Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Annandale, lands of our ancestors.

Arms of the town of Annan

Much has been written about our family, our history as Border Reivers and our place in Scottish society and culture, but what about Annandale where it all began and of which holds a special place in the hearts of all Carruthers worldwide.

The attached YouTube videos reflecting a Road Trip: Dumfriesshire, covers a piece of film that always causes a Scotsman’s heart to beat that little bit faster, the crossing of the Anglo-Scottish border, into Scotland. As the video continues to reflect the journey taken signposts of particular interest to our family such as Mouswald and Dalton are noted.

The idea of posting this, obviously taken on a bleak winters day, was to allow those not of the area to get a glimpse of the country of our ancestors, albeit in modern times, and an aerial tour of some of the historical sites around the town of Annan itself. The latter also shows the Roman Fortifications at Burnswark Hill, at one time wrongly it seems, thought to be the site of Caer Rydderch(Ruthers)itswelf.

As we all know from research and history, our family originate from the lands named ‘Carruthers’ in Annandale, Dumfriesshire, South West Scotland. It firther seems that the area from which we take our name was in existence even before the Roman occupation ceased in 410 AD.

It wasn’t until the 11th and 12th centuries, influenced by the Norman lords who had been invited to take up lands in Scotland by David I, that surnames were starting to be used. The Normans used them to define where they came from, for instance, Robert de Bruce or de Brus was given lands in Annandale by David I in 1124, to become Lord of Annandale, but originated in Brix, Manche, Normandy (hence the name de Brus). This progressed to the name of Carruthers as a surname being used, with derivations noted, throughout the world.

Following suit, the first recorded name of Carruthers was that of William de (of) Carruthers, the Chief’s ancestor and the landowner of Carruthers at the time. This, according to Dr Robert Clapperton in the Records of the Carruthers Family, was recorded in the 12th century who took the name of the area he owned. This progressed over time to the name of Carruthers being used as a surname by both the owners of the lands and those who worked on them, and from that root to the many derivations that exist worldwide.

So, what about Annandale, land of our forebears;


Annandale itself is named after the valley (dale) through which the River Annan flows, and has been known as such since very ancient times. It runs into the Solway Firth in the south, from its source in Annanhead, above the town of Moffat. It is an area synonymous with the lawless days of the Border Reivers. Annandale cannot be discussed without discussing the Annan itself.

Taken from fishpal for anglers; ‘From Moffat the river winds its way through the rolling valleys of Annandale picking up many tributaries on its way, the first of these is the Kinnel Water, a substantial river in its own right. After that the Dryfe Water and the Water of Milk enter the river before it finally discharges into the Solway at the historic Royal Burgh town of Annan. In length the main stem of the river is not much over 30 miles but with a catchment area of some 1,000km2 it means that river is quite substantial by the time it reaches the sea.

The Annandale Way, listed as a well-known route for walkers to take, shows the varied terrain of the Scottish border lands of what was once called the West March. This trail follows the River Annan from its source near the Devil’s Beef Tub to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea.

River Annan with the road bridge into Annan itself

The route begins from Moffat with a 14-mile/22.5 km circuit to the north. It then heads south, dividing into two branches at Corncockle Wood, some 15 miles south of Moffat. The more strenuous option continues south via Lochmaben whilst the easier branch goes south-east through Lockerbie. The two routes differ for only about 12 miles/19 km, and reunite just north of Hoddom Bridge to continue to Annan near the destination of Newbiebarns.

Annandale’s western border neighbours Nithsdale,home of the Maxwells, while to the East is Liddesdale home of the Scotts. Historically it fell under the Sherrifdom of Dumfries.

Hoddom Bridge; It was on the Annan and on one of these routes that Carruthers were give the important task as Guardians of the old Kirk Ford at Hoddom. This was obviously before any bridge was built over the river.

The Roman Empire was not confined by Hadrian’s Wall. The Romans invaded what is now Scotland many times and established large camps and fortifications in Annandale when securing their roads for their campaigns further north.

The area is of remote antiquity was, after the departure of the Romans from Britain, continued to be occupied by the ancient inhabitants ie the Selgovae till their annexing by the Northumbrian Saxons. After the dissolution of the Saxon heptarchy, the surrounding territories were annexed to the kingdom of Scotland in the reign of Malcolm Canmore; and the lands were subsequently granted to Robert de Bruce, Lord of Annandale who originally built Annan castle. The castle, now a ruin was built for the defence of the area as it was frequently plundered during Border warfare, and sometimes burnt; and it suffered greatly in the wars consequent on the disputed succession to the Scottish throne in the reign of Edward I, of England.

In 1298, the town of Annan and church were burnt by the English, but were subsequently restored by Robert Bruce, who, in 1306, ascended the throne of Scotland; and in 1332, Edward Baliol, after his coronation at Scone, retired to the castle of Annan, where he summoned the nobility of Scotland, to pay him homage. However during his stay, Archibald Douglas, tlike Carruthers, a great supporter of the Bruces, with a force of 1000 cavalry surprised the Castle and defeated its guards. This caused Baliol to escape to Carlisle, without a single attendant.

