Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Latest Rendition of the Chief’s Arms and the fallow deer.

Fallow deer photographed in Dumfriesshire, reproduced with permission.

The supporters granted by the Lord Lyon to our chief are two fallow deer bucks rampant, but why were they granted and what do they represent. Below is the latest rendition of the Chiefs arms by a well known heraldic artist who was formally employed at the Court of the Lord Lyon iself. The supporters are on either side of the shield.

David Allen SHA, FSA Scot, had worked as a calligrapher and heraldic artist in the Court of the Lord Lyon for twenty-eight years and has kindly produced this rendition of the full compliment of the arms of the Chief of Carruthers. The two fallow deer bucks are still clearly viewed on either side of the shield, while the shield can only be legally be used with his permission.

As hereditary Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers, like all other hereditary Scottish chiefs, Carruthers of Holmains is entitled to supporters. These are granted to reflect his position in Scottish clan/family society.

As can be seen, there are subtle differences between the arms depicted above by David and those below by Antony albeit exactly the same arms, this is simply dependent on the artist’s techniques and personal style.

However, what always remains the same, is the exclusion of bars on the helmet depicting another rank of peerage. The use of bars on the helmet can be seen on the arms of the other chiefs below ie Bruce and Campbell. Again both depictions of the arms still show the seraphim with a face in the centre as it is an important part of Carruthers history, having been the case since before 1672.

So what is the importance of supporters?

Appreciating arms are a form of visual communication of who the bearer/armiger is, supporters are figures or beasts placed on either side of the shield which are only granted to particular groups of people in Scotland to include clan chiefs, peers of the realm and senior knights in orders of chivalry.

They can only be granted in Scotland by permission of the British Monarch and through the auspices of the Lord Lyon King of Arms. As such they reflect who and what the person is, in this case Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers ie Carruthers which is clearly depicted and recognised by the ancient shield, motto and seraphim crest of the chief and his place as the chief, by the two supporters on either side of his shield.

Antony Maxwell

Chief’s arms as drawn by the late Antony Maxwell.

The idea of the fallow deer being used as supporters came from Antony Maxwell, our Society’s heraldic artist at the time, who has sadly passed. The idea was adopted by the Chief and accepted and granted by the Lord Lyon when confirming Peter Carruthers of Holmains, Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers.

The fallow deer were chosen as they represent the area in Scotland from which our family originate as well as a close family connectiion with beasts as is mentioned below. Therefore, in this instance they act as an anchor to both our chiefs’s family and our origins in the ancestral lands of Carruthers in Annandale, Dumfriesshire in our own right.

Fallow Deer (Dama Dama)

Fallow deer originally appeared in ‘Britain’ as introduced by the Romans but genetic analysis shows that they became extinct after the Roman occupation. They were reintroduced in the 11th century from the Eastern Mediterranean. Initially, kept in deer parks they slowly became a food source for the aristocracy as their population increased. Wide spread throughout the southern aspects of the UK, a large population can be found in parts of Scotland, to include Dumfriesshire, and the lands of our ancient origins.

Further, the link with the fallow deer and the Carruthers family extends to the travels of the renowned naturalists and explorer Alexander Douglas Carruthers which is covered here. Douglas, being the eldest son of the Rev William Mitchell Carruthers, was the great uncle of the current chief and during his explorations he sought site of the rarer subspecies ie the endangered Mesopotamian fallow deer, in order to research its behaviour.

With this in mind, the adoption of the fallow deer was the obvious choice in the visual statment of the Chiefs’s rank within Scottish clan society and as such the supporters are worn with pride.

Typical Construct of Arms of Scottish Chiefs

Supporters on the arms of clan chiefs and family heads are normally the same on both sides, ie right and left are mirrored with very few exceptions. These supporters are there ‘supporting’ the shield of the chief, depicting their rank, as does the helmet used. This means that if Scottish arms, most certainly Carruthers, have different figures or animals on either side of the shield, then they are more than questionable and the shield is being used illegally.

Interestingly this is one of the easy ways to spot if Scottish arms are real or not based on the claims being made. In Scotland, only the Royal Coat of Arms carries the unicorn as a supporter/s, and although it can be seen in castles and on mercat crosses, it is only there to proudly represent the area and its Scottish and Royal history.

The chief’s arms depicted above are themselves sitting on what is called a compartment, in the case of the arms of our chief, it represents healthland strewn with our clan and family’s plant badge, the gorse (Ulex europeaus). The arms of the three other chiefs above, sit on compartments representing the lands of their own origins and on one ie Irving our neighbours in Annandale, their clan plant badge of holly is clearly depicted.

NB the grills/bars on the helmet are seen depicting the ranks of the individuals as siscussed above outwith their role as chiefs of their clans/family. In this case no grills on the helmet of Irving as he hsas no title above that of a clan chief, five in the case of the Earl of Elgin as an earl and six in the case of the Duke of Argyll as a duke.

Although used by the Carruthers of Holmains family before that time, the Carruthers arms were registered along with all other Scottish arms known today after the Lyons Act of 1672. The chief’s arms were registered by John Carruthers 9th of Holmains and again like many other Scottish clans and families whether Highland, Island, Lowland and Border they had been proudly used prior to 1672 and to date thier presentation has importantly never changed, other than supporters being granted.

This information is all part of the rich tapestry that is Carruthers history, both now and then, and we hope you enjoy these snippets which we feel traverses time and melds the present with the our past.


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