Clan Carruthers, Holmains

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Carruthers of Isle and James Carruthers

Dalton Parish

Records suggest that the Carruthers of Isle were descendants of the chiefly line of Carruthers of Holmains. John Carruthers 7th of Holmains married in 1575, one Nicolas Jardine. They had a son Charles, possibly named after John’s 5th brother Charles, who was a Coronet in the mounted garrison at Threave Castle in 1585. Symon, Johns other brother was mentioned as being of the Isle in 1602 and 1634. Symon was the son of George Carruthers 6th of Holmains and Margaret Irving.

Symon was still in Isle over 30 years later, when his son and heir Charles, were infelt (Scots Law: to invest or give symbolic possession of an inheritable property) in the lands of Isle, which was situated in the parish of Dalton. Charles’ eldest son John became 2nd of Isle. John’s brother witnessed a Dormont sasine (Scots Law: symbolic delivery of feudal land) in 1634.

John Carruthers 3rd of Isle was infelt in those lands in 1666 after his father had died. It was recorded that John and an unnamed brother were resident at the time.

The property of Isle and thus the lairdship stayed intact until in 1676, when John 3rd of Isle disponed (Scots Law: transferred legal ownership) of a portion of the land to John Carruthers, natural brother to John 4th of Dormont. In 1688, what was left of Isle and Islehead, were infelt to John of Isle’s son, also John.

Carruthers of Isle 2
Arms of Carruthers of Isle

According to Joseph Edmonson, the Arms of the Carruthers of Isle were; Gules, two chevrons engrailed between three fleur de lys Or, within a bordure Argent (Red Shield on which is two wavy chevrons and three fleur de lys in gold, surrounded by a silver border). The crest was a cherub proper and the motto was Paratus et Fidelis (prepared and faithful).

This ties nicely into a name as registrant of Arms in 1672. His entry in the register states: James Carruthers of [ Isle ], Steward Depute of Annandale and factor to the Earl of Annandale, descended from the family of Howmains (Holmains), bears Gules, two chevrons engrailed between three fleur de lys Or, within a bordure Argent. Above the shield, one helmet befitting his degree, mantled gules and double argent, next is placed in a torse for his crest, a Seraphim Standing Vested Proper. The motto is Paratus et Fidelis. The bordure, in the same veins as Dormont whose border is gold (Or), signifies a cadet branch of Holmains.

As is normal in heraldry, the arms of the individual are taken directly from the arms of the nearest ancestor, albeit these days, differenced twice. The motto above the arms, signifying Scottish arms rather than English, who have their mottos below their arms, is the choice of the individual as is the crest. In this case it seems that the retained arms (Shield) shows a close relationship to Carruthers of Isle, and the motto has been kept of that branch of the family. The crest however has been changed to a Serephim standing vested Proper, and the herald has drawn a standing angel to depict the same.

It is therefore fair to assume that the Arms of James Carruthers recorded in 1672, were in fact strongly associated with the Arms of Carruthers of Isle and one has to consider that James was a close relation of one of the senior Isle line and most certainly a cousin to the House of Carruthers of Holmains.

James Carruthers [of Isle]

James Carruthers of Isle
James Carruthers 1672

James himself was a  Factor and Chamberlain to the Earl of Annandale. The position of the Earl of Annandale was initially held by the Murray’s. The second Earl of Annandale James’s Murray died without issue in 1658. It was resurrected in 1660 by Charles II in favour of James Johnston two years later. The new Earl was son of Sir James Johnston, the then Warden of the West Marches. Patrick Hope-Johnstone 11th Earl of Annandale and Hartfell, is the current Earl.

James Carruthers was appointed to his position not long after the accession by the Earl. His function is well recorded in financial documents in his role as Chamberlain. James himself was also a land owner in his own right and was infelt by Hugh Scott of Beddockhome to lands in Hutton and Corrie parishes. In 1666, there seems to have arisen some contention between James and the Chiefly house of Holmains when he received a disposition (Scots Law: the resolution of a case), from George Carruthers, youngest son of the deceased George Carruthers of Over Denbie of the lands of Dnebie (Over Denbie) and Ecclefechan. Part of the lands disponed, belonged to Holmains it seems, so both were ‘sold’ the same property. This situation ended with the lands being passed back to Holmains. However, in 1669, James was further infelt the lands of Jardine.

A Sculptured shield including the Arms of the Guild of Shoemakers, Canongate, Edinburgh.
(Photo: Gordon Wright)

It also seemed that James was extremely well thought of and in 1686 was accepted and admitted as a Guildbrother and Burgess of Edinburgh, without any fees being requited. This showed a keeness for the Guild to accept into their ranks, an individual whom they wished to honour.

The first Edinburgh guilds were established by the Skinners and Furriers, both founded in 1474. But it wasn’t long before each major craft had its own guild: the Websters (weavers), Wrights (shipwrights) and Masons (stonemasons), Hammermen, Fleshers (butchers), Waulkers (‘fullers’ or pressers of cloth), Tailors, Surgeons & Barbers, Cordiners, Baxters (bakers), Bonnetmakers & Dyers and finally the Goldsmiths, whose seal of cause was granted in 1581.

After the Earl died, James retired to Lanarkshire to the parish of Lesmahago. He died in 1687. Interestingly records show that he was not the first member of Clan Carruthers to settle in Lesmahago as in 1625 a John Carruthers of Nether Birkwood was recorded in the same parish.

Blazon of James Carruthers ‘of’ Isle

Carruthers as a Family and Clan

The Carruthers Clan were therefore represented by many houses, all whom had a direct lineage from Holmains and through them to Mouswald, the latter whose house ended in 1548. This maked Holmains the senior after Mouswald and it was in that role that Holmains took over the Chiefship after the last Chief, Simon Carruthers of Mousald died in a border raid.

Outwith Holmains and Dormont, other houses included the Carruthers of Woodfoot & Milne, Carruthers of Woodhead, Carruthers of Breconsyde, Carruthers of Wormanbie, Carruthers of Rammerscales, Carruthers of Over Denbie and Carruthers of Butterquat, to name but a few.

Our family spread after the lowland clearence and again in the search of work to all parts of Scotland. This included adjoining counties such as Galloway and Lanarkshire, up into Aberedeenshire and the Scottish Highlands and over to the east to places such as Fife. They also moved into parts of England, Wales, Ireland, over the Atlantic to the US and Canada and such places as far afield as Jamaica, India, Australasia, Africa and South America.

We remain proud of all of our name, proud of our history and heritage, proud of our culture, proud of our Clans achievements and definately proud of the direction we are travelling and the work our Clan Society is doing on our behalf. They are the unsung heroes, and their time and effort is freely given for the benefit of the many, not simply the agenda of the few.


As of August 2019, Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains, 4 x Great Grandson of John 12th of Holmains and 8th Baron, was confirmed as Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers. Supporters were granted to his arms in November 2019.

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