Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Battle of Lochmaben Fair

The Battle of Lochmaben Fair

(22nd July 1484, Battle of Lochmaben Fair)

The Battle of Lochmaben Fair took place on the 22nd July 1484, in the small burgh of Lochmaben, in Dumfriesshire, southwest Scotland. The ‘Rebels’ were led by James, the 9th Earl of Douglas and Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany. Their force was made up of renegade Scots, many paid to fight by the Earl of Douglas, and English cavalry under Albany who crossed over the border from England into Scotland.

Having been previously exiled to France by his elder brother King James III who was deemed a weak and unpopular king, Albany had retained a grudge against the Scottish Crown, who he viewed as far too pacifistic.

James III of Scotland

Based on the reputation of James III, and feeling they would garner support from the locals, they attempted to capture Lochmaben. However, the local landowners having seen the burning signal beacons hailing the advance of the rebels, remained loyal to the king and gathered their men who, along with the townsfolk, repulsed the ‘invaders’. This was seemingly the first time in Scottish history where loyalty to the crown superseded loyalty to a feudal lord in a battle, involving both parties.

The first castle, originally hosting a keep, was built by the Bruce family in 1160, but was captured by Edward I in 1298. It was Edward who began building the second and much stronger Lochmaben Castle, in that same year. The castle having changed hands several times but eventually fell into the hands of the Scots in 1364 when it was taken by Archibald Douglas (the Grim), Lord of Galloway in 1364.

In 1445 Lochmaben Castle was seized by the Scottish Crown and became a royal possession. Interestingly John Carruthers 6th of Mouswald and 1st Baron of Mouswald was Captain of the Royal Castle of Lochmaben 1446-1454, but due to the treachery by a gate porter, the castle was taken by the Laird of Johnstone and John of Mouswald and his sons were captured and imprisoned.

The Douglas had therefore been a very powerful family in the Scottish south west since their taking of Lochmaben Castle from the English garrison in 1384. However they were not always aligned with the Scottish throne which led to the defeat of Douglas at the Battle of Arkinholm (1455) near the town of Langholm.

This wariness of the Douglas’s by the crown was augmented by their alliances with two powerful highland noblemen ie John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles and Alexander Lindsey, 4th Earl of Crawford.

Albany, knew that and as the disenfranchised younger brother of the Scottish king, met and courted an aging James Douglas at the English Court, who had previously fled south. Accepting they both had the ear and were supported by Edward IV, their mutual dislike of the Scottish Crown, made them immediate allies. Edward was also keen to see Albany on the Scottish throne as his puppet. In exchange for his support, Edward expected Albany to marry Cecily Viscountess of Welles, his 2nd daughter and control of the lands of the West March. With this in mind, Edward had offered his support. As always with the twists and turns of history, Edward died and his successor Richard III withdrew his support although he did give his blessing to the foray into Scotland.

This left Albany’s attempt to dethrone his brother, weakened and ultimately in the hands of Douglas and any support he had. However he was a known outlaw and rebel, under the penalty of death ‘as an Englishman’ if he again entered Scotland, which had curtailed his popularity. There was still hope that Douglas would have retained the support locally in what had been Douglas territory, in the West March of the Scottish borders.

Historians tells us that the rebels crossed the borders with approximately 500 horsemen riding towards Lochmaben. However on entering the town they were met with an armed force of towns people, who were quickly reinforced by Crichton, Murray, Johnston, Carruthers, Kirkpartick and Charteris and their men. The fighting raged throughout the day and a bloody battle ensued, which led to the retreat and scattering of the rebel forces.

Albany escaped on a swift horse, back across the border and on to France where he was killed in a duel with the Duke of Orléans.

Douglas had been captured by Alexander Kirkpatrick, brother to the Laird of Closeburn and sent to the abbey of Lindores in Fife, where he lived out his life in peace dying in April 1488. James was to be the last Earl of Douglas.

