Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Latest guidance from the Lord Lyon on Chief’s of Clans and Families.

Scottish Clans and Families by their very nature are associated directly to Scotland, it’s history and it’s culture and many of us are proud to be of them.

These names can be highland, lowland or border surnames, but they remain Scottish to the core. Whether or not this is through birth or ancestry or even whether they currently have or did have a chief (the latter being armigerous) remains irrelevant, as the Scottish bloodline still runs proud and strong in our veins.

However, three major things remain static in the search for our Scots ancestry;

  • A Scottish Clan or Family has its roots firmly in the land of our forebears ie Scotland, otherwise it simply cannot be a Scottish Clan.
  • There is only ever one Scottish clan/family with or had a chief that carries that name.
  • Therefore not all Scottish names had chiefs nor are recognised by the Lord Lyon as being able to have one.

Although, and for clarification as sometimes there is confusion, in Scotland there are two very large and ancient clans which require mentioning and these are Clan Leod (Mcleod) and Clan Donald (MacDonald).

Individually each is one large clan that, although they do have branches with their own chiefs, and are in fact recognised by the Lord Lyon, these branch chiefs are the closest things to a chieftain in a Scottish clan are within the clan system, still seem to headed by a high chief;

Clan Donald: Godfrey Lord Macdonald of Macdonald

Clan Leod: Hugh, Mcleod of Mcleod.

However, like all other recognised Scottish clans/families Carruthers, being a medium sized border surname has only one hereditary chief recognised by the Lord Lyon and as such he is Chief of all Carruthers (see below). Any other claims to the contrary, have no links with Scotland, our culture or our heritage and are definately not recognised in Scotland by the Lord Lyon.

So what link does the Lord Lyon have with the confirmation and naming of clan chiefs, for their exists some confusion in his role.

No person can hold the legal title of clan chief or legally claim to be one unless he has been granted the right to bear the chiefly arms of their clan or family.

Simply put; no right to bear the chiefly arms (ours as seen at the start of this blog) , no right to call themselves chiefs of a Scottish clan or family. A chief in Scotland can be male or female as long as they have the appropriate and proven ancestry.

All chiefs are therefore only recognised as chiefs through their right to bear the chiefly arms. This right is only granted through the auspices and permission of the Lord Lyon. All the arms of those below the chief ie other armigers are differenced at least twice from the the chiefs arms.

A clan chief in Scotland, if deemed leading a large enough clan or family in a similar vein to Carruthers may have supporters granted by the Lord Lyon on behalf of the British monarch, but more on that later.


The Process

Having witnessed from start to finish the trials, tribulations and in depth analysis of the documentation and proofs that the route to attaining Chiefship took, I along with many others are fully satisfied that the legal investigations and due process that was followed in the confirmation of our chief.

The locating if the senior of our line began in 2007 and finished finally in late 2016. This led to two separate petitions being presented to the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh for his perusal and analysis. One in December 2017 and one in January 2018. The documented information presented covered evidence of lineage dating back to 1320, but as their were two claimants to the Chiefship, a deeper analysis by Scottish genealogists and two court appearances before the Lord Lyon were held.

The decision by the Lord Lyon, which is old news now, led to Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains being confirmed to be the rightful heir to the chiefship of Carruthers and was therefore granted the right to bear the arms of our ancient chiefs.

(The Lord Lyon is by law, the heraldic authority for Scotland, dealing with all matters relating to Scottish Heraldry and Coats of Arms. The Court of the Lord Lyon has also maintained the Scottish Public Registers of Arms and Genealogies since 1672.)

As such Peter, as he likes to be called, was confirmed ‘Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers’ and to highlight his status as chief, he was further granted supporters of two fallow deer bucks rampant on a compartment of heathland strewn with the clan plant, gorse in bloom. The gorse being the clan plant of Carruthers0.

Guidelines from the Lord Lyon (Dec 2021)

It is interesting to note that within the latest guidance by the Lord Lyon, the legal position of Chief is clearly defined, as is their link to Scotland and the clarification of the obvious in the eyes of Scottish law, culture and society. This clearly states that there is only ever ‘one’ Scottish Clan or Family of that name and only one chiefs . See below

*While a clan or family association, society or other corporate body may be created that body is created only in support of a clan or family. That body is not itself the clan or family. That is an important distinction.

*The chiefship of a clan or family is regulated by the Lord Lyon King of Arms by regulation of arms.

*The Lord Lyon does not regulate the leadership of associations, societies or other corporate bodies created in support of a clan or family. That is an internal matter for the association, society or corporate body itself.

*Any chief recognised by the Lord Lyon as chief of a clan or family is chief of all who bear the name of the clan or family and not only those belonging to a particular body.

As such Peter Carruthers of Holmains, within Scottish law and in the eyes of the Lord Lyon , remains the Chief of all who recognise their links to the Scottish border clan Carruthers.

