Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: The family, the Templars, Hospitillers and Trailtrow – the facts.

Records within our family suggests that Carruthers were Keepers of the Trailtrow Preceptory. This has caused us to speculate that we are linked to either the Order of the Knights Templars or the Knights Hospitallers. As such and accepting the intrique these orders stimulate has set out a romantic picture and allowed the imagination of some to run away with them.

So what is the likelyhood that as Keepers of the Trailtrow Preceptory we were linked in some way with the military orders in Scotland.

The 4 military orders in Scotland 12th – 16th century

A great piece was published on the 4 Military-religious orders in Scotland by Dr Rory Maclellan for History Scotland, which is well worth the read.

It seems that these orders were known to have been in Scotland from 1128 until 1564, appreciating the first ‘recorded’ use of our name was William De Carruthers who died circa 1245, it puts a family time line into context.

We also know that, at least regarding the Hospitallers, they were still active during the tenure of Andrew Foreman Archbishop of St Andrews (1514-1521) (same era as Simon Carruthers 9th of of Mouswald, chartered 1320 and John Carruthers 4th of Holmains , chartered 1361), where he writes of a lay reader who had taken a vow to support, by attendance at the House of St John of Jerusalem in Rhodes ie the Knights Hospitallers. However. it seems his age and financial situation prevented him from doing so. This letter is still in the St Andrews Formulare.

This lay reader was not on his own as many Scots had joined the ranks of the Templars and Hospitallers over the 400 years they were in Scotland. However, no record exists of any knight of any of these orders coming from our family and like most who did join, many became support and ancillary staff to the knights, both at home and abroad.

The Templars were the first of the orders to be formed. This was by Hugh de Payens and Godfrey St Omer in 1120 in order to protect and guard pilgrim routes.

The Hospitallers, as the name suggests began as a hospital in Jerusalem, founded by Italian merchants from the Amalfi coast sometime in the 1070’s. Initially carers and medics, they became a military order 60 years later, in the 1130s.

There was of course another order, the Order of St Lazarus, which started from a Leper hospital for knights outside Jerusalem’s walls. They seemingly took part in the battles against the Saracens and held lands in St Giles Church in Edinburgh.

The 4th order was the order, again from a hospital base, this time called St Thomas of Acre, which was militarised in the early 1200’s.

These four orders, existed in Scotland for a period and for various lengths of time, which only began in the reign of David 1st (1124-1153), who gave them lands or holdings. Not all held building but all paid rents to the order they were linked to. In fact according to the Peterborough Chronicle, Hugh De Payne, travelled to Scotland in 1128, a year later 1129 the Templars became established in Scotland. It seems that rather than military, their whole raison d’être was purely economic, as such they were not warriors, but monks, recruiters, landlords and businessmen according to History Scotland.

Even though Trailtrow/Trevertrold was mentioned during the time that David was Prince of Cumbria (1113-1124), the ‘lands’ themselves were owned by the church, as many lands were and definately not by any military orders, as the latter didn’t exist in Scotland until at least 4 years later.

However, Templars and Hospitallers did hold lands throughout Scotland, with the Lazarites holding lands in Fife, Elgin, Dunbar. Linlithgow and Edinburgh. It seems that the order of St Thomas, according to records shows only one charter of lands for a hospital in Ayrshire.

What is interesting is that, according to History Scotland, all four orders reported to a leadership in England, although after 1314 Hospitaller knights started to have Scottish names such as Seton, Lindsey and Fordoun. The links with England would have been severed or at least seriously damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence as loyalty to either the country or the order existed for some.

In 1297, when Murray and Wallace rose up, it is said that at the Battle of Falkirk the master of the English Templars was amongst the English dead and both the masters of the Scottish Templars and Hospitillers also died on the English side.

As we know, the demise of the Templars occurred in 1307, but was finalised in 1312 by Pope Clement V with no evidence of its survival after that date. All Templar lands were therefore assigned to the Hospitallers who, after 1314 came under direct Scottish control.

Having discussed this possibility at length with the archaeology department of Dumfries and Galloway Council regarding any physical evidence of a building linked to either order in Trailtrow, it seems that none exist. If that is the case what was the Trailtrow Preceptory.

As previously stated in the link above, not all lands held by the Templars or Hospitallers had buildings nor in fact an ongoing presence by the members of the orders themselves. In fact the evidence does show that we were ‘Keepers of the Trailtrow Preceptory’ as recorded by Bain in his piece on the Carruthers of Mouswald, published in the Procedures of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 1889-1890. However, could this have simply alluded to lands managed by our family and rents paid. If a preceptory building existed, to whom did it belong and further was it a preceptory of a Military order or of the Church?

Reserching further into this, there was in fact a Trailtrow Chapel, not a preceptory per se and also lands called Trailtrow both of which are linked to the family of Carruthers.

