Clan Carruthers, Templars

Clan Carruthers: The Carruthers Chiefs and the Templar Link.

440px-JacquesdeMolay.jpgEvidence suggests that the Templars had lands in Dumfriesshire. There is a link between Carruthers and the Trailtrow Preceptory, which sat near Lockerbie, as well as Hoddom, a place used since Roman times for religious practices, which is near Ecclefechan. It is also interesting to remember, in the context of the Templars, that the term preceptory refers not only to a building but to the estates.

Collins English Dictionary states;


1.  a provincial community or religious house of the medieval Knights Templars, subordinate to the London temple (headquarters)
2.  its estates
Word origin

ML praeceptoria, estate of a preceptor < L praeceptor: see precept.

It also defined the same for the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem whose headquarters was the Preceptory at Torphichen, West Lothian, near Edinburgh.

The Preceptory at Ballantrodoch (now known as the village of Temple, Midlothian) was the Scottish headquarters of the Knights Templars in Scotland although under the direction of the London Temple.

The Templars

The order of the Knighthood of the Temple—Militia Templi Jerosolimitani as it was officially known at the time, was well entrenched in Scotland for just shy of 200 years. They existed in three classes : knights ( the original Templars who wore the Red Cross) , chaplains (who dealt divine service), and serving brothers.

According to C Robert Ferguson – author of the ‘Knights Templar of Scotland‘ they were not only fierce warriors, but they were astute landlords and businessmen who ultimate owned over 500 sites in Scotland. Because of this, they became advisors to King David I and his successors.  

In Scotland, the Knights Templar’s purpose was purely economic. They were not warriors, but monks, recruiters, landlords and businessmen. Their only ‘possible’ battles in Scotland were at Bannockburn and the battles that led up to it. But these occurred after the Templars’ arrests in 1307 leading to its demise.

According to Robert Aitken, the Templars and their properties were absorbed by the Knight Hospitallers (Order of St John) on the suppression of the order and its possessions, by a papal bull dated 16th June, 1312 passed into their ownership. Therefore, Trailtrow may have belonged to the latter order rather than the Templars themselves, as it was during the time of Mouswald that this link existed. 

Carruthers and the Templars

Of course the mention of lands owned by the Templars by William McDowell, in a ‘History of Dumfries’ states in the ‘temple-land of Carruthers’ in the old parish so named. This could suggest ownership by Carruthers or alternatively that the Templars owned acreage where the land was held ie ‘in’ Carruthers.

One has also to consider the ongoing hypothesis that Carruthers were themselves Templars (something played on by those who claim access to secret documents that they cannot share), yet sadly there is again, no robust evidence to support this.

Records further show no indication that Carruthers feued out or rented land from either the Templars or Hospitallers, but without proof one could argue that this did not mean that ‘we’ were not retainers.  If ‘we’ were involved in some way, it would probably be prior to the granting of Mouswald lands to Thomas the Clerk of Carruthers in 1320.

It has also to be said that as only landowners in the 11th and 12th centuries used a topographical designation. Carruthers ‘of’ Carruthers owned some land in the area prior to Mouswald. This is based on the first mention of ‘de’ Carruthers during the reign of Alexander II.

After 1320, Carruthers had larger parcels of land which extended beyond the parish of Carruthers itself. These were chartered to Thomas of Carruthers (Thomas 1st of Mouswald) the grandson of William de Carruthers (the first recorded of our name), by Robert the Bruce.


Sadly, without any real evidence we cannot claim that we were linked to either military order, although it would be a great adjunct to our history if that were the case.

However things keep popping up which leads us to carrying out further investigation and therefore reconsideration.

The conjecture regarding our links is built upon four things: the Seraphim crest of the Chief, the Fleur d-lis on his arms, the involvement of our family in the Trailtrow preceptory, and the ford at Hoddom and the Templar/Hospitaller held lands in the area of Carruthers.

This is not new information, so what sparked our interest again? It was a conversation with a highly reputable religious icon painter, who spoke to the Chief regarding the use of the seraphim as a crest. It led to a comment by the artist; ‘Were Carruthers involved with or were they Knights Templars in the past’?

