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Wardens of the Border
Background of the Situation

Background of the Situation

Originally, the area known as Strathclyde covered both sides of what is now the Scotland and England border.  Inhabitants of both sides of the border spoke the same language and families settled on what became later, both sides of the border.  When Strathclyde became part of Scotland, the Scottish border lay considerably South of its present position.  It was not until the reign of William II of England (1087-1100) that Carlisle was established as an English town. 

For several centuries, there lay between the kingdoms of England and Scotland a stretch of ground known as the Debatable Lands.  These lands came to be occupied by what were known as "broken men".  These men were originally of good family, but owing to various circumstances, had become little beyond common thieves.  In 1552, after an invasion of Annandale, a "commission" met and the contested territory was divided between the two countries.  The northern part, Canonbie, was added to Scotland and the southern part, Kirkandrews, became a part of England.

Much of the blame for over 300 years of Border raiding goes to King Edward I of England (reigning 1272-1307).  Edward decided to interfere in Scottish affairs when Alexander III of Scotland died and Margaret, the Maid of Norway, became the heir to the Scottish throne.  Edward chose ot acquire Scotland by peaceful means by marrying his young son Prince Edward to the Maid.  After Margaret died on the way to Scotland, the throne was left open to 13 competitors and Edward I resorted to less peaceful means.  The result was the War of Scottish Independence, ending with King Robert the Bruce sitting on the newly independent Scottish throne.

People living on the Border were the victims of these circumstances.  The passing back and forth of armies, both English and Scottish, made tilling the ground and agricultural pursuits useless.  There was no point in sowing crops that would be burnt down or trampled before the harvest.  Therefore, cattle became their principal property, but it was always liable to be stolen.  If their cattle were stolen, the people had to survive somehow, so they stole cattle back.  Robbing thus appeared to be fair reprisal.  However, under Border Laws, the pursuing of raiders into their own country was appropriate and often led to skirmishes and bloodshed.  What we now look at as common thieving, became the normal mode of subsistence, considered honorable and lawful.  This continued on both sides, even after there was peace between the two countries.   

Establishment of Wardens

Establishment of Wardens

In order to better "police" the Border, and to ensure grievances were settled, both sides of the Border were divided into territories known as the Marches.  On each side of the the Border there was established a West March, an East March and the Middle March.  It was the Scottish West March that involved the Carruthers family.  This West March was comprised of Nithsdale, Annandale, Eskdale, Ewesdale, and Wauchopedale (which was the Stewartry of Annandale and the Sheriffdom of Dumfries).  Caerlaverock, Lochmaben, Annan, and Threave were the most important strongholds, with Lochmaben being identified as a "Royal Castle".  The Warden, the Deputy, and the Sheriff were stationed at Dumfries.  The Deputy was charged with the defense of Scotland from England.  A Captain, who was known as the Keeper of Annandale, was stationed at Langholm.  The rest of the wardenry was defended by the various families who lived in the Border area.

The Warden had great powers and appointed deputies, clerks, sergeants and dempsters.  The castles of Lochmaben, Langholm, Annan, and Threave were in his charge and he could call out the full armed force of the wardenry for the invasion of England.  He had power to make truces with the English Warden and, in peace time, one of his chief duties was to meet on certain days for the settling of disputes and granting compensation for crimes committed.  He could hold Justice Courts for the trial of Scottish subjects under his jurisdiction and could compel the attendence of nobles, barons, and landed gentry who were bound to present before him their tenants and servants when their names came before the court.  Unruly Borderers could face action from the Warden's Lieutenant, who could use sword and fire to demolish their houses and castles.

The penalty  for wounding a person of the opposite realm was estimated by a jury, consisting of 6 Englishmen and 6 Scotsmen, named by their respective Wardens - and was then doubled.  If the person committed the crime of "burning or spoyling of goods", they had to pay back the value of the goods, plus twice the value as penalty.  Convicted murderers, were executed by the opposite Warden and his property sold to pay to the heir of the deceased.  In 1563, it was agreed that an offender proved guilty on three occasions of stealing, should be executed.

Deadly feuds were occasionally stopped by the Warden arresting the persons at the feud and delivering them to the opposite warden.  This worked for smaller families, but not for the feuds involving the larger clans such as the Scotts, Elliotts, Maxwells, Armstrongs or Johnstones.

End of the Mouswald Baronry

End of the Mouswald Baronry

The difficulty in maintaining law and order on the Border played a significant role in bringing the Carruthers family at Mouswald to an end.  Simon Carruthers, born in 1517, was the 10th Laird of Mouswald and the 5th Baron.  He became head of the Mouswald estate at age 14 when his father died.  He married first in 1538, Agnes Murray, daughter of Cuthbert Murray of Cockpool, and second in 1544, Mariota Johnstone, sister of John Johnstone of that Ilk.  By Agnes, Simon had two daughters, Janet Carruthers, born around 1540, and Marion Carruthers, born 30 November, 1541.

