Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains, is Chief of Carruthers. his parents, Charles and Molly were married in St Jude’s Church, South Kensington in London in 1951 and while working for a British tea company in India in 1954, their only child Simon Peter was born. After returning home to the UK with his family as a child, Dr Carruthers known as Peter, spent his informative years in England where he was educated up to doctorate level. The Chief’s grandfather was Col. Nigel L Carruthers, 2x great grandson of John the 12th who was a serving officer in the British Army in India and his great uncle, Nigel’s brother, was the world-renowned explorer, Alexander Douglas Carruthers.To further reflect his thoughts as Chief of the Border Clan Carruthers, here is an interview with the Carruthers of Holmains from the March 2021 edition of the Clan MacEwen Newsletter. Our chief was the first to be interviewed in their new ‘Meet the Chiefs’, series.
The interviewer was Ross MacEwen. LLM (Dist). FSA Scot, Vice Chairman of the Clan MacEwen Society and this is published here with his full approval:-
Clan Chiefs played an important role during some of the most triumphant and turbulent times in Scotland’s history. Readers may already be aware that Clan MacEwen’s most recent Chief died over 500 years ago, however it may come as a surprise to learn there are still over 150 Clan Chiefs and Clan Commanders recognised by the Lord Lyon today.
As part of Clan MacEwen’s work to ‘reintroduce’ ourselves to the global Scottish and Clan community and form new friendships, we enjoy meeting with fellow Clans and learning more about their modern day Clan Chiefs, the men and women charged with carrying their family’s legacy and heritage into the 21st century.
I was delighted therefore to have as our inaugural ‘Meet the Chiefs’ guest one of Scotland’s newest Clan Chiefs, Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains, who became Chief of Clan Carruthers less than two years ago in the autumn of 2019.
Q: Thank you very much Dr Carruthers for taking the time to be a part of our newsletter, could you please introduce yourself to our Members and tell us a little about Clan Carruthers.
A: Hello to all in the Clan MacEwen Society. I am Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains (known as Peter), Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers, and, therefore, Chief of Clan Carruthers. I was confirmed as Chief in October 2019.
Professionally, I am an agricultural scientist, with training also in management and theology. I have worked in agricultural research and higher education, environmental education and rural policy in the public and third sectors. Currently, I lead a Christian charity that supports the rural church. I am a co- founder and former Chairman of what is now the Farming Community Network and a member of the Royal Society of Biology.
Carruthers is a Clan and ancient Scottish family from Annandale in the Anglo- Scottish Borders. Holmains, the territorial title linked to the Chiefly line of Carruthers, is ten miles or so to the east of the Scottish town of Dumfries and our history is very much based around that south-west area of Scotland.
The Carruthers were an established and very active Clan during the height of Clan influence and culture. We were even one of the 17 Border Clans mentioned in the ‘Suppression of Unruly Clans’ Act of 1587, which was a piece of legislation aimed at bringing some order to those Clans who were thought to be a bit ‘unruly’!
From our origins in Dumfriesshire we, like most Scottish Clans have now spread across the world with a Carruthers in every continent (save, as far as I know, Antarctica). I
often liken Carruthers to the Tardis from Doctor Who: we are a lot bigger on the inside!
Carruthers isn’t a hugely common Scottish surname, but,there are far more of us than most people realise. And over the centuries we have had many distinguished family members, some known and some unsung. Our Clan Society is a healthy and thriving global family and growing all the time.
Q: You became Chief of Carruthers quite recently in 2019, what do you think it means to be a Chief of a Scottish Clan in the 21st century?
Firstly, a Chief provides legitimacy and makes a clan a ‘Clan’. An armigerous Clan, once it has a Chief becomes a ‘noble incorporation’ under Scots Law. Having a Chief confirmed by the Lord Lyon is a transition and an identity change for the whole family. The Chief enables the Clan to take its place in the large and historic Scottish Clan community.