Trailtrow Chapel

Trailtrow Burial Ground as stated in find a grave, as being adjacent to Trailtrow Chapel which is located on Trailtrow Hill, near Hoddom. The piece further states;

The Chapel was demolished in the late 1500’s but the burial ground continued in use with the last burial taking place in 1941. The oldest surviving headstone records a death in 1670. Trailtrow Tower (aka Repentance Tower) was erected in 1563 within the walls of the burial ground. This three-storey tower house was erected by Sir John Maxwell of Terregles and formed part of a chain of elevated defence posts which warned against English raiding parties who crossed the border.

Repentance Tower on Trailtrow hill. Wikipedia

In 1548 an English force challenged the Douglases at Durisdeer, who were under the charge of Sir John. The night before the battle, he had been bribed to change sides in exchange for the hand of Agnes Herries and the title Lord Herries. His treachery, however, cost the lives of 12 of his kinsmen, who had been held at Carlisle Castle as hostages, one of which was his 12-year-old nephew. Maxwell was said to have built the tower as a sign of his remorse.

Another version of the tale has it that Repentance Tower was so-called because Lord Herries built nearby Hoddom Castle out of stones from Trailtrow Chapel. The burial ground has been 100% photographed and transcribed. Several headstones are fallen face-down but all except one were transcribed in 1966 before they toppled.

It is therefore fair to assume that, as both the Keepers of Trailtrow Preceptory and the Old Kirk Ford at Hoddom, the Chapel seems the logical place to be linked to a ‘Trailtrow Preceptory’. As Trailtrow is not listed on any lands owned by any of the military orders in Scotland, we have to assume the chapel may have been wrongly named or linked to a military order, or alternatively taken over by such an order with no records to support this hypothesis. Therefore in this instance and at this stage. the only logical stance would be that the Chapel did in fact belong to the Church.

Hospitals at Trailtrow.

But what about a hospital run by a Preceptor and the potential link to the Hospitallers. Trailtrow is mentioned as having a hospital dedicated to St James from 1363-1574, for the benefit of the poor.

In the book; Medieval Religious Houses by Ian Cowan and David Easson, published by Longman Group in 1957, 1976 (pp 163) they comment that some hospitals were in fact run by monastic orders rather than by a military order. These included such groups as the Augustines, the Trinitarians or the hospital itself may have had no links to any religious body at all ie secular and run by the community.

On page 194 of the book it states that there is, as previously alluded to, a reference to a poor’s hospital at Trailtrow (1455), but a reference to a petition of 1363 to a ‘certain hospital’ having a parish church annexed to it almost certainly refers to this same hospital. Preceptors of the same are in fact mentioned until 1574, one of which was designated in 1501 as the preceptor of St James of Trailtrow, but are they linked to the Hospitallers.

However, although not Templar related there may yet be a link. According to McDowall in his the History of Dumfries, it seems that the Hospitallers had a ‘cure’ at Trailtrow granted to them by James VI. But sadly this is countered by the Scottish History Society’s 1983 publication by Cowan, Mackay and Macquarrie whose research of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers) which inluded their administration and recorded properties in Scotland does not include Trailtrow, although 37 properties are listed for Dumfriesshire. Interestingly, having heard of the archives of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem in Valetta at the National Library of Malta at Valletta, their is still no mention of Trailtrow from even that source.


The common belief that a preceptory, headed by a preceptor is always linked to either the Templars or Hospitallers is incorrect. However, Cowen and Easson further state (pp 159), that “The term Preceptory was by no means applied merely to the houses of Templars and Hospitallers. It is also a common synonym for the mastership of a hospital and is also used in connection of a monastic cell.” It is also mentioned that in the context of the ‘preceptory’ being discussed, preceptor as “refers to the office of the head of a quasi-collegiate group of priests serving the chapel“. As such it again points back to the Church and Carruthers as Keepers of either the Hospital, the Chapel or both.

The Lands of Trailtrow.

The existence and placement of the lands of Trailtrow is recorded in the ‘Inquest of David Text Translation and Notes‘ (T.T. Brown. Jan 1895. pp 36-46). It further seems that the lands of Trailtrow, whose ancient name was Trevertrold, was in fact merged with Cummertrees parish. As a reference point, Cummertrees is approximately 22 minutes by car south of Lockerbie, near the Solway coast.

The David in this text was Earl/Prince of Cumbria (1113-1124) at the time, and it occurred pre his accession to becoming King David 1 of Scotland. The piece itself in a large part was about reinstating Church property to include Trailtrow/Trevertrold to the diocese of Glasgow. Again a link to the Church and not a military order.

Carruthers and Cummertrees.

Holmains (1) top central, Mouswald (2) left central and (K)ummertrees bottom left.

