Clan Carruthers

Clan Carruthers: Middlebie Church

Old photograph of Middlebie village

We thank our Executive Secretary, Graham Carruthers from Canada for this excellent post.

According to the ‘Records of the Carruthers Family’ by Carruthers and Reid, the state on page 38 in the last paragraph, that ‘the Carruthers Clan lived within Annandale and were chiefly located at Mouswald and Holmains and numerous adjacent places. This district was situated in the West March of Scotland‘. The parish and place of /Carruthers’ from which we all hail, was placed in the modern parish of Middlebie in 1609. However, in 1296, one Simon Carruthers, who bent the knees to Edward I, was parson of Middlebie. Middlebie (Mydilby) was chartered by King David to William of Carruthers 2nd of Mouswald, in 1349. One of the witnesses was John of Carruthers, Kings Chancellor to Annandale   (Initiator of the Holmains line and thus our Chief’s ancestor) and brother of William. Carruthers held ownership of Middlebie and patronage of the Church until 1548, when the last chief of Mouswald was killed. It is interesting to note in the following snippet from the Charter of 1349, that in the early stages of the House of Mouswald, the recipients were named as Carruthers of Carruthers, underlining the origins of the name of the family being topographical. The discussion today relates to the Church in Middlebie, which for a Carruthers, is well worth a visit.

The Charter of Middlebie to Carruthers

Carruthers of Carruthers

This is a charter by King David as Lord of Annaudale granting to William of Carrutheris the land in the tenement of Midilby, which belonged to Thomas Of Lyndby. It is granted at Mouswald, 10 September, twenty-first year of The King’s reign, [1349].

Witnesses named in the charter are Robert, Steward of Scotland, John of Carrutheris, the King’s Chancellor of Annandale, John of Tunnergath, the King’s Chamberlain of Annandale and John Stewart, Warden of the West March.

Roger of Carrutheris, Procurator of John of Carrutheris, Lord of Mousswalde, By Malcolm Ra, clerk of the diocese of Whithorn, containing a small transumpt of the following charter

Charter by David, King of Scots and Lord of Annandale, granting to his Beloved and faithful William of Carrutheris and his heirs all that land in the Tenement of Mydilby, which belonged formerly to Thomas of Lyndby, and had come into the King’s hands by reason of the forfeiture of the said late Thomas, against the King’s faith and peace with his enemies of England : to be held to him and his heirs, of the King and his heirs, with advocation of the kirk of Meddilby, for rendering of service due and wont. Given at Mousswalde, 10 September, xxi year of reign, [1349.]

Witnesses, Robert, Steward of Scotland, the King’s nephew, John of Carrutheris, the King’s Chancellor of Annandale, Maurice Murray, Malcolm Flemyng, John of Tunnergath, the King’s Chamberlain of Annandale, John Stewart, Warden of the West March (Custode Marchie Occidentalis), William of Crichtoun, and others.

The King’s seal is ordered to be appended.

The transumpt was made at Whithorn, at seven before noon, in (the) presence of

Patrick, Abbot of Soulseat, Sir Donald McConnen, Vicar of Whithorn, Gilbert Adonnyll, Vicar of Kyrkmedau of Whithorn diocese.

Middlebie is a hamlet and parish in the historic county of Dumfriesshire in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland. It is approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) east of Ecclefechan, and 6 miles (9.7 km) north-east of Annan, on the banks of the Middlebie Burn.

Middlebie Parish consists of the ancient parishes of Middlebie, Pennersax (Pennersaughs) and Carruthers, united in 1609. Middlebie was the seat of a Presbytery from some time after the Reformation until 1743. It was then divided to form the Presbyteries of Langholm and Annan. Middlebie parish is now in the Presbytery of Annandale & Eskdale. It is bounded by the seven parishes of Tundergarth, Langholm, Canonbie, Half Morton, Kirkpatrick Fleming, Annan and Hoddam.

The Ancient Parish of Middlebie there was a Brythonic fort (Caer Ruthers), which existed in the area before hand, in and around 80AD, the Romans built a fort at Birrens in the parish of Middlebie, just half a mile from the modern village.

Excavation of this site, has revealed a number of altars and dedications: one to the goddess Fortuna; one, to “Jupiter Best and Greatest”; one to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom; and one to Brigantia, a goddess native to the Iron Age tribes in this part of the British Isles. Might some of the soldiers have been Christians? It’s possible.

Christianity is more definitely established in the area by the 7th century. St Mungo (died 614AD) reportedly had his episcopal palace in nearby Hoddom parish. Half a century later, St Cuthbert, elected Prior of the monastery of Melrose in 661AD, is thought to have come to Middlebie in the course of his travels. Perhaps he found a congregation already gathering on the rocky outcrop above Middlebie Burn, or perhaps he established one. Certainly the site is very ancient, and if you walk around the church and look down the steep slope to the burn, it is easy to see why it was chosen as a holy place.

After the Scottish Reformation (1560AD), the story of Middlebie Church is better documented. The General Assembly of 1581 proposed the creation of the Presbytery of Middlebie, which gives us a sense of the former importance of what is now a very quiet hamlet. For more than 100 years, ministers and elders from the surrounding parishes attended Presbytery meetings at Middlebie. Then in 1743, the Presbytery was divided into the Presbytery of Annan and the Presbytery of Langholm. Nowadays, it is at the centre of the Presbytery of Annandale and Eskdale.

