Scotland During WWII

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Scotland During WWII


Scotland’s Blitz

When people talk about ‘the Blitz’, they often mean the air raids on London or Coventry. But lots of other places in the UK were bombed during World War II. Scotland came under attack from German bombers. Glasgow and the Clyde, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee were bombed as well as towns and cities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Bomb damage in Clydebank (1941)Over two nights in March 1941 Clydebank was attacked by German bombers. All along the River Clyde were factories making ammunition, and shipyards. These were important targets for German bombers, but homes too were hit.

Why was Scotland bombed?

Scotland had factories, coal mines, engineering works and shipyards. These industries were important to the war effort. Scotland’s industrial areas were important targets for German bombers. German planes flew across the North Sea to drop bombs on Scotland.

Glasgow had many factories. There were shipyards along the River Clyde and cargo ships gathered in the river to form convoys.

Many people in industrial areas lived near their workplaces. When factories and shipyards were bombed during Scotland’s Blitz, hundreds of people were killed. Many more were left homeless.

Ruins of homes in Clydebank.jpg

Clydebank was home to tens of thousands of people. Many lived in tenement flats close to the factories and shipyards where they worked. After the bombs fell 4,000 homes (out of 12,000 in Clydebank) were in ruins.

The Clydebank Blitz

The town of Clydebank, not far from Glasgow, had shipyards and ammunition factories making bullets and bombs. One big factory made aircraft engines. Most of the people who worked in the shipyards and factories lived in tenement flats nearby.

Over two nights on 13/14 March 1941 about 400 German planes dropped bombs on Clydebank. RAF fighters shot down two German bombers. Even so more than 1,000 bombs fell on Clydebank.


It’s probable this family, like 40,000 other people, had seen their home destroyed by bombs. Very few tenements survived without damage. Most blocks were so badly damaged they had to be pulled down. It was years before new homes were built.


528 people were killed and over 600 injured on Clydebank over the two nights. Many fires were started by incendiary bombs. About 4,000 homes were destroyed. More than 40,000 people were made homeless.

The Polish warship Piorun

ORP Piorun was an N-class destroyer used by the Polish Navy during World War II…ORP Piorun was an N-class destroyer used by the Polish Navy during World War II…

The ORP Piorun (‘Thunderbolt’ in Polish) was a Polish navy warship. The ship had been built on the Clyde for the Royal Navy. It was given to the Polish navy in 1940. Many Poles had come to Britain to help fight the war.

When the German bombers attacked Clydebank, Piorun was being repaired in the John Brown shipyard, the most famous shipyard on the Clyde. The warship’s crew fired its guns at the bombers to defend the town. Near Clydebank Town Hall in Solidarity Plaza is a memorial plaque to those brave Polish sailors.

Raids on Greenock

On 6/7 May 1941 about 50 German planes bombed Greenock. 280 people were killed and 1,200 people were injured. Cars drove through the town with loudspeakers to tell people where to go for help and shelter. Some people were covered with soot and dust from the fires started by incendiary bombs.

Fire fighters came from as far as Edinburgh. Sailors from ships in the Clyde also helped fight the fires. Three firemen were awarded the George Medal for their bravery during the Greenock Blitz.



Rescuers worked very carefully to bring out people still alive but trapped beneath rubble. It was a very dangerous job, because damaged buildings often collapsed.


The Aberdeen Blitz

Aberdeen on Scotland’s east coast was another target. German bombers flew across the North Sea from Norway.

On the night of 21 April 1943 between 40 and 50 bombers flew over Aberdeen. In this surprise attack 98 civilians and 27 soldiers were killed. Around 10,000 homes were destroyed or damaged. Low-flying German planes fired their machine guns at people in the streets.

Charles Street in 1943.jpg

Charles Street in 1943

The German bombers flew so low that many bombs did not explode. ‘UXBs’ or unexploded bombs were very dangerous. Bomb disposal teams had to ‘defuse’ the bomb to stop it blowing up.

The 1943 raid was so swift that all the bombers got away. But in an earlier raid in July 1940 a German bomber was shot down by an RAF fighter. It crashed onto a new ice rink!

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Suicide by the Mouswald Heiress

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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.

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 ruined tower at Mouswald

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.

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 1562granted 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. Comlongon Castle, Scotland.jpgComlongon Castle, Scotland

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.

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

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Sir Walter Scott and the Carruthers

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There is a remarkable story, factual, concerning how Sir Walter Scott, in his role as principal clerk to the Court of Session, became aware of legal proceedings involving retention of an estate in the Carruthers family.  Scott had this story in mind as he developed the plot, and wrote his novel Guy Mannering.

