The four main devices (symbols) in the Kirkwood blazon are the savage, oak branch, pheon and fetterlock. The three main tinctures (colors) are or, azure and gules .
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.1. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa 2. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.3.
Azure is the heraldic colour blue, usually quite a deep, dark shade of the colour (there is a lighter blue that sometimes occurs, known as celestial azure). If colour printing is not available then it can be represented by closely spaced horizontal lines in a scheme known as “hatching” 4. The word is thought to originate from the Arabic lazura and it represents the colour of the eastern sky. It is also said to be the colour associated by the Catholic Church with the Virgin Mary and hence of particular significance 5.
The bold red colour on a heraldic shield is known as gules. It has a long history within heraldry, it is known that one of those who besieged the scottish castle of Carlaverock in 1300 was the French knight Euremions de la Brette who had as his arms a simple red shield.6. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 7. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 8, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.
Heraldry is a human art, by and for people and it is not surprising that people themselves are frequently depicted in arms 9. As well as the nobility themselves, we also see both the mundane, ploughmen, fishermen and reapers; and the exotic in the form of club wielding savagesand the Moorish or Saracen gentleman with his decorative wreathed turban 10.
Amongst the natural objects depicted on a coat of arms, trees feature frequently, either in whole or as individual branches and leaves. 11. Although sometimes described simply as a tree most often the specific species was named, and the oak tree or oak leaf is a typical example that frequently is depicted in arms, sometimes fructed with acorns of a different colour. 12 For good reason, Wade assigns the meaning of “antiquity and strength” to this symbol. 13
Given the martial nature of the origins of Heraldry, in the identification of knights and men-at-arms it can come as no surprise that mediaeval weaponry of all types are frequently to be found in a coat of arms 14. The pheon is a specific type of arrow head with barbs and darts and hence quite distinctive in appearance. 15 Like the other symbols related to arrows, Wade suggests the symbolism is that of “readiness for military service”. 16