By 1548, Simon was still a young man, only 31 years old, and still capable of producing a son and male heir to Mouswald.  However, in July 1548, Simon Carruthers was killed in a fight with the "thieves" dwelling in the Debatable Lands (the Border).  At that time, thieves of the Scottish West March, with the assistance of English thieves, murdered the principal barons nearest adjacent to the Marches.  In addition to Simon Carruthers the 5th Baron Mouswald, those killed included Lord Carlisle, the Lairds of Kirkmichael, Kirkconnell and Logan in Annandale, and many other landed men.  Simon died without leaving a male heir. 

On August 13, Queen Mary granted to Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig, (who would be named Warden of the West March 5 years later), the ward and marriage of Simon's two young daughters.  This date is interesting, because Mary, Queen of Scots was only 5 years old at the time, and on August 7, 1548, 6 days before, had sailed for France for protection following up on the July 7 treaty for her to marry Francis, the next King of France.  Obviously, the Regent, James Hamilton the 2nd Earl of Arran and next in line to the Scottish throne after Mary, was the decision maker in giving Douglas of Drumlanrig control of the Mouswald estates. 

The fascinating saga of what happened to Simon's two daughters, co-heiresses of Mouswald, will be put on the Mouswald page of this site, but can also be found on the page Suicide of the Mouswald Heiress.  The Carruthers family had lost Mouswald. 

Changes on the Borders

Changes on the Borders

With the union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603, when King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England, the Borders became the "middle shires".  Border raiding did not necessarily cease.  It was many years before the Borderers learned to live peaceably at home, cultivating their land for sustenance.  The Union of the Parliaments at the beginning of the 18th century was not favorably looked upon by many on the Borders.  Many of the Border families in Parliament at that time voted against the union of the Parliaments.  The result was, smuggling of contraband articles continued for a number of years.   

The Industrial Revolution brought further change as the area became rapidly depopulated as inhabitants moved into towns or to Ireland or America.  Today's population is small compared to the number of people who previously lived in the West March of Scotland. 

Carruthers in Offices

Carruthers in Offices

As one of the leading families in the Border area, members of the Carruthers family were called upon at various times to serve in official capacities.  Below is a list, that will be added to as more information becomes available, of the specific offices and positions held by members of the Carruthers family.

  • King's Chancelor of Annandale, 1349, John Carruthers of Mouswald, brother of Thomas Carruthers the 1st Laird of Mouswald
  • Chamberlain to the Scottish Regent John Randolph the 3rd Earl of Moray, Sir Nigel Carruthers of Mouswald, killed at the Battle of Durham 17 Oct 1346
  • Commissioner of the West March, 1429, Symon Carruthers, 2nd son of Simon Carruthers the 4th Laird of Mouswald
  • Captain of Lochmaben Castle, 1446-1454, John Carruthers the 1st Baron Mouswald
  • Warden of the West March, 1484, Sir Simon Carruthers, 2nd son of John Carruthers the 1st Baron Mouswald, killed at the Battle of Kirtle
  • Captain of Threave Castle, 1585, George Carruthers the 2nd Baron Holmains
  • Steward Deputy of Annandale, 1608-1616, John Carruthers the 3rd Baron Holmains
  • Justice of the Peace for Dumfriesshire, John Carruthers the 3rd Baron Holmains
  • Baron Baillie for John Carruthers the 4th Baron Holmains, Robert Carruthers the 3rd Laird of Rammerscales
  • The office of "Forester" was a hereditary one for the Carruthers family of Mouswald
  • Chamberlain to James Murray the 2nd Earl Annandale, 1660-1672, James Carruthers
  • Steward Deputy of Annandale, 1672, the same James Carruthers as above
  • Justice of the Peace for Dumfriesshire, 1663, John Carruthers the 5th Baron Holmains
  • Captain of the Dumfriesshire Militia, 1668, John Carruthers the 5th Baron Holmains
  • Steward Deputy of Annandale, Major Thomas Carruthers of Brigmuir, 3rd son of John Carruthers the 4th Baron Holmains
  • Chamberlain to the Duke of Queensberry, James Carruthers of Over Halleaths and Roberthill
  • Member of Parliament, 1705-1707, John Carruthers the 2nd Laird of Denbie
  • Deputy Assistant at the War Office, 1915-1919, Lieut.-Col. Francis John Carruthers, 11th Laird of Dormont


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