The reason for his question was that the use of the seraphim on the Chief’s Arms may further show a link. It seems that the seraphim is normally associated with Eastern Orthodox Christianity, rather than in the West, which the Templars were definitely influenced by.


Seraphim_-_Petites_Heures_de_Jean_de_Berry.jpgSince 1672, the crest used on the arms of the Carruthers Chief has been a Seraphim volent Proper, which was added to the arms of Holmains. There is a strong suspicion that they may have used the crest prior to this as it seems that the arms (shield) themselves were used prior to 1672.

04401 copyThe seraph/seraphim in this context, is/are mentioned only once in the bible. This is in Isaiah 6.2-6.7. They are seen as superior in the angelic ranks and in religious and heraldic representations. Seraphim are depicted as having six wings, the upper and lower crossed, the middle outstretched as if in flight and in the centre, the face of an angel. The Chiefs of Carruthers from at least 1672, to include our current chief, have chosen to use this interpretation. Any other depiction has therefore no meaning nor credibility within our clan and family. No face, no place in Carruthers culture.

At this juncture, it is important to reiterate that our name is topographical (taken from a place/area named after Caer Ruthers, which became Carruthers) and possibly not patronymic (taken from one male source) and the arms are the arms of the Chief only, and do not belong to the whole family of Carruthers.

Accepting these facts, sadly not all Carruthers are related to, nor in fact are descended from, the lines of William of Carruthers, who gave a donation to the Abbey at Newbattle, in the time of Alexander II (1198-1249). Interestingly, it is known that Alexander II was a great supporter of the Templars and Hospitallers, granting them a charter of ‘Sanctuary’ to their houses and preceptories. However, not all lands held by them contained buildings.

The line of William of Carruthers continued down through to the House of Mouswald (our first recognised Chiefs), and through them to the current Chiefs of the House of Holmains. The arms that bear the Seraphim Volent Proper, are the arms of the Chief, therefore if there was/is a link to either of these Orders, along with any mystique that goes with it, it would be through our Chiefly line, not through all bearing the name.

However and sadly there is no evidence that the Holmains crest links with the templars, it is simply a romantic supposition, again one we hoped were true.

Looking at the rest of the arms, if we add into this picture the fleur de lis, we further enhance a religious connection, Templar, Hospitaller or otherwise. Interestingly, this was a question asked to the former Lyon Clerk in her upcoming interview with us.



The fleur d-lis was not specific to Christianity, as it had been used by previous civilisations such as the Babylonians and the Egyptians. However, the name used these days is French for ‘flower of the lily’. This is associated with the French Monarchy. It also became associated with the both the Virgin Mary, the Cathars and the Templars, the latter of which both had French origins and were, according to some writers, were possibly linked.

The lily was said to have sprung from the tears shed by Eve as she left Eden.

From antiquity it has been the symbol of purity, and was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church as such. The three petals are believed to signify the Holy Trinity, and are associated with the sanctity of Mary with events of special significance. It is also a symbol of the female and the strength and power that lies in a mother’s undying love for her child.

Some researchers also suggest it is a sign representative of Mary Magdalene as an apostle, who is revered in France as a saint. But with regards the Templars, the lily may also carry further connotations towards Gnosticism and as previously stated, a link with Cathar beliefs.

As a family, Carruthers did not always use the three fleur d-lis on their arms, although it seems that we are one of only two in Scotland that do.  The other are the Brouns of Colston. The arms of Sir Simon of Mouswald (Gules a chevron between three fleur d-lis Or), mirrored exactly the blazon of the arms of the Brouns and were changed, one has to presume by Holmains, who combined the ancient arms of Carruthers (without fleur de lis), with that of Mouswald (with fleur de lis, but carried no engrailed chevrons). This gives us the chiefs arms that we know today: Gules two chevrons engrailed between three fleurs de lis Or (Carruthers of Holmains).

