Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: The Scottish Reformation, our family and the Kirk.

Convenors’ personal crest – St Michael pinning the Beast

Throughout the ages, Carruthers have played a role not only as warriors, knights and Reivers but as men of peace. They preached from the pulpit to try to enhance and uplift the lives there congregations. If they weren’t of the church, they helped in its administration.

In the middle ages, it was not unusual for the second son to go into the Church as all the family possessions would be inherited by the first son and heir and until the 1500’s Scotland wa a Roman Catholic country. This changed with the Reformation, discussed later.

Although we have been involved in the church from early times, our involvement in the continues to this day. In Canada we must mention the father of Graham Carruthers, the Rev Gary R Carruthers who was well known and well-loved in his community in London Ontario and as a caring man of compassion and kindness.

In Scotland we have Rev David Carruthers in Argyll, in the parish of Ardrishaig whose kindness saved a Norwegian couples wedding. It seems that on the eve of their wedding they were advised that their transport had broken down and they struggled to get their guests to their church service and reception. David and his wife Ruth Carruthers, called everyone they knew with a car and the villaigers rallied and carried the guests in convoy. Now that’s a wedding to remember.

Of course we cannot forget the Rev Arthur Stanley Carruthers who co-wrote the tome; Records of the Carruthers Family’ in which over 1000 years of referenced Carruthers history is laid out for us to enjoy

Further our own Chief, Carruthers of Holmains has chaired a church charity for many years, set up for the benefit of the local communities in which they serve.

These are only a few of our family, who immediately spring to mind, and later we will look at some of our family from the past.

Accepting that not many records exist in Scotland for the general population beyond the 17th century. other recorded pieces still do exist. These include some legal documents deaing with the judiciary or the church. As such claims of ancestry going beyond the 1600 at best, have to be seriously questioned unless they carry solid documented evidence.

Based on the research we have carried out regarding our family, here are a just some of names covering around 600 years and although there are many more, we have chosen to pick up on only a few, covering both Christian denominations in this time span.

The Reformation

George Wishart (1513-1546)

We have to appreciate that until the mid 1500’s Catholicism was the religion of Scotland. It was only really in 1545 when George Wishart, began spreading the Protestant word that it started taking hold in our country. Wishart was eventually burnt to death for heresy at the behest of Cardinal Beaton, but the touch paper had been lit.

After the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh (1547) in which John Carruthers 5th of Holmains, 1st Baron, led a squadron of over 200 cavalry, bibles, translated from Latin into ‘English’ for those who could read, were distributed to the general population. Until then, very few off the common people had access to ‘the word of God’ relying purely on what they were taught from the pulpit. This ‘enlightenment’ and direct access spread like wildfire throughout the lowlands of Scotland.

A year later in 1548, after the extinction of the House of Mouswald on the death of Sir Simon, Holmains took on the mantle of Carruthers Chiefs.

With a Protestant Queen on the throne of England from 1558 in the form of Elizabeth I, those wishing to promote Protestantism in Scotland were emboldened and it wasn’t long until prayer meetings were taking place in town and country.

In 1557 some members of the Scottish nobility came together to promote the Protestant faith. This group became known in the general population as the Lords of the Congregation .

Progressively, whole towns were declaring themselves Protestant and by 1559, Perth and Dundee announced that they were now Protestant towns.

John Knox (1514-1572)

It was the arrival of John Knox, in that year that bolstered the Protestant cause. John, born in Haddington near Edinburgh in 1514 is recognised as the driving force behind the Scottish Reformation and who set a very austere moral code for the Church of Scotland and also its internal democratic governance it adopted.

Although trained for the Catholic priesthood, Knox was greatly influenced greatly by the teachings of George Wishart, Having spent some time in exile on the continent of Europe for his Protestant views, it was here that Knox took up the Protestant ministry at the behest of John Calvin. Calvin was another influencer on Knox’s life and beliefs, although both wee students of the works and teachings of Martin Luther.

On his return to his homeland Knox preached to a large congregation in Perth at St John’s Kirk. The sermon was so powerful it caused a riot against existing religious houses. Perth was taken and Stirling and Edinburgh soon followed. In fact John Knox became the minister of St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile.

During and after the reformation Catholicism was outlawed on Scotland and although still followed by many families, it wasn’t until the 17 and 1800’s that the Catholic faith was again given religious freedom and civil rights.

Catholicism did however survive through the reformation and in significant numbers around the country. These were mainly in and around Banffshire in the north-east, the Highlands and Islands in the west and further pockets in Galloway and Kirkcudbrightshire in the south-west and in Peeblesshire which lies south-west of Edinburgh.

However these days, religious preference is far more intermingled and widespread and the divisions only freaky noticeable at some football matches, although even there that religious divide may be slowly being diluted it seems.

For those claiming any Christian denomination in Scotland, the Church of Scotland remains dominant with Catholicism sitting at around 15% of the country’s population.

