Every now and again we are made aware of another piece of Carruthers history not seen before. This time it is from our Chief. The link is the fallow deer on his arms and from a totally different era, an interest in the same species by one of his ancestors.
It seems that the Fallow Deer as a topic was a shared with that of his great uncle in a letter of nearly 60 years ago. This letter related to the Syrian expeditions of Douglas Carruthers, carried out 50 years prior to that, over 100 years from today .
The Fallow deer was chosen by the chief without this knowledge, but it clearly shows a lovely coincidence and fascination of the animal by two members of the same family, well over a hundred years apart. We therefore thought we would like to share this with you.
Alexander Douglas Carruthers
Alexander Douglas Carruthers, known as Douglas (1882-1962), was the eldest son of the Reverend William Mitchell Carruthers of the Holmains line. He was a well-known British explorer and naturalist, who sadly passed 57 years before our current Clan Chief was confirmed.
The strange link to the arms of the Chief of Carruthers comes through the supporters, which in the case of these arms, are two fallow deer bucks rampant. The decision to have the fallow deer came after discussions between Carruthers of Holmains and the heraldistAntony Maxwell in 2018, and then conveyed to the Lord Lyon. The latter only agreeing to grant them to our Chief in November 2019. Although fallow deer are widespread in Scotland, they are particularly prevalent in Dumfriesshire, which led to the choice as it reflected our origins and ancestral home.
The Fallow Deer is of Eurasian origin. It is said it was propagated throughout central Europe by the Romans, and allegedly introduced by the Normans to Britain to be hunted in the Royal Forests. However, there is an indication that they were originally introduced as early as the first century AD and may have died out, and then reintroduced. Their flanks are chestnut in colour with white mottles, and the bucks carry a pair of broad based et of distinctive antlers.
What is interesting, is that another genus of the deer was sought by the Chief’s ancestor during his trips to Syria in the early 1900’s, but never found. This is described in the correspondence below.
In a letter written to a ‘Mr Johnston’ in 1961, the year before Douglas died, fallow deer (in this case Mesopotamian Fallow Deer) are discussed. These are of the sub-species Dama Dama Mesopotamica, while the deer on the arms, although the same genus are classified as Dama Dama (European), but are the same species. The scientific name of a species is called binominal and has usually two words in Latin. The first represents the genus itself, in this case Dama, and the second the species ie Dama and in the case of Dama Dama Mesopotamica, it becomes a trinomen with the last word being the subspecies.
Sadly, the Mesopotamian Fallow Deer, also called the Persian Fallow Deer, remain critically endangered in the wild and are distinctive in their form as being larger than their European counterparts. Captive breeding and reintroduction programmes are in place in Germany, Israel and Iran.
The correspondence we found is dated the year before Douglas passed, and it thanks Mr Johnson for his letter relating to this animal. The conversation was based on a piece published in the British magazine ‘The Field‘ at the time. Douglas responds to Mr Johnson from his home in Norfolk, England. The Field is reputedly the world’s oldest country magazine, based in Hampshire, England and founded in 1853.
ELDER FARM HOUSE
28th April 1961
Dear Mr Johnson
Thank you for your letter. It is nice to receive such appreciation of one’s writings from a complete stranger.
I do not see “The Field” regularly so missed the reported rediscovery of the Mesopotamian Fallow Deer; and I should thank you for the Post-Card giving me the date of the issue. I was on the look for any report or traces of this rare and almost mythical beast, when working in Syria 50 years ago, but I never got a line onto it. All that Persian border-land of Iraq has come so much into the lime-light that I considered it gone forever. I wonder where it survives, but hope the discoverer does not divulge its habitat.
It is curious, by the way, that excellent book ‘‘Extinct and vanishing Mammals” makes mention of the Fallow Deer.
There has been very little written about Mongolia, and less still about Altai and its big wild-sheep. Only half a dozen (Western) hunters have been there. I presume you have read my “Unknown Mongolia”, 2 Vols, London 1914: There is plenty about the wild-sheep in them.
Regards the Tiger, they still existed in the region of the S.E. Corner of the Caspian not so long ago, and as that country is not being exploited in anyway, they are maybe still there. You will find a good deal about the tigers of Central Asia in my “Beyond the Caspian Sea”, London, 1949. You must read that book if wild-life interests you, and write again to tell me how you like it.
Again, thanking you for your compliments.
We found it interesting that the fallow deer was being discussed between Douglas and Mr Johnston nearly 60 years ago. This being based on Douglass’s works of 1914. Therefore for the same species to be considered and accepted as supporters on the chiefs arms, is a lovely piece of Carruthers coincidence.
What we have here is a fascinating circular piece of Carruthers history from the House of Holmains. This covers the recent past early in the last century, to the present and again, we happily share it with the clan.