According to the Dormont Estate website, “there have been Carruthers on the land since 1452, having been granted the land to the chiefly line of Mouswald by King Robert the Bruce in the 1300’s”.
The first of the Dormont line however was William Carruthers, who is recorded as the 1st of Dormont, having received a charter of land of Carsopland (Kirkmuire) from his father in 1552. As the third son of John Carruthers, 5th of Holmains this began the Cadet branch of that house, that being the house of Dormont. The current incumbent is James Andrew Carruthers who is the 13th generation to live there and is a nephew of the last laird.
The fourth Laird, John of Dormont, like his cousin of Holmains at the time, favoured the Covenanters and went to prison for his beliefs. He was held in Edinburgh Tolbooth, not a pleasant place by any account.
The Auld Tollbooth as it was known, was located northwest of St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh. It was established in the 14th century by Royal Charter, functioning for more than 400 years as a municipal building. It was also the burgh’s main jail, with a reputation of not only incarceration but also physical punishment and judicial torture, and in the latter stages from 1785, public executions took place. One of the goriest traditions was the use of the notorious ‘prick of the highest stane’ being a spike on the Auld Tollbooth’s northern gable end, facing the high street. It was here that the heads of the most infamous were placed to include the heads of the Marquis of Montrose and the Marquis of Argyll. John was released in 1679, on guarantee that he had regular attendance at Dalton Kirk.
The Court Case of Legitimacy
In 1723, Francis succeeded his grandfather as 5th of Dormont and in 1735 he made a post nuptial agreement with his then wife Margaret Maxwell, ensuring that if a daughter was excluded from the estate, they would receive £1000. After 10 years without issue, a daughter Elizabeth was born, which Francis refused to recognise as his own leading to the couple being divorced in 1742.
After a traumatic life in poverty, the daughter finally challenged the 5th laird and after proving her identity, was deemed to be his daughter. Being desperate for monies and being unable to claim the estate during her father’s lifetime, she accepted £650 and gave up all claim to Dormont.
Elizabeth died in 1768 leaving a son John to her husband by the name of Rutledge, who died in Carlisle jail. John Rutledge, the son of Elizabeth had prospered in India and on travelling through Dumfriesshire in 1806, learnt by accident his mother’s connection with the Carruthers family. He commenced to raise a challenge to set aside the settlement of the estate. Two questions were posed:
1) Was the deed of 1759 still valid after 40 years, and
2) Did the payment of £650 exclude her heir’s (John Rutledge) rights to estate as per his grandmothers marriage contract of 1735.
It took 14 years for a decision to be reached, by which time John was dead, but his sister, a Mrs Majendie continued with the lawsuit. The case traversed every court in the land, having twice been heard in the House of Lords. Judgment was given against Rutledge and in favour of Willian Thomas Carruthers of Dormont, grand nephew of Francis. It was based on this unending litigation, that Sir Walter Scott founded the plot of Guy Mannering, published in 1815.
Dormont from then.
Dormont House was at one time a fortified tower looking northwards over the River Annan, but this has sadly gone. This was replaced by a Georgian style house, which burnt down. In Victorian times another house was built with extensive landscaped gardens, which was abandoned and fell derelict after the Second World War.
Major Francis J. Carruthers of Dormont
In 1913, Major Francis J. Carruthers, 11th of Dormont, late of the Kings own Scottish Borderers matriculated the 1672 Arms of Holmains to represent the House of Dormont. These arms were painted on the Dormont Letters Patent by the renowned heraldic artist, A.G. Law Sampson. They are differenced by replacing the two Chevrons with Chevronelles and adding a bordure Or (gold border) and are blazoned: Gules, two chevronels engrailed between three fleur-de-lis Or, a border of the last for difference: Above the shield is placed a helmet befitting his degree with a mantling Gules doubled Or and on a wreath of his liveries is set for the Crest, a Seraphim volent Proper, and in an Escrol over the same this Motto, “Promptus et Fidelis”.
As in all arms taken from a senior line, in this case the Holmains Arms, and in order to represent their closeness to that bloodline as a Cadet, a gold border is set around the Dormont Arms themselves as can be seen above.
Major Carruthers served in campaigns in Egypt and South Africa and was also a member of the Queens Bodyguard in Scotland; the Royal Company of Archers (RCA), holding the rank of Brigadier. He was also Assistant Director at the War Office.
Royal Company of Archers
Founded in 1676, the RCA received its first Royal Charter from Queen Anne in 1704 and the honour of being the Monarchs Bodyguard in Scotland in 1822 in the reign of King George IV. Originally an archery club, it still holds archery competitions annually.
The Company is under the command of, in descending order; the Captain-General, four Captains, four Lieutenants, four Ensigns and thirteen Brigadiers. The full compliment of the RCA, includes a four hundred active and non-active retired members list. The duties usually centre around a Royal visits, the Royal Garden Party, Installation of new Knights of the Thistle and Investitures at St Giles Cathedral, in Edinburgh. They do however attend other state and Royal events as required.
The uniform below reflects that as worn by an officer of the RCA on duty as a Bodyguard to the Monarch. This is reflected in the two eagle feathers for an officer, other than the Captain-General who wears three, while the men, ‘the gentlemen’ on duty wear one eagle feather in their bonnets. Other differences from the gentlemen are; the officers wear a short claymore blade with a cross hilt, gentlemen wear a short roman sword and officers wear a gold and red tassel, rather than a black and red as used by a gentleman on duty.
Sold by the Auctioneers Lyon and Turnbull 14 January 2015 and to the left: A ROYAL COMPANY OF ARCHER’S UNIFORM (QUEEN’S BODYGUARD FOR SCOTLAND)
comprising of: a tunic with major’s badge of rank, a pair of trousers, with a sash, a Roman sword, and sword belt, cape and a leather cape sling, two bonnets, a pair of boots (size 6), and an evening tail coat with a velvet collar, with two eagle feathers, two arrows, contained in a military tin trunk with brass plaque engraved MAJOR F. J. CARRUTHERS OF DORMONT (qty)
Estimate £ 600-800 – SOLD
Note: this uniform belonged to Francis John Carruthers, J.P. (1868-1945), a man whose military career spanned his lifetime. He was Lieutenant-Colonel to the late Kings Own Scottish Borderers, which involved campaigns in Egypt in 1888 and in South Africa during 1900-02. He was also a Brigadier for the Royal Company of Archers, Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland in 1900 and Deputy Assistant Director at the War Office, 1915-19. He then went on to become Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in 1917 as well as Honorary Colonel 1931-1936, 5th Battalion before his appointment as H.M. Lieutenant in 1935 and C.B. in 1943.
Sold for £1,000 (buyer’s premium included)
James Andrew Carruthers of Dormont
The current Laird is James (Jamie) Carruthers who matriculated the Dormont Arms in December 1993 as his own.
His matriculation of 1993 again carries the blazon of his arms in line with his uncles as being: Gules, two chevronelles engrailed between three fleur-de-lis Or, a bordure of the last for difference. Above the Shield is placed an helmet befitting his degree, with a mantling Gules doubled Or and on a Wreath of the Liveries is set for crest a serephim volant Proper and in Esrol over the same this motto “Promptus et Fidelis”. The use of the border again signifying a cadet line of Holmains.
Jamie is extremely proud of his heritage and has been involved in the restoration of the Auld Kirk and graveyard, which was supported by members of both the family and the local population.
In 2020, the trust which looked after the graveyard, was closed down.