Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Mouswald, first recognised seat of Carruthers, a snapshot in time?

We are all aware that our name came from the ancient Cumbric dialect of the Brythonnic language (P Celtic) meaning the fort of Rydderch. We are also aware that in that language ‘fort’ was Caer and Rydderch was, as it would be today in Welsh, Ruthers and the name after a Selgovae war chief and not Rydderch Hael, King of Strathclyde.

Carruthers being a topographical name, this of course led Lairds/owners of these lands, which had progressively become the lands and parish of Carruthers, to take that name for themselves. The Carruthers parish along with Pennersaughs parish, united with / and under the parish of Middlebie in 1609.

Our first record of the name being used on official documentation was through a donation by William de (of) Carruthers to Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian, which was founded in 1140.

So moving on 200 years or so, when we still lived on the lands of Carruthers, Thomas Carruthers, known as the clerk and the great grandson of William, was rewarded for loyal services to both the family of Bruce and the Bruce himself, by receiving a charter of lands of ‘Musfeld et de Appiltretwayt cum pertinenciis’ in 1320. And so began the chiefly line of Carruthers of Mouswald, although our family did not move from Carruthers to Mouswald until the second quarter of the 1300’s. The lands under the House of Carruthers of Mouswald, grew and with that came wealth and power, becoming a barony its own right under the chiefship of John Carruthers 6th of Mouswald. It remained as such until its demise on the death of Sir Simon, 10th of Mouswald and 5th Baron, the last Carruthers chief of Mouswald in 1548.

This piece will concentrate however on the parish of Mouswald itself.


So what was Mouswald like in those times, here we give you a glance in time of our past?

This piece is based on information passed to us by Gary Carruthers, FSA Scot, Clan Commissioner of Australasia written by the Reverend J Jackson.

Name, Situation and extent

The name Mouswald is supposed to be of Saxon origin signifying a wood or as some think a plain rising country without a wood. The term wold seems to have been descriptive of a long range of high land lying in a particular direction those places so named in England, viz. York Wolds, Lincoln Wolds, &c. and the range of which this district makes a part, lie from S. E. to N. W.; and, having the S. W. side much exposed to the strong and frequent S. S. W. and W. winds, blowing from the mouth of the Solway Firth. (This) probably accounts for their appearance without trees on the higher parts, while there was formerly plenty of wood on the lower ground; and perhaps wold was the term for the whole range of hills from the S, E. end in Mouswald to the NW end in Tinwald .

But in later times, when the country became better peopled, and was divided into districts, or parishes, it was necessary to distinguish each, by annexing some other word or name, which, in this instance, seems to have been from the English. And, because this district was nearest to the great moss, called Locharmoss, perhaps it was originally named Mosswold or that division nearest to the moss; which, from the situation of the church, has been a striking object for time immemorial, and almost the whole of which (for 12 miles in length, and full 3 Englitsh miles in breadth in some places) is seen by the observer in one view.

Now, if we allow that the latter part of the name is not according to the original spelling, we may as well suppose mous, as now used, to have formerly been moss. The parish is a part of that district formerly called the stewartry of Annandale, now united to the shire of Dumfries. It is, in length, between 4 and 5 English miles, from north to south; and, excluding the moss, nearly about 2 English miles in breadth, on an average, from east to west; but, including the moss, its figure nearly resembles that of a heart, narrowing both on the north and south quarter, as it defends to the moss, and still growing narrower, till it terminates on the small river Lochar, which divides it from Carlaverock. It would measure from the east to this south-westerly point between 4 and miles.

Mouswald Parish

The lands having been lost on the death of the last chief of Mouswald in 1548 to the Douglas family, and progressively have come under the Duke of Queensbury, it seems it wasn’t considered a bad place to live. The lands of the parish of Mouswald itself are on the main plain and level rather than being hilly, so ideal for farming and could cultivate to the summit of any small rise on the land. The land was both pasture and arable but because of the proximity of the moss in the west, wet. However some of the land was light and sandy or stony which was inclined to the appearance of gorse (ulex europeaus-the clan plant badge). But to the eastern part, the lands held a rich deep soil, good for farming. The farms produced wheat and rye, turnips. Some few planted cabbages and small quantities of grey peas, but mostly red clover, rye grass and barley for cutting, to feed the horses or sell. It seems that the parish also sold a large amount of potatoes at Dumfries market, while oats and barley were the staple to pay their rents. It was known that this harvest was considerable and of good quality and for their own use, sheep were kept on the higher ground.

