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Never Trust a Johnstone

1557: Death in a Burning Church

Clan Moffat had a longstanding feud with the Clan Johnstone, another Scottish clan of Border Reivers. Their feud climaxed in 1557 with the Johnstone's murder of the Clan Moffat chief, Robert Moffat. Clan Johnstone then went on to set fire to a church in which members of the Moffat Clan had gathered, slaughtering anyone who tried to escape the inferno. Inside the church were all of the elders and other important members of the Clan.

In this one terrible blow, struck by the Johnstones in 1557, the powerful Clan Moffat lost its chief and its elders, and was thereby almost completely wiped out. The leaderless Moffatt Clan was no longer a match for the Johnstones, and declined economically thereafter.

To add insult to injury, seventy years after the murder of Robert Moffat and the massacre in the church, all of the Moffats' lands were passed to the Johnstones, in a forced saled dictated by the Moffats' accumulation of ovewhelming debt.

Clan Moffat remained without a chief for over four hundred years after the murder of Robert Moffat. It was not until 1983, after many years of research, that Francis Moffat was granted the undifferenced Arms of Moffat of that Ilk, and recognised as the hereditary chief of the clan by Lord Lyon King of Arms. In April 1992, the chieftainship passed to his daughter, Jean Moffat of that Ilk. The Moffat Clan chief's arms are illustrated here.

Some of the more unruly among us have suggested that we, as the liviing descendnats of those who were cut down as they tried to flee a burning church, should take a moment or two to burn at least one Johnston in effigy at the Reunion, as recompense for their dastardly deeds of 1557.

In the meantime, never trust a Johnstone; and never, ever, go into a church if there are Johnstones in the vicinity.