Clan Carruthers, Coat of Arms, Holmains, Mouswald

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Our Coat of Arms, where do they come from, what do they mean?

As a Carruthers, we are all very aware of the arms that we presume represents our family. These arms are the property of the Chief of our name and once confirmed by the Lyon, they then become theirs by proven birth right. They do not belong to our family in general.


Ancient Arms of Carruthers of Mouswald

Carruthers Arms began long before the ones we recognise now. Therefore where did our Chiefs Arms come from, as they are not the original arms recorded to our chief and due to that have not always been blazoned (Heraldically described): Gules (Red), two chevrons engrailed between three fleur de lys Or (Gold). Although our family had their own Arms since before the 1200’s, our chiefly arms were not ‘registered’ to our chief until John Carruthers 9th of Holmains, 5th Baron and only after the inception of the Lyon’s Act in 1672.

Carruthers of Carruthers

Prior to that, according to the Ancient armorials, the chiefly arms are described as being Or, two chevrons engrailed Sable (black) and in one case Azure (blue). These were the first arms of Carruthers of Mouswald. Unfortunately they were not dissimilar to the MaClellan’s from the neighbouring shire of Galloway.

Maclellan: Who were they? 

MacLellan Arms

The Maclellan’s, like Carruthers, are an ancient clan, being mentioned as far back as 1217 in a charter from King Alexander II of Scotland (1198-1249). They became the hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway (the next county to the west of Dumfriesshire). It was also a Maclellan who accompanied William Wallace to France in 1928, after the battle of Falkirk. This was a major battle and defeat for the Scots in the First War of Independence against Edward I. The aftermath of this battle led Wallace to resign as Guardian of Scotland. The Falkirk Roll, as an aside, is the oldest known English Roll of Arms containing 111 names and blazoned shields of nobles who took part in the Battle of Falkirk. The Maclellan have been without Chief since 1832 when the 10th Lord Kircudbright died.

The Maclellan Arms are blazoned as: Or, two chevrons Sable. The differences between theirs and the chiefly line of Carruthers of Mouswald was in the chevrons; The Maclellan’s were plain,  while Carruthers were engrailed and they would have blurred on the battlefield and in the heat of battle.

Sir Simon Carruthers of Mouswald

One has to assume it was for this reason that Carruthers of Mouswald changed their arms. as having the full right to the ancient Arms, the Carruthers Chief could have used them.  However research has shown that five ancient armorials record the arms of Simon Carruthers, last Chief of Mouswald who died in 1548 on a border raid, as being different to the ancient arms. Two favour gold charges (items on the shield) and two favour silver charges. The fifth records a silver chevron with golden fleurs-de-lis. There is no record of why the change and adoption of the fleur de lys as charges took place and no historical evidence of linking Carruthers as a family to France or the Normans.

The shield above of Sir Simon Carruthers blazoned; Gules a chevron between three fleur de lys Or, bears the same arms as those of the Brouns of Carsluith (Galloway) in the early 1500’s. The head of which was the powerful Gilbert Broun, Abbot of Sweetheart Abbey near Dumfries. Later it was alleged several times that Gilbert was sheltering Jesuit priests at Carsluith, and in 1605 he was arrested for his Catholic sympathies. He was banished to France, where he became rector of the Scots College, Paris, dying in Paris in 1612.

Therefore the use of such arms must have brought him into dispute with the myriad of Broun and Browne families who bore a similar, if not identical arms, and just as importantly would have caused confusion on the battlefield.

Brouns/Browns: Who were they?

Arms of Broun

The Brouns were a powerful lowland family originally from East Lothian, with their family seat Carsluith Castle being located in Galloway, the county to the west of Dumfriesshire. The Brouns took ownership of the castle in 1513 from the Lindsay’s, after Sir Herbert Lindsay was killed at the Battle of Flodden Field. The Brouns of Carsluith emigrated to India, in 1748, and the castle has not been occupied since.

One hypothesis, according to the historian George Black, was they were of Celtic origins, being named after their descent from native judges, who were known as brehons. However they themselves further claim descendency from the Kings of France, hence the use of the Fleur de Lys on their shield. This latter part, or at least their origin, ties in with the history that states that in 1073 Walterus Le Brun travelled from France to Scotland as the leader of a band of warriors to the aid of King Malcolm of Scotland. Documents record Walterus Le Brun as a baron from early twelfth century who flourished in Scotland. Documented as the progenitor of the Brouns of Colstoun, he was witness to an instrument of the Inquisition of the possessions of the Church of Glasgow, made by David I, Prince (Earl) of Cumberland, in 1116, in the reign of his brother, King Alexander I of Scotland. The Brouns arms are also blazoned: Gules a chevron between three fleur de lys Or.