Carruthers Arms

The ancient armorials show that the first arms of Carruthers had no fleur d-lis, only two engrailed Chevrons. The fleur de lis therefore only appeared laterally on the arms of Mouswald. These were recorded as belonging to Sir Simon Carruthers, the last Chief of Carruthers of that line who was killed on a border raid in 1548. Unlike Cockpool, no crest is on record by the heralds as being assigned to Mouswald.

After Sir Simon’s death, John Carruthers 5th of the then senior House of Holmains became Chief. It wasn’t until 1672 and after the Lyon Act, that john 9th of Holmains registered the Chief’s arms as we now know them.  

Unlike some other families including Murray of Cockpool who had a crest recorded prior to 1672, there is only a suspicion that Carruthers of Holmains used a seraphim crest on their arms. This was long after the recorded demise of the Templars in Scotland.


Accepting the false claims by those with little or no education in the matter, showing Carruthers graves of the first son ie with the crescent as a cadency mark, as those of Templars, we decided that we would research further. We therefore set out to find if any solid links existed between us Carruthers or in fact the ancient lands called Carruthers and known and registered archaeological sites of interest.

We wrote to the resident Archaeologist at Dumfries and Galloway Council to see if there had been any archaeological digs or interest regarding the Templars or Hospitallers on ancient ‘Carruthers’ lands.

A search through the Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Historic Environment Record came up with the following: Three for the Knights of St John, six for the Templars.

1) St. John’s Well in Stranraer (HER ref. MDG919)
St John’s Well, still existing, has its name derived from the Knights Hospitallers of St John who owned land in the 13th c now occupied by the Burgh of Stranraer.

2) Kirkstyle, Ruthwell (MDG12223)
Kirkstyle is said to mark the site of a small chapel or preceptory of the Knights of St John (Hospitallers), which, at the suppression of the Order, came into possession of the Murrays of Cockpool.  Two 15th-century grave-slabs, said to have been removed from the burial-ground by the Reverend Henry Duncan of Ruthwell (1774-1846), are now in Dumfries Museum. (The first wife of Simon Carruthers 10th of Mouswald and last chief of that line, was Agnes, daughter of Cuthbert Murray of Cockpool and again in 1659, John Carruthers 9th of Holmains married Helen, daughter of Sir Robert Greirson of Lag by Margaret, eldest daughter of Sir James Murray of Cockpool))

3) Wallamhill, chapel and mound (MDG6307)
Wallamhill is a small artificial hill on which trees are growing. The Knights Templars are supposed to have had a chapel near it. A window frame has been dug up near this hill and is now in one of the out- houses at Templandhill farm (NX 978 806). Name Book 1855
(The Old Name Book sketch is of a window, similar to those in Kilbrannan Chapel, Skipness  dated by the RCAHMS to the late 13th or early 14th century.)

Accepting the ‘legend’ of a squadron of Templars assisting Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, which again lacks evidence, the Knights Templars were welcomed to Scotland by David I (1124-53). The historical records show that the order was suppressed in 1312 with most of their possessions passing to the Knights Hospitallers.

There are numerous references to alleged houses of Templars in Scotland. These are exaggerated accounts of what were merely Temple lands. (No mention is made of this particular site.)
I B Cowan and D E Easson 1976  
(Cowan and Easson, I B and D E, 1976, Medieval religious houses, Scotland: with an appendix on the houses in the Isle of Man’).

There are six references to the Templars in addition to the Wallamhill cited above:

1) St. Cuthbert’s Chapel, Moffat (MDG253)
The 13th century chapel of St Cuthbert, traditionally said to have been built by the Knights Templars who for a long time held the lands of Chapel, Craikscraigs, Gardenholm and Holehouse (Keddie 1855)

The remains are said to be those of a chapel, dedicated to St Cuthbert, which is said to have been founded by the Knights Templar; this association is unproven. Keddie, however, adds that ‘there are remains of extensive buildings close by to which the chapel was attached’. The traceried window and upstanding wall-fragment are probably derived from an ecclesiastical building, possibly a church or chapel, but the exact character of the tower remains uncertain.
Visited by RCAHMS (IMS), 14 June 1991.

