Clan Carruthers

Clan Carruthers : Our Written History, or is it?

IMG_0343 2.jpegFor a moderate-sized Border clan, Carruthers has seen a few publications on our history. The most prominent is the Records of the Carruthers Family, by A Stanley Carruthers and R.C. Reid, published in 1934 by Elliot Stock of London (from hereon called the ‘Records’). This publication was a compilation of previous evidenced works and further records made available to the authors at the time.

However, any form of research is only as robust as the evidence upon which it is written and the integrity and agenda of the researcher. As with any other piece, the size of the body feeding into it dictates its efficacy and clarity. For example taking the opinion without proof of one individual is obviously not as robust as the recorded outcomes of those whose many records are correlated and evidenced.

Not all publications are the same as the information offered is varied and sadly in parts does not hold up to scrutiny. One of these is the book by Margaret Campbell Pilcher from Nashville Tennessee entitled; Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and kindred families, published in 1911.

All in all, this seems to be a great compendium of information on various families in the US. I am not willing or able to comment on the genealogy as that is not my forte as a historian, but there are a few things that need to be clarified.  We therefore will concentrate only on the background information offered on our family, and only within the first paragraph, which should prove my point. We will come back to the works by Carruthers and Reid later.

Historical Sketches

IMG_0343.jpgOn page 369 the chapter on the Carothers (Carruthers) family begins. It is surmounted by an old depiction of the Chiefs crest accurately displayed in black and white in a manner which was common place in those days.  Interestingly it reflects the Chief’s arms correctly, where the serephim carries a face.

They offer the blazon and further expain it as :-Carruthers of Scotland coat of arms and crest: Gu, two chev engr. between three fleur -de-lis, (Gu., gules or red; chev., chevron: engr., engraled, Or gold or yerllow; ppr. proper.)  Crest – a seraphim volent ppr : a cherubs head between three pairs of wings ppr.

Motto:promptus et fidelis (ready and faithful. This would suggest that Carruthers in Amerca were very aware of the Chiefs arms and the correct potrayal as far back as at least 1911. Therefore simply reproducing publications because it mentions Carruthers, without checking its accuracy is poor research at best and ignorance of the facts at worse.

Regarding the introduction to the family Carothers (Carruthers) in the Historical Sketches, the first paragraph states: Carruthers of Howmains (Holmains) was an ancient family in Annandale,  distinguished from an early period in Scotch (Scots) history. When Robert the High Steward (afterwards king) took the field against Baliol in support of his uncle David II, William Carruthers of Howmains was the first to join him.

If we simply look at this small piece on its own, it is historically inaccurate. There are a few reasons for this.  The first is that Robert the Bruce (b 1274 – d 1329) was King of Scots from 1306-1329. His son, not his uncle, was David II and was king from 1329-1371. John Balliol was made King of Scotland by England’s  Edward 1st and he reigned for 4 years from 1292-1296. There were no battles against him by David II.

However Robert Stewart, grandson of Robert the Bruce, did became High Steward in 1326, and King Robert II in 1371 (b 1316- d 1390) and did fight with Baliol but again no evidence of a William Carruthers of Holmains supporting him.There is no William Carruthers of Howmains listed in the genealogy of the House of Holmains for that period of time. The first listed is William, ancestor of the House of Dormont in 1552.

There is also no evidence that William 4th of Mouswald, mentioned in 1411, was in any battle against Baliol. There was a William Carruthers of Annandale, who it is suggested refused to bend the knee to King Edward I in 1291 along with Sir William Douglas of Sanquir and Sir William Wallace of Ellersie, but again no evidence to suggest he was on the field.

 There is a William 2nd of Mouswald mentioned in 1349, 20 years after the death of Robert the Bruce who may have fitted the bill, but no evidence to support it, although we would happily review any. The only William that appears before this is William of Carruthers in the reign Alexander II (1215 – 1245). There is no evidence that he took to the field on the side of a Bruce/Steward or anyone else against Baliol and the timeframe is wrong.

IMG_0344.jpgThe paragraph goes onto to say: Subsequently in the reign of James III, Thomas Carruthers of Howmains was especially rewarded for his good service against ‘the rebels and the English’, and still preserving their devotion to the cause of royalty, the family acted in gallant favour of Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots).

There is no Thomas Carruthers in the Holmains line until 1602. Thomas was a son of John the 7th of Holmains. James III was born in 1451 and died in 1488. He was king of Scotland from 1460-1488. Even if we take it back to the House of Mouswald, Thomas received the charter from Robert the Bruce in 1320, with no other Thomas’s mentioned in that line until the extinction of that house in 1548 when Simon 10th was killed.

It is true however, that Carruthers were great supporters of Mary, born 1542 and died 1587. She was monarch from 1542, at the age of 6 days old until 1567, after which she was deposed. However, this was during the time of John 5th of Holmains chifship.  