For many Scottish families, becoming a clan is a ‘bottom-up’ project. What I mean by that is it is the Clan getting together and asking ‘where has our Chief got to?’. This is what happened with Carruthers. A core group of people who were interested in the Clan, from across the world (and a lot of the impetus came from outside of the UK), were looking for that legitimacy and sense of identity, and started to work together to have their Chief confirmed by the Lord Lyon. I think this very similar, in fact, to Clan MacEwen’s story over the last few decades.
Secondly, the Chief is a leader. For me, this means first and foremost, that I am here to serve the Clan and provide a platform for it to prosper and succeed. Present-day Clan Chiefs do not, and cannot, really conform to the historic image that many people may have. Nevertheless, history and heritage do sit at the centre of all that we do. So, I have a duty to lead and work for the good of all members of the Clan. Chiefship is not about my own personal advancement or the pursuit of status for its own sake. Rather, it calls for a strong sense of responsibility and a measure of humility. I don’t claim always to attain to these standards, but I do believe that I (and indeed all chiefs) should try to!
Thirdly, another thing I feel is very important, not just to Chiefship, but to Clans in general and how they exist currently, is how being part of a Clan helps people’s sense of belonging. Many in 21st century western society feel a sense of ‘alienation’ and detachment. People want and need to belong and have origins and roots. Land and place are very important here (as both my personal experience and academic work have taught me). We can have a special relationship with land and place, with ancestral land and the history centred around it even if it is owned by someone else and far from where we actually live. For Carruthers, this is Dumfriesshire; for MacEwen’s that is largely Kilfinan. There is definitely a task, therefore, for a Clan Chief and Clan Society to help connect its people with their heritage, and where possible their lands.
Scots and those of Scottish heritage are almost unique in having this special connection to people, place, territory and ancestry, through the clan system.
Q:You were made Chief following nearly two years of proceedings before The Lyon Court, including two hearings of the Lyon Court in Edinburgh, what did it feel like when you received word you had been successful, and how much work was required in order to put forward your case to become Chief?
A: Well, the first feeling was one of relief, which is how anyone would feel when something that was in process for that long concludes, I was relieved it was over and that we had been successful. I always knew that my family line, the Holmains line, was the senior Carruthers line, however it was only when I was approached by the late Anthony Maxwell, and our Clan Convenor Dr George Carruthers, who both encouraged me to pursue Chiefship, that the process really began.
We had two Court hearings. At the first I represented myself; at the second I was represented by Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw, who is a Clan Chief in his own right. Carruthers had been without a Chief for more than 200 years, The last Chief of Carruthers, my fourth-great-grandfather, John Carruthers, 12th of Holmains and Kirkwood, and 8th Baron, and the last recognised head of the family, passed away in October 1809.
The process really drove home the fact that Chiefship is based entirely who you are in terms of ancestry, and not on merit or your CV. It then falls to you to give this privilege the attention it deserves
One of the things that we Carruthers have, which isn’t necessarily that common, are papers from the Holmains estate, spanning several hundred years. These were originally held by my ancestors and kept in the ‘Holmains Charter Chest’ but are now in the The National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Some of these were important in substantiating my case as well as other historical documents held in Edinburgh. And we needed to track down other historical documents also in my case, I did not need to prove who I am, as I had all the proofs and family trees I needed back to John 12th. But we did need to join up the dots further up the line and prove that the succession was all in order.
Once the decision was made I was filled with immense gratitude to everyone who had been involved and worked so hard, but also somewhat daunted by the prospect of making it all work for the clan and my family. However, I have gained the new family of a great and growing Clan Society, including several regional commissioners, some of whom I have gotten to know online. I am especially grateful to our Convenor Dr George Carruthers for his counsel and support.
In normal circumstances I would have had the opportunity to travel to games and events and meet with clansmen and clanswomen. That is something I have to look forward to once we are able to travel again
Q: In your experience – is there anything that stands out as a popular misconception about Scottish Clans?
A: Well, the first one is that Scottish Clans are all about Outlander, Braveheart and kilts! Of course, they are not.
