Bell Crest: A roebuck feeding, proper.
Bell Clan Motto: Signum Pacis Amor (Love is the
token of peace).
Bell Clan History:
A Border riding Clan which gave allegiance to the
House of Douglas until the power of that great Clan was dispersed. It
is thought that the Bells originate from a Norman supporter of David I,
and that the name comes from the French word “Bel”,
translated as meaning beautiful or handsome.
For generations, the Bells were settled in
Middlebie, Dumfriesshire and Berwickshire, although a family of the
name was also connected with the church of Dunkeld in Perthshire, an
Andrew Bell and Thomas dictus Bell being Canons, and a William Bell
serving as Dean.
William Bell, Vicar of Lamberton, witnessed a
Charter to Coldingham Priory in 1271, and Adam and Richard Belle
rendered homage to Edward I of England in 1296. For generations, the
Borders-based Bells survived along with their neighbours through cattle
reiving on the West Marches. Their tower at Blackethouse in
Dumfriesshire was destroyed in an English raid of 1547, and, after the
Union of the Crowns in 1603, they were declared "unruly" by the
Scottish Parliament. Many of the Clan moved to the Ulster
Plantations, where the name is still widely held. Others
emigrated to Australia and New Zealand. Several also crossed the Border
into England and settled in Northumberland.
After the Chief of the Clan, William Bell, called
“Redcloak” after the captured cloak of an adversary seized in battle,
died in 1628, the Chiefship became dormant. Dispersed and without
leadership, the Bells ceased to exist as a viable Clan. However, in
1990, a petition was begun in support of Douglas Bell, CBE, but he
unfortunately died in 1993 before the process of submission to the Lord
Lyon King of Arms was completed. In the meantime, his son Benjamin is
recognised as Chief Apparent by Clan Bell International (CBI), a
charitable non-profit making organisation based in the USA.
Since 1984, the Bells have had two tartans: “Bell
of the Borders”, informally known as “Dress Blue”, and “Bell South”,
the latter celebrating the merger of Clan Bell International and Clan
Andrew Bell (1753-1832, was born at St Andrews and
went to Madras in India, where he developed the pupil-teacher system of
education. Henry Bell (1767-1830) designed the “Comet”, the first
vessel to be propelled by steam on a navigable river in Europe. It was
built at Port Glasgow in 1812. Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842),
was born in Edinburgh and pioneered work on the human nervous system.
He became Professor of Anatomical Surgery at the Royal College of
Surgeons in London in 1824, Principal of the Medical School at
University College, London, in 1828, and Professor of Surgery at
Edinburgh in 1836. The Reverend Patrick Bell (1799-1869) was born at
Auchterhouse and became the Minister at Carmylie, Angus. He invented
the reaping machine. Alexander Graham Bell (1846-1922) was born in
Edinburgh and his parents, having emigrated to America, became
Professor of Vocal Physiology at Boston University, USA. In
1876, he invented the telephone. John Jay Bell (1871-1934) was a
humourist writer of such works as Wee MacGreegor
and Mistress M'Leerie.
Places of Interest: Blackethouse Tower in the
Parish of Middlebie, Annandale, Dumfriesshire was destroyed in an
English raid in 1547. Bell's Brae, in the Dean Village of Edinburgh,
was named after Walter Bell, a miller here. Bell's Wynd, in the old
Town of Edinburgh, was named after John Bell's brewery, to which it led
in the 16th century.
Surname distribution within Scotland: Most instances of the Bell surname occur in the Scottish Borders (Berwickshire, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and part of Midlothian) and Dumfries and Galloway (Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire).
Clan Bell certificate.
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