Border Reiver, Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: The Curse of the Border Reivers, still in place.

iu-1.jpegThe Curse of the Border Clans

The Carruthers, along with many others, were one of the great border clans also known as Reivers, they were one of 17 listed in the Suppression of Unruly Clans Act of 1587. This Act did not suggest that those not mentioed wewre less unruly, but was a heads up to the heidsmen and chiefs of thiose 17, to bring their family into line. 

The Reivers therefore lived in a time of great violence and hardship that on retrospect, makes the American Wild West seem tame. The monarchy, parliament and even the church became involved in an attempt to bring them all to task.

According to The clergy was not safe from the lawless, amoral activities. Hutchie Graham kept his book of black mail (his protection racket) at Arthuret Church. The vicar of Bewcastle was supposed to have gone on at least one raid. The Bishop of Durham warned his ministers against melting down the silver and taking concubines! The post of Bishop was for sale with a supposed illiterate boasting he had the post.

Vicars were the target of kidnap and ransom so much that some towers were combined with the church building and became known as vicar towers.  It was so unsafe for Priests to travel in some areas that they kept their bible hidden under their cloaks and became known as “book a bosom priests”.  Marriages were delayed until the infrequent visit of a priest and a special relationship of “handfasting” developed where a couple lived as husband and wife until the priest visited.

Therefore in 1525, 62 years before the Act was brought into statute law by the Scottish Parliament, the Reivers had become such a serious concern that the then Archbishop of Glasgow, Gavin Dunbar, put a curse upon all reiver clans and families of the borderlands.

His curse, which was an all encompassing and harsh proclamation on what would have been a robust religious population, has to this day never been lifted. This seemed not to have the far reaching effect that was wished for as again and leading to the 1587 Act, Carruthers, along with 16 others Border clans became infamous in the region, probably unfairly.

However, like many others, the chiefs and heidsmen of those and many other families chose to ignore the political warning to control their kin, which left the borderlands wide open for what was next to come, but that is for another day.

According to the University of Glasgow: Gavin Dunbar (c1490-1547) was Archibishop of Glasgow and Chancellor of the University, 1524-1547.

Dunbar was born in Wigtownshire and studied canon and civil law in Glasgow and Paris. He was appointed tutor to the infant James V in 1517 and it was on Dunbar’s advice that James founded Scotland’s supreme court, the Court of Session, in 1532. He held several high offices in the Church before becoming Archbishop of Glasgow in 1524. He is believed to have died in the Bishop’s Palace at the top of High Street.

The Archbishops curse states:

“I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet, and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without.”

“I curse them going and I curse them riding; I curse them standing and I curse them sitting; I curse them eating and I curse them drinking; I curse them rising, and I curse them lying; I curse them at home, I curse them away from home; I curse them within the house, I curse them outside of the house; I curse their wives, their children, and their servants who participate in their deeds. I (bring ill wishes upon) their crops, their cattle, their wool, their sheep, their horses, their swine, their geese, their hens, and all their livestock. I (bring ill wishes upon) their halls, their chambers, their kitchens, their stanchions, their barns, their cowsheds, their barnyards, their cabbage patches, their plows, their harrows, and the goods and houses that are necessary for their sustenance and welfare.”

“May all the malevolent wishes and curses ever known, since the beginning of the world, to this hour, light on them. May the malediction of God, that fell upon Lucifer and all his fellows, that cast them from the high Heaven to the deep hell, light upon them.”

“May the fire and the sword that stopped Adam from the gates of Paradise, stop them from the glory of Heaven, until they forebear, and make amends.”

“May the evil that fell upon cursed Cain, when he slew his brother Abel, needlessly, fall on them for the needless slaughter that they commit daily.”

“May the malediction that fell upon all the world, man and beast, and all that ever took life, when all were drowned by the flood of Noah, except Noah and his ark, fall upon them and drown them, man and beast, and make this realm free of them, for their wicked sins.”