King James III did not forget his supporters and Robert Crichton was created Lord Sanquhar, Alexander Kirkpatrick was rewarded with the fifty pound land of Kirkmichael and Carruthers of Holmains, represented by John Carruthers, 4th Laird Holmains, continued to acquire land into the expanding Holmains estate. This expansion included the Barony of Drydesdale in 1492, which culminated in the erection of Holmains into a Barony in its own right in 1542, during the time of John Carruthers, 5th Laird Holmains and 1st Baron of Holmains.

The younger brother of John, the 4th of Holmains, Thomas Carruthers, for services at the battle of Arkinholme in 1455 against the Douglases, was granted the lands of Corry that were forfeited from George Corry for implication in the Albany-Douglas invasion. 

John 4th of Holmains latter years were involved in Border warfare, in which he played an active role, being one of the 400 strong party of Scottish horse that burnt the village of Arthurat in 1515. Two years later, a known reiver, he was involved in the famous raid that lifted 700 head of English Cattle from the debatable lands.

Lochmaben, its history

According to A Topographical History of Scotland published in 1846 by Samuel Lewis; LOCHMABEN is a royal burgh, the seat of a presbytery, and a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 8 miles (E.N.E.) from Dumfries, and 68 (S. by W.) from Edinburgh.

LOCHMABEN, a royal burgh, the seat of a presbytery, and a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 8 miles (E.N.E.) from Dumfries, and 68 (S. by W.) from Edinburgh, containing, with the hamlets of Greenhill, Heck, and Smallholm, and the villages of Hightae and Templand, 2809 inhabitants, of whom 1289 are in the burgh, which contains also forty-one persons in the adjoining parishes of Tinwald and Torthorwald.

This place, which is supposed to have derived its name from the numerous lakes in the parish, is of very remote antiquity, and at an early period formed part of the possessions of the ancient lords of Annandale, whose baronial castle was on an eminence close to the town, called Castle hill, and surrounded by a deep moat and fosse.

The ruins of Lochmaben Castle

The castle thus situated, continued to be the residence of Bruce, Lords of Annandale, until the end of the thirteenth century, and was the birthplace of Robert Bruce, subsequently King of Scotland, who, after his accession to the throne, erected a much larger fortress on a peninsula south-east of Castle Loch, and in the completion of which the stones of the former castle were used.

This second castle was by far the largest and the strongest of the border fortresses, and, including the outworks, occupied an area of sixteen acres in extent. It consisted of three courts, enclosed with massive walls twelve feet thick, and was surrounded by a triple fosse, in which was a spacious basin defended by walls of hewn stone, affording to the boats belonging to the garrison and the town secure shelter, either from the weather, or the attacks of any enemy.

The town, which had arisen near the site of the castle, is supposed to have been first erected into a royal burgh by Robert Bruce soon after his elevation to the throne; but, from the frequent inroads of the English, by whom the town was often plundered and burnt during the border warfare, all its ancient records were either lost or destroyed.

In 1463, the Earl of Warwick plundered and burnt the town; and in 1479, the Duke of Albany, at that time Lord of Annandale, being accused of treason, was publicly cited at the castle of Lochmaben, and at the market-cross of the burgh, to appear and answer to the charge (this was prior to the battle of Lochmaben Fair in 1584 ed.).

In 1592, a sanguinary feud took place between the Maxwells of Nithsdale and the Johnstones of Annandale, in which the former were defeated with great slaughter: a number of the Maxwells, in their flight from the field of battle, sought refuge in the church of Lochmaben, which the Johnstones on that occasion burnt to the ground.

The castle, which had been again annexed to the crown in 1487, was maintained as one of the strongest frontier garrisons, under the superintendence of the lords of Annandale, till the union of the English and Scottish crowns in the reign of James VI, after which time it was suffered to fall into decay. The only remains now are the shapeless walls, from the surface of which the hewn stone has been taken for building materials, leaving only the internal rubble, which is firmly cemented into a solid mass.

In 1612, James VI. granted to the inhabitants a charter embodying all the privileges they had previously enjoyed under the charters that had been destroyed; and in the same year, that monarch bestowed the barony of Lochmaben, with the tithes and advowson of the church, upon John Murray, whom in 1625 he created Earl of Annandale and Lord of Lochmaben, and whose descendant, the Earl of Mansfield, is the present proprietor.


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