Border Reiver, Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS : The 1587 Act and the 17 Border Clans.

Seal of James VI

In an attempt to clean up the ‘unruly’ elements in Scotland in 1587, prior to the unification of the crowns, King James VI and his parliament put forward an Act to suppress the Unruly Clans in his kingdom. The Act itself contained 16 ‘items’ and listed 51 named ‘Unruly Clans’; 34 in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and 17 in the borders of Scotland, comprising 4 from the Middle March and 17 from the West March.

The act further lists over 100 ‘landlords and bailies’ on whose lands these clans resided or sought refuge. Some parts of the Act are included here to include the lists of names, in an attempt to give a flavour of what was trying to be achieved and which was actually eventually very successful in taming the regions and led to the Lowland clearances of clans and families. In the Borders at least, the named clans were no more unruly than their neighbours, however they had family members who utilised the lawless ‘Debatable Land’, and this was to be a shot across the bow, of those chiefs in preparation of what was to come

Progressively, these people, through the Highland and Lowland Clearances, were forced to move or chose to move to other parts of Scotland and Ireland, which progressively lead to the large migration to the Americas in 1717.

James VI: Translation 1587, 8 July, Edinburgh, Parliament Parliamentary Register 29 July 1587. For the quieting and keeping in obedience of the disordered subjects, inhabitants of the borders, highlands and isles

James VI

Our sovereign lord and his three estates convened in this present parliament, considering the wicked inclination of the disordered subjects, inhabitants in some parts of the borders adjacent to England and in the highlands and isles, delighting in all mischiefs and most unnaturally and cruelly wasting, slaying, harrying and destroying their own neighbours and native country people, taking occasion of the least trouble that may occur in the inner parts of the realm when they think that care and thought of the repressing of their insolence is in any way forgotten, to renew their most barbarous cruelties and godless oppressions; for remedy whereof, in addition to and beside the lovable laws and constitutions already made in this behalf, which our sovereign lord, with advice of his three estates, ratifies and approves by this act, it is statute and ordained that the first day of every month in the year, if it be lawful, and failing thereof the next lawful day immediately following, shall be a special and pre-empted [diet] for his privy council to convene and sit both in the forenoon and afternoon for receiving, hearing, answering and directing of all complaints, causes and matters concerning the misrule of the disordered and troublesome subjects, inhabitants [of] the highlands and borders, and attempts committed by them upon the good and peaceable subjects in the in-country, without prejudice of other and more diets to be appointed for the same effect if the occasion so require; and specially that upon the said first day of every month, or other next lawful day, trial and inquisition to be taken of the diligence done in the execution of things directed the month preceding and of the things necessary and expedient to be put in execution during the next month to come thereafter; and that a particular register be kept by the self of all things that shall happen to be done and directed in matters concerning the quietness and good rule of the borders and highlands.

The Act in itself is quite lengthy and only snippets are posted here, but the penalties are quite obvious and severe towards the said ‘clannis’,  which is partly laid out below:

Copy of an old Act showing ‘items’ listed

Item, it is statute and ordained that whenever any plundering, oppressions, reives, sornings and thefts shall happen to be committed within any part of this realm, in the highlands or borders thereof, by any captain of clan or by any other clansman against any of our sovereign lord’s loyal and true subjects in time coming, and the goods so taken up transported to any other clansmen’s bounds, received and maintained therein, or disposed upon, and the same come to the knowledge of the party harmed and damnified, ordains him first to require or cause require redress thereof, that the chief of the clan or chieftain of the country wherein the said goods shall be reset or remain for the space of 12 hours of his witting, to make redress and restitution of the same goods within 15 days after he be required thereto; wherein if he fails, it shall be lawful to the party harmed to call, convene and pursue the chief, captain, superiors and principals of that clan within whose bounds the goods and gear so taken shall be reset and distributed and under their protection maintained before the judge ordinary, criminally or civilly, and upon sufficient proof to be led by the party harmed that the goods were sold or disposed upon within such bounds by the witting and knowledge of the said chief, captain or superiors and principals of the clan, they being of power to have resisted the same, they to be answerable for the same goods and decreet to be given against them, with the profits thereof, likewise and in the same manner as might or should have been given against the persons, committers of the deed themselves, and executorials to pass thereupon in the appropriate form. And also, if it shall happen the party harmed by the persons, committers of such enormities, to follow and pursue his own goods and gear taken as said is for the recovery of the same, and in the relief of his own goods and gear to slay, hurt or mutilate any of the takers thereof, it is hereby expressly declared, statute and ordained that the said party harmed or his assisters and accomplices shall never be accusable of any such slaughter, mutilation or other hurt but as freely remitted and discharged in that behalf as if he had our sovereign lord’s special commission to that effect; and also ordains and declares that whatsoever persons shall happen hereafter to bear feud for any such slaughter, hurt or mutilation shall be subject to the pains and action above-written, and it shall be lawful to the party harmed to call and convene them, criminally or civilly at his option, for the said reives and oppressions in manner before specified.