This story underscores the significance of hereditary estate retention throughout history.  The Carruthers family owned the Mouswald land from 1320 until 1588 – 258 years.  The Holmains  estate was in the Carruthers family from 1361 until 1772 – 411 years.  A. Stanley Carruthers in his book Records of the Carruthers Family, published in 1933, called the Woodfoot and Milne branches of the family “probably” the senior traceable branch of the family.  However, both Milne and Woodfoot are extinct in the male line. 

This brings us to the Carruthers family of Dormont.  The ancestor of this branch was William Carruthers, 3rd son of John Carruthers, 5th Lord and 1st Baron Holmains.  He received the Charter of Carsopeland from his father in 1552.  James Carruthers, the 13th Laird, currently heads the Dormont family – 456 years later. 

Can you imagine the difficult circumstances people must have had to go through to keep an estate in the family for over 450 years?  Elsewhere on this web site you can see where Carruthers estates were lost due to murder, bank failure, non-freedom of religion and marriage with no male heirs.  How the Carruthers family of Dormont has been able to retain one estate for over 450 years is nothing short of remarkable.  But this story involves a legal case that was finally closed after going before the House of Lords for a second time, almost 80 years after an illegitimate child was born. 

Details of this story can be found in Records of the Carruthers Family, in Michael Robson’s book Surnames and Clansmen – Border Family History in Earlier Days,  along with the Court of Sessions records.

Extracts are provided below.   Sir Walter ScottSir Walter Scott 

Francis, the 5th Laird of Dormont , succeeded his grandfather in 1725.  In 1731 he married Margaret, daughter of Sir Alexander Maxwell of Monreith.  In 1735 he made a post-nuptial contract of marriage to himself and his heirs male, whom failing the heirs male of any other marriage, whom failing to any daughter he might have by Margaret Maxwell.  A clause stipulated that if a daughter was excluded from the estate by any term in the deed, she should get £1,000 sterling. 

Margaret had a way of living beyond their means and the resulting financial hardship caused Francis to give up his life as a leisurely country gentleman and make some additional money.  His chosen path was in selling and delivering Galloway cattle, a potentially prosperous venture, but one that kept him away from home for extended periods of time.  During one extended absence trying to settle a lawsuit in England, he received word from home that “Mrs. Carruthers’s conduct with regard to a handsome stout fellow of a gardener named Bell at Dormont, was not a little suspicious”.   When he got home, it was obvious that his wife was “with child”.  He steadfastly exclaimed that he was not the father since he had been away from home for “nearly a whole year”.  

Francis then decided to get rid of his wife by getting a divorce.   However, the questioning of the staff only provided him with suspicious circumstances, not the proof he needed at that time to justify divorce proceedings.  Undaunted, he decided to proceed anyway with the divorce action.  But, before the proceedings could be finished, after having been married ten years without a child, Margaret had a daughter, Elizabeth,on May 28, 1741.  Francis, naturally refused to acknowledge the child as his daughter.   But, since he was not divorced, the law said that the child was a legitimate heir.  Francis’ divorce from Margaret was finalized on January 6, 1742.  Not too long after delivering her child, though, Margaret fell ill and died.  While this death solved the expense problem, there still was an open question about inheritance of the child, and Margaret was no longer around to answer any questions.

Francis did not seem interested in marrying again and continuing to try to have a male heir.  Under the previous entail, there was some question as to whether or not a male child by a 2nd wife would take precedence over a female heir by his 1st wife.  Therefore, Francis spent his energy trying to prove that Elizabeth was illegitimate.  But, his time away from home turned out to be 9½ months, and under the law, since he had been home within 10 months, the child was legitimately his.

He refused to see the infant Elizabeth, “alien to his blood”, and arranged for her to be brought up in Northumberland, in what Sir Walter Scott called the “wildest part of the Cheviot Hills” at the home of “an ignorant and low farmer” named Thomas Robson.  He was paid to bring her up as his own daughter and never let her know that she had any other father.  She was known as Betty Robson.  Francis apparently did provide money for her support every year.  However, like most Cheviot farmers, Robson spent his evenings drunk and, over the years let out more and more of the story.

Elizabeth, like her mother Margaret, turned out to be an exceedingly beautiful woman, with men courting her from all over the area.  In 1758, at the age of 17, she ran off with Henry Routledge of Cumcrook and Nether Hill.  They ran away to Edinburgh and got married.  Henry, aware of her circumstances, wrote to her presumed father, Francis Carruthers, for permission to marry, but he never answered. 

