Chief, Clan Carruthers, Lord Lyon

Clan Carruthers: Petitioners for Chief

clan crest and saltire

Clan Carruthers: Petitioners for Chief and their Genealogy?

Again to answer questions posed to us: Our family and Clan have not had a chief since John Carruthers, 12th of the house of Holmains and 8th Baron, claimed the title for the last time and held it until he died in 1809. We are therefore classed as armigerous, (without Chief). This is a simple historical fact and really not open to debate. (UPDATE: A Chief was confirmed by the Lord Lyon on 19/08/19. Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains, was recognised as Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers.)

Normally, only a chief can appoint chieftains, however although we as a Society cannot appoint, based on their proven pedigree our clan society can, as others have done before us, ‘recognise’ the heads of houses if known, however the retention of that recognition would lay with the chief, once confirmed.

Who are our Petitioners?

Currently there are two senior members of our family recognised as seniors of our Clan through their evidenced genealogy. One is a direct descendent of the line of Holmains through the female line; Simon Peter Carruthers, a direct descendent of Holmains and the other is James Andrew Carruthers, of Dormont, through the male line.

The house of Carruthers of Holmains was initiated by John Carruthers, the younger brother of Thomas the 1st of Mouswald, and as such was able to claim seniority once the Mouswald line finished in 1548.

The house of Carruthers of Dormont is a cadet line of Holmains, coming from a younger brother of George, 6th of Holmains and 2nd Baron, in 1552.

These two lines remain genealogically strong although Holmains is a direct line from that House, which leads us to appreciate that until our seniors are satisfied with regards a Chief of our clan and confirmed by the Lord Lyon, a derbhfine or gathering as currently being put in place by Clan Bell, again supervised by the Lyon Court, would have no validity for us.


On the 19th August 2019, Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains, was confirmed as Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers

Court of the Lord Lyon in session

Court of the Lord Lyon and due process.

So how does it all work, can we simply self-appoint or is there a process.

Well, based on the descendants of our chiefly line still being alive and well, we cannot simply pick a chief and chieftain from the crowd. At least not if we wish to have any respect or credibility as a family within Scottish clan society, both within Scotland itself and external to it.

In the case of the Clan Buchanan, they are the latest to have clan chief recognised, in their case after 337 years. It took them 20 years of research and detective work but finally in September this year their Chief was confirmed by the Lord Lyon. Buchanan followed the same process that we are currently going through.

On an upside, we have only been working towards supporting the recognition of a Chief for the last 10 years or so and with the formation of the Clan Carruthers Society International (CCSI) and with your continued support, we feel confident we can achieve it.

Due Process.

iu-9But why is due process and evidenced genealogy so important?

Well, other than ensuring the exclusion and highlighting of charlatans, it guarantees the headship of the clan or family is passed through the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh, by authority of the British Crown, to those who have proof of pedigree to carry the title. This is done by permitting the individual concerned to carry the arms of the chief of the family, in our case that of Holmains.

As a further sign of recognition, this process also permits them to be accepted onto the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, which in itself acts as another kite mark to the world of the authenticity of the individual and the acceptance of the title they hold.

How does a clan achieve this?

Thankfully, as previously alluded to, Buchanan like other clans before us, have already tread this path and this information, although verified prior to this and in the main, comes from them but was amended to reflect our own Clan and our position:

  • Patrilineal Descent.

Firstly, the office and title of chief is usually passed patrilineally (from father to child) in descending order of male birth, then descending order of female birth, hence the oldest surviving son is the heir presumptive.

If the heir presumptive produces no heirs, then on the heir presumptive’s death the office and title goes to the next younger son, etc., then progressively to the eldest daughter and so on.

The term ‘cadet’ is used to describe family groups which are descendants of younger sons, as in the case of Dormont to Holmains, and Holmains to Mouswald, thus the oldest surviving son of each generation maintains the main or principal family line, and younger sons establish cadet lines.

In the case of the chiefly line of Clan Carruthers, the first recognised cadet of Mouswald was Carruthers of Holmains and the last was Carruthers of Barrow. Cadets can have their own cadets, e.g. Carruthers of Breckonhill are cadets of Carruthers of Dormont and Carruthers of Broomhills are cadets of Carruthers of Woodfoot.

When a chiefly line is extinguished e.g. no living heirs, the most recent cadet line to branch off the chiefly line becomes the new chiefly line, as in the case where Holmains became the chiefly line. Interestingly the new Chief of the Clan Buchanan was confirmed through the female line, which is acceptable in Scottish law.

  • Maintenance of Surname.

Secondly the office and title is implicitly linked to the surname, thus a McKay, a Cairns, etc. cannot be chief of Clan Carruthers. In some cases, where the heir is a daughter, arrangements have been made so that her husband and children assume her surname, and thus the office and title can be passed to her offspring.