“May the thunder and lightning which rained down upon Sodom and Gomorra and all the lands surrounding them, and burned them for their vile sins, rain down upon them and burn them for their open sins. May the evil and confusion that fell on the Gigantis for their opression and pride in building the Tower of Babylon, confound them and all their works, for their open callous disregard and opression.”

“May all the plagues that fell upon Pharoah and his people of Egypt, their lands, crops and cattle, fall upon them, their equipment, their places, their lands, their crops and livestock.”

“May the waters of the Tweed and other waters which they use, drown them, as the Red Sea drowned King Pharoah and the people of Egypt, preserving God’s people of Israel.”

“May the earth open, split and cleave, and swallow them straight to hell, as it swallowed cursed Dathan and Abiron, who disobeyed Moses and the command of God.”

“May the wild fire that reduced Thore and his followers to two-hundred-fifty in number, and others from 14,000 to 7,000 at anys, usurping against Moses and Aaron, servants of God, suddenly burn and consume them daily, for opposing the commands of God and Holy Church.”

“May the malediction that suddenly fell upon fair Absolom, riding through the wood against his father, King David, when the branches of a tree knocked him from his horse and hanged him by the hair, fall upon these untrue Scotsmen and hang them the same way, that all the world may see.”

“May the malediction that fell upon Nebuchadnezzar’s lieutenant, Olifernus, making war and savagery upon true christian men; the malediction that fell upon Judas, Pilate, Herod, and the Jews that crucified Our Lord; and all the plagues and troubles that fell on the city of Jerusalem therefore, and upon Simon Magus for his treachery, bloody Nero, Ditius Magcensius, Olibrius, Julianus Apostita and the rest of the cruel tyrants who slew and murdered Christ’s holy servants, fall upon them for their cruel tyranny and murder of Christian people.”

“And may all the vengeance that ever was taken since the world began, for open sins, and all the plagues and pestilence that ever fell on man or beast, fall on them for their openly evil ways, senseless slaughter and shedding of innocent blood.”

“I sever and part them from the church of God, and deliver them immediately to the devil of hell, as the Apostle Paul delivered Corinth. I bar the entrance of all places they come to, for divine service and ministration of the sacraments of holy church, except the sacrament of infant baptism, only; and I forbid all churchmen to hear their confession or to absolve them of their sins, until they are first humbled / subjugated by this curse.”

“I forbid all christian men or women to have any company with them, eating, drinking, speaking, praying, lying, going, standing, or in any other deed-doing, under the pain of deadly sin.”

“I discharge all bonds, acts, contracts, oaths, made to them by any persons, out of loyalty, kindness, or personal duty, so long as they sustain this cursing, by which no man will be bound to them, and this will be binding on all men.”

“I take from them, and cast down all the good deeds that ever they did, or shall do, until they rise from this cursing.”

“I declare them excluded from all matins, masses, evening prayers, funerals or other prayers, on book or bead (rosary); of all pigrimages and alms deeds done, or to be done in holy church or be christian people, while this curse is in effect.”

“And, finally, I condemn them perpetually to the deep pit of hell, there to remain with Lucifer and all his fellows, and their bodies to the gallows of Burrow moor, first to be hanged, then ripped and torn by dogs, swine, and other wild beasts, abominable to all the world. And their candle (light of their life) goes from your sight, as may their souls go from the face of God, and their good reputation from the world, until they forebear their open sins, aforesaid, and rise from this terrible cursing and make satisfaction and penance.”


Carruthrers engraved on the path

As part of the millennium celebrations Gordon Young, a local artist of Reiver stock, renowned for this type of work was commissioned to carve 383 words of the curse on a piece of granite stone. The sculpture was erected in an underpass between Tullie House Museum and Carlisle Castle. Since its placement there had been a number of local disasters attributed to the stone worrying enough for a local councillor to demand its destruction. Thankfully, it still sits in place, laid upon a path which lists the names of those border Reiver families who caused such havoc so many years ago, with supernatural repercussions possibly lasting to this very day.

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote 2021

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