Chief, Clan Carruthers, Holmains

CLAN CARRUTHERS: The House of Holmains – Our Chiefly line


To understand the Chief’s line, we need to understand how we got from Carruthers of Carruthers, which our records show date back to before the early 1200’s, through Carruthers of Mouswald, which began in 1320 and onto Carruthers of Holmains.

The latter of course was seeded through a charter from King David II of Half Raffols to John Carruthers dated 1361. John was the father of Roger Carruthers, who recieved the charter of lands for Little Dalton, Fourteenaikerbank and Holmains in 1375 and it clearly noted that Half Raffols was included into the lands of Holmains.

Although a copy of the Charter of 1375 is currently unavailable, we are privileged to again post a copy of the Charter of 1361 on our site, first published here in 2017. As such the copy of the charter shown below, along with his family’s translation, comes from the Chief’s personal collection and was kindly given to our society for our personal use.

Although appearing elsewhere it seems, we are advised that no other permission has been granted. At the time of the first publication, we were advised to watermark the picture of the charter, reflecting the chiefs crest ie six wings with an angel’s head in the centre to ensure proof of copyright.

1361, charter to John Carruthers
The original handwritten translation by the current Chief’s great grandfather, circa 1930

It States:

David by the Grace of God, King of Scots and Lord of Annandale, to all honest men of his whole land, greetings, know that we have given, conceded and by our own present charta have confirmed to our beloved and faithful John de Carruthers, the half past of all lands and of which were John de Rafhols, lying within the tenement of Mouswald (une Gontrée) which half past extends to fifty shilling sterling and came into our hands by reason of forfeiture. To hold and to have the aforesaid its liberties, advantages and casements, belonging to the said half past of all the said lands purporting to belong or in any way rightfully to refer to the said John de Carruthers and his heirs, freely, quietly, well, truly, honourably and in peace on our own part and that of their heirs forever. The said John and his heirs paying annually to us and to our own heors the service due and want by law. In testimony of which things we have ordered to be placed our seal of the aforesaid valley on our present charta at Mouswald on the tenth day of December in the thirty year of our reign, with these witnesses,

Robert de Gorry, Lord of Newby,

Robert de Carruthers, Lord of Mouswald, (3rd of Mouswald)

William de Crigton, Lord of Dryfesdale

Humphry Jardine, Lord of Appleyard

John de Johnstone, Lord of that Ilk

John de Caldicot, Lord of Hoton,

And many others

Carruthers: The past

Although the first record of the name of Carruthers ever used was over 1000 years ago by William de Carruthers in the reign of Alexander II (1214–1249), the family had obviously owned the lands of Carruthers (Caer Rydderch/Ruther) before then.

Prior to this we know that the indigenous people of the area were a mixture of the descendants of the Celtic tribe the Selgovae, dating back 2000 years and more to the Roman occupation and to muddy the water of course there is a mixture of Anglo-Saxon blood and in the case of our chief’s paternal line, a male from Sweden appearing in and around 900.

Sadly, although there are claims to the contrary regarding a ‘deep DNA’ research, no solid evidence exists DNA or otherwise, that we are of a direct royal line back to Rydderch Hael, Kenneth McAlpin, David I or even through Robert the Bruce’s line to his son David II, but we do remain proudly Carruthers.

The Chiefs line

1200’s to date

As we can see above, the evidenced line of our family begins with three generations of Carruthers of Carruthers, beginning with William de Carruthers. William owned the land of Carruthers and as was the manner of the day by the scribes, used the term ‘de’ to define his ownership ie Wiliam de Carruthers.

From there William’s great grandson Thomas (the Clerk) received a charter of lands from Robert the Bruce in 1320 and so began the line of Carruthers of Mouswald. This charter was not given to Thomas because he was of family ties to the Bruce family, nor because we had a direct lineage to any royalty, it was simply given according to the records, for loyal service to the Bruces as Lords of Annandale.

The Mouswald line of chiefs remained very successful and the lands grew into a barony in the time of John Carruthers 6th of that line. The House of Mouswald, covering 10 generations. survived over a period of 318 years from 1320-1548 and played their part in the Anglo-Scottish border wars and reiver lifestyle.

Debatable lands

The debatable lands, which took its name from the old Anglo-saxon word ‘battable’, was bordered by three rivers; the Liddel, the Esk and the Sark, the other being the Solway coast. It is ancient in its purpose, with some historians believing that the area acted as a meeting place for three local Celtic tribes ie the Damnonii, the Votadini and the Selgovae whose lands bordered it. From the 13th to the 17th century it was in this small parcel of anarchic no mans land that ‘the worst of the worst’ took refuge from even their own ‘Border Law’. It covered an area 8 mile by 13, but harboured some of the most dangerous folks of the time.

It was here, along with other lairds and men, that Sir Simon was killed on a raid into the in an attempt to bring to task some of those elements who were causing searious havoc into the lands of Annandale and beyond. Therefore, leaving only two daughters, in 1548 this line became extinct on the death of Sir Simon Carruthers 10th of Mouswald.

With our chiefly line of Mouswald coming to such an abrupt end due to the extinction of the male line, the next most senior house took over the mantle. As such the House of Holmains became the chiefs.

