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Suicide by the Mouswald Heiress
Simon Carruthers, 10th Laird and 5th Baron Mouswald, seems to have been killed in July 1548, in a fight with the thieves dwelling in the Debatable Lands, for it is recorded that the thieves of the Scottish West March with the assistance of English thieves had slain the principal barons nearest adjacent to the Marches, including Lord Carlisle and the Lairds of Mouswald, Kirkmichael, Kirkconnell and Logan in Annandale and many other landed men.  Simon, only age 31 at his death, died without leaving male issue. On August 13 of the same year, Queen Mary granted to Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig the ward and marriage of Janet and Marion, the two daughters of the deceased Simon Carruthers.

Upon the sudden death of Simon, a lawsuit ensued between Sir James Douglas and the heir according to the entail of the Charter of December 27, 1544, John Carruthers, Simon's eldest brother. In this law suit Sir James was successful by bargaining for a sum of money with the heir; the entail was set aside and the two daughters of Simon became co-heiresses.

Remains of Mouswald - photo by JoAnn Carothers

The story of the Carruthers family of Mouswald now commenced to close rapidly. Following on Simon's death Robert, Lord Maxwell, seems to have occupied the house, probably as it was desirable to have the place in strong hands in such unpropitious times.  But, Sir James Douglas, having secured the ward and marriage of the two heiresses, obtained an order from the Lords of the Secret Council on April 20, 1550, relieving Lord Maxwell of his charge and commanding him to deliver it to Sir James Douglas during the time of ward. 

The late Simon Carruthers does not appear to have made up his title to certain of his lands, for on January 19, 1558, Janet Carruthers expede a retour in the Burgh Court of Edinburgh before the Stewards of Annandale as the elder granddaughter of Simon Carruthers of Mouswald who died in April, 1531, vested in the lands of Cumlonganwood, Dunnabie, Kirtlehouse and Carruthers.  Cumonganwood was held from Charles Murray of Cockpool for a red rose yearly;  Dunnabie and Kirtlehouse from James, Earl of Bothwell, for a penny yearly;  and Carruthers from the same Earl for ward and relief. 

Sir James Douglas seems to have kept a tight hand on the two young girls, for on March 21, 1558, Charles Murray of Cockpool, Archibald Murray and Cuthbert Murray, their uncles, obtained letters from the Lords of Council commanding Sir James to produce Janet and Marion, who were stated to be "now past tuttorie and  14 years of age complete", before the Lords of Council at Edinburgh, as he would not permit them liberty to visit their friends. 

In the year 1560,Janet Carruthers was married to Thomas Rorison of Bardannoch.  This marriage was soon turned to his advantage by Sir James Douglas, for he persuaded the Lady of Bardannoch to make over to him her half of the Barony of Mouswald for the services he had rendered to her.  The Contract which was dated March 14, 1560, proceeds on the lines that the lairdship of Mouswald lay in a very troublous country, and that there was little profit to be gained from the lands; that Sir James had got the entail to the Charter of December 27, 1544, set aside in favour of the two daughters at his own expense, and had made great payments in satisfying the late John Carruthers, the heir according to the entail, to the extent of £2,000Scots, of which Janet's part was £1,000 Scots; that he had paid on her behalf whilst she was his ward £1,000 Scots and had sustained her in . . . "meit, drink and cleithing and other necessars" . . .; that he had found her a husband in Thomas Rorison of Bardannoch; that he would obtain her an infeftment in conjunct fee in the £5 land of old extent of "Drumragane with the pertinents by and in the parochine of Glencairn " and pay her dowry of 1,000 merks to her husband and also sustain them and their servants for the space of two years.  One cannot help feeling that Sir James obtained far more than he gave, for the Mouswald estates were extensive, and though they undoubtedly lay in an exposed place, having regards to Border raids and warfare, yet they were valuable as is evidenced by the payments made to the Exchequer when Janet entered into her half-share of the baronial lands in June, 1561.  A Precept for a Charter of Confirmation of a Charter of Alienation (dated July 16, 1562), by Janet Carruthers, with consent of her husband, Thomas Rorison of Bardannoch, to Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig, was obtained on January 8, 1562/3.  Thus Sir James obtained for himself and his heirs Janet's half of the Mouswald estates. 

It is interesting here to note the extensive possessions of the Mouswald family in the middle of the Sixteenth Century. The Estates comprised: £20 land of old extent of Mouswald, Howthwaite, and Hetlandhill, with tower, fortalice, mill and advowson of the church of Mouswald; £20 land of old extent of Logan-tenement, with mill;  £10 land of old extent of Dronok “, with fisheries; 40/- land of old extent of Cummertries; 1-merk land of Stenries; £20 land of Pennersaughs, with advowson of the church; 10-merk land of old extent of Middlebie, with advowson of the church; 5-merk land of old extent of Westscales; 2-merk land of old extent in Hoddam; 1-merk land of old extent in the Holms of Annan called Blaeberrylands ; ½-merk land of Westwood, with tenants, etc., and the 20/- land of Rafflegill.  These lands were held directly from the Sovereign. In addition there were the lands of Cumlonganwood, Dunnabie, Kirtlehouse and the most ancient holding of all, Carruthers, the first-named held from the Murrays of Cockpool and the three latter from the Earls of Bothwell. There were also other lands, e.g. the 6-merk land of old extent of the lands of Trailflat.

