Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Suppression of Unruly Clans Act (1587)

The roll of the clans that have captains, chiefs and chieftains whom on they depend, often times against the will of their landlords, as well on the borders as highlands, and of some special persons of branches of the said clans.

Who were the Reivers

The Scottish borders had been a dangerous lawless place for over 300 years (14th c – 17th c ) and there was a feeling by the Scottish Crown that it was time that these lands were brought under the rule of law. The cattle rustling, feuding, murder, arson and pillaging, which were all common occurrences and in fact a way of life for the Border Reiver families, brought the spotlight down upon them. The word ‘bereaved’ was even given to the English/Scots language by the acts of this lawless breed.

On top of this, the Reivers loyalty was to their own blood ie their families, rather than to the monarchy of either country, with the family ties often crossing over the border lands. When such a strong close knit bond existed, enforcing the law was difficult.

Coming from every social class, the Reivers themselves were a product of the continuous fighting between the Scots and the English, where the farms and crops were often destroyed. As such the keeping of cattle became the mainstay, as it was a moveable resource, and the reiving of the same in many cases became the family business. This of course would not necessarily always be cross border, but also occurred against neighbouring families. Accepting all this, the borders along with the Highlands were the last places in Scotland to be brought to heal uner any form of peace.

James VI of Scotland, I of England

As we have said before, Carruthers were listed as one of 17 Border ‘clannis’ and families to be named in the 1587 Act of the Scottish Parliament. This was the same year that Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) was beheaded. Her son James VI was then placed on the Scottish throne. Aware of the distinct possibility of a union between the crowns of Scotland and their auld enemy, England, James felt the unruly borders had to be cleaned up. The 1587 Act was a shot across the bow of the ‘clannis’ chiefs and captaines as mentioned. This did not mean that the names in the Act were the worst of the bunch, they weren’t necessarily any more lawless than many of the others, but possibly and in some cases for political reasons, these were the Border names listed.

In 1603, after Elizabeth I died James VI of Scotland I of England, became the monarch of the unified Scotland, Ireland and England. This Act was to become only a precursor of the more violent cleaning of the Borders at the behest of the new King of Great Britain. It was therefore during the early part of his reign that the Marches in both Scotland and England, were renamed Shires as he did not see the need for a defined border in a unified country, especially one that had been so uncontrollable.

As such after unifying the country in James formed a Commission to pacify the borders by bringing law to the lawless. This led to lands being confiscated, settlements cleared, many executions to include hangings many without trial, with some Reivers selling their services in Europe as mercenaries or being sent to irland during the plantations. Those that stayed and decided to carry on their lawless lifestyle became known as Mosstroopers and in many cases were hunted down and if caught, executed again without any right to judicial defence.

It took a total of 15 years (1605-2620) of severe and harsh ‘policing’ by government forces before any form of peace was to be seen in the Anglo-Scottish Borderlands, but it did happen. As such and accepting the wars that devastated the border lands were no more, the families reverted on the main, back to a more peaceful way of life.

Although the Scottish Borders and in our case Annandale, remains one of the most picturesque parts of our country, it retains the scars of those lawless bygone days on its landscape, reminding us of our own family’s struggle to survive in those violent and turbulent times when we as Border Reivers rode.

Below is a full list of those mentioned in the Act

Landlords and Bailies

Middle March

  • [Francis Stewart], Earl of Bothwell
  • Laird of Ferniehirst
  • [Archibald Douglas], Earl of Angus
  • Laird of Buccleuch
  • Sheriff of Teviotdale
  • Laird of Bedrule
  • Laird of Wauchope
  • [William Maxwell], Lord Herries
  • Laird of Howpasley
  • George Turnbull of Hallrule
  • Laird of Little Dean
  • Laird of Drumlanrig
  • The Laird of Chisholm

West March

  • [John Maxwell], Lord Maxwell8The Laird of Drumlanrig
  • The Laird of Johnstone
  • The Laird of Applegarth
  • The Laird of Holmends (George Carruthers 6th of Holmains, 2nd Baron)
  • The Laird of Graitney
  • [William Maxwell], Lord Herries
  • The Laird of Dunwoody
  • The Laird of Lochinvar