So what is the link to Cummertrees in which Trailtrow existed and to our family. It is recorded that in 1452, William John Creichton the then Chancellor of Scotland, granted to his ‘well beloved cousin‘ John Carruthers of Mousfald (being John 6th of Mouswald who was to become 1st Baron ed) the lands of Cummertrees.

These lands were again added to the Mouswald estate by King James II of Scotland (1430 – 1460) and in 1452 by a grant of the lands, which John had previously inherited from his father Andrew (5th of Mouswald) to include Cummertrees and Hoddom were ‘by the Kings hands in Edinburgh’, united into the free barony of Carruthers (Mouswald). This made John Carruthers 6th of Mouswald its 1st Baron.

The barony was granted just two years before John died in 1454 and his son Archibald, as 7th of Mouswald, became 2nd Baron.

John is recorded as being Captain of the Royal Castle of Lochmaben during this period and it was during this time that it was captured by the Johnstones. John was either killed in its defence or died as a captive.

In 1548, on the death of Sir Simon Carruthers 10th of Mouswald, 5th Baron and on the extinction of the Mouswald line, the Barony of Mouswald was a huge estate and covered; Mouswald itself, its tower and its church, Howthwaite, Hetlandhill with Tower, Fortalice (a fortified home) and mill, Logan-tenement and mill, Dronok and its fisheries, Cummertrees, Stenries, Pennersaughs and church, Middlebie and church, Westcales, Hoddom, Holms of Annan (Blaeberrylands), Westwood and Rafflegill. All these lands came directly from the Crown and on top of this they owned Cumlongonwood, Dunnabie, Kirtlehouse, Trailflat (Trayleflat) and of course the original and ancient lands of Carruthers, from which we take our name.

So accepting that, at least in the concept and understanding of archeological sites, specifically looking for evidence of a Templar or Hospitallers presence in our area none exist for Trailtrow to date. As such we have to presume that if linked at all and the evidence is stacking against it, rather than a building owned and maintained by the Templars or Hospitallers, land may have been farmed and rents paid to the order/s. Or as is starting to emerge, the building ie the Chapel and Hospital were owned and run by the Church.

Templar/Hospitaller lands in Annandale

So does that mean that our perception and considered links to the Templars or the Hospitallers doesn’t exist if Trailtrow was, as we now believe ‘of’ the Church rather than ‘of’ a military order. Actually, not at all as a little more investigative research has proven.

In the publication covering the Scottish History Society’s 4th series Vol 19 (1983), it is clearly stated that lands held by the Barony of Mouswald and the Barony of Holmains were linked to either or both the Order of the Knights Templars or the Hospitallers. The records show that rents were at the very least received by the Hospitallers, but the link to the Templars cannot be discounted accepting that the Hospitallers had absorbed all the Templar lands in Scotland.

Regarding Carruthers, these included rents from lands owned by us ie;

*the Church in the lands of Carruthers itself, *lands in the parishes of Hoddom, *Pennersax/Pennersaughs and Tundergarth (owned by Carruthers of Mouswald) and *rent from lands in the parishes of Corrie and Moffat (owned by Carruthers of Holmains) as well.

However, again no indication nor mention of Trailtrow other than for the Hospitillers, nor whether the lands mentioned originally paid rent to the Templers, but they definately did after their demise, the Hospitallers. As such the conclusion has to be that Trailtrow was not linked to the Templars as we thought, but probably belonged to the Church.

Carruthers and the military orders.

Tempar and Hospitaller. wiki

It is also obvious that Carruthers, dating back to the reign of David I, held lands upon which parcels or in one instance a church, paid rent to one of the military orders, the rental records of the Hospitallers confirm this. One can only surmise therefore that the lands/church would have been contracted out ie managed by the landowners in the area, in these instances Carruthers on behalf of the military order who owned it. It is also shown that in the latter years on the demise of the orders Carruthers, as can again be seen by the records, took ownership of these lands.

To summarise: Carruthers were in fact amongst other things, Keepers of the Trailtrow Preceptory, that seems to be without question. The evidence to date however, suggests that their involvement was with the Church and not a military order, such as the Templars.

Carruthers and the fleurs de lis/French link

It is also evidenced, backed by their own records that the Hospitallers recieved rent from lands and a church in the areas owned by Carruthers. As such, if this is the only order involved and not in fact the Knights Templars and because of the extent of the lands the Hospitallers themselves owned in the area and their Italian origin, is very feasible and in fact more likely that the use of the fleurs de lis on our newer arms has no french/Templar link but rather, as has long been believed by our society, links with the Scottish church of the time and the religious beliefs of our forebears.

As usual, as more questions are answered, still more appear and the therefore the research goes on.


1 thought on “CLAN CARRUTHERS: The family, the Templars, Hospitillers and Trailtrow – the facts.”

  1. What a great article! Thank you for sharing this interesting information. Also, I have always believed there was no connection to French/Templar for the “Fleurs de lis” and did subscribe to the religious link of the Scottish church.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.