Border Reiver, Clan Carruthers

Clan Carruthers: The Tartans and Crests of the ’17’, an update

Crozier finished .jpeg

In 1587, King James VI of Scotland issued an Act calling for the ‘For the Suppression of Unruly Clannis’. Within that act were mentioned 17 border families but those listed were probably no more unruly that any other riding family on the Borders at that time. However, they did live in area of great concern to the Monarchy, namely the Debatable Lands. The Act was therefore a warning shot across the bows of the Chiefs and ‘Heidmen’, to bring their people under control. In the borders, this encompassed those who used the Debatable Lands to work outside any Border law. What followed was to see the end of the reiving way of life for ever. Two years after the Union of the Crowns in 1603, a commission was set up to cleanse the borders and after 300 years or so, the reiving way of life saw its demise and the borders saw peace.

The 17 families mentioned were from the Middle and West March and are listed below with their tartans. What needs to be emphasised is that no Scottish clan or family, Highland, Lowland or Borderer, had a tartan assigned to their name prior to the early 1800’s. Originally, we thought that Armstrong was the earliest to register their own tartan, but further evidence suggests that it was Clan Douglas and Graham from the West March which took that place. All across the borders and throughout Scotland, other clans and families followed suit. The famous Royal Stewart Tartan was only registered in 1831. Prior to this, tartans worn in the Highlands and Islands were regional to a particular weaver, and the colours were dictated by the availability of materials in their area. or tartans used by the military. There is no evidence that Borderers ever wore tartan before the 19th century, and they definitely did not wear kilts.1587 17 tartans and crest final

Listed in the chart is the registration date of each Clan/Family’s tartan, and whether they currently have a chief recognised or not and if so, whom.  All family and clan tartans are registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans, which includes their registration date and to whom they are assigned (i.e. Clan or private). The registrations themselves run from the oldest in the early 1800’s through the 1900’s and into the 21st century. Carruthers is one of the last Border clans to have its own tartans assigned. On the tartans are the actual Clan crests taken from their Chief, in all instances other than Thom(p)sons. These are used by the Border families themselves to denote who they are and combined with the tartans, offer a visual identity of their presence and heritage.

On the updated chart below, only Nixon (listed as a sept of Armstrong), Glendinning (listed as a sept of Douglas) and Latimer (listed as a sept of Maxwell) have no registered tartans of their own.

Prior to 2019, Carruthers had been listed as a sept of Bruce and therefore could wear their tartan. Since August of that year, and the confirmation of our own Chief by the Lord Lyon in Scotland, we have been officially recognised as a clan and family in our own right and the Carruthers tartan, seen on the chart, was officially adopted by the Chief; Carruthers of Holmains as the official Clan tartan.


  • The crest of Irving of Bonshaw is not the same as that of Irving of Drum – the one seen on the chart is an accurate representation of the Border clan Irving;
  • The crest of the Border clan Carruthers contains a face on their seraphim, as does the crest of their Chief;
  • The crest of the Border clan Thom(p)son reflects that of their Society, rather than a Chief. This crest was granted to that organisation by the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh;
  • The crest of Clan Latimer reflects their position as septs of Maxwell as does Clan Nixon, as a sept of Armstrong.

1587 17 tartans and crest final.jpg

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey Final to use

1 thought on “Clan Carruthers: The Tartans and Crests of the ’17’, an update”

  1. Hey
    Is there any chance you could change the format of your articles please,
    At present you cant print them off on a A4 sheet of paper.
    And the articles are too wide to fit on the screen.
    Also the last couple of words on each line is cut off, when you scroll the line across

    Hope this is possible and not to difficult


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