Carruthers at a glance

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Screen Shot 2020-10-22 at 15.40.07Here are some basic information on the Scottish Border Reiver Clan and Riding Family of Carruthers.

The official Society is the CCS-(I) (Clan Carruthers Society – (International), it is authorised by our Chief to represent our Name world-wide.

The CCS-(I) was founded on a Royal Charter to Holmains dated 1755 and has branches throughout the world. The society, with its roots and base in Scotland, is supported by Regional Commissioners who have been appointed by our Chief to represent the regions of: Africa, Australia and Oceania, Canada, Europe, UK/Scotland, and the USA.

Therefore Membership of our organisation is open to any and all Carruthers by marriage, adoption or ancestry or any derivation of our name, wherever, you are from i.e. you don’t have to be Scots or have land there to join, and you are always more than welcome to support the work we do on your behalf.

Our site itself is full of evidenced based information to help you enjoy your personal journey.

Here is the link to the achievements and successes of the the Society, from pre 2007 to December 2020.

Carruthers memberships :

 Where do we come from

According to all respectable Scottish historians, and like many other lowland and border families,  Carruthers is a topographical name (ie named after a region or area of land) upon which a Celtic/Brythonic fort once sat. The fort was called Caer – Rydderch (Fort of Ruthers) in the ancient Brythonic/Cumbric language, and the area around it became the lands and parish of Carruthers. As such the origins  and roots of our ancient name come from Annandale, Dumfriesshire, South-west Scotland.

The Rydderch in question was not Rydderch Hael, but rather a local Celtic war chief of the Selgovae. The Selgovae, the Celtic tribe inhabiting the area, built the ‘caer’ fortifications sitting on Birrens hill above the lands of what was to become ‘Carruthers’, and lived in the area before, during and after the Roman occupation of the land.

Progressively, Scottish surnames became more widely used, initially appearing in the upper echelon of Scottish court society and spreading into the Scottish lowlands and borders in and around the 11th century.  The use of surnames was heavily influenced by the Normans who were invited into the country by David I, receiving land and titles for their continued support and advice to the Scottish monarch. They brought with them many ideas that in turn influenced Scottish life and society of the time. Those who owned the land, following Norman tradition became ‘of’ or ‘de’ Carruthers, while those who worked or lived on it becoming known as ‘in’ Carruthers. This progressed to being a Christian name followed by the surname ie Jock Carruthers as it became more frequently used by lairds, tenants and workers alike to define who they were and more importantly, where they came from.

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Carruthers Chief – at a glance

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Scottish arms are the property of only one person,  the bearer and not a family. ie the arms of Carruthers, the main part being the shield, are the arms of the Chief and cannot be used without his permission
Chief’s Arms: Gules two chevrons engrailed, between three fleurs de lis Or.
chiefs arms
Chief’s Arms
Supporters:Two Fallow deer bucks rampant. Crest: A seraphim volant Proper Motto: Promptus et Fidelis (ready and faithful) Badge: Gorse (Ulex europaeus) Lands: Western Scottish Borders (Annandale/ West March/Dumfriesshire) Origin of Name: Topographical, from the Brythonic language, Caer Rydderch (fort of Ruthers)

Clan Chief: Peter Carruthers of Holmains, Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers.

Carruthers of Holmains (more below) were again confirmed as the Carruthers chiefs after being dormant for 210 years. The chiefship was officially recognised by the Lord Lyon, in August 2019.

The official judgment and addiments granted to the Chiefs arms can be read here: Lord Lyon

This of course brings Carruthers once again from armigerous status i.e. no chief, to having official recognition as a clan/ family and a ‘Noble Incorporation’ in its own right,  as recognised in Scots law and by respectable clan Society worldwide.

The Holmains arms are a conjoining of the ancient arms of Carruthers and that of Mouswald, to become the Carruthers arms we recognise today.

Clan Crest Badge

GC BADGE ARTWORK Chosen BlackCrest Badge: Seraphim volant Proper, encircled by a belt and buckle on which is inscribed the Chief’s Motto: Promptus et Fidelis. The Seraphim is the crest taken from the Chief’s Arms and in Scotland the motto sits above the arms not below, the latter being English in its heraldic presentation.

