Clan Carruthers, DNA Project, Genealogy

Clan Carruthers: Gaelic or Brythonic (Irish or Scots)

The Brittonic-speaking community (not Gaelic)  around the sixth century.

Are we descended from the Irish?’

It has already been proven that the name Carruthers is topographical in nature and Brythonic in origin, deriving originally from the area in what is now Annandale in Southwest Scotland. It was taken from Caer Rhydderch in the Brythonic lanquage of Cumbric (the fort of Ruthers), dating back to the 6th century (600 AD), with the region around it becoming ‘Carruthers’ over time.

However, it is proposed by some that Carruthers have descendancy from the Irish Gaels and their kings. This has been argued through the misrepresentation of DNA and, in fact, the falsification of history, .

One has therefore to decide two things: do we take our proud origins from the indigenous population of Southwest Scotland, or do we take our origins from the Irish Gaels, and if so where do we stop?

If the latter, why would we?  This has to bring in the questions; 1) where do the Gaels originate? and 2) are they our ancestors? The cherry picking of ethnicity is not a valid process, at least not if you wish to look at the factual origins of a named group, which in our case is the Border family of Carruthers.


Based on evidenced DNA sampling, there was definitely some integration of our ancestors with other peoples. These potentially included such groups as the Southern Europeans (Romans), Norse (Vikings) and Dál Riata (Gaels). But this was historically a two-way street and evidence shows that none of them make up the dominant ethnic makeup of our family.

As humans we have all originated from the same human DNA source. However, where the Gaels are concerned, it seems the DNA trace and Haplogroups show that they are, as all Celts are, from Central Asia, not in fact Ireland.

Surely we should not, as a clan and family, try to fit a broken agenda:- ‘Do we take our origins from Scotland and from the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde where we have lived for at least 1500 years, or do we take it back to the central Steppes of Asia, into what is now Iran’?

I’m certain that I can answer this question for any Celtic nation to include the Irish as their nationality, history and culture rests with their own proud and specific nation and not Asia.

The Gaels and their origin


The Gaels were nomadic, wandering from place to place over many hundreds of years; they spent time in Egypt, Crete, Scythia, the Caspian Sea and Getulia before arriving in Iberia (Spain). It is here their king Brogan is said to have founded Galicia in the north of that country. Legend further suggests that they originated from a tribe called the Scythians from the Steppes of Central Asia, specifically in the region now called Iran. Scientific research has confirmed this through the use of DNA Haplogroup testing, which shows ethnicity rather than patronymic links, going back as far as the last Ice Age.

The Gaels have recorded their origins through time in the Lebor Gabala, written in the eleventh century AD and depicting the history of Ireland and the Irish up to the middle ages. It claimed that their ancestor was a Scythian King, Fenius Farsaid, a descendant of Japheth and one of the seventy-two chiefs who began the construction of the ill-fated Tower of Babel. It seems that there is no doubt that the Gaels did not begin their life in Ireland, but rather in the area as described above.


According to ‘Ancient Origins‘, at the beginning of the Christian era over 2000 years ago at the birth of Christ, the Gaels began moving into ‘Scotland’. They progressively and slowly assimilated into the indigenous population in the north and northwest of Scotland. This conjoining led to the formation of the kingdom of Alba.

These indigenous peoples were known to the Romans as the Picts while the immigrants called themselves Kalti or Kelti, which was well documented by the Roman scribes. It is suggested that the term Pict, according to the researcher Sally M Foster, was a generic term used by the Romans to describe the ‘threatening’ peoples living north of the Forth-Clyde divide. This was above the Antonine Wall in the central belt of Scotland which stretched from the south bank of both the Forth and the Clyde.  It was not the same solid construct of the Wall to the south (Hadrian’s) but demarcated the limit of Roman influence at that time.

Because of this, the term cannot be used to define the Picts as a nation per se, until after the incursion of the Gaels and their final unification of the tribes in the 7th century. It is important to realise that the lands of our forebears were much further South than this divide (the Antoine Wall) and in fact lay just above to the north and outside the western end of Hadrian’s Wall.

There were Iron Age tribes living in Scotland and Ireland well before the appearance of the Gaels. The Selgovae, the tribe of the kingdom of Strathclyde, were Brythonic, not Picts, and furthermore our ancestors were never Gaelic-speaking. According to the author Ewan Campbell, the Gaels’ most southerly kingdom (where Gaelic was spoken) was founded by Fergus Mor mac Eirc in the area of what is now Argyll.

The Dál Riata (Gaels)

iu-2.pngAccording to the historian Sally Foster, Dál Riata is sometimes used to identify both people and places.  However she, like others,  uses the term to describe those who were Gaelic speakers and who lived in that part of western Scotland known as Argyll (and Bute). These peoples, through a shared commonality, closely identified themselves with their Gaelic (Irish) neighbours.

As alluded to above, the Dál Riata (Gaels) and Picts gradually amalgamated and formed what was to become Alba. However it wasn’t until the 9th century that this new identity slowly started to have any real bearing on the modern ancestry of the inhabitants of Scotland. This occurred at least 400 years after the considered Brythonic origins of our people within the Kingdom of Strathclyde.

In the early history of Scotland, five distinct peoples co-existed. These were the Picts, Dál Riata (Gaels), Britons (Brythonic), Angles and later, the Vikings. In the early 10th century, a few hundred years after the amalgamation of the Gaels and the Picts, these four groups unified under one king, and the kingdom of Scotland was born. However, even as late as the 9th century, the area of our origin (Caer Rhydderch) in the Kingdom of Strathclyde remained in the Rheged, the Brittonic, non-Gaelic speaking regions of the Hen Ogledd (Old North).