2) Site of Walls, Rogermoor, Moffat (MDG395)
Site of foundations of a number of houses – old writings show that ‘Walls’ was a Chapelry belonging to the Knight Templars.
Name Book 1857
No documentary evidence could be found to substantiate the association with the Knights Templar, and it is possible that the site may have been confused with the remains at Chapel farm.  However, there is considerable similarity between these remains and those of the monastic grange at Moorfoot and therefore the site could reasonably be assumed to be at least a Medieval farmstead.
Ordnance Survey 1972

3) Frenchland, Moffat (MDG399)
Some of the wall foundations are very broad. An old roadway is clearly discernible leading into the group from Frenchland Tower. It is said that these lands belonged to the Knights Templar and it is assumed that here are the remains of some settlement belonging to that body.
There is no evidence to associate them with the Knights Templar. (But see MDG395 for the possibility of the RCAHMS description applying to ‘Walls’).
Ordnance Survey 1972

4) Craigencross, Leswalt (MDG997)
A cross may have stood on the summit of the conspicuous knoll of Craigencross, formerly Knockincross, situated on the ‘Spital Croft of Craighmore’, lands which extinct belonged to the Knights Templar, and which were sold to the Knights of St John in the late 15th century by Uchtred M’Dowall.
A Agnew 1893

5) Beckton, Lockerbie (MDG7172)
Beckton Chapel, where traces of graves were still to be seen in 1793, is said to have belonged to the Knights Templars.
Old Statistical Account 1793
There are no visible remains of the chapel. The well, at NY 1294 8243, situated at the end of a drainage ditch, is visible as a pool of water surrounded by numerous loose stones, suggesting that it may at one time have been stone lined.  The name Chapel Well is still in use.
Ordnance Survey 1966.

We know that Carruthers held land around Lockerbie, but there is no specific mention of Becton that we can find.

6) Applegarth (MDG7178)
Referring to the published entry on the OS map, Reid gives conjectural accounts of the monastery at Applegarth which, he says, is mentioned in a document assigned by Bain (Calendar of Documents) to c.1215. The siting is not substantiated. The only property in the parish said by available authorities to have belonged to a monastic order is the chapelry of Dinwoodie a possession of the Knights Templars.
R D Reid 1930; 1958; Name Book 1857

As can be seen from the above descriptions, none of these sites have had any archaeological fieldwork undertaken on them other than surveys of upstanding material.

So where do we as Carruthers sit in all this? 

Members of the Chief’s line were directly involved in the church that we know. This goes as far back as the time of William, and Carruthers of Holmains did have lands in and around Moffat (Auldtoun) and Ruthwell (2 husbandlands and a saltcoat) in the 1400’s and in Ruthwell (2 merk land) in the early 1500’s.   James, Rector of Wamphry, the second son of John the 4th of Holmains, was given the rent from the lands of Auldtoun Moffat as well as lands and the ‘mote’ around it until 1546.

The Carruthers and Murrays of Cockpool, who owned the land at Kirkstyle, Ruthwell on which a Hospitaller Preceptory once stood, were closely intertwined through marriage, but not any more so than any other local family.

Nonetheless, could this mean that Carruthers, through marriage or land had some dealings or understanding of Templar or Hospitaller activities? Did this influence the use of the Seraphim as a crest by Holmains and in fact the use of the Fleur d-Lis by Mouswald in the early 1500’s. Or were these simply religious representations to emphasise the family’s relationship to the Church?

Murray of Cockpool

If for instance Murray of Cockpool had a Templar or Hospitaller link, and if our arms reflected that link, would the Murrays not have followed suit?


It is interesting that a bookplate of Murray of Annandale shows an angelic crest on the Murray Arms. However, this bookplate (left) had to be after 1624, as according to the Heraldry of the Murrays held in the National Library of Scotland (by G Harvey Johnston FSA Scot published in 1910), there was no thistle on the Cockpool arms prior to this.


