The Chiefly House of Holmains
Carruthers is a proud and ancient Border clan and family from Dumfriesshire in south west Scotland, which in Reiver times fell under the geography of the West March. Their name is topographical rather than patronymic being taken from the Brythonic language of the old Kingdom of a Strathclyde to describe the Fort of Rydderch or Rythyr – Caer Ruthers. The area around the fort became known as Carruthers and was progressively used as a surname by those living on the land.
In the 13th century, the first use of the name is recorded when William of Carruthers, gave a donation to the Abbey of Newbattle in the reign of Alexander II (1215-1245). A Simon Carruthers was Parson of Middlebie, in 1296 who it is now suspected was the son or grandson of William signed the Ragmans role in that year.
When the family Bruce were Lords of Annandale, Carruthers of Carruthers, are recorded as being Stewards of Annandale, Keepers of Trailtrow Preceptory and Guardians of the Old Kirk Ford. In 1320, King Robert the Bruce granted a charter of lands to Thomas Carruthers, son of John Carruthers, for services given and so began the Chiefly House of Carruthers of Mouswald. In 1340, Sir Nigel Carruthers, Thomas’s youngest brother, was Chamberlain to the Regent, King David II, but fell at the Battle of Durham (Neville’s Cross) in 1346. He is not to be confused with another Nigel Carruthers who lived at the same time and is recorded as Canon of Glasgow. The eccleciastical Nigel, was referenced many times, one in particular being in 1335, when mentioned in relation to having ‘Safe Conduct’ through England an France.
Thomas, who recieved a Charter from King Robert the Bruce in 1320, for services to his family had three brothers. He was succeeded by his younger brother William who became 2nd of Mouswald. William and Thomas’s younger brother John, was Kings Chancellor of Annandale in 1349 and progenitor of Carruthers of Holmains. He received a parcel of land of half of Raffols from King David II in 1361, which became a kernal for the huge estates and Barony, that Holmains would become. Nigel, the fourth and youngest brother, as mentioned above, was killed in battle.
During his time as a guest at Mouswald, in 1349, the lands of Middlebie were granted by King David II, to William 2nd of Mouswald. although much more land was to follow. Although living through some of the harshest times and in some of the most lawless lands in Christendom as Border Reivers, this house continued to grow in both power and land, the latter covering a large expanse in southern Annandale and beyond, becoming a Barony in 1452.
This family continued until 1548, when the then Chief, Sir Simon Carruthers of 10th of Mouswald and 5th Baron, was killed in a Border raid, leaving no male heirs. The Chief’s mantle was then passed to the House of Holmains, who were the senior cadet branch of the family. The first chief from this branch was John Carruthers 5th of Holmains and 1st Baron.
Roger Carruthers, 1st of Holmains received a charter of lands from George of Dunbar, the Earl of the March in 1375 covering Holmains, Little Dalton and Fourteenaikerbank. This has been described as the kernel of what was to extend in time to the substantial barony of Holmains. In the time of John 5th of Holmains, the Barony was issued through Crown Charter in 1542 by Mary Queen of Scots. In comparison, to the baroneys of Mouswald and Wamphrey, who could raise 80 armed followers each, Holmains could put 100 men on the field. In 1542, the eldest son of John 5th of Holmains, was killed at the Battle of Solway Moss. After which, the border lands were in chaos, with many men making peace with England, however they changed sides as opportunity arose. It seems that Holmains stood firm until after the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547
In the year before Holmains became the chiefly line, records suggest the John 5th of Holmains led a squadron of approximately 200 border cavalry during the battle. It was only after the disastrous result, that he finally bent the knee. For this, along with such as the Kilpatricks and Jardines, were declared traitors by the Scottish Parliament. This however didn’t last long and in 1553, Holmains was restored to favour and was made Steward Depute of Annandale.
In 1563, a feud broke out between the Kirkpatricks and Carruthers culminating in the wounding of Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, Chief at the time and the killing of several of his relatives and retainers. However, the differences were amicably settling, as it seems that manslaughter was not deemed to be a serious crime and a cash payment could resolve the issue at hand. As Holmains remained great supporters of the Maxwells in their feud with the Johnstons, his eldest surviving son George, who became 6th of Holmains was Captain of Threave Castle and his son Charles a Cornet in the mounted garrison.
