Armorial Bearings

In writing a history of the Meston family it would not seem complete without a “family crest” which is properly called “an achievement”, armorial bearings, or heraldic device.

Many years ago, before I started compiling this genealogy, I came into possession of a snuff box with a heraldic device painted on the lid and the name A. Meston printed above it. The snuff box had been our family for many years and probably was brought to Canada by my great, great, great grandfather, Archibald Meston, in 1932. The name “A. Meston” could have been my great, great grandfather, or great, great, great grandfather as they were all named Archibald. The snuff box likely stayed in our family as the son and grandson of the original Archibald were the eldest sons. The name no doubt, was added to please the vanity of my ancestor. It seems odd that I have the only reproduction of a “family crest” – as poor as it is – among all the Mestons with whom I have been in contact during the past fourteen years. 

At this point, you would be quite correct in thinking one of my particular ancestors developed this heraldic device for his own purposes. However, there is a strange and intriguing story to relate which may change your mind.

Sandy Meston of Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire, Scotland describes an incident which happened during WW II when he was a member of British Intelligence and in contact in France with the French Resistance. Near Britanny, he met a French priest who showed him a miniature of the same armorial bearings as painted on the snuff box. Sandy believes it came from a man who was killed the night before, and the miniature was meant for him (Sandy). Things became hectic that night, the priest disappeared and unfortunately Sandy did not receive the miniature.

He states that the “crest” he saw in France did not have “A Meston” or any other letters on it with the exception of the Latin inscription. When shown a photograph of the snuff box, he described the following: – tools of a tanner crossing one another; two cups of faith and love, for the minister; shield in wood and silver, for the carpenter. This, he said was s duplicate of the one he saw in France.

Another strange fact. “SHALL, HAVE, RIGHT” were the passwords for that particular group of resistance fighters and were given to Sandy that very day by the priest. Sandy points out that the letters S H R (standing for Shall Have Right). He also points out the number “3”, above and to the right of the “N” in Meston, which stands for the three brothers who came originally from France to Scotland.

There is no doubt that a French Meston was involved in the Resistance group and the “family crest” was intended as an identification between Sandy and the underground. It is unfortunate that more is not known, but it must be remembered that those were perilous times, and certainly genealogical research was not in the minds of anyone.

I would like to enlarge on Sandy’s description of the “heraldic device”. He mentions “the tools of a tanner crossing one another”. This is what David Meston has found in his “Notes of the Reconstruction of the Achievement”. The cups of faith and love that Sandy mentioned would be white roses for faith and red roses for love and, of course, the background shield in wood and silver for the carpenter.

I make no positive conclusions regarding the information I have given, although it certainly appears to be a Meston “achievement” that dates back a long time but, it is not registered in any known book of Armorial Bearings in Great Britain or Europe. The fact that Sandy Meston saw the same “achievement” in Brittany, France indicates there is much we don’t know, and may never know about it. The number “3” on the snuff box supports the legend of the three brothers coming from France and the “achievement” itself appears to have been designed to symbolically represent the trades and professions of the three brothers.

I would like at this point to express a great deal of appreciation to David S. Meston of Newbury, Berkshire, England, who carefully examined the snuff box and in conjunction with his laboratory experience and artistic talent has re-created the “achievement” as depicted in the book and detailed in his “Notes on the reconstruction of the Achievement”.

Gordon E. Meston

The Meston Family Genealogy Project