Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Who owns the clan/family tartan?

Sometimes, it is difficult to keep a serious face when we receive snippets of information others have posted, especially on things it is obvious they know nothing or very little about. However, the evidence rather than an agenda driven supposition is always available to be seen if you choose to look for it.

With this in mind, today we will discuss and differentiate between a personal tartan and one that can be commercially sold as a clan/family tartan by the weavers, who as wholesalers sell directly to the trade.

The story of the Carruthers Tartan

(L) official Clan/Family tartan of Carruthers, (R) Personal tartan

In 2017, in preparation for having a chief confirmed, Carruthers tartans were commissioned.

The Tartan Historian Brian Wilton MBE was asked to design two tartans one with a Blue base and the other Red.

The design of both followed a similar thread-count and sett to Bruce, while the colours in the Red were chosen to reflect our rich family history in the Borderlands of Scotland.

  1. The colours of green, purple and lilac represents the lands of our family’s origins in Annandale, Dumfriesshire
  2. The base red represents the blood we spilt throughout our history for our country, our lands and our family at both home and abroad.
  3. Finally, but no less important, the subtle white stripe is in recognition of our family’s historic support for the Jacobite cause and the Royal line of Stuart.

The Red tartan is legally registered in the Scottish Register of Tartans (STR11700) as the official Clan/Family tartan of Carruthers. All official Scottish Clan/Family tartans are registered there and a copy of the tartans colours, threadcount and sett are recorded against the clan/family name.

The Carruthers tartan is woven by our weavers -the House of Edgar in Perth, Scotland.

The Blue tartan on the other hand, has its own meanings in its colours, but has been retained as a personal tartan by the Convenor and his family.

The reception of the Carruthers tartan.

Carruthers Chief (centre) with some of the other Chiefs present as guests of the Buchanan at his inauguration.

Other than the usual critics who have their own agenda, what has pleased and surprised us the most is the number of positive comments that have been made regarding our tartan and from a number of sources. This includes our weavers, other clans and their Chiefs, commercial outlets and of course clanspeople from around the world. It is seen as both a vibrant and subtle reflection on the ancient history of our family and as such, we are very proud of it.

So what are the differences between a personal tartan and one that is not?

A personal tartan is for the sole use of the copyright holder and those authorised by him. This tartan therefore cannot be offered for sale or woven without the express permission of the copyright holder. This means that in the case of the Blue Carruthers tartan, its weave and use remains in the control of the registrant.

The official Carruthers Clan/Family tartan on the other hand, is recognised by the Clan Chief, Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains, Chief of The Name and Arms of Carruthers and is intended for all members of Clan Carruthers and other spellings of the Name. The weaver therefore can weave it commercially and sell it wholesale from their own stock, to the tartan trade.

Simplisticaly put:

  • No personal tartan could ever be recognised as a Clan/Family tartan and accepted for registration on the Scottish Tartan Register.
  • This is the same, whether it is Bruce, Macdonald, Elliot, Forbes etc and on the register itself any personal tartan will be listed and differentiated from that of a clan/family.
  • There can be more than one personal tartan or clan/family tartan or even district or military tartan listed, depending on the clan.
  • The weavers, as wholesalers can sell directly to the trade ie the House of Edgar, in Perth, Scotland – weavers of the official Carruthers tartan, will sell to USAkilts, for example who will list it for sale to the public. This would not happen if the tartan was registered as personal.
  • Commercial businesses such as Scotlandshop can also sell Carruthers tartan items, again buying straight from the weavers.

So is a personal tartan, the same as a coat of Arms?

Not really, other than the fact that they are both owned by an individual, but then again so is a car?

In this case, an example of ownership would be that Scottish arms belong and are registered to the grantee and not the family i.e. our Chief’s arms belong only to him. Conversely, the Blue tartan is also owned by an individual, but that is where any similarity ends.

The difference is that anyone can have a personal tartan registered, but not everyone can have a Coat of Arms. In Scotland a set process by petition to the Lord Lyon is followed, which can take years from start to the issuance of the Letters Patent and with no guarantee of a positive outcome.

Were Carruthers given or have any right of ownership or copyright to a Bruce tartan?

The claim that Carruthers owns the ‘Ancient Bruce‘ tartan is simply so very wrong and on so many levels – the clue of ownership is in the name.

Each tartan registered against a name, irrelevant of prefix or suffix ie ancient, modern, weathered, hunting etc, is of that clan or family and carries its own personal DNA in the form of its threadcount and sett. To be commercially viable, it has to be commercially able to be woven and sold, personal tartans are not commercial items.

Also, to suggest as some have, that no one used or bought the ‘Ancient Bruce’ tartan until after Braveheart and as such Carruthers claimed it for there own, is beyond ridiculous.

This is further disproved by its listing on the Family of Bruce International website where Ancient Bruce is shown and we are advised that it is one of the four most commonly worn Bruce tartans.

From the Family of Bruce International website

Also, and again based on silly claims, there is literally no weaver in Scotland (and we can say that without any fear of contradiction), who would say or even imply that a Bruce tartan was originally Carruthers or is now owned by us. Copyright law, common sense and respect for the name of Bruce would prevent it. Hence any tartan relating to that family is still called ‘Bruce’, ancient or otherwise.

Nonetheless, it is fair to state that the Bruce tartan has been listed as Carruthers. This was simply to attract those of our name, who as a sept of Bruce could wear their tartan, and allowed the businesses to sell to a wider catchment. We are not alone in this as this is no different to other families, also classed in this case as septs of Bruce, such as Randolph and Stenhouse.

However, at least for us, we are happy to report that this is quickly changing and the official Carruthers clan/family tartan is taking prominence in the sales and websites of commercial outlets.

For clarification of our growing status, abd from the website of the Family of Bruce International it clearly states: Carruthers has been a traditional Bruce sept, but now has its own chief and is its own clan. See


Although we were late to the party, no Clan/Family tartan existed prior to the early 1800’s. This led to the commercialisation of the ‘Scottishness in Vogue’ market during Victorian times. At this point and in order to increase their market share, clans/families without chiefs who had any historical relationship with a larger clan, were simply conjoined with them as septs.

Further it has to be pointed out that septs are a highland concept, not lowland nor border and were used for the reasons previously discussed above. The facts are well covered here.

However, in preparation for a Chief being confirmed and accepting Carruthers never had a tartan assigned to its name prior to 2017, one was designed and registered. After Carruthers of Holmains’ confirmation as Chief, the Carruthers Red was adopted and registered in the Scottish Register of Tartans as our official Clan/Family tartan in 2019.

So to wrap it all up, unless we are talking about a personal tartan, whether you choose to wear Carruthers, Bruce, Buchanan, MacGregor or Armstrong etc you still have to buy it somewhere. As such the profit share will always remain between the weavers and those such as the kiltmakers, but the ownership as with the likes of Bruce, stays with the clan.

We sincerely hope this information, easily checked, can assist people in understanding the workings of Scottish traditions, in this case tartan registration, ownership and commercial access.

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