The paragraph continues: Walter Carruthers of Inverness Scotland says that the original seat of the Carruthers family was in Carruthers Parish, Dumfrieshire (Dumfriesshire) Scotland and near the present town of Annan, the parish having been merged in an adjoining parish : but there is still a Ruin near there known as Carruthers Castle. He also says that all the male branches of the family, his among the number, have moved away from Dumfrieshire and there is a tradition in his family that one branch had, many years ago, emigrated From Scotland to the English Colonies in America.

It is true that Carruthers have moved from out from their origins in Annandale to many parts of Scotland, the UK and in fact the world.  However there is genuinely no evidence that one ‘Branch’ of the family left en masse, to move to the Americas. There are of those who have perpetrated a myth that the Carruthers of Guileburn left, and King James replaced them with doppelgängers. This is inaccurate on many levels, the evidence strongly suggests that this simply did not happen. There is evidence that members of the family did go to the ‘Colonies’  but not a whole branch as claimed.

With regards Carruthers Castle, there has never been such a thing nor in fact Carruthersland and the only ruins, one that exists to this day and the other that has totally disappeared with only the groundworks seen, were Mouswald Tower and Holmains Tower.

Sadly ‘tradition’ does not act as evidence unless the evidence is there to support it .   

That is only the first paragraph in the chapter, and the genealogy follows, which is someone elses’s job, but the historical introduction is so full of holes it is not representative of our family.

As an aside, Inverness to Annan with todays transport network takes over 5 hours on a good day.  In the early 1900’s when transport was nor overly good, over a distance on todays roads of 250 mile, would have taken a lot longer. Information not on the ground but taken over that distance,  has to be considered as being tainted at best.

The Records on the other hand, are an excellent piece of work, not built on hearsay, but fact and documented evidence.

The Records

Records of CarruthersThe Records were initially published in 1924 as a 30 copy, limited edition covering mainly the houses Mouswald, Holmains, Dormont, Over Denbie, Braes, Langholm and Carlisle and because of their popularity, a further more extensive text was considered.

R. C. Reid, son of John J Reid had published: The Barony of Mouswald and its Barons : a Page of Border History’ in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland23, 24-79, on the 7th September, 1889 was brought in to correlate the material they had, plus others that they had since sourced.

Going back to the analogy of the medical trials, here is a list of contributors to the Records and shows the evidence gathering took 10 years from the first publication to the second. All those who offered documentation had a relationship with our family or access to records covering the same.

As well as codifying the information, A S Carruthers had and restructuring the chapter on Mouswald, R.S Reid calendared the whole of the writs in the Holmains Document Chest. (Most large families held a chest which contained all their legal and important papers, the Holmains Chest was ours).

The contents are currently held in the National Records of Scotland although some are still retained within the family of Holmains. These records exceeded those already published by the Historical Manuscripts Commission. Reid further noted all the Carruthers Testaments and Sasines, going back as far as the documentation allowed.

However, his work did not finish with Holmains but with the other houses mentioned in the finished publication where information is referenced within the chapters themselves.

R.C. Reid’s father, having already researched the House of Mouswald, special mention was given to the input by the Chiefly House of Holmains and the senior cadet of Dormont:

  • Holmains: The Rev William Michell-Carruthers, who held and gave access to the Holmains Chest.
  • Dormont: Leut-Col Francis Carruthers of Dormont for access to the History of the Dormont Titles and the publication of the same

Other documentation, not previously included in the 1924 publication included information on the following houses:

  • Woodfoot and Milne and other families: from Dr S. W. Carruthers of Norwood, London and Mr R. Carruthers of Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire. This included notes prepared by George Carruthers Thompson
  • Breckonhill: as previously published by Mr John Carruthers of Annan, published 1905
  • Wormanbie: by Maj. Carleton Salkeld of Dalston, London, who held the early titles and other documentation of Wormanbie.
  • Furthermore there were just under 100 subscribers to the Records itself, many of whom offered documentation towards its compilation.

Further information included in the book still lies in the National Records of Scotland as well as with the Holmains and Dormont branches.

The Record is therefore an excellent baseline from which to work when looking back at Carruthers History up to 1934. Beyond that our society has some very good clan accredited genealogists, who can take you further if you are a Society member.

Below is the Chiefs of Carruthers in black, up to and including the current Chief. The gap from 1809 to 2019 is because no one claimed the arms although they remained active as living descendents of that line still existed.

In 2019 Peter Carruthers of Holmains, 4x Great Grandson of John 12th of Holmains, was confirmed by the Lord Lyon to bear the Chief’s arms and thus becoming; Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers.


Carruthers Chiefs to peter


Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey Final to use

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