The Act eventually names those of concern, firstly the names of those on whose lands the perpetrators may live or seek refuge:

Old Scotland

The roll of the names of the landlords and bailies of lands dwelling on the borders and in the highlands where broken men have dwelt and presently dwell……….

…………and their tenants and inhabitants of their lands being of clans or dependants on chieftains and captains on the clans, whom the landlords are in no way able to command but only get their mails off them and no other service nor obedience, shall in no way be subjected to this act but in manner following, namely, they shall be held to direct their precepts of warning, obtain decreets against their tenants and denounce them to the horn and immediately after their denunciation that the said landlords raise letters by deliverance of the secret council and charge the chieftains and captains of the clans on whom their tenants depend………

Landlords and bailies

Middle March

  • [Francis Stewart], earl of Bothwell
  • Laird of Ferniehirst
  • [Archibald Douglas], earl of Angus
  • Laird of Buccleuch
  • Sheriff of Teviotdale
  • Laird of Bedrule
  • Laird of Wauchope
  • [William Maxwell], Lord Herries
  • Laird of Howpasley
  • George Turnbull of Hallrule
  • Laird of Little Dean
  • Laird of Drumlanrig
  • The Laird of Chisholm

West March

  • [John Maxwell], Lord Maxwell8The Laird of Drumlanrig
  • The Laird of Johnstone
  • The Laird of Applegarth
  • The Laird of Holmends (Holmains) [George Carruthers, 6th Laird and 2nd Baron]
  • The Laird of Graitney
  • [William Maxwell], Lord Herries
  • The Laird of Dunwoody
  • The Laird of Lochinvar

Highlands and Isles 

  • [Ludovic Stewart], Duke of Lennox
  • [Sir George Buchanan], Laird of Buchanan
  • [Andrew MacFarlane], Laird MacFarlane of the Arrochar
  • [Humphrey Colquhoun], Laird of Luss
  • [Aulay MacAulay], Laird MacAulay of Ardencaple
  • [Archibald Napier], Laird of Merchiston
  • [John Haldane], Laird of Gleneagles
  • [James Cunningham], Earl of Glencairn
  • [John Cunningham], Laird of Drumquhassle
  • [James Galbraith], Laird of Culcreuch
  • [George Graham], Tutor of Menteith
  • [William Shaw], Laird of Knockhill
  • Harry Shaw of Cambusmoir
  • [James Kinross], Laird of Kippenross
  • [Michael Balfour], Laird of Burleigh
  • [James Stirling], Laird of Keir
  • [Alexander Livingston], Master of Livingston
  • [James Stewart], Lord Doune
  • [Patrick Drummond], Lord Drummond
  • [John Murray], Laird of Tullibardine
  • [Duncan Campbell], Laird of Glenorchy
  • [John Campbell], Laird of Lawers
  • [James Menzies], Laird of Weem
  • [James Drummond], Abbot of Inchaffray
  • Colin Campbell of Ardbeg
  • [Colin Campbell], Laird of Glenlyon
  • [John Stewart], Earl of Atholl
  • [Thomas Stewart], Laird of Grandtully
  • [Donald Robertson], Laird of Struan Robertson
  • [John Murray], Laird of Strowan Murray
  • [Wemyss], Laird of Wester Wemyss
  • [Thomas Scott], Laird of Abbotshall
  • [David Maxwell], Laird of Tealing
  • [Patrick Ogilvy], Laird of Inchmartine
  • [Thomas Fotheringham], Laird of Powrie Fotheringham
  • [William Moncreiffe], Laird of Moncreiffe
  • [James Stewart], Laird of Ballechin
  • [John MacDuff, alias Ferguson], Baron of Fandowie
  • [Francis Hay], Earl of Erroll
  • [James Ruthven], Earl of Gowrie
  • [Alexander Reidheuch], Laird of Cultybraggan
  • [James Ogilvy], Lord Ogilvy
  • [Alexander Ogilvy], Laird of Clova
  • [David Graham], Laird of Fintry
  • [David Lindsay], Laird of Edzell
  • [John Erskine], Earl of Mar
  • [Alexander Elphinstone], Master of Elphinstone
  • [George Gordon], Earl of Huntly
  • [John Forbes], Master of Forbes
  • [John Grant of Freuchie], Laird of Grant
  • [Lauchlan] MacIntosh [of Dunauchton]
  • [Simon Fraser], Lord and [Thomas Fraser of Knockie and Strichen], Tutor of Lovat
  • Chisholm of Cummer
  • [Donald MacDonald], Laird of Glengarry
  • [Colin] MacKenzie [of Kintail]
  • [Robert Munro], Laird of Foulis
  • [Alexander Ross], Laird of Balnagowan
  • [John Urquhart of Craigfintry and Culbo], Tutor of Cromarty
  • [Alexander Gordon], Earl of Sutherland
  • [William Sutherland], Laird of Duffus
  • James Innes of Touchis
  • [George Sinclair], Earl of Caithness
  • [George Keith], Earl Marischal
  • [Lawrence Oliphant], Lord Oliphant
  • [Patrick Mowat], Laird of Boquhally
  • [William Sinclair], Laird of Dunbeath
  • [Hugh] MacKay of Farr
  • Torquil MacLeod of Cogeache
  • [John MacKenzie], Laird of Gairloch
  • [Malcolm] MacGillichallum of Raasay
  • [William] MacLeod of Harris
  • [Lauchlan] MacKinnon of Strathardle
  • [Roderick] MacLeod of Lewis
  • [Roderick] MacNeil of Barra
  • [John] MacIan of Ardnamurchan
  • Allan MacIan of Eilean Tioram
  • [Alexander MacRanald], Laird of Knoydart
  • [Lauchlan] MacLean of Duart
  • [Ewen MacLean], Laird of Ardgour
  • John Stewart of the Appin
  • [Dougal] MacDougall of Lorne
  • [Allan] MacDougall of Raray
  • [Archibald Campbell], Laird of Lochnell
  • [John Campbell], Laird of Cawdor
  • [Robert Montgomery], Laird of Skelmorlie, for Rachry
  • [Dougal] MacConnachy of Inverawe
  • Angus MacConnell of Dunyvaig and the Glens
  • [Alexander MacAlister], Laird of Loup
  • [John Stewart], Sheriff of Bute
  • [Hector Bannatyne], Laird of Kames
  • [Archibald Campbell], Earl of Argyll
  • [Duncan Campbell], Laird of Auchinbreck
  • [James Campbell], Laird of Ardkinglas
  • [Malcolm] MacNaughton [of Dunderawe]
  • [Archibald] MacLauchlan [of Strathlachlan]
  • [James Lamont], Lird of Lamont
  • [Colin Campbell], Laird of Perbrak
  • [John Campbell], Laird of Duntrune
  • [James Scrimgeour of Dudhope], Constable of Dundee, Laird of Glassary
  • [Colin Campbell], Laird of Elangreg
  • [Archibald Campbell], Laird of Otter
  • [Hector MacLean], Laird of Coll
  • [John] MacLean of Lochbuie
  • [Murdoch] MacFee of Collowsay
  • [John Hamilton], Lord Hamilton

