The Unruly Border Clans of 1587

List of the 17 ‘Unruly Clans’ of the Scottish Border

Although their were other Riding Families in the border lands of Scotland, only 17 were ever namedClan

In 1587 the Parliament of Scotland passed a statute: “For the quieting and keping in obiedince of the disorderit subjectis inhabitantis of the borders hielands and Ilis.” Attached to the statute was a Roll of surnames from both the Borders and Highlands.

The Borders portion listed 17 ‘clannis’ with a Chief and their associated Marches: During the time of the Border Reivers, from the 13c -17c, the Anglo-Scottish border was split into three Marches: the East, the Middle and the West. The Western Marche was deemed to be the most dangerous, unpredictable and violent place to live.

Carruthers as a Clan, albeit smaller in numbers than the Johnstons, Douglas or Maxwell’s, played their part in the mayhem that as the lives of a Reiver family. So much so, out of all the Clans living on the Scottish side of the border, Carruthers was one of the named in the listing of the unruly Border ‘Clannis’ mentioned.

The list of the 17 are :

Middle March – Armstrong, Elliott, Nixon and Crozier

West March – Scott, Beattie(Batesons), Little, Thomson, Glendenning, Irvine, Bell, Carruthers, Graham, Johnstone, Jardine, Moffat and Latimer.

Below is some information on those clans and families listed as unruly in the 1587 Act with whom we shared our lands and our lives.

In 1581, the Parliament of Scotland rendered a whole clan jointly answerable, in the way of retaliation for the delinquencies of each individual. In another statute passed shortly after, the chief of each clan was made responsible of all the misdeeds of his surname. In consequence of these acts, a roll was made of the nobles, barons, chieftains and Clans residing on the Borders, and Highlands in 1587. In this roll (West Marche) appear the surnames; Scotts of Ewesdale, Batesons, Littles, Thomsons, Glendinnings, Irvings, Bells, Carruthers, Grahams, Johnstons, Jardines, Moffats, and Latimers. In addition, Monypeny’s Chronicle, published in 1587, enumerates sixty-five lairds and gentleman as residing in Dumfriessire. There were also twenty “chief men of name, not being lairds” among which are Young Archie Thomson and Sym Thomson.

A 1594 Act of the Scottish parliament for the “punishment of theft, robbery, oppression and sorning” cited a “great number of wicked thieves, oppressors and peace-breakers of the surnames listed above.