Having disposed of Janet Carruthers to his advantage, Sir James now turned his attention to the younger daughter, Marion.  She seems to have had a stronger spirit and to have been less pliable than her elder sister, for she made a  valiant fight for her half of her ancestral estates.  On January 28, 1563, Marion and her uncle, Charles Murray, appeared before Queen Mary and the Lords of Secret Council, and sought permission for her to consult her friends in Edinburgh regarding the things required of her by the Council. The permission was granted and Charles Murray bound himself to present Marion before the Council again on January 30 next, undertaking that she should not get married or dispose of her lands in the meantime.  It is obvious that the " thing" required of Marion was that she should marry the husband whom Sir James Douglas had found for her. It appears that Charles Murray, in order to protect Marion, had obtained letters requiring Sir James again to produce the two daughters of the deceased Simon Carruthers. He produced Marion, placing her under the Chancellor's care, and declared that as Janet was only bound to her husband he could not produce her.  The following day, January 29, the whole of the proceedings against Sir James were suspended, when a letter from the Queen was produced requiring the Lords to abandon the action.  On the same day letters of restraint were raised by Sir James and therein is related that he had offered her a suitable husband whom she had absolutely refused;  further, that she intended to marry whom she pleased and also to dispose of her lands and goods.

Marion appears to have made up her mind not to marry the husband provided for her. Possibly she was in love with someone else, but the records do not explicitly tell of this. Sir James himself went to see her on the next day (January 30) and offered her in marriage to John, son and heir of James McMath of Dalpeddar, and required her to “compleit the said band of matrimonye with the said Johne McMath as effeirit oweir in the Kirk of Borthick, whare ... that sche was ordainit be the counsale to remove for the tyme or into any place where sche plesit upon the first day of Merche next to cum thaireftir, or uthir convenient day sche plesit to appoint and gif sche failzeit he protestit for the double avail of hir mariage while the said Marioun refusit to do, and declarit that sche wald not be at the said James' byddin". 

Two days later (February 1, 1563), Marion left Edinburgh and went to reside for a period of 40 days with the family of her kinsman, John, Lord Borthwick.  But, before being allowed to depart, both she an Lord Borthwick had to bind themselves under a penalty of  £2,000 that Marion would remain with him and not depart to Annandale or any other place and that after the period of forty days she should not depart until notice had been given thereof to the Queen and Council by Lord Borthwick.

At the end of the forty days, Marion seems to have been able to return to Annandale, for on March 13, 1563, she expede a retour at the Court of Lochmaben making up her part of the Barony of Mouswald as second daughter and one of the two heiresses of the late Simon Carruthers.  It is interesting to note from this record that Marion was 21 years of age on the feast of Saint Andrew last, which gives her date birth as November 30, 1541. 

In September Marion was evidently still as determined as ever not to marry the man chosen for her by her guardian for, on September 13, 1563, Thomas Borthwick of Pryncards and Michael Borthwick of Glengelt, became sureties, jointly and severally, for Marion Carruthers that she should not marry a traitor or other "Brokkin Man" of the country, nor join herself with any such person under a penalty of £1,000. 

Comlongon Castle and Country House - photo by JoAnn Carothers

Presumably in an endeavour to safeguard her estates, Marion attempted to dispose of her lands to her uncle, Charles Murray of Cockpool,and a Charter of Confirmation was granted by the Queen on June 24, 1564.  The lands mentioned are incomplete and others are different from those appearing in the charter of 1562 granted to Sir James Douglas so it seems that the list of the lands comprising her portion of the barony had been compiled from memory. Obviously, Sir James could not let this pass unchallenged and he immediately obtained Letters of Inhibition (February 16, 1565) contending that Marion could not legally dispose of her heritage without his consent in view of the gift of ward and marriage which had been obtained by him. 

The struggle still continued, but evidently Marion was beginning to realize that the case was hopeless as the law was against her. Whether in despair she committed suicide, or whether she was murdered, it is difficult to state.  Either way, she fell from the top of the tower of Comlongan Castle.  On October 17, 1570, King James VI granted an escheat in favour of Sir Wllliam Douglas of Hawick. The deed narrates that the lands of Mouswald had fallen into the hands of the Crown through "the said Marioun Carrutheris willfull slaying of hirself in leiping ovir the wall of the Castell touer and fortalice of Cullyngane, upon the twenty-five day of September last bipast, and thairthrow wilfullie breaking hir awin craig and banis where of sche deit”.   The above record states that she committed suicide, but the traditions of the surrounding district assert that she was murdered, for she was found dead with strong suspicions of foul play. It also seems difficult to understand why she should take her life while residing with her uncle who, throughout her struggles to preserve her inheritance and her right to choose a husband, had so befriended her. 

During the thirty years since Simon Carruthers's death, all had been confusion at Mouswald. This is pointed out by Lord Herries, in his report on the West March in the year 1578-9, who advised that since there was no capable defender of Mouswald, it should be taken possession of by some laird. 

On March 8, 1588, the history of the Carruthers family of Mouswald comes to an end, for on that date Sir James Douglas resigned all the lands of Carruthers, Mouswald and Logan-tenement into the hands of King James VI for infeftment to himself and his heirs male.  Following upon this, on March 18, 1588, came a charter of resignation and an erection of Logan-tenement into the Barony of Drumlanrig, and upon which sasine was given on April 11, 1589. 

On September 1, 1613, King James VI granted a charter to William Douglas, son and heir of James Douglas of Drumlanrig, of Marion’s half of the Mouswald estates.  This William was destined to be the 1st Earl of Queensberry.  It is interesting to note just how extensive the Carruthers holdings of Mouswald were.  Drumlanrig did not become a barony until Janet’s half of Mouswald was given to them.  And Marion’s half of Mouswald helped William Douglas to become the 1st Earl of Queensberry.  The Douglas family holdings of Queensberry were raised to the title of Marquess in 1682, but by 1684 when Queensberry became a Dukedom, the title was with the Scott family.

For another interesting version of this story, and more pictures, you might want to visit JoAnn Carothers' web site pages.

Source:  Records of the Carruthers Family, by A. Stanley Carruthers and R. C. Reid


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