But why them and as such why is it this line that has given us our chiefs to date?

After Thomas, the chiefship passed to his brother William 2nd of Mouswald and it was down this line that the Mouswald dynasty continued to travel. Thomas himself, son of John of Carruthers had three younger brothers: William 2nd, John and Nigel.

William took over the reigns of Mouswald after Thomas, as stated and John the next brother in line, the King’s Chancellor for Annandale at the time (1349), was the progenitor ie the initiator of the Holmains line. As Thomas’s brother, and noting William’s line was extinct in 1548, John’s line of Holmains became the senior members of our family. Interestingly, John’s younger brother Sir Nigel Carruthers was Chamberlain to the Regent, but was killed at the Battle of Durham in 1346. There is no evidence of any issue/children.

The first chief from the House of Holmains was John 5th of Holmains, 1st Baron in 1548 who succeeded his grandfather. His own father, the heir apparent died before 1513 ie before the death of John 4th of Holmains.

In 1542, Holmains recieved a Crown Charter making Holmains a Barony. The estate covered a large expanse of land and compared with both the Baronies of Wamphry (Johnston) and Mouswald (Carruthers), who could raise eighty armed men each, Holmains could muster a hundred men to the field. This was the same year that the Battle of Solway Moss was fought and John 5th’s son and heir was killed. It is therefore a reasonable supposition that he was not alone at the battle and that other Carruthers fought and died that day.

In 1563 a feud broke out between the Kirkpatricks and the Carruthers. This culminated in a fight leading to the death of several members of the opposition and a serious wounding of their chief, Roger Kirkpatrick of Closeburn. The feud was resolved at a later date between both families.

Carruthers of Dormont

It was also during this time that in 1552 John 5th gave a charter of land to his son William, who was to become 1st of Dormont and so began the House of Carruthers of Dormont, a line that continues to live and work the same land to this very day.

John 12th of Holmains, 8th Baron (1731-1809) 4 x G Grandfather of the current chief. From the Chief’s private collection. Permission granted for publication to the CCSI only.

Since those humble beginnings in the 1361, the lands of Holmains continued to grow and as such the family become an important and highly respected Dumfriesshire family. This was until the banking disaster of the Douglas Heron Bank of Ayr in which John 12th of Holmains, 8th Baron and the current Chiefs’ 4 x g grandfather had invested large amounts of capital. Finally, with a full and final closure of the bank in 1777, all the estates were sold to pay off the debtors and John 12th, with great sadness moved out of the lands that his family had held since 1361.

Book plate of a member of the Holmains family, from the personal collection of Dr George Carruthers and only published here with his permission.

It also is said that, because of this loss, they did not receive an invitation to the Grand Ball in Edinburgh held by George IV. As a large border landowner from a prominent Dumfriesshire family, we like to think they would have invited to attend to represent our family if things had been different.

Beyond John 12th’s death, no one individual over 4 generations who could have, stepped up to claim the chiefship, we are guessing that as the estate was lost, they chose not to.

It wasn’t until 2007 that an investigation into the chiefly line was initiated by Dr George Carruthers, FSA Scot, in memory of his father. The research was to find the senior of the Carruthers family with a view to finding a chief for this historic border clan. In 2017, assisted by Mr Antony Maxwell of Edinburgh, the prospective candidate/s who could petition for the chiefship of Carruthers, were located.

Two contenders chose to petition the Lord Lyon for the honour; Dr Peter Carruthers, senior of the Holmains line and James Andrew Carruthers, landowner of the family estates and 13th of the cadet line of Dormont. Both petitioners were more than worthy in their claims.

Dr Peter Carruthers of Holmains, Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers

After 210 years and many hours of the gathering of documented evidence and proofs and of course two court hearings, a decision was eventually made by the Lord Lyon in 2019.

Dr Simon Peter Carruthers, known as Peter, was finally recognised as the hereditary Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers. Peter is the 22nd of the line going back to William of Carruthers, is the 13th of Holmains to claim the chiefship and importantly going forward, has both a son and a daughter as his heirs.

After the confirmation, the Clan Carruthers Society (International), based out of Scotland was authorised by our chief to be the official society representing the Border Reiver family of Carruthers, world-wide.

Peter, having matriculated and thus inherited the chief’s arms of Holmains, they remain as they have for nearly 400 years, unchanged. When we compare the renditions of these arms by two different and highly acclaimed Scottish heraldic artists we do see artistic licence and style coming into play. However, the format does not change from the original blazon/description of 1672.

The first artwork is by David Allan FSA Scot, the second by Antony Maxwell. You will see that the arms, although slightly different remain the same. They portray the centuries old Carruthers Chief’s arms in their representation and in both cases include the supporters and compartment granted by the current Lord Lyon after our chiefs confirmation in 2019.

The compartment carries the Carruthers family plant badge ie the Gorse (Ulex europeaus) in bloom and on heathland, with the latter representing the lands of Annandale. Annandale being our ancestral home where we as a family began our journey all those many centuries ago.

Importantly, the chief’s crest is always portrayed as; three sets of wings, the upper and lower crossed in saltire and the middle spread as in flight, and in the centre sits an angels head, which is reflected in the pieces above by both artists.

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