Information from the 1700’s

Although the size of a geographical entity is measured in length and breadth, the population can reflect its worth and must be taken into consideration. Although not all would be Carruthers, it gives us a picture of the parish of our first chiefs.

This information taken from the Rev J Jacksons report and supported by a survey in 1791 allows us to picture the activity of the parish as a whole, as well as the village of Mouswald itself.

Statistical Table of the Parish of Mouswald.
Length in English miles, 4 1/2 miles, Breadth, 4 miles
Population in 1791 – 628 souls, Population in 1755 – 553 souls
Average of births for to 10 years preceding 1791 – 16 3/4
Average of births for to 10 years preceding 1791 – 9
Average of marriages for to 10 years preceding 1791 – 5
Inhabitants in villages – 242
Inhabitants in the country – 386

  • It was deemed a healthy place to live with clean air due to the vicinity of the sea, which sits about 4 English miles from the centre of the parish, with some inhabitants living well into their 70’s and 80’s. Below is the population of Mouswald parish accepting that the population of the whole of Scotland to include its major cities, was only around 1.3 million and Dumfriesshire itself, according to the 1755 census, was a total of 4,760 souls.

Population of the Parish of Mouswald.
Males -298, Females- 330
Persons under 10 years of age – 157
Persons 10 to 20 years of age – 109
Persons 20 to 50 years of age – 253
Persons 50 to 70 years of age – 94
Persons above 70 years of age – 15
Families – 123
Houses inhabited by 1 person – 14
Houses inhabited by 2 persons – 11
Married persons – 94
Average children per marriage – 5 or 6
Widowers – 5
Widows – 19

Members of the established Church – 614,
Burgher Seceders – 2
Anti-Burgher Seceders – 10
Members of the Relief Chapel – 2

Persons born in England – 2
Persons born in Ireland – 3

Trades and owners
Proprietors residing in the parish – 2
Proprietors not residing in the parish – 2
Clergymen – 1
Schoolmaster – 1
Farmers – 48
Farmers with 3-9 acres – 12
Proprietors residing in the parish – 2
Smiths, 3 journeymen, 2 apprentices – 5
Masons – 1
Weavers, 10 journeymen, and 5 apprentices – 15
Stockingmaker – 1
Taylors, 4 journeymen, and 2 apprentices – 6
Millers – 2
Day labourers – 10
Farmers with 3-9 acres – 12

Cottagers – 60
Male farm servants – 24
Female farm servants – 24
Listed as poor (who receive quarterly supplies) – 6
Beggers from the parish – 0

  • The number of poor on the roll, who receive quarterly fupplies, has not exceeded 6 in any one year fince 1772 ; besides whom, fome few others receive occasional aid. There are no poor’s funds in this parish besides what arise from the weekly collections. An addition of £ 5 Sterling, however, was left at Whitsunday 1791, by a man who died in the parish of Dumfries, and left feveral children of his own, whose progenitors were natives of Mouswald.
  • There are none belonging to this parish who beg, yet it is daily infefted with beggars from Ireland and the neighbourhood of Dumfries. Numbers from Ireland go up to England driving cattle, and return home begging.
  • There was not a single pig fed in the parish 40 years ago. Now, almost every cottager feeds one. Pork or bacon is all the butcher meat that the poor use in their families; and the breeding and feeding of swine is now carried on by the farmers, to a considerable extent for sale, mostly for the English market.

Chattels & Rent
Two wheeled chaise – 2
Carts in 1791- 96
Carts 1740 – 2
Ploughs (mostly Scots) – 52
Rent value in Scots money (merks) – 2850
Real rent in 1791 in Sterling – £1500
Horses -142
Black Cattle – 753
Sheep – 38

General Information

The village of Mouswald was the only population site considered large enough to be thought of as a village in the parish. It consisted of 26 inhabited houses and contains 116 hens. The hamlets of Woodside contained 66 persons, Cleughbrae 35 and Banks 29, the rest were mainly scattered buildings. The parish further has the remains of five old square buildings, all of which probably in former times, were used both as places of residence and defence against the depredations of the English.

The most considerable of these old buildings is that at Mouswald Mains, or, as it is some times called, the Place. It has been the largest, and is very strongly built. It was the feat
of a Sir Simon Carruthers, the Laird of Mouswald, who was what the old people called belted knight. His only daughter, it is said, married into the Queenberry family, by which means they came into possesion of the estate.

In the aisle of the church there were formerly two statues as big as the life; the one is said to be an effigy of Sir Simon, and the other of his Lady. The latter was of beautiful white free stone, and has been quite carried off. That representing Sir Simon now lies on the outside of the aisle; his head lying on a pillow, his feet on a lion; his hands elevated in a supplicating posture. There is no inscription. There are also sfeveral camps in the parish probably British; one at Burronhill (Birron hill), with a strong double soffe or ditch.

