Clan Carruthers

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Clan Carruthers
Clan Carruthers Crest.png
Crest: A seraphim volant Proper[1]
MottoPromptus Et Fidelis (Ready and faithful)[1]
RegionScottish Borders
Plant badgeFleur-de-lis (Lilly)
Carruthers Clan Shield.png
Clan Carruthers has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Historic seatMouswald Tower[2]
Holmains Castle (Howmains)[2]
Dormont House[2]
Last ChiefSimon Carruthers[3]

Clan Carruthers is a Lowland Scottish clan of the Scottish Borders. The clan is officially recognized by the Lord Lyon King of Arms; however, as the clan does not currently have a clan chief that is recognized by the Lord Lyon King of Arms it is considered an armigerous clan.[3]



The surname of Carruthers has arisen in Dumfriesshire and it appears to allude to the ancient British fort called Caer Rydderch or Rythyr.[3] The historian George Fraser Black asserted that this means fort of Rydderch, with Ryderch appearing to be a form of personal name.[3]

In the thirteenth century the chiefly family of Carruthers rose to become stewards of Annandale under the Clan Bruce.[3] The historian George Fraser Black writes of Nigel de Karruthers, a cleric who was also Rector of Ruthwell in 1380, and rose to become Canon of Glasgow Cathedral in 1351.[3] He was also named as chancellor to Robert, High Steward of Scotland in 1344.[3] At around the same time the chiefly family of Carruthers acquired the lands of Musfald (now called Mouswald).[3]

16th century[edit]

The Carruthers of Mouswald line came to an end with Simon Carruthers who was killed in 1548 during a border raid,[3] and his daughters were placed under the guardianship of the Clan Douglas.[2]

The Carruthers of Howmains line, however, continued to prosper and in 1542 their lands were erected into a free barony.[3] John Carruthers of Howmains was indicted, along with Edward Irvine of Bonshaw (chief of Clan Irvine), for an assault on Kirkpatrick of Closeburn (chief of Clan Kirkpatrick) in 1563, as well as for slaying several other persons.[3] In 1587 the Clan Carruthers was included on the roll of "unruly clans" in the West Marches.[3]

18th century to modern period[edit]

The Carruthers estate of Howmains was lost in 1772 when a financial disaster overwhelmed the family.[3] However, a younger son of the family acquired the estate of Dormont in Dumfrieshsire, and the family still holds it to the present day.[3] However, Holmains are represented through the descendants of the female line to the Mitchell-Carruthers.

A notable member of the clan was Colonel Francis Carruthers who served in Egypt and in the Boer War.[3] From 1915 to 1919 he was assistant director at the War Office.[3] He was also a brigadier in the Royal Company of Archers (the monarch's body guard in Scotland) as well as being Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries.[3]

Armorial History[edit]

The changes to the arms and crest from the first Arms of Mouswald through to Howmains (Holmains) and Dormont to the present day show some important changes.

The Chief of the clan, John Carruthers 9th of Holmains rationalised the Carruthers arms in 1672 and finalised the colours on the family arms to (Gules) red and (Or) gold. These combined the ancient arms of Mouswald and the arms of the last Mouswald Chief, Simon Carruthers to what they are today. The blazon of the Carruthers of Mousewald arms were recorded as:

Ancient Recorded Arms of Mouswald: 1) Or (gold), two chevrons engrailed Sable (black),

2) Or (gold) two chevrons engrailed Azure (blue)

Recorded Arms of Simon De Carruthers, last of the House of Mouswald: 3) Gules (red), a chevron between three fleur de lys Or (gold) and finally,

4) Gules (red), a chevron between three fleur de lys Argent (silver).

The first two (Ancient Arms) bore a striking resemblance to another family of the time, the McClennans and the latter two the Brownes/Brouns of Carsluith and Coulston. The suspicion is that the second shield was wrongly recorded by the herald William Pont as an error in describing the colour of the chevrons as Azure rather than Sable, as in blazon #1.