John the 7th of Holmains, 3rd Baron, as head of a powerful clan was one of the Border Lairds appointed to a committee of Lairds to advise the March Warden in keeping the peace. I was during his chiefship that an altercation broke out between Holmains and their cadet house of Dormont. Dormont bandied together some armed men, which led to Christopher Carruthers of Dormont being denounced as a rebel by the privy council for his actions and violence against the unarmed Holmains tenants. It was during this period that James VI, ascended the English throne and one of the first things he wished to do was bring law to the Borders. This meant detaining many Border Lairds being temporarily detained in the North, while rough justice took hold in their lands. Holmains was one of the deported Lairds and while on detention in 1607 in Edinburgh, he acted as Chancellor to the Court of the assizes. On his return he took office as the Depute Steward of Annandale and one of the first Justices of the Peace for Dumfriesshire.
John Carruthers 8th of Holmains and 4th Baron, married Agnes Douglas, Daughter of George Douglas of Parkhead, John Murray, the then Earl of Annandale had obtained a Great Seal allowing him to appropriate lands, if the owners or tenants could not prove ownership. Holmains was successful in repelling Murray’s claim. Because he was left in debt by his father, some of the lands had to be sold and in the form of help with ‘financial reconstruction’ from the brother of his son’s fiancée, John Lockhart, his son James was to inherit the bulk of what was left.
James, eldest son of John 8th,died in the lifetime of his father. Reputedly a rabble rouser and violent man epitomised living in a lawless time, in a lawless land, where men took the law into their own hands if deemed slighted or aggrieved. Eventually James’s actions took him to the Edinburgh Tolbooth, the worst of places.
John 9th and 5th Baron, inherited the title, estates and chiefship from his grandfather and was both Justice of the Peace and a Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament of supply to Dumfriesshire. He was also listed as Captain of Foot in the local militia. A Covenanter at heart as was his cousin John Carruthers of Dormont, he and was warned that failing to attend his own kirk would have dire consequences. It was this John who moved the family seat to Kirkwood, still on the Holmains estate.
The Lyon Act was brought into law in 1672 by the Scottish Parliament. With this came the Register of all Arms and Bearing, which still exists to this day to record all Scottish arms granted. Prior to this, various armorials existed, which recorded in blazon (the heraldic description), the arms of a Scottish clan or family. It was John Carruthers 9th of Holmains 5th Baron, who registered the combined the ancient arms of Carruthers and those of Sir Simon of Mouswald. These arms became recognised as our Chiefs arms and are blazoned Gules, two chevrons engrailed between three fleur d-lis Or.
George 10th of Holmains, 6th Baron was Commissioner to Parliament for Dumfriesshire in 1704 and presented a bell with his coat of arms inscribed upon it. His main crime was marrying the daughter of William Carruthers of Denbie, his cousin, which was frowned upon leading to a fine.
John Carruthers 11th of Holmains, 7th Baron died in 1734 at the age of 28, his eldest Son John was 3 at the time. He eventually became Chief.
The House of Holmains continued with great success until the late 18th century when financial disaster struck after investing in the Douglas, Heron Bank of Ayr. John Carruthers 12th of Holmains and 8th Baron, sold the family lands and died in 1809. He was to be the last recognised Chief of Carruthers for the next 200 years or so and only the Holmains Charter Chest remained. John’s sons died before him, leaving only daughters, it was therefore through the female line that a chief would be found.
2019, Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers
In the early 2000’s Dr George Carruthers from Fife began a search which was to include many thousands of the Carruthers family world-wide and the formation of a clan society: Clan Carruthers Society – International (CCS-I). Their purpose was to investigate the lineage of the Holmains line, to attempt to have a Chief confirmed by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. With the help of Dana Caruthers Norton, a highly reputed genealogist from Kansas, who has been involved well before the Society’s inception, inroads were successfully made.
Initially, the belief was that James Carruthers of Dormont, whose family matriculated their arms from those of Holmains in 1913, were the obvious choice as they were still on the land chartered to William Carruthers 1st of Dormont by his father John, 5th of Holmains in 1552. However, this was found not to be the case. After many years of research, the investigation led us to Dr Simon Peter Carruthers, who was the senior living descendant and the GGGG Great Grandson of John the 12th of Holmains.
A petition to be confirmed chief was then placed and after 20 months of analysis of the proofs and two court hearings before they Lord Lyon, a Carruthers chief was confirmed. Simon Peter Carruthers, known as Peter, was designated ‘of Holmains’ and confirmed Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers in August 2019. During the second hearing Peter Carruthers was represented by Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw QC.
The Chief was further granted supporters to his arms of two fallow bucks rampant Proper on a compartment of heathland strewn with gorse bushes in flower (Ulex europaeus), the Carruthers plant badge. This occurred in November 2019 and a banner and pinsel, befitting his position as Chief of the Clan Carruthers was also granted.
As of 2020, the Chief formally adopted and registered the Red Carruthers as the Clan Tartan and has further accepted an invitation to join the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs from its Convenor, Donald McLaren, Chief of Clan McLaren.