The first mention of arms for the Murrays of Cockpool is on a seal dated 1477 and recorded in Laings Seals as: Three Stars within a Royal tressure, with the Crest being: a stag’s head. (see right)

Screen Shot 2020-08-30 at 09.47.11.png
Heraldry of the Murrays Plate VII


In 1542, recorded in Sir David Lyndsey of the Mount’s MS, the arms for Cockpool were blazoned as: Argent, a saltire engrailed azure on a chief of the last three stars of the first (above left). However on a seal of 1612 (ex inf W R Macdonald) the arms had changed and were blazoned as: Three stars within a Royal tressure, a crescent at fess point. This can be seen on the right. Interestingly, as arms were inherited from one son to the other, the use of a crescent acted as a cadency mark to depict a second son of that house.

In Pons MS of 1624 for Viscount, John Murray of Cockpool and Earl of Annandale, the blazon is again changed and described as: Azure, a crescent between three mullets (stars) within a double treasure flory-counter-flory argent. With a difference granted: a canton argent with a thistle vert, crowned Or (right) . This is seen above on the right (pic 6) – the crest, however is not an angel but is recorded as an eagle with wings proper with supporters of two Lions Argent crowned Or. The motto is : Noctesque, diesque fidelis et presto, as can be seen on the bookplate. It seems that the Murrays of Cockpool changed their ‘chiefly’ arms as much as we did, possibly until at least 1672.


Interestingly, the crest of the Murrays of Murraythwaite, a cadet line of Cockpool was a cherub proper. The cherub has been on occasions used, incorrectly may we add, to depict the Carruthers Chiefs crest, which since 1672 has been blazoned as a Seraphim volent Proper ie six wings with a angelic face in the middle and not a cherub.

However, we are aware that even after the 1672 Act to prevent the misuse of unregistered arms, some chose to add their own interpretations onto gravestones. These were taken and differenced from the Chiefly arms of Holmains.

To summarise

Based on the fact that surnames ie Carruthers were first used by landed gentry during the 12th and 13th centuries. As a topographical name, the general use of ‘Carruthers’ by those who worked or lived on the land came much later.

Maybe at some future date, convincing evidence will appear, but until then…

This is what we know to date:

  • Our chief, following tradition has retained the Seraphim volent proper as his crest;
  • That he has three Fleurs d-lis on his arms (between two chevrons engrailed, which first appeared before the early 1500’s on the ancient shields of our chiefs, without fleur de lis);
  • That the records show there was some involvement of our family in the Trailtrow preceptory and as guardians of the ford at Hoddom, both religious sites;
  • that the Templar/Hospitaller has holdings in the lands which became chartered to Carruthers.

What we also know, without any fear of contradiction, is that if there is a link to either the Order of the Knights Templars or the Order of St John, as a topographical name, that link would only be through the Chiefly line and not through all Carruthers, simply because we have the same surname.

It is this line, the line through William de Carruthers (who obviously owned parcels ‘of’ land in the area of ‘Carruthers’, from which the current Chief of our Name, Peter Carruthers of Holmains, has direct lineage.

For anyone to make a claim that all Carruthers are therefore linked, if that were to be the case, with either of these orders, simply based on the arms of our Chiefs would probably be wrong.

This is because the arms and the crest belong to one person, Peter Carruthers of Holmains, Chief of the name and arms of Carruthers, and to no one else.

This claim would be no different than saying “I claim the music rights of the Beatles because my name happens to be Starkey, Lennon, McCartney or Harrison”. This statement would be viewed as nonsense at best, because it simply is.

Without facts we cannot lay claim to a piece of information for the sake of it. Our agenda as a Society is to promote the family, not denigrate it in the eyes of those with the expertise to know.

As Scottish arms belong to an individual not a family, it is the arms of the Chief that carry the  Seraphim and the fleur d-lis, not everyone of the name Carruthers.

However, one could again argue that if a link is found, then those who are supporters and more importantly, members of the Clan Carruthers Society – International, may be able claim association with the Chief and through him the Templars, but that would be as far is it could go.Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey Final to use



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