Wood Clan History

The erroneous notion that clans are Highland groups and families are Lowland units is very much a Victorian one. In fact, the terms are interchangeable, and many a Lowland laird has held from the Lyon Court the title ‘Chief of the Name and Arms’. This is true of the Woods.

William the Lion

The Old English name Wood (also Wod, Vod, Yod, Wode, Woode, Woods, Voud and other variations) not only implied a dweller in or near a wood (though why that should have been distinctive in an age when trees covered so much more of the land than now is questionable), but also – and probably more often – one who was crazy. By that would have been meant a warrior who became frenzied or wild in battle; a compliment in an unstable, warlike society, and one to prize as a patronymic. No wonder it took on. This also explains why the Arms escutcheons of several prominent Wood families throughout the UK (including the Woods of Bonnytoun) are surmounted by a crest that proudly depicts a naked Savage bearing a club, and the motto, Defend.

It could well be that names like Wood, Stone, Clay and so on were used figuratively to describe a man’s character or physical qualities. After all, occupational names associated with wood, for example, are typically Wright, Wheelwright etc., Carpenter, Forester, Joiner, Carver, Cooper, Sawyer and very many others.

Then there is the Norman French derivation, de Vosco or de Bosco (modern French Dubois or just Bois), meaning ‘of wood’. Williemus de Bosco was 12th century Chancellor of Scotland to King William the Lion. A baron de Bosco was at Runnymede in 1215 supporting the Magna Charta, and circa 1300 there are records of a Sir Robert (Boys) de Bosco and his daughter Alice de (Boys) Bosco.

Similarly, Gaelic forms incorporating ‘Coill’ took the English translation over time.

So, like many other families with Angle (Engle-ish) names, there were probably Woods settled in the south-east long before Scotland existed as a country. Among the favoured Norman families that subsequently moved into southern Scotland – some say with King David I – may have been the Woods of Bonnytoun in Angus. They held extensive lands in that district as well as Kincardineshire, Perthshire and elsewhere.

Admiral Sir Andrew Wood of Largo, Fife, (circa 1455 – 1515) was almost certainly a scion of that ancient clan. He was famous for inflicting many defeats on foreign pirates and privateers as well as squadrons of ships sent by the English government to harass the Scots. In the true patriarchal tradition, his successors built a hospital and school in Fife for their kinsmen named Wood, and were prominent in Scottish history both politically and militarily: they continued to be a significant influence in British politics and were foremost among the thousands of Scots who contributed enormously to the economic and armed expansion of the British Empire well into the 19th century. The main line of Sir Andrew’s descendants is considered by the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms to be the chiefly one. The record of succession is complete right down to 1916, when Andrew George Wood died in Mayfair, London, leaving his estate on the border of Wales and Shropshire to his second wife, Leila Carnegie Anstey.

Leila bore them two daughters: 1902, Ursula Alexandrina Frances Edith (known as Alexandra) and, 1903, Joan Leila. Alexandra married an army captain in 1922 and had a son in 1924 (born in India, but sadly died in 1944), a daughter in 1926 and a son in 1928.

The Lord Lyon King of Arms has recognised Andrew George’s eldest great-grandson, Timothy Fawcett Wood of Largo, as the hereditary Chief of the Name and Arms. Wood of Largo is currently a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.