They are headed by their Chief: Sir Wayne H. Broun Bt. 14th Baronet of Colstoun, 30th Chief of the Name and Arms of Broun/Brown.

Carruthers of Holmains, their Arms.

Arms of Mouswald 2So where do we get our current chiefs arms from? Well when the Lyon Act came into force in 1672 it was required that all arms were recorded and only those deemed worthy enough to hold them, could. Clan Carruthers were headed by John Carruthers 9th of Holmains who was the Chief at the who time and it was he who registered the arms as we now know them today : Gules two chevrons engrailed between three fleur de lys Or. Although the presumption is that the Holmains Arms were in existance long before then, it is obvious that the charges on the Ancient Arms of Mouswald (the engrailed Chevrons) and the charges of the Arms of Sir Simon Carruthers 10th of Mouswald, 6th Baron e.g. the fleur de lys, were merged to form what is now the Carruthers Chiefly Arms. The red shield being kept and the charges recorded in gold. There are currently 12 arms recorded to members of our name, the last being 2017, with one other in the pipeline with the petition ready for presentation to the Lord Lyon.


Accepting the rules of heraldry state that you cannot put a colour (tincture) on a colour   or a metal on a metal,  there are five basic, classic colours in heraldic design and two metals. the Colours are; Blue (Azure) symbolizes loyalty and truth,  Red (Gules) expresses military bravery, fortitude and magnanimity, and sometimes also martyrdom,  Purple (Purpure), being the colour of royalty, signifies royal blood and sovereignty, as well as justice, Black (Sable), when used in heraldry, signifies constancy, or less commonly, grief. Green (Vert) represents hope and joy, and sometimes loyalty in love.

Other colours are used less commonly. Tawney, which is either a tannish or orange shade, is said to represent worthy ambition. Sanguine, a dark, blood-red shade, can connote one who is deliberate in battle, yet victorious. There are only two metals Gold (Or) symbolising the sun, generosity, nobility and elevation of mind and Silver (Argent), the moon peace and sincerity.

Carruthers Arms 2The parts on the Shield (Escutcheon) are either charges or ordinaries. Ordinaries are simple geometric symbols bounded by straight line which can have lines of variation eg engrailed Chevrons.  In the case of the Carruthers chiefly arms there are two Chevrons; depicting the roof of a house, signifying protection, usually granted to those who had participated in some noble enterprise ie built a church or fortress or accomplished some work of faithful service, which are engrailed (wavy edges); depicting the earth and land and when conjoined protection of the land. This would fit into Carruthers as Scottish Borderers, ever ready to fight the invading armies from land or sea.

In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon (shield). This may be a geometric design or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device. in our case three the fleur de lys. Fleur de lys are normally defined as representing purity and light. In Christian sacred art it has, been identified with the Virgin Mary and seen as a tri-parted figure with the Holy Trinity.

In heraldry, and in a more mystic age, when men liked to see a hidden meaning in almost everything, the three ”petals” have been held to denote such things as three desirable knightly qualities: Faith, Hope and Charity. Although also associated with French royalty, it was nor according to the Heraldry Society, exclusively French in the early days of heraldry leading to many unrelated families using them.

Colour of Shield:- (Tincture) – Red.  Expresses military bravery, fortitude and magnanimity.

Colour of Charges:- (Metal) – Gold. Generosity, nobility and elevation of mind

Charges: three Fleur de Lys. Purity and light, the Virgin Mary and the Trinity and knightly virtue

Colour of Ordinaries:- (Metal) – Gold. Generosity, nobility and elevation of mind

Ordinaries:- two Engrailed Chevrons. Protectors of the land

Heraldically the Arms of our chief depict the bearer of the shield as: Brave, noble, generous, pure, faithful and ready to defend and protect our lands.

These virtues are well encapsulated in our Chiefs motto: Promptus et Fidelis (ready and faithful)

all registered carruthers arms 2As previously stated, Arms belong only to an individual and not a family or clan and they have no statute of limitations. Although abused by the unscrupulous for commercial purposes, they remain the personal signature of that individual, dead or alive. We therefore await the confirmation of a Chief by the Lord Lyon to permit the senior of our line to bear the chiefly Arms legally and thus give our clan official recognition and status, internationally.

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey

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