Clan Carruthers, Mouswald

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Carruthers of Mouswald, Shield Bearer to the Red Douglas and more on Marion of Mouswald.

WW2 Soldiers taken at the ruins of Mouswald Tower, note the Drumlanrig Arms above the gateway

Carruthers, Logan Estate and Cornal Tower

At the entrance to the dale of Moffat, in the parish of Moffat in upper Annandale in the county of Dumfriesshire, lay the ruins of Cornel Tower, an ancient Border Keep that once stood in defence of the area. Although an old Keep it had been turned into a mansion by the owners of Percornal or Logan estate, ie the family of Carruthers. The estate itself was of a reasonable size, consisting and including the farms of Craigbeck, Breconside, Logan-Woodhead, Logan-Woodfoot and Crofthead. In the early 1400’s these and many other lands were granted by Archibald, Earl of Angus (the Red Douglas) to Carruthers of Mouswald.

Ancient Arms of Carruthers and Mouswald

The first charter was granted to Simon (Symon) 4th of Mouswald, in December 1411 at Lochmaben. These were granted for services rendered and along with other parcels of land, led to Mouswald being made a barony during the Chiefship of John 6th of Mouswald, Captain of Lochmaben Castle.

The Red and Black Douglas were two lines of the same family, which appeared after the second Earl of Douglas was killed at Otterburn in 1388, leading to the two branches ie Red; Earl of Angus, Black: Earl of Douglas following their own paths. The black Douglas fell from favour, who in their attempt to usurp the crown, faced a Royal army led by the Red Douglas leading to their defeat at Arkinholm in 1455 and so their decline began.

The Red Douglas line became the Duke of Douglas which is now represented by the Duke of Hamilton. If Douglas were to have a chief confirmed, that line would be senior and heirs male of the House of Douglas. However, Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 16th Duke of Hamilton, 13th Duke of Brandon would be required to rescind his claim as Chief of Clan Hamilton, which to date he has chosen not to.    

According to A Marchbank in her histoical book on Annandale published in 1901, when discussing Carruthers of Mouswald and Cornell Tower, Carruthers is described as Shield Bearers to the Red Douglas. A shield bearer held an important role on the field, and was there to protect the commander in times of battle and if true, an interesting add on to our history. This is the first time this particular link with Douglas has been mentioned here.

County Directory 1893-1896

Marchbank further quotes the local historian Mr. Charles Stewart of Hillside, by Lockerbie, who stated that Carruthers were known as a ‘gallant race of knights, distinguished in Border warfare from the time of Wallace downward (back in time)’ and while discussing Breconside as part of the Mouswald estate, Carruthers were also considered and named as a patriotic and generally Presbyterian family with Covenanter sympathies, who had once held much land in the area.

According to electricscotland; Mr. Charles Stewart had long held the reputation of being an indisputable authority on historical subjects, specially bearing on Dumfriesshire, and who himself has published an admirable little work, which has already received the share of public approbation which it merits

However, the Logan estate did not remain with our family but passed to other hands, and in that lies the tragic tale of Marion, daughter of the last chief of the Mouswald line.

It seems according to written records of the time that when Carruthers of Mouswald received the charter for the Logan estate, Archibald Douglas, who was 13th Lord of Annandale had an ulterior motive, as he wished to ensure order was kept in what was then quite a troublesome part of Annandale. As such Carruthers, who it seems were highly though of, was given Cornel Tower. The tower itself, was it seems once a hunting tower of the old Scottish Monarchs.

Cornel Tower, and Sir Simon Carruthers, last of Mouswald

Moffat Hills (wiki)

History shows that Carruthers maintained ownership, to include tthrough the time that James V allegedly walked around his kingdom as the ‘Guidman of Ballengiech’, until the death of Simon 10th of Mouswald, with Marchbank suggesting that his two daughters, Marion and Janet were born there.

Arms of Mouswald in the late 15th century up to the demise of Sir Simon Carruthers 10th of Mouswald

As we know, their father Sir Simon Carruthers 10th of Mouswald and 5th Baron, was killed on a border raid in 1548.

As there were no male heirs and under the guise of being granted ‘wards and marriage’ of the girls, Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig (a member of the Black Douglas line) went after the lands of the Barony of Mouswald which included, Cornal Tower by attempting to marry off the two orphans as his wards.

However the girl’s uncle, Charles Murray of Cockpool stepped in to try to prevent any ‘marrying off’ of the orphan girls. It seems that Janet succumed and was married off to Thomas Rorison of Bardanoch, who it was said was in the employ of Drumlanrig, but Marion, having a will of her own, refused. The reason it seems, and according to legend (see below), was that she had already taken a lover.

