The Lewis Heraldry

Excerpted from Lewis of Warner Hall by Merrow Egerton Sorley

Drawing of the Lewis heraldryIn the case of the Lewis family, heraldry is the only source of recorded evidence as to the original home and ancestry of the emigrant member of the family. The Lewis family of Warner Hall bears the Arms: Argent a griffin's head and neck erased vert, holding in the mouth a bloody hand. The motto of the family is "Omne solum forti patria est" - literally, Every land is a brave man's country. These are the arms and motto of the Lewis family of Brecon, Wales and the Warner Hall family of Lewis is descended in the male line from one branch of the Brecon family of Lewis.

Several interesting legends have come down to the present day to explain the origin of the Lewis Arms. One legend recounts that Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, was hunting one day and came upon a wild boar. The animal rushed at the Prince, who was saved only by the quick action of one of his chiefs and relatives of the same name. This chieftain quickly placed his own hand in the beast's open mouth as the only means of saving Llewellyns life; and as a reward, he thereafter bore the Arms described above, the griffin's head holding in the mouth a bloody hand.

Another account has it that a number of Welsh warriors were approaching the coast of Ireland in their small boats with a view of laying claim to the land; and that according to a previous agreement, the land would belong to him who first touched it. The Lewis ancestor is said by this account to have foreseen a close finish to the race, and to have chopped off his own hand and thrown it ahead of him to the shore, thus securing possession of the land. This latter account, while possessing its own romanticism and accounting for the bloody hand, does not explain as well as the first account the symbolism of the griffin's head. In some books of heraldry the griffin's head on the Lewis Arms is described as a dragon's head; the two are, of course, very similar in heraldic representation.

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