The heraldic turmoil of some five centuries was finally brought to order with the passing of what is known as the Lyon Act of 1672 which required that the Scottish King of Arms, the Lord Lyon, and his heralds to keep a permanent ‘Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland’.

The heralds were given a year to record in the new register all arms of those entitled to bear arms and to grant or matriculate new arms to those found “virtuous and well deserving”. John Carruthers 9th of Holmains recorded in the Register, arms which are now the principal and chiefly arms of the name Carruthers:

Gules (red), two chevrons engrailed between three fleur de lys Or (gold),

As is the case of all petitions for arms from whatever family/clan, any subsequent arms granted to a Carruthers after Holmains therefore require two distinct differences on the shield from that of the arms of the chief.

This is reflected by Carruthers of Dormont who, on registering their own arms in 1913, added a gold border around the Holmains arms. They also, as the second difference, used chevronels engrailed rather than the larger chevrons, while keeping the Serephim volent proper as their crest and the chiefly motto of Prompts et Fidelis - Ready and Faithful.

The last Carruthers Armiger granted Arms, registered in 2017, followed the differences of Dormont to chevronels rather than chevrons, but with a further difference from the base Fleur d-lis to a pheon (to represent the lang spear used by the Reivers), as is required in Heraldic law. The recorded crest: the figure of the Archangel Michael pinning the beast proper was chosen and their own motto added: Non Sto Solus - I do not stand alone. Blazoned: Gules, two chevronels engrailed between in chief two fleurs-de-lys and in base a pheon Or.[4] [5]

To date all registered Carruthers arms have maintained an angelic figure as their crest. [6] [7]

Carruthers Senior Family Lines[edit]

Currently the Clan Carruthers Society International, having researched their genealogy, have evidenced two senior lines still in existence. They therefore recognise two chieftains of the clan: Simon Peter Carruthers (Holmains) and James Andrew Carruthers (Dormont)

The House of Mouswald finished in 1548 with the death of the Chief Simon Carruthers. The chiefship was then passed to the House of Holmains with the last Carruthers Chief, John Carruthers, 12th of Holmains and 8th Baron, passing in 1809.

The line of Holmains has continued as the senior branch through the female line to this day.[8]

The line of Dormont, albeit a cadet branch, has continued down the male line and has resided in the Dormont estate, Dumfriesshire, since the 1400s. However, the land of Dormont itself wasn’t in ownership of the Carruthers family, according to the family records as published by the Rev. Arthur Stanley Carruthers, until the early 17th century.[8]

For Carruthers to move from its current armigerous Clan status, a clan chief, after petitioned evidence of seniority is accepted by the Lord Lyon, would have to be recognised through matriculation of the chiefly arms of Holmains. [6]

The search for a legitimate chief is currently a work in progress by the Council of Clan Carruthers Society International and information currently sits with the Lord Lyon for his comment and approval.

Carruthers Chief, Chieftains and Armigers[edit]

CHIEF (3 feathers in bonnet)

•Currently information is with the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh with view to a Chief being chosen through matriculation of the Chiefly Arms of Holmains. A hearing was heard on 31 October 2018 in Edinburgh, and a request was made that all information be presented to the Lyon Court by February 6th 2019. A final hearing has been scheduled mid-March 2019 in front of the Lord Lyon.

As there are senior descendants of Carruthers still alive, they have to take precedent in the claim to lead over any self appointment. Once recognised the Chief will be invited, as in the case of all legally recognised clan chiefs, to take their place on the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.

CHIEFTAINS (2 feathers in bonnet)

•Waiting for recognition there are, as far as the clan is aware, in the true historical sense and with a right to the claim, two current Chieftains of the line alive today. Both are supported by pedigree and solid genealogical evidence.

1) Simon Peter Carruthers, senior descendant of Holmains.

2) James Andrew Carruthers, senior of Dormont.

The designation of Chieftain represents the head of a significant branch or families within a clan.

Typically, in deference to the recognition of chiefship, this designation is indicated by the chief and not by the Lord Lyon.