Applicable to our Chief

Below is the information regarding the process that was applcable to the confirmation of our own chief in 2019. What is important is the concept of the derbhfine or family gathering, although used to choose a Commander, a chief must prove without doubt his/her lineage and right to bear the chiefly arms of the clan or family. As long as that lineage is proven and the individual is confirnmed he can near the arms og that clan or family, their country of residence is not an issue to the Lord Lyon;

The ad hoc derbhfine was an ancient process for choosing a successor to the late head of a royal house or great family. This process was adopted within the Scottish clan system for the purpose of selecting a chief involving selection by the great and the good of the clan of an individual from a group falling within the chiefly bloodline. That group essentially comprised all members of the clan, male or female, who could trace their ancestry to the most recent great grandfather in the chiefly line. With social and economic change this process fell into disuse in or around the 13th and 14th Centuries.

(As such there were two claimants to the Carruthers Arms – senior of the house of Holmains and senior of the House of Dormont, a cadet of Holmains but still on the ancestral lands. Both petitions were presented to the Lord Lyon for his judgement and decision, the former in January 2018, the latter in December 2017.

As petitioners with robust genealogy existed, a family gathering would not be considered anyway. )

Since at least the 16th Century to be recognised as chief of a clan or family has required an individual to be entitled to bear the undifferenced arms of the clan or family (i.e. the principal arms of the clan or family that descend from one chief to the next in undifferenced form through the generations) and so be “Chief of the Name and Arms” of the clan or family. It is for the Lord Lyon to determine who has legally succeeded and is entitled to bear the undifferenced arms of a clan or family.

To be recognised as entitled to bear the undifferenced arms an individual must establish the right by descent from the original grantee or in some cases from an ancient user of the arms and fall within the destination of the original grant of arms (Maclean of Ardgour v Maclean 1941 SC 613). To do that an individual requires to satisfy the Lord Lyon, on the balance of probabilities, by evidence (commonly, birth, marriage and death certificates, entries from Parish Registers and the like) that the individual descends through each generation from the grantee or ancient user of the arms. The individual must also bear (whether historically or by formal change of name) as sole surname the name of the clan or family.

Where the undifferenced arms have descended through the same family for many generations it may be relatively straightforward to prove entitlement to bear the undifferenced arms. For example, where a chief has matriculated the undifferenced arms in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland it may be that the heir need prove only descent from the late chief to prove entitlement to the arms and so to the chiefship.

The task is more difficult where the chief of a clan or family has been unknown for some time, perhaps decades or centuries. In such circumstances an individual need prove not only that person’s own descent from the original grantee or ancient user through each and every generation but also that any and all superior lines of descent have been extinguished in accordance with the law applicable to establishing such extinctions.

For example, where in one generation there were six brothers and the person making the claim is descended from the sixth and youngest brother, that person would require to satisfy the Lord Lyon not only of that person’s own descent but also that all lines descending from the five older brothers – each of whom would have a senior and so superior claim to the undifferenced arms – has been extinguished. This task must be carried out through all the relevant previous generations.


Simply put, our chief is the chief by virtue of proof and is such of all those who carry the name Carruthers or derivations of the same.

This society, set up to support the finding and confirmation of a chief through the Lord Lyon, is officially authorised by our chief; Carruthers of Holmains to represent our family name wherever they may hail and as such it is open to anyone living in or outside of Scotland and we wish you well.


But who is our chief;

Carruthers Chiefs Arms

Peter Carruthers was born in India in 1954 to Charles and Molly Carruthers, British expats working in the Tea Trade. Peter’s grandfather Col Nigel Laurie Carruthers was a senior officer in the British Army in India while his father Charles Nigel Simon Carruthers, served as a Royal Marine Commando officer during the Second World War. Charles was one of the first to lead his men into Hong Kong, during its repatriation from the Japanese.

His mother Molly, was the daughter of British expat parents living and working in Burma whom, after the Japanese invasion of the country, took the infamous and hazardous Naga Trail into India in 1942 after the order by the British High Command to evacuate Burma. Many who attempted the journey, died in their attempt.

Charles and Molly were married in London in 1951 at St Judes Church, South Kensingtom in 1951. Their time in India finished 6 months after Peter was born, when they decided to return back to the UK and family. Peter spent his childhood, informative and educational years in the UK, attaining not only a PhD, but other post graduate qualifications. He is married with two children, the son and eldist is a pilot and his daughter is a research scientist working in genetics.

Our Chief can trace his direct ancestral line back through Carruthers of Holmains into Carruthers of Mouswald, and some say beyond and as such and as senior of our line, is recognised as the hereditary Chief of the clan and family of Carruthers.

Genealogy of the Chiefly line of Carruthers

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