The Dickson/Dixon (and other derivates) family name
was first found in Scotland. Early records show Thomas Dicson, a
follower of the Douglas clan, at the capture of Castle Douglas in 1307.
Although the name was Scottish in it's origin,
with the spelling of Dicson or Dickson (the most common usage in
Scotland today), being a Borders counties name it also spread to the
north and midlands of England to become a popular family name with the
spelling of Dixon.
It was during the 11th century that the use of
surnames was introduced to the British Isles by the Normans. They were
usually local (a place or landmark), patronymic ("son of"), a
trade or profession name, or a nickname. The name Dixon/Dickson is a
patronymic name, meaning "Dick's son" or "son of
Dick". Coming from Scotland it might seem strange that it is not
"MacDick", but this is simply explained again by it's Borders
The ancient family motto is said to be
"Fortes Fortuna Juvat", which is Latin for "Fortune
Favors the Brave".
In his book, The Border and Riding Clans and a
Shorter History of Clan Dixon, (published by Albany, New York, 1888) B.
Homer Dixon wrote: - "In a charter from King Robert Bruce about
A.D. 1306 to Thomas Dickson it [the name] occurs as Filius Ricardi (son
of Richard) and the Charter is endorsed Carta Thomas fil Dick."
in his Heraldry (Edinburgh, 1722) says 'The Dicksons are descended from
one Richard Keith, said to be a son of the family of Keith's Earls
Marshalls of Scotland.' and in proof thereof carry the chief of Keith
Marischal. This Richard was commonly called Dick and the 'son' was
styled after him. The affix of son in the Lowlands answering to the
prefix Mac in the Highlands."
Because of the connection to Richard Keith, the
descendants of Thomas Dicson/Dickson are considered part of the Clan
Keith and use their tartan.
The Chief of Clan Keith has the Latin motto "Veritas Vincit,"
which translates "Truth Conquers" which is also used on their
In 1583, a list of Gentlemen
and Surnames in the Marches of England and Scotland includes the name
Dixon as Gentlemen of the East March. Many Dixons can also be found
within the English East March, presumably having begun their association
there when Berwick-Upon-Tweed was Scottish and it's Governor, the Keith
Thomas Dickson himself has quite a history. He was
associated in some way with William Wallace of "Braveheart",
and he was killed by the English in 1307 in battle. Tradition states
that he was slashed across the abdomen but continued to fight holding
the abdominal wound closed with one hand until he finally dropped dead.
He is buried in the churchyard of St. Bride of Douglas, and his marker
shows him with a sword in one hand and holding his belly with the
other. Robert de Brus (Bruce) had made him Castellan of Castle
Douglas the year before he was killed.
The Dixons (and other Borders
Families) were formally recognized as a Clan by the Scottish Parliament
in 1587 when the Parliament of Scotland passed a statute "For
the quieting and keping in obiedince of the disorderit subiectis
inhabitantis of the bordors hielands and Ilis." Attached to the
statute was a Roll of the Clans, and contained both a borders portion
and a highland portion. The borders part of the Roll, shows the Dixons
as a clan with chiefs in the East March. According to
the book, Traits and Stories of the Scottish People, London, 1867, the
Clan Dixon was known as 'The Famous Dicksons'!
Their daughters appear to have
been likewise eminent, in their case we must suppose both for beauty and
accomplishments, as the old rhyme says:
"Boughtrip and Belchester
Hatchetknows and Darnchester
Leetholm and the Peel;
If ye dinna get a wife in ane of thae places
Ye'll ne'er do weel."
Buhtrig, Belchester, Leitholm
and the Peel were Dickson baronies. Darchester belonged at one time to
In 1591, two bonds were signed
by the principal Barons and Gentlemen of the East Marches pledging
themselves to serve the King against Bothwell, and of the forty-one
subscribers whose names have been preserved four were Dicksons.
In 1603, when the crowns of
Scotland and England were united under James VI of Scotland, he found it
expedient to disperse the unruly Border Clans to England, northern
Scotland and to Ireland.
Border clans naturally differed quite widely from
Highland clans, who after all had an active existence that lasted a
century and a half longer than that of the border clans, giving them
extra time for development. A main point of difference was the
possession by the Highland clans of Gaelic speech and a unique culture
of their own until 1745. The Highlanders were also geographically
much more isolated from the general course of Scottish history than were
the Scottish Borderers. Both Border and Highland clans, however, had the
essential feature of chiefship, and had territories in which a majority
of their clansmen lived.
Border clans did practice some Gaelic customs,
such as tutorship when an heir who was a minor succeeded to the
chiefship, and giving bonds of manrent. Although feudalism existed,
tribal loyalty was much more important, and this is what distinguished
the Borderers from other lowland Scots. In fact, the same is also true
of the English Borderers.