Highlands and Isles 

  • [Ludovic Stewart], Duke of Lennox
  • [Sir George Buchanan], Laird of Buchanan
  • [Andrew MacFarlane], Laird MacFarlane of the Arrochar
  • [Humphrey Colquhoun], Laird of Luss
  • [Aulay MacAulay], Laird MacAulay of Ardencaple
  • [Archibald Napier], Laird of Merchiston
  • [John Haldane], Laird of Gleneagles
  • [James Cunningham], Earl of Glencairn
  • [John Cunningham], Laird of Drumquhassle
  • [James Galbraith], Laird of Culcreuch
  • [George Graham], Tutor of Menteith
  • [William Shaw], Laird of Knockhill
  • Harry Shaw of Cambusmoir
  • [James Kinross], Laird of Kippenross
  • [Michael Balfour], Laird of Burleigh
  • [James Stirling], Laird of Keir
  • [Alexander Livingston], Master of Livingston
  • [James Stewart], Lord Doune
  • [Patrick Drummond], Lord Drummond
  • [John Murray], Laird of Tullibardine
  • [Duncan Campbell], Laird of Glenorchy
  • [John Campbell], Laird of Lawers
  • [James Menzies], Laird of Weem
  • [James Drummond], Abbot of Inchaffray
  • Colin Campbell of Ardbeg
  • [Colin Campbell], Laird of Glenlyon
  • [John Stewart], Earl of Atholl
  • [Thomas Stewart], Laird of Grandtully
  • [Donald Robertson], Laird of Struan Robertson
  • [John Murray], Laird of Strowan Murray
  • [Wemyss], Laird of Wester Wemyss
  • [Thomas Scott], Laird of Abbotshall
  • [David Maxwell], Laird of Tealing
  • [Patrick Ogilvy], Laird of Inchmartine
  • [Thomas Fotheringham], Laird of Powrie Fotheringham
  • [William Moncreiffe], Laird of Moncreiffe
  • [James Stewart], Laird of Ballechin
  • [John MacDuff, alias Ferguson], Baron of Fandowie
  • [Francis Hay], Earl of Erroll
  • [James Ruthven], Earl of Gowrie
  • [Alexander Reidheuch], Laird of Cultybraggan
  • [James Ogilvy], Lord Ogilvy
  • [Alexander Ogilvy], Laird of Clova
  • [David Graham], Laird of Fintry
  • [David Lindsay], Laird of Edzell
  • [John Erskine], Earl of Mar
  • [Alexander Elphinstone], Master of Elphinstone
  • [George Gordon], Earl of Huntly
  • [John Forbes], Master of Forbes
  • [John Grant of Freuchie], Laird of Grant
  • [Lauchlan] MacIntosh [of Dunauchton]
  • [Simon Fraser], Lord and [Thomas Fraser of Knockie and Strichen], Tutor of Lovat
  • Chisholm of Cummer
  • [Donald MacDonald], Laird of Glengarry
  • [Colin] MacKenzie [of Kintail]
  • [Robert Munro], Laird of Foulis
  • [Alexander Ross], Laird of Balnagowan
  • [John Urquhart of Craigfintry and Culbo], Tutor of Cromarty
  • [Alexander Gordon], Earl of Sutherland
  • [William Sutherland], Laird of Duffus
  • James Innes of Touchis
  • [George Sinclair], Earl of Caithness
  • [George Keith], Earl Marischal
  • [Lawrence Oliphant], Lord Oliphant
  • [Patrick Mowat], Laird of Boquhally
  • [William Sinclair], Laird of Dunbeath
  • [Hugh] MacKay of Farr
  • Torquil MacLeod of Cogeache
  • [John MacKenzie], Laird of Gairloch
  • [Malcolm] MacGillichallum of Raasay
  • [William] MacLeod of Harris
  • [Lauchlan] MacKinnon of Strathardle
  • [Roderick] MacLeod of Lewis
  • [Roderick] MacNeil of Barra
  • [John] MacIan of Ardnamurchan
  • Allan MacIan of Eilean Tioram
  • [Alexander MacRanald], Laird of Knoydart
  • [Lauchlan] MacLean of Duart
  • [Ewen MacLean], Laird of Ardgour
  • John Stewart of the Appin
  • [Dougal] MacDougall of Lorne
  • [Allan] MacDougall of Raray
  • [Archibald Campbell], Laird of Lochnell
  • [John Campbell], Laird of Cawdor
  • [Robert Montgomery], Laird of Skelmorlie, for Rachry
  • [Dougal] MacConnachy of Inverawe
  • Angus MacConnell of Dunyvaig and the Glens
  • [Alexander MacAlister], Laird of Loup
  • [John Stewart], Sheriff of Bute
  • [Hector Bannatyne], Laird of Kames
  • [Archibald Campbell], Earl of Argyll
  • [Duncan Campbell], Laird of Auchinbreck
  • [James Campbell], Laird of Ardkinglas
  • [Malcolm] MacNaughton [of Dunderawe]
  • [Archibald] MacLauchlan [of Strathlachlan]
  • [James Lamont], Lird of Lamont
  • [Colin Campbell], Laird of Perbrak
  • [John Campbell], Laird of Duntrune
  • [James Scrimgeour of Dudhope], Constable of Dundee, Laird of Glassary
  • [Colin Campbell], Laird of Elangreg
  • [Archibald Campbell], Laird of Otter
  • [Hector MacLean], Laird of Coll
  • [John] MacLean of Lochbuie
  • [Murdoch] MacFee of Collowsay
  • [John Hamilton], Lord Hamilton