History of this church
Middlebie Church

In 1609, the bounds of Middlebie Parish were enlarged when it was united with the parishes of Carruthers and Pennersax (or Pennersaugh). You can still visit the graveyards of these former parishes, and the one at Carruthers is still in use – and the subject of a famous poem by Hugh McDiarmid, called Crowdieknowe. In those days, just like today, the Church of Scotland was troubled by shortages of money and ministers. The first minister of the united parish whose name is recorded was Thomas Bell, MA, appointed in 1615. His name, and the name of his successors up to the present day, can be seen inscribed on the Roll of Ministers, which hangs in the church foyer. One of them, James Currie (1763-73) was the father of Dr James Currie, the biographer of Robert Burns and the first editor of his poetic works.

In 1790, a small number of parishioners left the Established Church to form the Relief Church congregation at Waterbeck. The church that they built there was the forerunner of the present one, which in 1847 became part of the United Presbyterian Church. Meanwhile, the Union with Carruthers and Pennersax had made Middlebie Parish the biggest parish in Scotland at the time. By 1883, the southern part of the parish had become so populous that it was separated from Middlebie to form the new parish of Kirtle. Kirtle Parish consisted of the villages of Kirtlebridge and Eaglesfield, with the church and manse in Kirtlebridge.

In 1905, a daughter church to Middlebie was built in the old Carruthers Parish at Laurie’s Close, to cater for those church members who lived beyond reasonable walking distance to Middlebie. However, after car ownership became common, the little church had outlived its usefulness, especially once nearby Waterbeck Church rejoined the Church of Scotland in the ‘Great Union’ of 1929. The church at Laurie’s Close was eventually sold, and has been converted into a private dwelling house.

Old Logo of the Church of Scotland

After the Great Union, Eaglesfield and Kirtle became separate parishes. At that time, Eaglesfield was served by the former Kirkpatrick Fleming United Free Church at Pincod, just outside the village to the south east. Since there was already a Kirkpatrick Fleming Church of Scotland in the village of that name, the Pincod church was renamed Eaglesfield Church. Fundraising to build a new church in the village began before the war, but the building was not completed until 1952. Money for this was raised by subscription – no small achievement in a village known locally as ‘Poverty Row’. The pulpit, pews, and some panelling from the old church were incorporated into the new building, and the the Pincod church was demolished.

In 1948, Middlebie was linked with the Parish of Eaglesfield. In 1959, this arrangement was rethought. Eaglesfield Parish was split again from Middlebie and reunited with Kirtle Parish to create the new parish of Kirtle-Eaglesfield. Meanwhile, Middlebie was linked with Waterbeck. In 1972, the three parishes were linked under one minister, who lived in the Manse at Kirtle.

In 2010, the parishes underwent yet more adjustment. Middlebie and Kirtle-Eaglesfield were united with Hoddom Parish, based in the village of Ecclefechan, to become one parish of five villages and around 3500 inhabitants. The church buildings in Kirtlebridge and Ecclefechan were sold to private buyers, as was the Kirtle Manse, while Waterbeck Church (which was owned by the village) seceded from the Church of Scotland and now operates as an independent church. The churches at Middlebie and Eaglesfield were retained, and the united congregation worships in each on alternate weeks. The Manse is in Ecclefechan.

The story of the bells

St Michael’s

In 1626 raiders from Scotland stole a pair of bells St Michael’s in the village of Bowness across the Solway in England. (Because of the location of the Church, there is a possibility that Carruthers may have played a role in this)

They fled back to their boats, pursued by angry locals, and began to row back across the firth. The English pursuers set off after them  and were gaining ground.  The Scots realised that the bells were weighing them down,  so they threw them overboard and made their getaway.

The bells were lost forever, but irate villagers decided to retaliate for the theft and launched their own raid north across the firth and stole bells from churches in Dornock and Middlbie.

A tradition has therefore arisen, that each time a new minister takes office they must petition Bowness on Solway for the return of the bells. For almost 4 hundred years every request has been refused or simply ignored and the Scottish bells remain in England at the west end of St Michaels Church..

According to the Diocese of Carlisle, St Michael’s is in the centre of the village of Bowness-on-Solway village on the southern shore of the Solway Firth. It is 13 miles west of Carlisle and 11 miles north of Wigton. Bowness-on-Solway is the western terminus of the Hadrians Wall.

One of the bells in St Micheal’s Church

A church has existed on this site since Norman times, but the present building is the result of a restoration completed in 1891.Some of the masonry is Roman and the only visible remains of the fort which once occupied the site of the present village. The chancel arch and oak ceiling date from the restoration. The chancel has a Norman window, and all the windows are of stained glass.quare Norman font is described by Pevsner as ‘excellent’ and has leaf decoration. The bells are said to have been stolen in a Border raid, and St Michaels’s has the Scottish bells from the counter raid. Other features include a Breeches Bible, millenium banner and an ongoing project to replace the kneelers. In the churchyard a smuggler’s grave, ancient sundial and hearse house can be seen.

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