Another form of the name Lafferty is “Laverty.” A coat of arms for the Laverty clan has been found.

The official heraldic description of the Laverty Coat of Arms is as follows:

Argent, 2 lions rampant combatant supporting a dexter hand couped at the wrist all gules,
in base a boat with 8 oars sable.

This is a heraldic shorthand description of what is on the shield, and translated into today's common language, it means that the base color of the shield is argent - or silver-white. This color denotes nobility, serenity and peace. It also is associated with the quality of purity, because it withstands the test of fire.

The next part of the description is what is on the upper half of the shield. The Laverty shield contains the representation of two lions facing each other in a rampant, combatant pose. The lion, as the king of beasts, signified majesty and kingship from early Roman times. In later use, the lions have become emblematic of strength, courage, and generosity.

The lions are holding a human right (dexter) hand that is cut off (couped) at the wrist. The color of the lions and the dexter hand are all red, or gules as used in heraldry. The red represents fortitude and creative power.

Another interpretation of the red hand cut off at the wrist is associated with the legend of the "bloody hand of O'Neill". Several ships were racing toward land, and it had been agreed that the person who first laid his right hand on the shore would lay claim to the land. When O'Neill saw that he was behind in the race, he grabbed a sword, cut off his right hand, and heaved it onto shore ahead of the others to claim the land. Thus, the "bloody" red dexter hand has become a common Irish heraldic symbol of ingenuity.

The final part of the description refers to what is in the base, or bottom half, of the shield. The Laverty shield has a boat with 8 oars. From earliest times, the symbol of a boat represented security, stemming from the biblical story of Noah's Ark. In more modern times, the boat is indicative of venture and travel. The "sable" refers to the black color of the boat, which is associated with night and repentance. The sable color is also attributed to the quality of serenity.

This coat of arms has been certified by the Sanson Institute of Heraldry. If you click on the image on the right, you will be able to read the actual certificate.



(From David P. Laverty November 3, 1997)


Heraldry really arrived in Ireland with the Normans although there is evidence that the native Irish had a pre-existing form of clan or family heraldic symbolism. Ireland was among one of the first countries in the world to evolve a system of hereditary surnames some of which can be traced back to before the year 1000 AD. Therefore it is not surprising that the Irish embraced heraldry with some enthusiasm. There are three basic heraldic traditions in Ireland:

1) Norman, showing clearly its military origins, with a preponderance of clear, simple devices designed for easy recognition

2) 2) Anglo-Irish, characterized by great elaboration, with individual shields often containing as many as a dozen charges, reflecting the preoccupation with family relationships.

3) 3) Gaelic Irish, often relating to pre-Christian myths, with symbols like the red hand. the oak tree and and the stag.

Now for the usual disclaimer. Great care needs to be exercised when identifying with a particular coat of arms. Arms and the right to bear them are granted to individuals and not to families. In Ireland, however, it is traditional for sept members to bear the arms of the clan head and this practice is allowed by the Chief Herald. The origins of many modern Irish surnames is far from clear. Bearers of a surname today may not have even the remotest relationship to the original bearer of the arms associated with it.

In short, to truly validate your family coat of arms, you should not rely on these pages, but rather contact the heraldic authority where the arms were granted. Coats of arms are complicated things. The complete design ensemble is called an achievement of arms and consists of several parts; the escutcheon (shield); the helm, (helmet); the crest; the motto; the mantle and the supporters.

Of these, the escutcheon or shield is the most important. The helm was added to arms before the beginning of the 14th century and in the 16th century, its form and position were modified in English heraldry to indicate the rank of the bearer. The crest is the oldest of armorial bearings having its origins in ancient Greece and Rome. In heraldry it is represented attached to the top of the helmet or above the shield; its base is surrounded by a wreath, a circlet of twisted ribbons tinctured of the principal metal and color of the shield. The motto is a phrase or sentence alluding to the family, the arms, or the crest. It is placed in a scroll above the crest or below the shield. The mantle originally was a representation of the piece of cloth that protected the helmet from the heat of the sun. It became more decorative and was usually shown in the principal colors of the shield. The supporters are figures, usually people or animals, placed either side of the shield. In English (and Irish) heraldry, only certain nobility and royalty are permitted supporters and so most arms do not include them.