The Crest is encircled in a belt and buckle on which is inscribed the Chief’s motto. The wearing of this indicates the clansman’s pride in their name and Scottish ancestry as well as their fealty to the Clan Chief. It is not the personal crest of the wearer.

The seraphim on the Chief’s crest historically always follows the religious and heraldic depictions of the same, that being: six wings, the two uppermost and lowermost crossed in saltire, the middle pair extended as in flight and in the centre sits an angelic face.

carruthers of dormont (1)This depiction of the crest, used by the Chiefs, Carruthers of Holmains for at least 400 years, was continued on by Major F J Carruthers, Laird of Dormont when he matriculated the Dormont arms from the chiefly arms of Holmains in 1913. As is the case of all Carruthers armigers, his shield is was differenced at least twice. In this instance Dormont is differenced with twin engrailed chevronels rather than engrailed chevrons and a gold border added to depict them as a cadet line of Holmains.

Carruthers of Dormont are still Lairds of the Dormont estate in Annandale, maintaining the strong links with the ancestral homelands of Carruthers.

If Carruthers were ever to have a chieftain, and very few Scottish clans and families do and most certainly none are Lowland or Border,  Dormont would be the obvious choice.

Clan Plant Badge

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Plant Badge: The Common Gorse (Ulex europeaus) is a large, robust, evergreen shrub, covered in needle-like leaves with distinctive and fragrant bright yellow flowers. It can reach 2.5 meters high, which is much larger that its cousins the western gorse (Ulex galli) and dwarf gorse (Ulex minor).

Although the common Gorse blooms six months of the year, from January to June, the others will bloom July to November, therefore between the different species some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old Scottish phrase: “When gorse is out of blossom, kissing’s out of fashion“.

Our clan plant is recorded with the office of the Lord Lyon and reflects our family’s origins and our history as: 

  • It is prevalent in the ancestral lands of Carruthers.
  • The stunning colour of the flower mirrors the yellow on the arms (shield) of our chiefly line; Carruthers of Holmains.
  • It was also used to corral and feed cattle owned or reived by our ancestors at home and on droves.
  • Burning it kept them warm on those cold, dreary Scottish nights.
  • Gorse also thrives in the harshest of conditions, just as our forebears did.
  • While its long, sharp spiked leaves are reminiscent of the ‘lang spears’ or ‘prickers’ famously used by the Border Reivers, reputedly some of the finest light cavalry in Europe in their day.


imageCreation-copy-5Prior to our Chief being confirmed in 2019, Carruthers were since the early 1900’s listed for commercial reasons as a sept of the lowland family of Bruce and as such we were permitted to use their tartan. However, all Bruce tartans are the property of Bruce whatever prefix or suffix is used ie ancient, modern, weathered and as such do not belong to, nor reflect the name or visual identity of Carruthers.

There are no records of any Scottish clan/family named tartan prior to the early 1800’s, and this is especially the case in the Borders as we never wore it nor in fact kilts. As such Border family tartans only began to appear in registrations since the early 19th century and are still being registered to this day.   Carruthers were, as a Border family late to the table in registering its own tartan and it was only in preparation of our chief being confirmed that in 2017 an official Carruthers tartan was designed and registered.

The Carruthers tartan, as with all other official Scottish clan/family tartans, is registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans a Scottish Government agency based in Edinburgh and part of the National Records of Scotland. It carries the Register’s code STR 11700, and is listed as the official clan/family tartan of Carruthers, recognised and adopted as such by the Chief in 2019.

Accepting the name of the tartan is a clue to which clan or family it belongs ie Bruce, McLean, Elliot, Campbell etc the design was specially commissioned for us by Dr George Carruthers of Fife to reflect our proud history. The pride one feels when wearing the tartan of their name, at whatever function and for whatever reason, is one to appreciate. As a Carruthers, only a Carruthers tartan would do. On advice from tartan historians and after discussions with the family of Bruce, a commission was given to Brian Wilton MBE who designed the sett to reflect our previous links with that family but more importantly, it was also designed to individually and visually define who we are and where we came from. The meanings of the colours in our tartan reflect this and are as follows:
  • The green, purple and lilac represents the colours of the countryside in and around our ancestral lands in Annandale, Dumfriesshire in southwest Scotland;
  • The red represents the blood spilt by Carruthers in defence of our family, lands and country before, after and during their times as Border Reivers;
  • The subtle white stripe is in recognition of our family’s historic support for the Jacobite cause and the Royal House of Stuart.
Below is a chart of the 17 unruly border clans named in the 1587 Act and :
  • shows the clan/family tartans,
  • when they were registered,
  • their clan badge,
  • and the name of a chief if one currently exists.
1587 17 tartans and crest final