On a more serious point, and Clan Carruthers is a great example of this, not all Clans are Highland Clans, they are not all Macs or Mcs, and Gaelic is not engrained in all of our histories. Carruthers is a Borders Clan and shares a distinct history and culture with the many other Borders Clans. The linguistic roots of the name Carruthers, Caer Rhydderch, are closer to Welsh than Gaelic.
Another misconception or point of confusion is often the question of who a Scottish Clan is ‘for’. As with any clan, Clan Carruthers is for anyone who identifies with the Clan and acknowledges the Chief.
Granted the majority of Clan members will be part of the Clan on the basis of ancestry and DNA. However our story, like that of most Clans, extend beyond that, and there are others who for whatever historical reasons have joined themselves to the Clan or been joined to it (e.g. as tenants or even slaves). They are also part of our Clan.
Q: What do you hope 2021 and beyond holds for Clan Carruthers?
A: We are fortunate to have Clan Society Commissioners in Canada, the United States, Australasia, Africa and Europe and I want to see the Clan Carruthers Society continue to grow and prosper and for many more Carruthers to join it and connect with each other. I hope very much that it will not be too long before we can get together again physically. Virtual has worked well during the last 12 months of restrictions and lockdowns, but we do need to have some sort of gathering.
We are seeing expansion in the Society in different regions is making its own way with papers, newsletters, blogs.
On a personal note – because of the lockdown I haven’t yet had anything made of our own recently registered tartan. Borders clans didn’t wear kilts to the same degree Highland Clans did. They wore trousers! However, as a ‘modern chief’ I suspect I shall be needing both a kilt and some tartan trews!
Thank you very much indeed for taking the time to speak to us Dr Carruthers, we wish you all the very best in your new role as Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers, and we hope to share a dram with you at an event in the near future.
Compiled by Ross McEwen—Vice Chair
The Carruthers Arms are the recognized Arms of the Chief of the Clan and Family Carruthers. Scottish Arms belong to an individual not a family. They are registered to his name and only he can bear the Arms. The arms of Carruthers of Holmains are: ‘Gules, two chevrons engrailed between three fleur de-lis Or. The crest is ‘ seraphim volant Proper’ and the motto, ‘Promputs et Fidelis’ (ready and faithful).
Clan Carruthers Society—International http://www.clancarrutherssociety.org [founded on a Royal Charter to Holmains, 1755]
Clan Ewen’s journey to have a chief confirmed.
As Clan MacEwen has no Chief in place and based on the fact there have been efforts to secure a Chief since at least the 1950s, it became especially clear at The Gathering in Edinburgh, 2009, that Clans without Chiefs were firmly in the second rank.
The clan therefore determined then that a Chief of the McEwen Clan had to be found and as such in 2014, after a successful request to the Lord Lyon a gathering/derbfhine was held in Kilfinan, Argyll in Scotland, supervised by the Honorable Adam Bruce, Marchmont Herald, Sir John R.H. McEwen was commissioned as the commander of Clan MacEwen for a period of 5 years by the Lord Lyon.
On the 1st of June 2019, following the guidance from the Lord Lyon, The Clan Ewen Society hosted a Family Gathering at Kilfinan Argyll, the historic home of Clan MacEwen, to confirm Clan MacEwen’s position that Sir John R.H. McEwen is our selection for Chief of the Name.
The Meeting was again attended by the Honorable Adam Bruce, Marchmont Herald to the Lyon Court and a request to extend the Commandership to allow time for Sir John R. H. McEwen to apply for undifferenced arms and be appointed Chief of the Name. On the 3rd of June 2019, the Clan and Sir John R. H. McEwen received consent from the Lyon Court to extend the Commandership.
The next steps will be to apply to the Lyon Court for a set of undifferenced arms to be matriculated whereby Sir John R.H. McEwen will then be considered Chief of the Name.
This is a lengthy process and we will keep the clan updated on the progress.
We wish our friends in Clan Ewen great success in the journey towards confirmation of their Chief. Having been involved in the process of the confirmation of our own chief, we sympathise with the stressful and frustratingly arduous but robust process to get there, but it is worth it and they will. We further thank them for this interview with our Chief and their permission to use it