However, with the current vacant role of the Chief, the Clan Carruthers Society currently recognizes the territorialy designated and amigerous heir of historically prominent Scottish Families within the Carruthers line as Chieftain. This is in accordance with the practice of other armigerous Clan Societies.

ARMIGERS (1 feather in bonnet)

1) George Carruthers

2) There are two other petitions being researched that are in the early stages for presentation to the Lord Lyon for matriculation of Carruthers Arms. One from the line of Dormont and the other from the line of Rammerscales.

(Clan Armigers are those that have matriculated arms from the Lord Lyon. In cases where the armiger has died, the last known heir to the arms are listed here. This list will be updated as new armigers matriculate arms. Armigers are entitled to wear their own crest in a criclet, rather than belt and buckle, upon which their motto is engraved).


Carruthers tartan.

Although a clan in their own right, based on their mention as one of the 17 lowland ‘clannis’ in the 1587 Act of the Scottish Parliament of Unruly Clans, Carruthers, have been considered as a sept of the family Bruce since the 1800s. As such they have always been entitled to use their tartan. The Bruce tartan however is registered and patented to that family and as such the rights belong solely to them.[9]

As a Border Reiver (Riding Family), Carruthers never ever wore kilts but trews, which were far more conducive to riding on fast, sturdy horses. There was never any tartan officially registered to the name Carruthers until 2017.

However, having one's own tartan is ever increasingly popular and more importantly is a prerequisite of any Scottish Clan, as it is recognisable to that clan and reflects their status and individual identity.

Family tartan as a concept, to include that of highland clan was according to many experts, basically a construct of Victorian times. Any plaid used, which did exist throughout Scotland historically, would only be regional and dependent on the pattern of the weave by the weaver in the district.

With a move towards Carruthers clan status, based on the 1587 Act and to differentiate and individualise the name, a Dr George Carruthers from Fife, had a tartan designed based on the Bruce sett and thread count.

The design was made to reflect and respect the close links with the family Bruce, but also to distinguish Carruthers as a distinct border reiver clan in their own right. It was registered with the Scottish Tartan Register STR 11700, for use by all named Carruthers or its derivatives.[10]

The tartan is currently privately woven by the House of Edgar in Perth, Scotland,[11] and available in Canada and the US through McPhail Kiltmakers in British Columbia.[12]

Clan Carruthers Society[edit]

A clan society is not a clan and may be set up anywhere, as is the case with any social group.

The head of a clan society is therefore not a chief, they are simply the head of the society. A society and a clan are two different entities in Scottish law, with one being officially recognised as representing a named family e.g. a clan, the other simply a group of people with similar family goals.

The Lord Lyon in Scotland is the only legal authority with that right and may accept and register, after strict examination, a clan chief as being representative and heading that clan through matriculation of the chiefly arms and allowing an individual to use them. Once the chief is in place, the clan then itself becomes a legal entity through its Chief. On recognition of the status of Chief being ratified, and only then, they are invited to take their place with the other chiefs on the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs and the clan is fully recognised internationally.[13]

A clan society is there to support both the Chief and the clan and is therefore a sensible starting point on the road to official clan status.[14]

Although the background work had been going on since 2007, a formally constituted Clan Society (Clan Carruthers Society-International) was set up in late 2016 but only constituted in 2017, for that specific purpose. The objects and aims of the Society are to assist in the promotion of Clan Carruthers and the preservation of its history, relics and cultural ties.[15]

The Society is non-commercial, apolitical and non-partisan and is open to any member of the international Carruthers family and derivatives of that name. The society is represented by an Executive Council with members hailing from The UK, Canada, Australia, Europe and the US with each region represented by a Clan Commissioner.

They strive to have Carruthers accepted as a clan in their own right by following the procedures as laid down by the Lyon Court in Edinburgh.


  1. ^ a b Clan Carruthers Profile Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Coventry, Martin. (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. pp. 92 - 93. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Way, George and Squire, Romily. (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 370 - 371.
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