Janet, on the other hand in agreeing to marry, lost her lands and was given 1000 merks and ‘sustenance’ for two years for her and her husband in return for the rights of her half of the Barony Of Mouswald, which included the Logan estate.

Marion however, continued to refuse any of Douglas’s suitors and advised that she would marry whomever she so pleased and would dispose of her half of Mouswald as she saw fit. To prevent any rebellion by Marion, James Douglas raised ‘letters of intention’ in an attempt to protect his own legal right to the lands under the gift of ‘Ward and Marriage’. This would only allow Marion to marry of his choosing and prevent her marrying anyone else.

The very next day, Douglas offered Marion, John M’Math of Dalpedder as a suitor and a personal friend of his, who allegedly was of no great repute. Marion refused and hightened tempers ensued, as such Marion was sent to her kinsman John Borthwick, 4th Lord Borthwick in 1562, and the case went to the Privy Council.

The Council agreed that Marion need not obliged to marry a ’traitor or broken man’. It was at this stage that she tried to bequeath her share of the lands to her uncle, Charles Murray of Cockpool.

By 1564, two years had gone by since she had left Sir James Douglas and sixteen since her father’s sad death, but Douglas did not give up on the land he wanted, and got the transaction with her uncle declared illegal.

It was at this point that Mariuon went to live with her uncle, at his home at Comlongon Castle, situated 6 miles south east of Dumfries. It was here that the tragedy of Marion comes to the fore, as she either leapt or was deliberately pushed off the battlements to her death. Interestingly the official records record suicide, while the peoples in the surrounding areas, at least up until the 1800’s, still considered that she was murdered for her lands.

As such the male line of Carruthers of Mouswald was declared extinct on the death of Sir Simon in 1548, and the ownership of any Mouswald lands came to an end in 1588 and passed to the Douglas’s of Drumlanrig.

Legend linked to Marion Carruthers of Mouswald

Comlongon Castle

The following information, according to Marchbank, was passed by word of mouth from Mr. Charles Stewart of Hillside, by Lockerbie, a renowned historian of the area and in his time, during a conversation to a Mr Samuel Neil while they were discussing Cornel Tower, as such there is no evidence to support it as fact. However, it may well fit the facts, but only time and reserch will tell.

It seems that two Lairds were in love with Marion, one of whom she favoured. The one slighted by Marion was not happy and swore to have her by fair mans or foul. He then sought the assistance of one of Marion’s kinswomen, a niece of hers, bwho worked in the Keep who it seems knew of Marions lover and may even have acted as a go-between.

The slighted lover was made aware of a rendezvous between Marion and her chosen lover, although Marion had not been made aware of the meet. As such the niece dressed as Marion and set out to deliberately be seen by the lover, walking hand in hand with the slighted laird. However, Marion’s lover found out about the ruse and challenged his rival to duel, killing the laird who had set up the plot to deceive. This led to Marion’s lover becoming a ‘traitor and broken man‘ in the eyes of others and unable to marry Marion, but in her eyes it is said he was always ‘her ain true love’.

After Marion’s tragic death, her lands were passed to the crown but Sir James Douglas immediately petitioned for them. James VI chose to grant Marion’s share of Mouswald to the eldest son of Sir James Douglas in 1570. This ensured that he had achieved his goal and that the vast estate that was the Barony of Mouswald fell under the ownership of the Douglases of Drumlanrig. In fact, to this day, on the ruins of Mouswald tower, the arms of Drumlanrig albeit very worn, may still be seen in old photographs above the entrance replacing, one has to assume, the ancient arms of Carruthers.


It is always good to gain snippets regarding our family, especially as they reflect our ancestors in a positive light. A shield bearer was an important role in protecting whoever was in charge during any battle, and was seen as most trusted. However, as can be seen with Marion, not all of a name are the same and James Douglas of Drumlanrig’s lust for more land, just added to the extinguishing and extinction of the Mouswald line in the mid 16th century.

In 1548, the chiefship passed to the senior Cadet of Holmains where it lies to this day. Interestingly, during thec petition for the Chiefship by Carruthers of Holmains, Mouswald was discussed with the authorities and were advised that as an extinct line, it could not to be resurrected.

What was intriguing was the legend surrounding Marion and her lover, confirmation of her suitor and further that as we knew, Carruthers on the norm were a Presbyterian family with strong Covenanter sympathies. However, this of course does not support the fairy-tale that all Carruthers moved to America and were replaced by doppelgangers as claimed by the more dubious of those who purport to represent our family.

Therefore as a society, it is always interesting to fill in the gaps relating to our clan and family and its history, however small.  

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