In digging the foundation for a new schoolhouse there three years ago, several human bones were found. It is a fine situation. Another nigh the top of a little hill, called Panteth-hill, which has an extensive and commanding prospect.


Peats are the fuel commonly used. The Duke’s tenants get their’s from the moss within the parish. The other proprietors tenants get their’s from the same moss in the parishes of Torthorwald and Ruthwell; and though there is an inexhaustable fund of moss, and they have peats for the casting, winning, and leading, yet they consume a great deal of time, which might and would be employed to much better purpose in the management of their farms, were coals to be got at a moderate distance. Several of the farmers are so convinced of this, that they have of late brought coals above 30 miles distance, and cast fewer peats than formerly.

Roads and bridges

There are excellent roads in the parish, and an abundance of the best materials for making and keeping them in repair. The great military road from Carlisle to Portpatrick, which was finished in this parifh in 1776, runs through it from S. E. to N. W. by the church and manse. A new turnpike road is nearly finished, running in the same direction, and nearly parallel, along the rising ground of the eastern quarter of the parishs and, between these two, a road leading from the church to ‘Torthorwald, made lately by the road-money, which is now paid instead of the statute labour. There are bridges over every rivulet both on the public and private roads.

Peoples and Migration

The people are, in general, sober, industrious, and discreet, and seemingly content with their circumstances. None have emigrated, though a good many young men go from hence to England and the West India Islands, in different lines of life; and several men, and some few women, pass over to England, where they are employed as servants. None have stood a trial before the Court of Justiciary for any capital crime. None have been banished. Within these 20 years, one woman, about the age of 50, who had been insane for some months, was guilty of suicide; and a man, above that age, was killed by lightning in the open fields, while herding black cattle, in the year 1281. None have enlisted into the army, nor entered into the navy, for agreat many years past ; and none have died for want, in the memory of the oldest person living.

The great advantage which the tenants of the Duke of Queeniberry enjoy, is, that they have got leases for 19 years, and are freed from all public burdens whatever, road-money excepted, which they pay in lieu of the statute labour formerly exacted; and have all their farms, (most of which, in former tacks, lay run-ridge), now laid by themselves, and are setting about enclosing them with ditch and hedge at their own expence. Some are already enclosed and subdivided, so sensible are they of the benefit of

All the tenants in the parish have been fo fully satisfied of this, that they have been for several years past, willing to pay 5 per cent to their landlords for money to lay out (their farms) in this way. Another advantage is they enjoy good roads, and the easy access they have to lime from the parishes of Cummertrees and Ruthwell, (the latter quarry discovered and wrought only about 13 years ago), and the ready market they find at Dumfries for every article they can spare. The lime at these places is sold at 11d (pence). the Carlisle bushel, containing 3 of Winchester and 4 bushels making an ordinary single cart-load. It might be sold lower, were it not for the high duty laid on English coals brought across the Frith, which duty is heavily felt, and is a great discouragement both to agriculture and manufactures.

The thirlage to the two mills is light and easy. Some of the tenants in the parish, however, have fill various services exacted from them; and tacks only for 9 years, both which are certainly great discouragements to improvement.

However, the mode of living, are much mproved within these 40 years; and a change to the better seems to have taken place in the minds of the inhabitants, who can now laugh at the supertition and credulity of their ancestors, who, it is said, could swallow down the absurd nonsense of a boon of shearers, i.e. reapers, being turned in to large grey stones, on account of their kemping, i.e. striving. These stones, about 20 years ago, after being blasted with gun-powder, were used in building the farm-houfes then erecting near the spot, which had formerly been part of a common.


The higher grounds of the parish afford the most extensive prospect that is to be met with in the South of Scotland. From thence one has a full view of the Solway Frith, and many of the ports both on the English and Scotish side of it; the Isle of Man, and many of the neighbouring counties, the greatest part of Dumfriesshire, Galloway, part of Lanarkshire, Peeblesshire, Northumberland, and Cumberland, in England. At the western extremity of the parish, a person may stand on a particular spot, and throw a stone into each of the four neighbouring parishes of Torthorwald, Dumfries, Carlaverock, Ruthwell, and this parish, all terminating on the side of the small river Lochar, near that point.

