The three main devices (symbols) in the Gillies blazon are the cat, ship and shepherd’s crooks. The three main tinctures (colors) are erminois, or and azure .
Or is the heraldic metal Gold, often shown as a bold, bright yellow colour. It is said to show “Generosity and elevation of the mind” 1. Later heralds, of a more poetic nature liked to refer to it as Topaz, after the gemstone, and, for obvious reasons associated it with the Sun 2. In drawings without colour it is usually represented by many small dots, or by the letter ‘O’ 3.
The bright, strong blue color in Heraldry is known in English as azure, and similarly in other European languages – azul in Spanish, azurro in Italian and azur in French. The word has its roots in the Arabic word lazura, also the source of the name of the precious stone lapis lazuli 4. Despite this, those heralds who liked to associate colours with jewels chose instead to describe blue as Sapphire. According to Wade, the use of this colour symbolises “Loyalty and Truth” 5.
Cats occur often in heraldry, but the wild cat or cat-a-mountain is almost certainly intended rather than the domesticated felines we might at first come to mind! 6 It can appear in a variety of poses, similar to those of its larger relative, the lion, although we should be careful of stretching any meanings associated with the king of the beasts to their smaller brethren. Perhaps only an affinity with hills and the mountain country is intended.
We do not need to look far to find the symbolism in the presence of a ship in a coat of arms, they appear regularly in the arms of port towns and merchant companies and families. They usually appear as a three masted wooden vessel known as a lymphad 7 but are often described in some detail as to the disposition of their sails, presence and colours of flags and standards and so on. 8
Europe in the middle ages was still a largely agrarian society, and the wealth of the nobility resided in their estates and land. Since most people still lived and worked on the land they would find farm implements instantly recognisable, (an important feature for a coat of arms), even if they seem obscure to us today, the garb 9 might fall into this category. The shepherds crooks is a typical example of farming features that speak of a long heritage in the countryside. Its appearance may be intended to remind us of the shepherds watchfullness over his flock. 10