Dunscore is a small village of around 150 people which lies 9 miles (14 km) northwest of Dumfries.
It is famous for its Lag Tower once owned by the Grierson family, a dominant family in the area The Tower sits on high ground above the Lagan Burn, just north/east of the village.
Dating from the 1400’s, it was originally a very impressive defensive structure being 4 storeys high and overlooking the surrounding area, with a large walled courtyard as it’s base.
The Grierson family lost members at both the battles of Sauchieburn (1488) and Flodden Field (1513). During the days of the Covenanters, it is recorded that in 1685 a Robert Grierson was a known persecutor.
In a report published in the Scottish Daily Record in November 2022, by Jackie Grant , a huge hoard of 1000’s of coins dating from the 13th and 14th century, has been found by detectorists, near Dunscore. It is believed to be one of the largest ever found in Scotland, although not anywhere near as large, a similar hoard consisting of English, Scottish and continental coins was found at Montrave, Fife in 1877.
Montrave is a small village an estate near Leven, Fife, where again coins from the reigns of Edward I and II were part of the Hoard.
Although the silver coins, worth many thousands of pounds in today’s value and coveting ‘a mixture of Scottish, English, Irish and continental coins’, the archaeological value is much more important to Scottish heritage.
The majority of the nearly 8500 coins found however are English pennies from the reigns of Edward I and II. This would have been the era of the battles for Scottish independence from 1296 to 1329 and during the time of Wallace and Robert the Bruce, which may or may not have relevance to the find.
Once the Hoard was reported, the officials and archaeologists from the Scottish Treasure Trove Unit and the National Museums Scotland became involved to itemise and record the find. Any finds of this nature immediately become the property of the Crown on Scotland, although they do not always exercise that right. The decision is made by the King’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer based on the advice of the Scottish Archaeological Finds Allocation Panel. When it is however, an ex gratia payment is made to the finder.
(According to Rod Blunt, it wasnt until the early 1900’s that a reasonable classification allowing distinction between the coinage of Edward I, Edward II and Edward II, was made. This was due to the fact that the practice of differentiating which king was which on their coinage, introduced by Henry III, was not continued. It seems that all English pennies over the three kings, simply bore the name ‘Edward’, while their basic design remained the same.)
According to the newspaper; ‘Dunscore Hoard’ comes 8 years after the Galloway Hoard of 100 objects from around 900 AD was unearthed at Balmaghie in 2014. Dunscore sits 153 miles north-east of Balmaghie whose hoard was of Viking origin. Being very much coastal and unlike Dumfriesshire, Galloway was an area much more influenced by Vikings, while Dumfriesshire was definitely a shire much less influenced and more so by the Angles and Saxons. There of course was also the English influence as a route through which invading and retreating English military took.
Where did ‘it’ come from?
Although we cannot say for definite how the hoard got there, we know for certain that the West March saw much fighting between the Scots and the English, as such it could have easily been accumulated in relation to some military campaign, castle garrison or rich Scottish noble…….or not?
In an attempt to control his northern neighbours, in the early 1290”s, Edward I attempted to exert feudal sovereignty over an unwilling Scotland. This was the action which lit the touch paper, initiating a serious and deep resentment and hatred leading to many years of war. It was this action alone that initiated what is now called the ‘Auld Alliance’ with France.
After the defeat at Falkirk 1298, Wallace decided to concentrate his recruitment south of the Forth. Due to his popularity he gathered enough fighting men around him to come close to the recapture of Stirling Castle. However, at a meeting of the Scottish nobles, it was decided that Wallace would resign his guardianship, being replaced by the Earl of Carrick, the young Robert the Bruce conjointly with a young John Comyn as joint guardians. This was done in an attempt to unify the factions and strengthen the Scottish resistance, however that in itself was false hope.
Why is this relevant with respect to the hoard?
Well the target chosen for the next attack against the English troops was an area where they were deemed to be most weak i.e. Annandale and Nithsdale. Nithsdale lies on the western border of Annandale and it is in this area of the West March in which Dumfries and Dunscore sits.
The Scots attacked in such force that it reverberated with the garrison in Carlisle castle who feared an attack on them. Dumfries Castle was taken by the Scots, with Caerlaverock and Lochmaben in Annandale being their next targets. As such Edward I tried to strengthen it, but supply lines were stretched to the limits.
In 1299 the young Carrick, lay siege on Lochmaben Castle, but failed to take it. Interestingly, Bruces father continued to support Edward, as did some of his retainers and tenants in Annandale, although there is no evidence Caruthers were amongst them and based on the charter given to Thomas the Clerk, 1st of Mouswald in 1320 by Robert the Bruce for loyalty and service, possibly not. However, Kirkpatrick, Jardine. Totherwald and Bosco did, but later switched sides to support the Bruce.