Chiefly Line 


Although existing before this by at least 3 generations, the chiefly line of Carruthers is seen as beginning in 1320 with Thomas Carruthers, 1st of the House of Mouswald.  Thomas received his charter from King Robert the Bruce for services rendered to him and his family. However, the evidence of the name being used by those owning the land of Carruthers, dates back at least to the 1100’s.

Earliest record of Carruthers

The earliest recorded use of our name we know of was William de Carruthers, born in the 12c, who gave a donation to Newbattle Abbey in the reign of Alexander II (1198 – 1249). The ‘de’ is taken from the Norman influence of the time and means; ‘of’ and depicts the owner of the ‘land of Carruthers’ at that time. William was the great grandfather of John Carruthers, father of Thomas, 1st of Mouswald.

The House of Carruthers of Mouswald as Chiefs existed for 228 years, growing in land, power and reputation. It became a barony under John 6th of Mouswald, 1st Baron (d. 1454) but became extinct as a house in 1548 after the death of Simon 10th of Mouswald, 6th Baron.  Simon was killed during a border raid which, along with other Lairds, were attempting to clean up the debatable lands at the behest of the Scottish Crown.

After the extinction of the Mouswald male line, the chiefship was passed to the next senior house, that being of Holmains and John Carruthers, 5th of that line became our chief.

Holmains as a house were directly descended from John Carruthers (Kings Chancellor), and Thomas 1st of Mouswald’s second brother.  Roger Carruthers, John’s son added to these lands through a further charter in 1361. Holmains, like Mouswald grew in size and importance and becoming a barony during the time of John Carruthers 6th of Holmains, the son of the first Carruthers Chief of Holmains (d. 1580).

It was John Carruthers 9th of Holmains, and 5th Baron who in 1672 after the Lord Lyons Act required all those worthy of bearing Scottish arms to register them presented the Chiefs arms for registration. Not all who wished their arms to be approved were accepted. The arms of Carruthers of Holmains have remained unchanged until the current Chief was granted supporters ie two fallow deer bucks rampant by the Lord Lyon.

The Carruthers arms, to include the seraphim crest and motto are nearly 400 years old that we are aware of. This means that both the crest ie the seraphim volant Proper, which always carries an angelic face in the centre and our motto of Promptus et Fidelis (ready and faithful) are an integral part of our family’s rich history and should never be changed. There is evidence that these arms were used in full by Holmains, to include the seraphim crest and motto, prior to 1672.

The Holmains line remained active as chiefs until John Carruthers 12th of Holmains, 8th Baron’s death in 1809, when the Chiefship fell into dormancy.

Although throughout the years who could have laid claim to the chiefship, both male and female, no one came forwards. It is now believed this was due to financial reasons and John 12th’s bankruptcy and loss of his estates. Carruthers therefore remained armigerous (without chief) for a period of 210 years from his death. It was only after his demise and having no chief of our own, that we were commercially linked as a sept under Bruce. Although we remain proud of that link, as a family we have always been an entity in our own right.

Stimulated by the work of the Clan Carruthers Society – (International), initiated by the research carried out by Dr George Carruthers of Fife and Antony Maxwell our family’s heraldic advisor, the senior members of the family were located.

To find a Chief

The Chiefship of any clan/family is granted through the right of an individual to bear the Chiefly arms of that name. In 2017 a petition for the right of the same was presented by two individuals to the Lord Lyon for his perusal and attention. One of these was from the senior member of the Holmains line and the other one was from the senior member of the Dormont line, the latter who as was mentioned earlier is still on the Carruthers ancestral lands.

