Clan Carruthers, Lord Lyon

Clan Carruthers: A Surname and the Clan/Family

Forbes_(R._R._McIan)Why are Clans important?

The clans are part of Scotland’s national inheritance. They are our living link with the history of the nation, and few families will have changed their clan since the Declaration of Arbroath. Scottish identity is bound up with the clans; turn your back on them, and you turn your back on part of Scotland.

As well as being part of the bedrock of Scotland (and Scottish culture ed.), the clan is also a part of who we are. It’s not something we have much choice about. As we look back into our families’ pasts, there it is growing stronger the further back we go. It’s written into our very names. Accepting your clan identity is a matter of owning up to who you are (Thor Ewing, Commander of Clan Ewing).

Our ownership of being part of a clan is a source of pride to many, which culminates for us as a family in the successful outcome we have achieved in having a Chief Confirmed.

What is in a ‘Clan’ Surname:


Without a common surname, there is no clan or family identity or commonality. The surname or derivatives of the same are, along with our pride in our own Scottish heritage, a bond to each other.

Clanship is basically built around ancient traditions and the universal tie of kinship. In the lowlands, ‘Carruthers’ was recorded as a name in the 1200’s, when surnames were defined in recognition and identification of the ‘clan’ or ‘family’. The surname is therefore the glue which brings the clan or family together under one single banner, or in the case of all non-armigerous clans, a chief.

According to ‘’, ‘the use of ‘fixed’ (or recognized) Scottish surnames appeared occasionally as early as the 10th or 12th centuries, but they didn’t begin to be used with any sort of consistency until the 16th century. (it is interesting to note that Carruthers can trace its Name back to the early 1200’s). 

‘Even this practice was slow to ‘catch on’, and it took until the late 18th and early 19th century to spread to the Highlands and northern isles.’

These ‘Names’ were seen as such a strong and important identifier of belonging to the Scots and their descendants, that it could be used instead of kindred to represent the same.

It is stated by historians that the obligations of a kinship group remained stronger in Scotland for longer than many other European countries. Over time and distance however, it may have become questionable, at least in some quarters, as to whether the pride in one’s Scottish ancestry is still tied to that feeling of kinship with others of the same Scottish clan or family. This leaves the use of the ‘Name’ open to serious abuse and false claims.

However, on the upside it is fair to say that the cultural shift towards a great pride in our Scottish traditions, heritage and ancestry, starting in the 18th century, would suggest that strong ties and kinship definately remain intact. This interest is still heavily retained by a great many of those searching for their Scottish roots, from wherever one hails.

To clarify, there is only ever one Scottish Clan or Family carrying the Name, where all derivations or branches come from that root. This means that there is only ever one Chief or Head of that Family. This claim can only accurately and honestly be made if recognised legally through the Lyon Court and the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs in Scotland. There are no formally recognised Chieftans in any Lowland clan or family, to include Carruthers.

The anomaly of course, if there is one, is in the case of very large highlands clans, where the larger branches are recognised by the Lyon as having a ‘Chief’ in their own right. However they still come under a ‘High Chief” who represents the full Clan.

Only two cases spring to mind: Clan Donald (Macdonald) and Clan Leod (MacCleod). The Chiefs of these branches would be the closest thing Scottish Clans come to having Chieftans.

Carruthers, a smaller border clan and family in comparison, has historically retained Holmains as the chiefly line. Holmains took over the chiefly role after the demise of Carruthers of Mouswald in 1548. Carruthers of Dormont however, remain the senior cadet branch of Holmains and thus Carruthers.

In the past, kinship like the chiefdom was simply passed through the surname of the male line, but these days the link to families whether through the maternal or paternal lines, remains as strong as ever and we carry our history with us with pride.

According to James Irvine Robertson in Panalba: ‘By 1400 the population was well settled. The isles had a strong dash of Viking blood but the Picts and the Scots had joined together and absorbed the more ancient Celtic tribes that had preceded them. The Pictish kingdoms had evolved into earldoms. Royal power waxed and waned according to the effectiveness of the occupant of the throne.

‘In the west the Lordship of the Isles was at its zenith. Great barons controlled much of the Lowlands but authority was weak in the Highlands and the people banded together in clans for mutual protection. Swords were the ultimate arbiters for the control of land.’

This was mirrored along the Anglo-Scottish Border, specifically in the West March for well over 300 years.  This led to the reiver lifestyle which was part of the history of ‘oor ain folks’.


Today, many clans can be traced back to a specific part of Scotland, for example the MacLeods of Skye, the MacNeils of Barra, or the MacNabs of St Fillan on Loch Earn. If you have ancestral ties and a clan history in Scotland, a trip to your clan’s homeland is an incomparable and moving experience like no other.

Within our own ancestral region, clans and families such as Scott, Beattie (Batesons), Little, Thomson, Glendenning, Irvine, Bell, Carruthers, Graham, Johnstone, Jardine, Moffat and Latimer are all from the West March of the Anglo-Scottish borders. This is a lovely part of the world and well worth the visit.

Clan Societies

The Clan Societies still play a very important role and continue to operate much as they always have. They act as guardians of the traditions, heritage and history of the clan and family, and try to look out for the welfare of their people through informed communication.

No other form of society, springing from such an ancient past, can be said to hold a family group together in this modern age with such a sense of compassion, history, pride and unfathomable kinship in the ‘Name’ they represent.

Firstly a chairperson, president or convenor of a Society is neither a chief nor a commander unless recognised as such by the Lord Lyon, nor could they claim to be.

Therefore the head of a Society, as in the case of our own, does not lead the clan, Carruthers of Holmains as our Chief, does.

If an individual makes claims and they are not recognised by the Lord Lyon or the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, they would not be accepted as leading the ‘Name’ by the diaspora of any Scottish Clan or Family.

Therefore without the surname, there is no clan, without the clan or family there no real surname as they are both historically intertwined. For that reason it is important that the surname is defended and therefore it is part the society’s roll to educate and encourage informed choice and understanding of the facts.

In the case of Carruthers, our society, Clan Carruthers Society International is officially recognised by the Chief; Carruthers of Holmains, as representing the Clan and Family worldwide. The work we do and have done is carried out for the many, not simply for the few.

We look forward to your continued support through membership of our society


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