A question often asked on our Glasgow Tours if there is any connection between Scotland and Russia. Well, there is. In 2007 the Scottish Tartans Authority gifted to the Russian people a Russo-Scottish tartan. The tartan is dedicated on two most prominent figures of Russia - the poet Mikhail Lermontov who is a descendant of the Learmonth Clan, and Field Marshall and Prince of the Russian Empire Michael Barclay de Tolly also of Scottish origin.
The Learmonth clan descends from France; in 1057 a French knight from the court of Edward the Confessor joined the army of the Scottish prince Malcolm (the future Malcolm III Canmore) in a fight against Macbeth. He was granted lands on the right bank of the river Tweed in the region now known as East and West Learmouth.
One of the most famous members of the clan is Thomas
Learmonth, also known as Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas. He was a 13th century Scottish laird from Berwickshire, a legendary bard and poet who is considered to be the father of Scottish literature. Thomas was a prophet as well. He put many of his prophecies to rhyme, including his prediction of the death of Alexander III, as well as a James VI going on to rule the whole of Britain after the death of Elizabeth I of England. Thomas’ reputation for supernatural powers was said to have even rivalled that of Merlin!
In 1454 Jacobus Lermonth was the local congregation leader of the Glasgow diocese and notary public. By marriage into the Dairsies of Fife, the Learmonths established the family’s principal line. Sons of George Learmonth (1564-98) were third cousins to Mary, Queen of Scots!
In the first half of the 17th century another George Learmonth of Dairsies (c.1580-1634) set off abroad to make a fortune. He joined the Swedish army first, then the Polish army participating in the intervention to Russia in 1610-13. In 1613 George and his company of Scottish and Irish, voluntarily joined forces with the Russian army. He became Orthodox Christian and was baptised as Yuri Andreevich Lermontov. In 1618 he was granted a title by the Tsar and lands. He was the ancestor of the Russian poet Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov (1814-41) – one of the most famous and talented of his time.
The Russian line still continues unlike the Scottish one. Among the descendants more than 50 bear the name of Lermontov. Their tartan was registered in 2005 in Scotland.
One theory as to the origins of the clan of Barclay is that its founder Roger de Barchelai came to England with Willaim the Conqueror and was granted Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.
The name is allegedly the Anglo-Saxon version of ‘beau’ meaning beautiful, and ‘lee’, a meadow or field. In 1069 Roger’s son John de Berchelai accompanied St. Margaret to Scotland. In gratitude for his service, King Malcolm Canmore granted him the lands of Towie in Aberdeenshire, as well as the title, Barclay.
Another theory is that the clan is descended from a John de Berkeley who went north in 1124 with Maud (or Matilda), queen consort of King David I of Scotland, the one who established the Glasgow Cathedral in 1136, that you visit as part of our Must See Glasgow Tour. She was the great-niece of William the Conqueror.
Throughout Scotland, the family played important roles in national affairs. Sir David Barclay was one of Robert the Bruce’s chief associates and was present at many of his battles, most notably the Battle of Methven on 19 June 1306, during the Wars of Scottish Independence, where he was captured.
In the 17th century one branch of the Clan Barclay established themselves at Urie in Kincardineshire. Colonel David Barclay was a professional soldier who fought for Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. He attained the rank of major and returned to Scotland when the civil war broke out. One of his sons, David Barclay, founded Barclay’s Bank. David acquired an estate in Jamaica, freeing the slaves there and teaching them trades many years before the passing of laws against the institution of slavery.
Another branch of the Clan Barclay, the Barons of Towie were involved in shipping trade in the 17th century between Scotland and Scandinavia, and the lands around the Baltic. From them was founded the Russian line. Michael Andreas Barclay (1761-1818), the original immigrant, entered the Russian Army with his two brothers. By 1806, he was in command of one of the Russian divisions sent to support Prussia against the French. He gained distinction at the battles of Wagram and Eylau. Michael was made Russian Minister of War in 1810, rising to Commander of the Russian Armies in 1812 fighting against Napoleon Bonaparte. Instead of pursuing a campaign of direct confrontation with the French, he chose a scorched earth policy which starved the French army as it passed through the country towards Moscow. The plan was a resounding success, leading to the French retreat from Moscow in 1812 and their ultimate defeat. The Russian nobility resented the appointment of a foreign commander-in-chief, but his ability was undeniable and the Tsar named him a prince in 1815. George III of the United Kingdom named him a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. His portrait hangs in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. The Barclay tartan was published in 1842 in the Vestiarium Scoticum (the book with colour illustrations of the clan tartans of Scottish families).
The two Russo-Scottish dynasties were further connected in 1841 when a Doctor Ivan Barclay of Piatigorsk signed the death certificate of Mikhail Lermontov who was tragically killed in a duel!
Today the Russo-Scottish tartan unites the two families and two countries. The red on green is taken directly from the Barclay tartan and the white on blue celebrates the cross of St Andrew - the patron saint of both Russia and Scotland. The gold and the number of white lines (three) are taken from the Lermontov tartan, the very first Russian family tartan ever designed.