Symington / Simonton / Syme / Simms
Symington was accepted by CDSNA as a sept in March 1984 with Syme, Simms, Simonton as variants. The name has strong connections to the septs Dickie/Dickey/Dick and Dickson/Dixon. There is also a strong connection to Clan Lockhart.
Writing in Dubh Ghlase [XII, 3] in 1986 regarding the ‘newly accepted’ sept of ‘Symington Syme Simms’, Arthur L. Douglas stated,
“This family was to be found in Lanarkshire and Clydesdale in the 11th to 13th centuries and they are known to have supported the Earls of Douglas in their many battles.
The name of this family was originally, ‘Dickson’ and they were known to be servants to William ‘Le Hardi’ Douglas, and it was to Thomas Dickson that The Good Sir James Douglas went when he was planning the re-taking of ‘Doulgas Castle’ from the English forces, an event which became known as the ‘Douglas Larder’.
Thomas Dickson was killed in the doorway of the Kirk of St. Bride’s, however, he had bought the time needed to bring up all of the forces of The Good Sir James. The battle was won, but Dickson, along with many others, was killed. For his faithful service his family were awarded the lands of Symington, in Lanarkshire. For many years the family were known as being ‘of Symington’ but with the passing of years, the ‘of’ was dropped and the family became known by the surname ‘Symington’. The name of Dickson in all of its various spellings has flourished in other parts of Scotland and the family can be found attached to many other clans, but they are recognized as being followers of the Clan Keith.
The Symingtons married into the Douglas Family on several occasions and were often entrusted with the Bailieship of Douglasdale and the Captaincy of Douglas Castle. In both of the latter capacities they have proved their worth to the Douglas Family on many occasions.”
In 1991 James McKim Symington (CDSNA #452), writing to the editor of Dubh Ghlase [XVI, 6] stated,
“What was not generally known until recently proved true by Charles J. Syminton’s comprehensive research, however, is that Dickson was indeed a Douglas by blood. His grandmother was Margaret Douglas, only daughter of Sir William Douglas and wife of Sir Hervey de Keith, Earl Marshall of Scotland. Their son, Sir Richard de Keith, was Thomas’ father, whence was derived, according to the practice of the day, his name, Thomas Dickson. As descendants of that very first Symington, therefore, Symington can legitimately constitute a sept of Douglas.”
More information on The Douglas– Symington (Simonton) Connection has been contributed by Symington Sept Commissioners Jaclyn and Vernon Helmke.
The Douglas– Symington (Simonton) Connection
By Jaclyn and Vernon Helmke; CDSNA Symington Sept Commissioners
In the period of 1140 to 1160 in Scotland a number of Norman Knights were given Barony’s by the Victorious King in the Battles of that time. One of these Normans who were given a Barony was Symon Locard. He received part of his lands in Ayreshire and in Lanarkshire. The Locard family held these lands and the town was given the name of Symon’s Toun. In the period prior to the time when Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland, the Border Barons were required to give their allegiance to the King of England and sign the “Ragman’s Roll”. The Baron of Symons Town mistakenly signed the Roll and gave allegiance to the King of England. This occurred in about 1295. In a book, titled “The Border or Riding Clans” by B. Homer Dixon, K.N.L. published originally by Joel Munsell’s Sons. Publishers, 1889 and reprinted in 1996 by Heritage Books Inc. Bowie Maryland, an explanation is made of the formation of the name of “Symontoun”, which of course is now spelled in various ways such as Symington, Simington, Simontoun, Simonton and many more variations. The story begins:
Like all surnames the name of this clan has been variously written at different periods.
In a charter from King Robert Bruce, about A.D. 1306-1314 to Thomas Dicson II, it occurs as filius Ricardi (son of Richard), and the charter is indorsed “Carta Thome fil Dick”.
It is recorded that Richardi was a great grandson of the Great Marshal Hervey de Keith, who died after 1196, and his wife Margaret, daughter of William “Third Lord” Douglas, because it was customary in Scotland in those days before the introduction of quartering for cadets to compose their Arms by adding to their paternal bearing a part or the whole of their mother’s Arms to show their maternal descent, and to difference themselves from other descendants of the family. This also agrees with the Chief before the death of the Bruce in 1329, bore simply azure three mullets argent. The heart was added by William first Earl of Douglas, and appears on his seal in 1343.
Some of the Dickson’s seem to have preferred the Douglas mullets alone, for Thomas (II) of Haselside who succeeded his father in 1307, bore a sword between two mullets and others bore mullets only. The early records being lost it is impossible to say when they first bore that coat, although it may have been adopted as early as when Thomas (II) of Haselside (Hazelside) chose his armorial bearings. They were generally assumed in those days. The granting of Arms by Herald’s Colleges is of later date.
The first Dickson on record, moreover, was evidently a person of very good standing, such as a grandson of the Earl Marshall might be expected to be, a man of wealth as well as of influence, and was also a clansman of the Douglas. Two of the oldest Scottish Historians recount his deeds, Archdeacon Barbour who wrote in 1375, and Blind Harry, or Henry the Minstrel, whose metrical history was written about 1381.
There are some who speak slightingly of the bard, but Major, who was born in 1405, says he was living about that time and that he recited his compositions in the presence of princes or men of the highest rank (coram principibus ), and Claimers in his Caledonia, says “Blind Harrie, whom the Scotch Historians generally follow but dare not quote. Blind Harrie is however, supported by the Tower Records.”
