture. The Raven banner was seen as a very powerful symbol in those days and would have been very well known in Shetland for hundreds of years. The raven is a supporter on the coat of arms of the Isle of Man for the same reason. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven_banner

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  • 2 weeks later...
I read somewhere that the bird isn't a Raven, its a Chough, which is a also a bird of the crow family, but has a bright red beak.

 

I looked into this (well actually I asked some folk who know about birds) and the bird on the SIC coat of arms is definitely a raven. However, there was apparently a chough on the old Lerwick Town Council coat of arms, and for some reason the chough (or a cartoonish version of one) is also on the Lerwick Guizer Jarl's shield every year! A bird that has nothing to do with Shetland! I wonder who was responsible for that blunder?

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from Shetland Life in 2005

That sounds exotic, but there is a Shetland link: "The bird on the Lerwick coat of arms looks like a chough. There are none here now, but they once bred all round Britain, so there may well have been choughs here once. The nearest now would be on Islay."

 

Certainly looking at descriptions of the Chough and its choice of habitat it could well have bred here in the past.

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