Caer Rhydderch, ‘the fort of Rhydderch (Hael, King of Strathclyde)’ is allegedly from Rhydderch Hael (Welsh: Rhydderch the Generous, fl. 580 – c. 614) who was a ruler of Alt Clud (Ystrad Clud), in the Hen Ogledd or “Old North” of Britain. He was one of the most famous kings in the Hen Ogledd, and appears frequently in later medieval works in Welsh and Latin.

The Kingdom of Strathclyde existed as one of the early medieval kingdoms of the Britons in Hen Ogledd, which encapsulated the Brythonic speaking regions of what is now southern Scotland and northern England. The kingdom developed during the post-Roman period and was also known as Alt Clut, a Brittonic term for Dumbarton Castle, the medieval capital of the region. It may have had its origins with the Brythonic Damnonii people of Ptolemy’s ‘Geography’, of which the Selgovae allegedly were part.

The language of Strathclyde and that of the Britons in surrounding areas was known as Cumbric, a dialect or language closely related to Old Welsh, and in modern terms to Welsh, Cornish and Breton. But, unlike the region of Argyll much further north, it was not  Gaelic.

During the High Middle Ages, the Kingdom of Strathclyde was conquered by the Goidelic (Gaelic) speaking Kingdom of Alba but not until into the 11th century, becoming part of the new Kingdom of Scotland. However, it remained a distinctive Brythonic area well into the 12th and 13th centuries when the first recorded use of the name Carruthers was recorded.


Scottish toponymy and archaeology points to some later settlement by Vikings or Norse–Gaels, in what were to become Scandinavian-held territories in the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland, the Hebrides, the islands of the Firth of Clyde and associated mainland territories, including Caithness and Sutherland. Owing to the series of language changes in these areas, it is not possible to say whether any settlement by the Gaels took place before Gaelic itself was introduced in the High Middle Ages, during the 11th century.

Celts and Gaels

Scotland and the vast majority of the UK was at one time a Celtic nation, with the origins of its peoples coming from Central Europe, as previously discussed. This was after the migrations from Gaul (France) across the land bridge which existed in the ‘English Channel’ at that time. The people are identified by their Indo-European Celtic Language root, which according to researchers, arose in the late bronze age (1500–1200 BC). It is from this one origin that the Celtic Culture progressively diversified into two separate Gaelic language groups of the Irish, Scots and Manx and the native languages of the Celtic Britons, namely the Welsh, Cornish and Breton (France).

At this point the confusion is obvious and mistakes and leaps of faith are often made. In this context ‘Scots’ refers to Scottish Gaelic speakers (Goidelic), and not the people of ‘Scotland’ as a whole. All Celtic languages extant today belong to the Insular Celtic Languages being derived from the Celtic languages spoken in Iron Age Britain and Ireland (pre-500BC). They were separated into two branches from an early period into Goidelic (Gael) and Brythonic, which make this linguistically easier for researchers to track.


Gael Brythonnic .jpg

Like all humans, as previously stated, our genetic origins are from the same pool. One could easily claim that all western civilisations with Celtic influence originated in and around Central Asia. This, of course, would be true, but Carruthers, like other Border families, is most certainly a Scottish Clan of ancient origin, and we remain proud of that.

The modern day Celtic nations are considered to be ‘cousins’ but are separate in language and culture, although similarities do exist. We are therefore as proud of what separates us, as that which binds us together, but we remain distinct in our nationality. These Celtic nations are the modern day Scots, Welsh, Irish, Bretons, Galicians, Cornish and the Manx. They can all trace their genetic ancestry back to the central steppes of Asia, but would not define themselves as Asian or Iranian in nationality.

Carruthers is, according to current research and evidence, definitely not of Irish (Gael) descent. It is clearly shown that we come from the indigenous Celtic population of the ancient Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde within Hen Ogledd (“the Old North”). The concept that we are therefore descended from Irish kings is both historically and genealogically inaccurate.

However, as a Society all we can do is reflect the current science and anthropological evidence and inform and educate our readers. Simply put, the evidence does not agree with the concept that Carruthers is originally an Irish family – or, if you wish to take it even further back, Iranian.  It is rather very strongly Scottish and definitely of the West March of the Anglo-Scottish borders.

Clan carruthers crest and Tartan AM in crest

We therefore have every right to hold our heads high and be proud of our Scottish heritage, ancestry and history. We inhabited our homelands long before Bruce, Comyn, Fraser, Jardine, Sinclair and Stewart came to our country, to name but a few, all who were originally of Norman descent.

Again the question arises, would we be disrespectful enough to suggest that any of these proud Scottish Clans were not in fact Scottish?  Of course not, which begs the question as to why some feel the need to blemish a family whose roots sink deep into into the heart of all things Scottish and whose history runs like its blood.

A good friend of mine once said; ‘To have Scottish blood, either be birth or descent is to belong to one of the most exclusive clubs in the world‘. In this we totally concur and for that reason, our Society will never abuse it.

5 thoughts on “Clan Carruthers: Gaelic or Brythonic (Irish or Scots)”

  1. Is it possible to get a printed copy of this text and maps? If so, send address and cost.
    Thank you in advance,
    Steve Carruthers

  2. Thank you for your article. I am doing research on my roots in this area dating back to St. Columba. How can I obtain a copy?

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