According to the Minstrel, when Douglas wished to recover his Castle of Sanquhar in 1295, he applied to Thom Dycson who was “born to himself” i. e. relation or clansman by birth, addressed him as” Dear Friend” and relied so much upon him that he afterward selected him to pass through the enemy’s camp of some three thousand men to bear a message to Wallace; while Barbour says he was rich in movables and cattle and had many friends, besides which his house could not have been a small one as it contained a private chamber where he not only concealed Douglas but also brought persons to see him without attracting notice, and the space for such a secret apartment could not have been taken out of a small house without being perceived.
This Thomas Dicson, Laird of Symonston and Hesleside, county Lanark, and Castellan of Douglas, son of Dick de Keith, was born about A.D. 1247, and if descendant of the aforesaid Hervey de Keth was then also second cousin to William seventh Lord Douglas, father of the good Sir James Eighth Lord, to both of whom Dickson was certainly a trusty friend and Cousin.
After the capture of Berwick in 1295, Sir James Douglas wished to recover his castle of Sanquahar, then held by the English who had laid waste all the surrounding country, and accordingly as the Minstrel says went to Anderson who supplied the castle daily with fuel and Dickson persuaded him to lend him his apparel and cart. At night Douglas with thirty men concealed himself in a ravine near the castle and at daybreak, Anderson arranged the load and gave Dickson his clothes. The porter opened the castle gates and when the cart was between them, Dickson, with one blow, cut loose the piece of harness by which the horse was attached so that the load stuck fast, preventing the closing of the gates. He then killed the porter with his knife and seizing the axe that Anderson had told him of beckoned therewith to the ambush who rushed forward, slew the three wardens and took possession before the garrison was out of their beds. The English soon, however, laid siege to the castle and Douglas led Dickson out through some postern or secret passage mounted on a fleet horse to warn Sir William Wallace. The English having notice Wallace’s approach raised the siege and retreated, but were overtaken and lost five hundred men.
For this and other services in honor of Thomas Dickson I, Thomas Dickson II received the lands of Hesleside or Hazelside, about ten miles west of Douglas, where there is still a house bearing the name. There is scarcely a vestige of the old mansion remaining, but there are indications that it was a building of magnitude and strength.
Thomas Dickson II must have done good service to his country for ten years later King Robert Bruce, about the year 1314, conveyed to Thomas filius Ricardi, the barony of Symundstun, and as recorded with the provision that Thomas Dickson II change his name to the Barony that was bestowed on him of Symons Toun, in the county of Lanark, and he was also created Hereditary Castellan or Governor of Douglas Castle. As such he resided in his own house in the Barony of Douglas except in case of war, when he left his house in charge of his dependents and himself took command of Castle Douglas.
THOMAS DICSON I, Laird of Symonston and Hazelside, Hereditary Castellan of Douglas, was killed on Palm Sunday, March 19, 1307, aged sixty, and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas Dicson II.
As seen above and in the sept information for Dickey/Dickie, Symington, as a surname, is closely connected to Dickson/Dixon. Dickson/Dixon is in turn related to Lockhart where we discover another connection to Clan Douglas.
Regarding Lockhart, Clan Lockhart has a standing chief and is recognized by The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. Lockhart is not listed as a sept in 2009 CDSNA bylaws but documentation exists for inclusion and it is closely related to our sept Brownlee.
The House of Brownlee website includes a section in its history of Brownlee devoted to Lockhart stating,
“The name Lockhart is derived from Locard, sometimes spelt Lokart, which is probably Flemish or Norman in origin. The modern spelling seems to have been introduced in the fifteenth century, and refers to the crusade on which Sir Symon Locard was the custodian of the key of the casket in which Bruce’s heart was carried. Like many Scottish families the Locards came from England where they were among those who were dispossessed by William the Conqueror and sought refuge in Scotland. There were Locards near Penrith in the twelfth century and also in Annandale in Dumfriesshire, where it is said that the town of Lockerbie is named after them. The family finally settled in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire where they have held land for over seven hundred years. The earliest paper in the family archives is a charter dated 1323 by which Sir Symon Locard bound himself and his heirs to pay out of the lands of Lee and Carnwath an annual rent of £10.
Stephen Locard, grandfather of Sir Symon, founded the village of Stevenson in Ayrshire. His son Symon acquired the lands in Lanarkshire, and like his father, called a village, which he founded, Symons Town (today called Symington) after himself. Symon, Second of Lee, won fame for himself and his family fighting alongside Robert the Bruce in the struggle to free Scotland from English domination and was knighted for his loyal service. He was among the knights led by Sir James Douglas, who took Bruce’s heart to the Crusades in 1329 to atone for his murder of John Comyn in the church of Greyfriars. Douglas carried the King’s heart in a casket of which Sir Symon carried the key. The Crusade ended prematurely when Douglas was killed fighting the Moors in Spain, but to commemorate the adventure and the honour done to the family, the name was changed from Locard to Lockheart and later abbreviated to Lockhart. A heart within a fetterlock was from then on included in the arms of the family with the motto “Corda Serrata Pando” - I open locked hearts.”
Douglas, Arthur L. "Symington, Syme, Simms ." Dubh Ghlase XII.3 (1986). Print.
Helmke, Jaclyn and Vernon Helmke. The Douglas– Symington (Simonton) Connection
Lockhart Clan History. http://www.brownlee.com.au/Pages/Lockhart%20Clan.html
Symington, James McKim. “Symington.” Dubh Ghlase XVI.6 (1991). Print.