  • NB: Surnames themselves only started being used in Scotland after the influence of the Norman lords who supported King David I of Scotland (Alba) in his ascension to the throne. David reigned from 1124-1153 and was himself a Prince of the Cumbrians, as the youngest son of Malcolm Canmore (Malcolm III 1031-1093) and his wife Margaret of Wessex, sister of Edgar of Aetheling. David, who succeeded his elder brother Alexander I who died without issue, had spent some of his life in England at court where he met and befriended some Norman knights, to include de Brus. He invited these knights to join and support him on his return home, with the promise of lands and titles, which he fulfilled. It seems it wasn’t an easy turn over as he met his nephew, who wished the throne for himself, which was a long lasting struggle of over 10 years, before peace ensued.
  • Birron hill is the site most probably where Caer Rydderch was built and situated, in and around 200 AD
  • Until the 1700s, a ‘mile’ in Scotland could be of varying distance – but, it seems, always longer than an English mile. A Scots mile was believed to average 1,984 yards, or 5,952 feet (or 1,814 metres), whilst the English mile was around 200 yards shorter at 1,760 yards. Hence the use of the term English miles below.
  • Moss meaning moorland/boggy ground
  • Burgher seceder was part of a group who formed their own church in 1733
  • Anti-burghers were those who were opposed to the Burgher Oath on theological grounds
  • The Burgher Oath was taken by Burgesses to uphold the teachings of the essablished Church.
  • A two wheeled chaise was a a closed, two-wheeled, one-passenger, one-horse carriage of French origin, adapted from the sedan chair
  • A Merk was originally valued at 13 shillings 4 pence (exactly 2⁄3 of a pound Scots, or about one shilling sterling), later raised to 14s.
  • Thirlage was a feudal servitude (or astriction) under Scots law restricting manorial tenants in the milling of their grain for personal or other use.
  • Kemping – camping

What if-Mouswald

It seems that Mouswald was a great gift to our family from the Bruce and one can only imagine where our family would have ended up and the honours we would have had if Simon 10th of Mouswald and 5th Baron had not been killed in 1548 in a border raid to help clean out the Debatable Lands. It was after his death the, marriage of his daughter Janet and the death/murder of Marion that the Mouswald lands were lost to Douglas of Drumlanrig in 1548.

What if-Holmains

Further thoughts spring to mind that if on the demise of Mouswald, and the ascension of Carruthers of Holmains to the Chiefship, the barony of Holmains continued to grow, what the cirumstances would be for our family now. We know we were highly respected and seen a major player in Dumfriesshire and beyond, but all that changed on the loss of the estates after the bankruptcy of John the 12th of Holmains, 8th Baron. This caused our chiefs to lose there standing and the chiefship go into dormancy for 210 years, rather than someone taking up the mantle.

A couple of things spring to mind:

  • Having its own chiefly line front and centre, Carruthers would not ever have been listed as a sept of Bruce.
  • An invitation to the Grand Ball of George IV in Edinburgh in 1822 would probably have been forthcoming, as we wre considered dignitaries in our own right with large estates..
  • Also, accepting that tartan was the order of the day, Carruthers would have chosen and named its own tartan as did everone else who attended. This means that rather than waiting until 2017 to have our own clan/family tartan registered, we would have had our own from the early 1800’s thus preventing the misclaim by some of the Bruce ‘Ancient’ being a Carruthers tartan.

However, we are where we are and we are very thankful for it. What we have achieved since 2007 has been huge and we thank you for your continued and ongoing support.

As always Promptus et fidelis

6 thoughts on “CLAN CARRUTHERS: Mouswald, first recognised seat of Carruthers, a snapshot in time?”

  1. This historical narrative is of particular interest to me. According to James Carruthers (author of Carruthers Anthology Geneology, published on Kindle) I am probably “the senior male living descendant of the original House of Mouwald”…………
    David Ewart Carruthers 18August 2023
    Irvine, California (formerly of Toronto, Canada)

    1. Hi David

      What line are you off as Mouswald was accepted as extinct after Simon was killed in 1548 and left no male issue.

      Can you pm us your genealogy chart?



  2. Hello George. According to the research by James Carruthers (now deceased)I my line is Macma(w) of the Carruthers of Annandale, and I am descended from William Carruthers (mentioned 1504), the brother of Sir Simon, 3rd Baron, 8th of Mouswald.

    Simon the 8th was the grandfather of Simon the 10th who was killed in battle in 1544 (or 1548), leaving no male heir to continue the Mouswald line. I can provide a chart prepared by James Carruthers, which I have used in developing my Family Tree on Ancestry. I did a DNA y700 test on FDNA which established a genetic connection to Simon Carruthers, born about 1635.
    Kind regards,
    David E. Carruthers
    20Aug 2023

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