This wasn’t to be the end of it, Edwards men recaptured Dumfries in 1300 and Caeverlock in 1301. On reaching Kirkcudbright, Comyn and the Earl of Buchan approached Edward for a truce, but the negotiations failed. Interestingly, on the way back down to Carlisle he stopped by Sweetheart Abbey where he was advised that the Pope (Boniface VIII 1294 – 1303) had issued an edict under the threat of Suspension for the Church, censoring Edward for his maltreatment of the Scots. He further ‘demanded’ that his claim over ‘overlordship’ of Scotland be brought before a papal court.
As such a Scottish peace delegation was met at Dumfries, and although Edward blustered with threats of annihilation of the Scots, common sense prevailed and he accepted the truce for a period of 6 months. After the 6 months was up, he again invaded Scotland in a two pronged attack from both east and west.
One attack, led by his son Edward Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne, moved up through Dumfrisshire towards the Ayrshire, the other led by the king himself who attacked through Berwick on Tweed, through Tweeddale to join forces on the lower side of the Clyde. From there the plan was to conjoin and retake Stirling, thus controlling the Southern aspect of Scotland. Things didn’t quite pan out like this. The English army under Edward Prince of Wales encamped at Dumfries with any advanced being attacked with hit and run tactics by a detachment of the Scottish Army under the Earl of Buchan and the Earl of Carrick. This pushed this faction into the West towards Loch Ryan in Galloway, allowing the then Scottish Guardian Sir John De Soules to recruit from the men of Annandale and Nithsdale.
The Scots then attacked Lochmaben but failed to take it, they then raised the town of Annan in a ‘scorched earth’ movement, to reduce the availability of supplies from there to the English forces.
King Edward on the other hand, had reached Stirling but failed to take it and wishing a lasting peace with King Philip of France, who insisted the Scots sit at the table allowed a truce to occur. This did not curtail Edwards need to take Scotland as such monies and men were transferred to Dumfries and Lochmaben to strengthen the garrisons there, with view to continuing the war once King Edward had again stabilised his forces.
It is reputed at that Wallace masterminded a 3 pronged attack in 1303, whereby Annandale and Liddesdale east of what was to become the debatable lands, just inside the Scottish Middle March, were burnt. There was also a greater force which had invaded England and was attacking Carlisle, while a 3rd under Wallace himself attacked around Dumfries and Caerlaverock. This led to the acting Warden of Galloway and Nithsdale to urgently request monies from the exchequer in York to pay his men, as they were abandoning their posts.
Edward retaliated by sending a large force to regain the territory, driving the Scots back behind what was the line of the Antonine wall between the Clyde and the Forth. Once again peace was sought, and Wallace was hunted by both English and treacherous Scots and eventually captured, but not before Edward I raised Stirling Castle to the ground with his siege engines and ‘Greek Fire’ especially his largest the Warwolf (Loup de Guerre). Scotland was under English control.
This progressively led to the horrific death of Wallace, many Scots losing lands and Robert, Earl of Carrick, Lord of Annandale coming to the fore. He was supported by the Scottish church who wished their own independence from the Church of England. Bruce killed Comyn in Greyfriers kirk in Dumfries in 1306 and along with his forces he took Caerlaverock, Lochmaben, Dalswinton, Tibbers and Ayr, but couldnt garrison them so he fouled the wells and burnt them down.
Edward then declared Bruce’s lands forfeit, however supported by Bishop Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow and his increasing popularity and army, Bruce was crowned King of Scots in 1306. War ensued and Edward once again invaded, the Prince up the west through Annandale and the king up the east of Scotland, retaking the castles and towns taken by Bruce. After a few battles, Bruce’s cause seemed lost, taking refuge in Turnbury Castle, seat of Carrick.
Although slowly cordoned by English troops, Bruce managed to escape their grasp before the cordon was complete and living off the land. Still popular, he managed to recruit but it wasn’t until the battle of Loudoun Hill that Bruce’s luck improved. Through strategy and tactics and his men outnumbered 5/1, he beat the English troops. News of this victory travelled fast and supporters joined his ranks.
This brought Edward I off his sickbed to lead and army into Scotland. He died before crossing into Scotland at Burgh – by – Sands on July 1307. At his behest, his body was boiled, all flesh removed and his bones were carried before his army, only to be buried when the Scots were finally brought to heel. The crown was then passed to his heir, Edward Prince of Wales, not a popular man by all accounts and incapable of taking good advice.