In the 13th and 14th centuries the Bruce family, who were the Lords of Annandale, took a very active role in the struggle for Scottish independence and the lands on both sides of the border suffered the continuum of outright war between England and Scotland. (Carruthers were given many offices under Bruce, and as their importance grew, so did the influence of Carruthers ed.)

According to Annan online: The fords or “waths” which cross the eastern Solway Firth were the routes taken by invading armies for more than two thousand years. Their principal routes were then up Annandale and Eskdale.

Even in the times when both nations were at peace the valleys were subjected to raid and counter raid for more than 200 years as the powerful families on both sides of the border made their living as “reivers”.

The “reivers” were fast, well-armed horsemen with no allegiance to either side who rode by night to steal cattle and any moveable goods. The many fortified tower houses and other structures are a grim reminder of the turbulent past. (in fact, it was on a border raid into the Debatable Lands, that the last Chief of the House of Carruthers of Mouswald was killed (1548), and the chiefship passed to Carruthers of Holmains, where it now sits.)

Reiver Surnames, Carruthers is in Southern Annandale

Carruthers in Annadale

In the book, the Historical Families of Dumfriesshire and the Border Wars by C.L. Johnstone, first published in 1878, Carruthers are mentioned in some detail;

The Carruthers family appear to have been in Dumfriesshire as far back as the Kirkpatricks (who are recognised as a Celtic Family of antiquity), and are first found on the lands of Carruthers in the modern parish of Middlebie.

Thomas, son of Robert Carruthers, received a grant of Mouswald from Robert Bruce (in 1320). Their estate stretched northward into the district of Wamphray, which they shared with the Laird of Johnstone, and they were made Barons of Mouswald in the 15th century. Simon Carruthers and his wife, Catherine Carlile, had a charter of lands in Cummertrees in 1516, and their son Simon married Agnes, a daughter of Murray of Cockpool.

Their grandson, Simon (last chief of the Carruthers from the House of Mouswald, killed on a border raid in 1548, ed.), married Marion Johnstone, and left two daughters, Janet and Marion. (Marion Johnston was Simon’s 2nd wife and sister of John Johnston of that ilk, Chief of Johnston. His first was Agnes, daughter of Cuthbert Murray of Cockpool, who died sadly ed.)

The elder married Rorison of Barndennoch, and a curious bond relating to the younger daughter is dated Edinburgh, September 13, 1563—”The which day Thomas Borthick of Pryneade and Michael Borthick of Glengall became pledges and securities for Marion Carruthers, one of the two heiresses of Mouswald, that she shall not marry any chief traitor nor broken man (i. e., outlaw and adventurer not belonging to a clan) of the country, nor join herself with any such person under the pain of one thousand pounds.” (Marion, refused to be coerced into marriage or to giving up her lands to James Douglas of Drumlanrig and was found dead below the battlements of Comlongon Castle. It is said her ghost still walks and God forbid any Douglas who crosses her path ed.)

In 1426 Roger Carruthers, a son of the Laird of Mouswald, had a charter from Douglas, Lord of Galloway and Annandale, of Holmains, with Dalton and other lands; and his descendants branched off into the families of Holmains, John Carruthers 12th of Holmains, married to Charlotte, daughter of Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton, was obliged to sell his family property in the last century in consequence of the series of calamities to which Dumfriesshire had been subjected, culminating in bank failures, spreading general ruin. (Holmains were the descendants of Thomas, 1st of Mouswald’s second youngest brother John, Kings Chancellor). As such when Simon 10th of Mouswald died, the chiefship was passed to the next most senior house of Holmains)

His descendants died out in the male line, but the family is represented in the female line (for one generation)through his daughter by his great grandson, the Rev. William Mitchell Carruthers, eldest son of the late General St. Leger Mitchell, born 1853, incumbent of Brunswick Chapel, Mayfair; married, and has issue. (it is through this line that the current Chief Peter Carruthers of Holmains, 4 x great grandson of John 12th, is descended back to William de Carruthers in the 12th century ed.)

It is important to realise however, that CL Johnstone’s work was in print well over 50 years prior to the well researched and definitive text on the Carruthers Family, published by AS Carruthers and RC Reid, and as such is limited in its information.

2 thoughts on “CLAN CARRUTHERS: Annandale, lands of our ancestors.”

  1. My name is Marinda Maartens but my maiden surname is Marinda Annandale. I was born in 1969 in Vereeniging in South Africa. My father is Pieter Hermanus Annandale (1946). I would love to know my roots and will visit Scotland in 2024 to do “Thunder in the Glens”, a Harley Davidson Rally. I am definitely going to visit the Annan Region. Thanks for the post.

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