Clan Carruthers, Holmains

Clan Carruthers: Carruthers of Holmains

The Clan Carruthers Society International had been 10 years in the making before it was eventually set up in 2016 and constituted in 2017. One of its primary purposes is to support the recognition of a chief through the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. A chief of Carruthers must come from the line of Holmains, the last having died in 1809, as descendants still exist and therefore to prove this they must hold robust genealogical evidence of the same.

Blaeu_-_Atlas_of_Scotland_1654_-_ANNANDIÆ_-_Lower_Annandale 2
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The oldest known House of Carruthers was that of Mouswald, which survived 228 years from the receipt of a Charter to Thomas Carruthers 1st of Mouswald, in 1320, from Robert the Bruce for their loyalty and support.

In 1548, the last chief of that senior line of Carruthers, Sir Simon Carruthers, 10th of Mouswald and 5th Baron, was killed in a border raid. He was survived by two daughters. Janet, the eldest who accepted a forced marriage by their guardian, Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig and Marion whom he also tried to force into marriage, but whether jumping or pushed from the battlements of Comlongon Castle, her life ended in 1570. The Mouswald line died out with the lands being passed to the Douglases.

Arms of the Chief (Holmains)

Records then suggest that it was Thomas’s brother John, Kings Chancellor at the time, who was the ancestor of the House of Holmains. In 1375, Roger de Carutheris received a charter from the Earl of Dunbar the then the Lord of Annandale, for Little Dalton and Holmains. This began a House that would eventually take over the Chiefly line in 1548. Roger also inherited ‘half of Raffols’, the suspicion being from John, which was either his father or an uncle without issue (heir).  In the early days, it has been stated that it was the largest Carruthers House, being able to field 100 armed followers while the Houses of Wamphry and in fact Mouswald itself, could only field 80. In 1542 the lands, which had dramatically grown in size, were ‘resignated’ into the Barony of Holmains, with further lands covering most of the southern Vale of Annan. In 1562, Ramsey, who’s immediate superior was the crown, resigned his position, which led to Holmains becoming the ‘superior’ family in the area.

Battle of Pinkie, Woodcut

Holmains were always active in the border wars to include the battle of Solway 1542 in which the 5th Lairds eldest son was killed, and the battle of Pinkie Cleugh 1547 on the banks of the Esk near Musselburgh, which was the last pitched battle between Scottish and English forces.

The feud between the Kirkpatricks of Closeburn began in 1563, this led to the wounding of the Chief and the slaying of several of his men by our clan, however the situation was resolved in an amicable manner between Closeburn and Holmains.

It was during the time of the 5th Laird that the tenancy of Dormont and Kirkwood under the grant of Meikill Daltoun was contested. This was defended by Carruthers on the grounds that Dalton was within 6 miles of England at the time and therefore Carruthers was subject to continual military service and thus were held liable to maintain all the accoutrements in defence of the realm. It was further declared that our family had lost a senior son and no less than 28 friends and family in defence of Scottish soil. The decision fell in favour of Carruthers and the Lindsays finally sold us their interest in the lands in 1605. This again added a large area to the already substantial barony of Holmains. Carruthers continued to play their part in Scottish politics, especially in that of the West March, and therefore in the course of Scottish History.

Agnes, Countess of Argyll

Interestingly there seems to be some confusion regarding the wife of the 8th Laird of Holmains. Some suggest that she was the famous Agnes Douglas, Countess of Argyll who was considered that beautiful, she was named the ‘Pearl of Lochleven”. This is sadly not true, the Countess of Argyll, whose parents were Sir William Douglas, 6th Earl of Morton, and Agnes Leslie, remained married to Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl, until her death in 1607. The  records clearly show that the Agnes Douglas who married John Carruthers 8th of Holmains and 4th Baron, was the daughter of George Douglas of Parkhead.

Not all was peaceful within the Carruthers name itself and in 1602 an argument ensued between the House of Holmains and their cadets, the House of Dormont. Christopher Carruthers of Dormont and his sons laid claim to ‘teind sheaves’ (a tithe) of Meikle Dalton, “proceeding to take into their own hands what they were pleased to think was the law”. They gathered the tithes, illegally from the tenants who complained to Holmains. Dormont was infurated and with “urther brokin men of the countery armed with jackis, steelbonnets, swords and lances and uther weapons” went to Meikle Dalton, Dyk, Knox, Twaquhattis and over Dormont where the committed violence against the tenants. This led to the Privy Council denouncing Dormonts action as illegal and classing them as rebels.

The following year, in 1603, James VI of Scotland ascended the throne of England as James I. He began the pacification of the borders, which led to a harsh justice often without evidence. During this period a great number of Border Lairds, to include Holmains, suffered temporary detention in the north. In November 1607, John 8th of Holmains was ordered to enter himself first as ‘Ward” of St Andrews in Fife, then to the Burgh of Edinburgh, with him was Thomas Kirkpatrick, younger son of Closeburn. During his time in the capital he served on the assizes, acting as Chancellor to the court. He was freed in September 1608 to return to his home as Steward Depute of Annandale.

Chiefly Arms of Carruthers

It was the 9th Laird, who in 1672 after the Lord Lyons act of that year, first registered the Carruthers Chiefly arms as we know them.  He combined the Ancient arms of Mouswald with the Arms of the last chief of that house, Simon Carruthers to give us the blazon we have today. What is interesting is whereas today the colours of the mantle reflect the primary colours on the shield e.g. Gules (red) and Or (gold), they were depicted back then as Gules (red) and Silver (argent) as can be seen.

It was this same Laird who had Covenantor leanings, although there is no evidence he played a major part and further moved from the old Holmains tower to establish the family seat in Kirkwood in the latter part of the 1600’s. The family status continued to grow and the 10th Laird, George became the Commissioner of Dumfriesshire to the Scottish Parliament in 1704, he was also the person who presented the bell to the church in Dalton which included the Holmains coat of Arms.

John 12th Holmains 2Sadly, during the tenure of the 12th Laird, John Carruthers of Holmains and 8th Baron, financial disaster struck causing the loss of the estate and Barony. The last Chief of Carruthers died in 1809 leaving no male heirs with the seniority of the clan being passed through the female line. Many of the House of Holmains went east and were heavily involved in the British East India Company, the administration of the British Raj and the Indian Army attaining the rank of Brigadier and Major General. It is from this esteemed line of Carruthers that the senior descendent of Holmains still hail and a chief will be confirmed.

  • On 19 August 2019, Dr S Peter Carruthers of Holmains, direct descendent of the last Chief, was confirmed Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers.

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey

1 thought on “Clan Carruthers: Carruthers of Holmains”

  1. I believe that I am a descendant of the Carruthers of Holmains and would like to copy and paste parts of this history onto my family tree but was unable to.

    Is copying not permitted?

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