It wasn’t until a month later that Edward II set out from Carlisle to reach Dumfries and from there to Cumnock in what is now East Ayrshire. From here he headed back to Tinwald North East of Dumfries. Bruce at the time was in Galloway, plundering the land. This turned out to be a feint to draw the English, allowing him to move north. By 1309, Bruce controlled the whole of Scotland north of the Clyde-Forth line, while the Borders continued to be harried by Sir James Douglas, at Bruce’s command.
The English occupation of the Scottish West March and in fact the whole of Southern Scotland continued for many years, but a truce was offered by Edward II to Bruce in the beginning of 1309. As neither had any real intention to honour the truce, it did give strategic breathing space to both camps. Bruce to consolidated his position in the north and Edward strengthened his position in the Lowlands of Scotland. Once the Truce ran out in November 1309 Edward planned to invade again but it delayed due to problems with his own Barons. Even when he decided to invade in late 1310, and reaching Renfrew, his plans for further action were thwarted through a lack of support and he had to withdraw.
Being constantly harassed by Bruces troops, he fell back to Berwick to sit out the winter. However his wish to renew his invasion the following year (1311) into what was now Bruce controlled lands, was stopped through lack of funds as the English Parliament refused to finance it, and he returned south.
At this point, Bruce moved into Annandale, driving the English out. Bruce then crossed the border into England getting monies from selling truces to landowners to finance his army. From the West, Bruce moved into the East Marches of both England and Scotland. By 1313 many castles and keeps in English hands had fallen to Bruce, to include Dumfries. However, Lochmaben held out and records show that the soldiers there had received their wages from the exchequer, this time at Carlisle. But inevitably, Lochmaben and Caerlaverock in the south west were taken.
During the increase in Bruce’s successes many Scottish nobles, finally believing there was a real chance to break free of the English yoke, changed sides and him their allegiance.
Bruces brother Edward was tasked with taking Stirling, but through incompetence he chose to make a pact with the garrison of Stirling castle. This allowed them resupply and stay safely in their walls, allowing control of the central aspect of Scotland. It was tghis decision that acted as an anchor for Edward II’s invasion of 1314. His army, mainly funded by investors from outside of England, consisted of 18000 men of foot and 2500 armoured knights. This was a huge force for its time. Setting out from Wark on Tyne, he crossed the river Tweed and advanced up Lauderdale in the East March, heading up to Edinburgh, which had been taken in early 1314 by the Scots.
Deciding against being bogged down in a siege, Edward II turned towards Falkirk, where he camped overnight and then moved directly onto Stirling. It is reported the weather was not in his favour being very hot and muggy, and the rest they say is history. Bruce routed the English army at Bannockburn which lay south of Stirling Castle. This battle was to be the pivoting event in the War of Independence allowing Bruce to go on the offensive, taking the fight out of Scotland into northern England.
Interestingly at a Scottish Parliament held in Cumbuslang, south east of Glasgow, Bruce decreed that all Scottish nobles could not hold land in both Scotland and England to ensure loyalty was not compromised, and dues paid to Scotland alone. This decision was not extended to the families of Comyn and Balliol, whose lands were forfeited to the Scottish crown.
As Carruthers had been on their lands well before the arrival of the first Robert de Brus in 1070 and had held only Scottish lands, for them it wasn’t to be an issue. These lands were extended as previously mentioned by a charter given to Thomas, son of John Carruthers in 1320, by King Robert the Bruce himself. The lands of Mouswald were given in recognition for services to him. And so began the recognised start of the Chiefs of Carruthers. The Mouswald line became extinct in 1549 on the death of the last Mouswald chief in a border raid. The chiefship then passed to Holmains, whose line was started by John, younger brother of Thomas and where it lies to this day.
So why was this historical piece added, it was added to show that during the reigns of both Edward I and II that coinage from that era found in and around Dumfries would have been widely used by the garrisons, nobles and locals alike. It is also fair to state that, as the hoard consists of coins from Edward II, that it would have been gathered in whole or in part during his reign.
Without reasonable evidence, we can only really hypothesise. However, what is interesting is that it all adds to the rich tapestry of Scottish history and may one day become that lost piece of the jigsaw reflecting the lives of many of our ancestors in the border lands of Scotland.
NB: As an aside, historically the records clearly show that the line of Robert the Bruce died out with his son King David II leaving no issue and thus no direct descendants. Also, there is absolutely no evidence that William Wallace ever had any children, as such he also has no living descendants.