Genealogy with robust evidenced proofs will always take precedence under the Lord Lyon’s process over the need of a gathering. However, to ensure due diligence was followed to the letter, two court hearings and a full and in-depth analysis by the Lyon Court of the two petitions and the evidence provided was carried out. This led to finally, after 210 years of being dormant, another Carruthers being confirmed as hereditary Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers .

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Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers: Dr Peter Carruthers of Holmains.

The current Chief is the 4 x great grandson of John 12th of Holmains, and 8th Baron. This makes Dr Peter Carruthers of Holmains, 19th in the line of Carruthers chiefs going back to Thomas 1st of Mouswald in 1320 and 22nd going back to Willian de Carruthers, who was born circa 1185, over 800 years ago. The line can be seen in the genealogical chart above where Black shows all the Carruthers chiefs from before 1320 to date, and Blue  shows the Holmains line prior to the Chiefship being passed to Holmains in 1548.

Dr. Carruthers’ parents, Charles and Molly were married in St Jude’s Church, South Kensington in London in 1951 and while working for a British tea company in India in 1954, their only child Simon Peter was born.  After returning home to the UK with his family aged 6 months old, Dr Carruthers known as Peter, spent his informative years in the UK where he was educated up to doctorate level.

Peter is an agricultural scientist with further post doctorate qualifications in management and theology.

Following the proud military tradition of the Carruthers family, Peter’s father enlisted at the beginning of the Second World War (1939-1945) and served throughout it as a Royal Marine Commando officer. He was reputedly one of the first to lead his men to shore in the liberation of Hong Kong in 1945.

After the Japanese conquest and the fall of Burma in 1942, his mother, as a member of the British expat community living there, escaped through the infamous and treacherous Naga trail into India and unlike many others who perished along the way, thankfully survived to play her part in the continuance of the Carruthers chiefly line.

As such Peter succeeds his fourth great-grandfather, John Carruthers, 12th of Holmains & Kirkwood, 8th Baron who died 1809, leaving the Chiefship dormant. John 12th was the last recognised head of the Carruthers family and was the 8th baron from the House of Holmains. As  a direct descendant of the first chiefs of Carruthers, he can factually date his lineage back to at least the 12th century. 

The Chief’s grandfather was Col. Nigel L Carruthers, 2x great grandson of John the 12th who was a serving officer in the British Army in India and his great uncle, Nigel’s brother, was the world renowned explorer Alexander Douglas Carruthers.

Peter Carruthers of Holmains, Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers holds a permanent seat as a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs

Our journey to confirmation of a  Chief.

Here is a simple synopsis of the journey to have our chief confirmed, alongside this is the route to Commander if no living member of the Chiefly line exists or can be found. CCS-I ROUTE TO A CHIEF

Carruthers arms and living armigersArmorial with gary's arms copy

Carruthers have 13 sets of Arms officially registered in our name, both in the ancient armorials and the Register held by the Lord Lyon.

With the enactment of the Lord Lyons Act of 1672, which made it illegal to bear arms in Scotland if not on the Register of All Arms and Bearings of Scotland, 8 Carruthers arms are registered to date. We are proud that traditionally, all Carruthers crests have retained angelic figures and we are, as far as we are aware unique as the only official Scottish clan/family to follow this tradition.

Of the 8 arms registered since 1672, including James of Isle, 6th from the left, all are differenced from the Chiefly Arms of Holmains at least twice, as is the rules of Scottish Heraldry. Of these only 6 belong to or were inherited by living members of the Carruthers family, to include our Chief.

Carruthers are an ancient and highly respected clan and Reiver riding family of the Scottish Borders. Our research into our family history, our y-DNA  project and our robust genealogy is based on strong evidence, and as such we can say without fear of contradiction that; * we are not Viking. * we are not Picts. * we are not Irish/Gaels. * our ancestors were not a royal line other than the usual links ALL humans have. * and as such Caratacus/Kenneth McAlpin/Mary Queen of Scots/Rydderch Hael or even Mary Magdalene were not Carruthers, as some falsely claim. Without needing to exaggerate, we are exceptionally proud of our rich Carruthers history, solidly entwined in the colourful tapestry that reflects our proven heritage. These are not only deeply rooted in the Scottish border lands of Annandale, Dumfriesshire but also in the history of Scotland itself. Promptus et Fidelis
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