Si Je Puis

The Colquhoun Clan’s motto and crest is one that, at first sight, I thought was kind of … well, weird. Si Je Puis, translates to “If I can”. That sounds pretty vague to me. And at the center of the crest there is a red stag, with its tongue hanging out…also kind of strange.

My journey through Colquhoun country, and then into the Highlands, helped me better understand how the crest and motto came about. As I mentioned before, the clan had control of the Dumbarton Castle for a time, until it was taken from them.

Later on, when John Colquhoun was asked if he wanted to take back control of the castle, he responded, “Si Je Suis”. Using a ploy of the hunting expedition, he released a stag followed by hunting dogs and tricked the Earl of Lennox’s garrison into opening the gates to join in.

The Colquhoun clan overtook the castle and once again ruled Dumbarton.

Driving along the twisty roads on Isle of Skye near Portree at dusk, I got to see an impressive red stag for myself. We had just visited Portree and had a wonderful dinner there.

The roads were quiet with only an occasional car or two, and even though it was already 9:30 at night, there was still enough twilight in the sky to make out our surroundings.

Everywhere we looked, the views were stunning, with the sun setting far off behind the mountain valley. Glancing back at the road, I thought I saw something ahead, but it took my brain longer than expected to figure out what it was.

Once I did, I grabbed John’s hand and yelled, “Deer, Deer, Deer!!”

There he stood perpendicular to us with his head turned looking straight at us. And he didn’t seem to think HE needed to move either. But when John hit the brakes and swerved to the right, he jumped off, along his way.

He was immense.

We were both in a little shock and I kept saying, “Did you see the size of him??!” John told me they had Red Deer in that area and that is what we had just seen. I was so impressed with that deer and felt lucky to have witnessed him and his glory.

It took me another hour before I realized I had just witnessed the Red Stag.

Isle of Skye was a true treat to see, and I felt that it had also given me a gift of better understanding for the clan of my great ancestors.

As we travelled off the island on the north end, we crossed the Skye Bridge and stopped to look back and reflect. What a stunningly rugged country this was and so different than I had imagined.

Bridge of Skye

We were both quiet, as we headed towards Inverness and out of the wilderness into the big city.

Reader Comments

  1. Leslie Clingan

    Cannot believe you are still tooling around Ireland. What a wonderful stay you have had. So glad you both saw the deer in time and were able to catch a glimpse of him gamboling away.
    What an interesting story about the castle, crest and motto.

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Thanks Leslie!
      This was our second week and in Scotland! Was so interesting and different than I thought it would be.

  2. Blair Kilpatrick

    This gave me a good laugh! I have my family’s old Colquhoun Clan crest in my living room–and my siblings and I always joked about that rather timid-sounding motto. (I thought it might have something to do with that big battle in which they were almost wiped out!) I too have a Scottish-Ontario connection: My later father’s parents and older sibs all emigrated in 1920 from Glasgow to Hamilton, Ontario, where my father was born two years later. When he was a baby, the family moved on to Cleveland. Very happy to have discovered your blog.

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Welcome, Blair!
      Thank you for sharing your story too. That was such an unforgettable trip!! I loved tracing my Scottish heritage and when that majestic Red Stag showed himself I felt I was on a journey back in time.
      Can’t wait to go back…

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