This practice has given rise to the use of compound (hyphenated or ‘double-barrelled’) names. In our case, the Mitchell-Carruthers (Holmains) took a double barrelled name, however one branch of this line chose to drop the Mitchell and retained only the surname Carruthers as would be required of any chief of our name.

As an important point, the matter of principal names was established by the Lord Lyon Innes of Learney when in the case of Monro-Lucas-Tooth, it was deemed that he was a Tooth rather than a Monro or Lucas. It is now clearly established that it is the last name which decides the matter. Thus, by the Court of the Lord Lyon, a Carruthers-Wade is considered a Wade but a Mitchell-Carruthers is considered a Carruthers. Further, in the case of a chief as the representer of the family, the surname cannot be a compound surname.

  • Resurrecting the traditional chiefly line

A hereditary claimant of our clan would need to have the name ‘Carruthers’ (and recognised spelling variant, but not a hyphenated name) and demonstrate that he or she is patrilineally descended from one of the Chiefs, e.g. Holmains  (there are some provisions for matrilineal descent when legally formalised, e.g. bond of tailzie).

In Scottish law, a bond or heir of tailzie, from the french: tailler, to cut, is a situation where he/she, on whom an estate is settled, that would not have fallen to him by legal succession. Based on the genealogy of our seniors, this is not a situation that should affect us as a family.

The strongest evidence of a hereditary claimant is therefore with primary sources like birth, marriage and other legal records, but sometimes other sources can be used. In the case of Clan Buchanan, it would have been necessary to prove back to the 17th century and most likely earlier.

However in the case of Carruthers, lineage to the last chief of Holmains may be adequate, as it would only be necessary to prove descent from an armiger recognised by the Lyon Court, whose descent from a Clan chief is already recognised.

Once the descent is proved, then it is necessary to demonstrate that more senior lines of descent are fully extinguished. If a more senior line is not identified, then it will be necessary to advertise the claim to the Chiefship in media and for a duration specified by the Lyon Court.

The purpose of advertising the claim to the Chiefship is to give potential claimants from more senior branches, or from within the original claimant’s own branch, a chance to identify him or herself and claim the Chiefship, or for other interested parties with validity, to dispute the claim.

If there are no counter-claims, or evidence which disproves the claim, the candidate may be recognised by the Lord Lyon. The ascending order of seniority of the primary branches off the original chiefly line of Mouswald are Holmains, Woodfoot, Over Denbie, Isle, Wormanbie, Dormont, Rammerscales, and Butterquhat, to name a few.

CCSI are aware of some of our clan folk who can prove that they are directly descended from the Carruthers of Holmains. These people are evidenced that they are descended from the last chief, John 8th Baron, 12th of Holmains and therefore John Carruthers, younger brother of Thomas, 1st of Mouswald.

They are also aware of others from within the line of Dormont, again holding evidence they are descended from William Carruthers, 1st of Dormont and the younger brother of George, 6th of Holmains. However, based on the current evidence available, it is strongly felt that the two named chieftains above, recognised by CCSI, currently represent the seniors of our line.

However, as stated elsewhere, only the Lord Lyon has the authority to legally confirm a Chief or head of house of any Scottish Clan or family. That decision will be based on an analysis of any evidence regarding seniority, that is laid before him. We therefore await his pleasure on the matter.

IMG_1292So why a have a chief and more importantly in the the 21st-century, what do we expect from a them?

Unlike the pre-18th-century chiefs, a 21st-century chief is not going to lead their clan in war or demand rents and levies.

The experience from other clans, is that their 21st-century chief, recognised by the Lord Lyon if ‘official’ or confirmed by the Lord Lyon through genealogy if armigerous, suggests that the position, a legal entity in Scottish law:-

  1. adds to the clan’s sense of completeness;
  2. adds to the perceived prestige of the clan;
  3. performs and adds dignity to ceremonial duties;
  4. enables the clan to speak with one voice;
  5. helps to focus clan effort on matters of clan wide interest;
  6. represents clan interests in multi-clan forums;
  7. promotes the right use of chiefly arms and associated heraldry;
  8. promotes a general awareness and increased use of heraldry by the clanfolk;
  9. interacts with the clan society in a similar manner by following a written constitution.
  10. interacts with the elected governments of his or her subjects;
  11. appoints lieutenants to represent them when they cannot be present; and
  12. uses modern communications to achieve effective (sometimes synchronous) communication between him or herself, the lieutenants and the clanfolk.

The Clan Carruthers Society International strongly believe that it is in the best interest of our family to follow due process and have a clan chief officially recognised by adhering to the rules as set by the Lyon Court. This, on confirmation of a chief, will ensure international recognition and respect for us as a proud Scottish Border Reiver clan and family, for generations to come.

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey

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