And finally the Names of the Clans themselves, Carruthers being one of the 17 names from the borders and one of 13 from the dangerous West March:

The roll of the clans that have captains, chiefs and chieftains whom on they depend, often times against the will of their landlords, as well on the borders as highlands, and of some special persons of branches of the said clans.

Named Unruly Clans 

Middle March (4)

  • Elliotts
  • Armstrongs
  • Nicksons
  • Crosiers

West March (13)

  • Scotts of Ewesdale
  • Batesons
  • Littles
  • Thomsons  – Thomesonis in the untranslated version
  • Glendinnings
  • Irvings
  • Bells
  • Carruthers 
  • Grahams
  • Johnstons
  • Jardines
  • Moffats
  • Latimers

There were of course 34 Clans of the Island and Highlands listed in the 1587 Act and these are listed below:

Highlands and Isles (34)

  • Buchanans
  • MacFarlanes, Arrochar
  • MacNabs
  • Grahams of Menteith
  • Stewart of Balquhidder
  • Clan Gregor
  • Clan Laren
  • Campbells of Lochnell
  • Campbells of Inverawe
  • Clan Dowell of Lorne
  • Stewart of Lorne or of Appin
  • Clan MacKean of Ardvorlich
  • Stewarts of Atholl and parts adjacent
  • Clan Donachie in Atholl and parts adjacent
  • Menzies in Atholl and Apnadull
  • Clan MacThomas in Glenshee
  • Fergusons
  • Spaldings
  • MacIntoshes in Atholl
  • Clan Cameron
  • Clan Ranald in Lochaber
  • Clan Ranald of Knoydart, Moidart and Glengarry
  • Clan Lewis of the Lewis
  • Clan Leod of Harris
  • Clan Neil
  • Clan Kinnon
  • Clan Ian
  • Clan Chattan
  • Grants
  • Frasers
  • Clan Kenzie
  • Clan Andrew
  • Munroes
  • Murrays in Sutherland

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey

2 thoughts on “CLAN CARRUTHERS : The 1587 Act and the 17 Border Clans.”

  1. I found this so surprising from my family’s name that they got this designation but it be speaks volumes when you consider the climate of political drama in which they lived .

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