Middlebie Church (wiki)

Carruthers and the Church (13th c to 19th c)

  • One of the first recorded mentions of our name was Simon Carruthers, the Parson of Middlebie in 1296 . In those days, and in fact up until the Reformation in the 16th century, the Catholic Church was the national religion and a parson was a priest designated to a local area or parish. Simon is mentioned as having ‘bent the knee’ to Edward I of England, but whether by choice or coercion we will never know.
  • It is further recorded that in and around 1335, there are several references to Nigel Carruthers an ecclesiastic who was named Canon of Glasgow, to include one mentioning a ‘safe conduct’ at the time. Also, in 1370, John de Carruthers the Rector of Ruthwell, obtained permission from Edward II of England to attend Oxford University to study in his country.
  • As his chaplain, another Nigel Carruthers accompanied Thomas More/Mowre, the Abbot of Paisley who, in 1419 had received safe passage for a year through the English King’s dominions of England and France.
  • According to Exchequers Rolls, in 1436 Sir Lawrence Carruthers, a knight of the realm and member of the Mouswald family, was chaplain to Master John Gray of Bruges in Belgium. It seems that John was a member of the secret service at the time, intriguingly was our ancestor also a spy, the records do not enlighten us but an interesting conjecture never the less.
  • Moving on to 1479, Roger Carruthers is listed as both a member of the family of Carruthers of Mouswald, the chiefly line of the time as vicar of St Michaels Church, in his area.
  • The son of John Carruthers 4th of Holmains, Sir James Carruthers is listed as becoming Rector of Wamphry. It is noted that even after the Reformation he chose to adhere to the ‘old faith’ of Catholicism, but it is recorded that he suffered because of it and died a broken man in 1563.
  • In the year 1566, there is mention in the records of feu charter granted by Sir Mark Carruthers, chaplain of the Chapel founded near Dumfries for the augmentation of rent in favour of George Maxwell, Provost at the time. It is also known that as Rector of Mouswald, and also Notary Public he had a large public practice in the surrounding district of Dumfries.
  • The village of Little Dalton and Meikle, united by Parliament in 1609 was joined with Mouswald in a letter from James VI and in it John Carruthers is mentioned as the church Reader from 1567-1585.
  • Moving up to the 18th century, Fr James Carruthers (1759-1832) was a Roman Catholic priest and historian, who wrote two books on Scottish history. He was the brother of Bishop Andrew Carruthers, mentioned below. He served as the parish priest in his time at Glenlivet, Buchan, Enzie and St Marys New Abbey in Dumfries and was buried at Sweetheart Abbey.
  • Bishop Andrew Carruthers (1770-1852) was James’s brother. He is listed in the National Biographical Records as a Roman Catholic Bishop for the East of Scotland in the diocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. As a priest, he was founder of St Peters Chapel in Dalbeattie and became an active churchman in his home region of Kirkcudbright. He was elevated to the Episcopate as Bishop in St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, where he is buried.
  • It is recorded that a Rev David Carruthers was born in Moffat and was ordained in August 1786. He died in 1834, at the age of 74th and in the 48th year of his ministry to the North Church in Perth. He was followed into the ministry by his son William it seems.
  • Again in Moffat, a Thomas Carruthers was born in 1839. In 1839 he studied at the University and Free Church College, Glasgow. He was ordained at the Bridge of Weir in 1868. He was married in 1869 to Elizabeth Nisbit Johnston. It seems he was a popular preacher as his average parishioner attendance to his church in the Bridge of Weir, was around the 200 mark. This a large number even today. For this he received an annual stipend of £203 with a Manse. This was over £30,000 pounds in today’s money, a truly princely sum in the day.
  • Born in Applegarth in 1815, John Carruthers was a minister of the Free Church in Ayr, but in 1891 he applied to the Edinburgh Preceptory of the Original Secession Church to join them. His referees wrote offering m high praise in his preaching from not only his home area but Jason from his time in Carluke and Glasgow. He was licenced by the their Synod to preach. Sadly he died only 6 years later in Ayr in 1897.
  • Looking at the US, the Rev Richard Alexander Caruthers, born in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania and died in Bristow Osborne, Kansas in 1889 who brought the Methodist Church to Kansas. He was the great great grandfather of our Clan Commissioner for the USA Dana Caruthers Norton FSA Scot.
  • Back in Scotland, a Rev William Carruthers was called to Sunderland and Queensferry having been Ordained as colleague to his father David Carruthers. His ordination took place on the 23d October 1832. William died on the 23d June 1854, at the young age of 52. It is claimed by his peers that he had a quiet and useful ministry and offered great work from the pulpit.

These are only few of our family who have offered their services to God and the Church over the centuries, with a great many more not listed here.

Known as a God fearing family and Covenanter sympathisers, our place in the church is well served and documented and in fact and to date the crests of all our armigers past and present to include our chief’s arms, carry religious links to include the symbols on their shields.

Leave a Reply

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