And finally the Names of the Clans themselves, Carruthers being one of the 17 names from the borders and one of 13 from the dangerous West March:

Named Unruly Clannis (clans)

Middle March (4)

  • Elliotts
  • Armstrongs
  • Nicksons
  • Crosiers

West March (13)

  • Scotts of Ewesdale
  • Batesons
  • Littles
  • Thomsons  – Thomesonis in the untranslated version
  • Glendinnings
  • Irvings
  • Bells
  • Carruthers 
  • Grahams
  • Johnstons
  • Jardines
  • Moffats
  • Latimers

There were of course 34 Clans of the Island and Highlands listed in the 1587 Act and these are listed below:

Highlands and Isles (34)

  • Buchanans
  • MacFarlanes, Arrochar
  • MacNabs
  • Grahams of Menteith
  • Stewart of Balquhidder
  • Clan Gregor
  • Clan Laren
  • Campbells of Lochnell
  • Campbells of Inverawe
  • Clan Dowell of Lorne
  • Stewart of Lorne or of Appin
  • Clan MacKean of Ardvorlich
  • Stewarts of Atholl and parts adjacent
  • Clan Donachie in Atholl and parts adjacent
  • Menzies in Atholl and Apnadull
  • Clan MacThomas in Glenshee
  • Fergusons
  • Spaldings
  • MacIntoshes in Atholl
  • Clan Cameron
  • Clan Ranald in Lochaber
  • Clan Ranald of Knoydart, Moidart and Glengarry
  • Clan Lewis of the Lewis
  • Clan Leod of Harris
  • Clan Neil
  • Clan Kinnon
  • Clan Ian
  • Clan Chattan
  • Grants
  • Frasers
  • Clan Kenzie
  • Clan Andrew
  • Munroes
  • Murrays in Sutherland


As we can see our chief of the time was mentioned, as was our family, something to be proud of, well you decide, but it remains part of our history and reflects the times they lived in. As such we were there, we rode.

2 thoughts on “CLAN CARRUTHERS: Suppression of Unruly Clans Act (1587)”

  1. Hi, I’d like permission to cite bits of this article “Suppression of Unruly Clans Act (1587)” in a newsletter for our clan (Clan Buchanan). Of course we would link to your original story for full credit.

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