Henry, although from a landed family, was a 4th son of a small estate burdened with debt, so he inherited very little.  Struggling at the poverty level, and pressed to pay off debts, the couple was desparate enough to approach Francis Carruthers for money.  They started with high demands, requiring part of the Dormont estate while Francis lived, and all of it at his death.  Getting nowhere with this demand, they eventually settled on signing a “Deed of Renounciation of all Claim upon the Estate of Dormont” for £650.  Immediately after this, Francis executed another document providing Dormont would go only to his male heirs, failing any then to his brother William Carruthers and his male heirs – finalized December 8, 1759.

Francis died in 1773 and his brother, William, headed the estate for the next 14 years.  William, and the next 2 generations after him, gained little from inheriting Dormont, since the estate was still in debt, almost to the extent of its whole value. 

The Routledges were unable to make the £650 last very long.  They continued scraping by, now needing to also support 2 children, John and Anne.  Sir Walter Scott stated that Henry Routledge died in the Carlisle jail.  Elizabeth died in 1768, leaving the 2 children in dire circumstances.  The plot now thickens once again.  Given that Margaret Maxwell had been a sister to Sir William Maxwell, a cousin to the mother then took it upon herself to raise the 2 children.  The cousin, by this time, was known as the Duchess of Gordon.  The Duchess had John and Anne educated and procured a job for him in India.  She also arranged a good marriage for Anne, to Mr. Majendie, the Bishop of Bangor. 

In 1806, John Rutledge returned from India.  He had prospered.  While visiting Cumberland, he is believed to have crossed to Dumfriesshire and stopped at an inn close to Dormont.   Here he learned, quite by chance, of his mother’s connection with the Carruthers family.  He at once raised an action to set aside the settlement of the estate made in 1759 by Francis. The two main questions were (1) was the deed of 1759 valid, seeing that it had not been challenged for over forty years; (2) did the discharge given by Elizabeth on receipt of the £650 exclude her heir’s rights to the estate under his grandmother’s marriage contract in 1735.  It took exactly 14 years to reach an ultimate decision.  By that time John Rufledge was dead,  but his sister, Mrs. Majendie, had continued the lawsuit.  The suit was heard in every court in Scotland, even argued twice at length, before the House of Lords.  At various times, the decision had been made in each party’s favor.  However, the final decision handed down in 1820, was in the favor of William Thomas Carruthers, grand-nephew of Francis, and the 8th Laird of Dormont.

Sir Walter Scott published his novel Guy Mannering in 1815.

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Carruthers history, Scotland History, The Picts, Uncategorized

Clan Facts: Carruthers Clan Int LLC

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Some little known facts about Scottish Clans


Over the centuries a great many myths surrounding Scottish clans have arisen, due in no small part to the “Romantic-Revival” of Scottish culture that began with the publication of James MacPherson’s Ossian, less than two decades after the clans were defeated in the last Jacobite uprising in 1746. Although reduced to a mainly ceremonial status, Scottish nostalgia and sentiment for the clans fueled a continuing interest which had led to the development of many customs and traditions that have since become an integral part of our Scottish cultural heritage. Although it is often wrongly assumed that these customs developed naturally over the course of many centuries, many of them originated in the first decades of the 19th century while others first came to light during the Victorian era that followed shortly thereafter.


Myth #1: Clans are exclusive to the Highlands 


The word clan comes from the Gaelic term clann, meaning “descendants” or  “offspring.” Within the context of Scottish culture, clans were  historically considered to be any group composed of extended family claiming descent from a common ancestor. The fact that clans are found in the Lowlands as well as the Highlands is made clear in an Act of Parliament of 1587 for the quieting and keeping in obedience of the disordered subjects, inhabitants of the borders, highlands and isles, which was directed at  “the captains, chiefs and chieftains of all clans, as well on the highlands as on the borders, and the principals of the branches of the said clans….which clans dwell upon the lands of diverse landlords and depend upon the directions of the said captains, chiefs and chieftains (by pretence of blood or place of their dwelling).” Thus the word clan is used to describe both Highland and Lowland families. As Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw put it, the “belief that clans are Highland and families are Lowland….is really a development of the Victorian era.”


Myth #2: Clan tartans are of great antiquity

bagpipercarrutherskiltIan Carruthers from Scotland

According to  the great Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott, writing in 1829,  the “idea of distinguishing the clans by their tartans is but a fashion of modern date.” The concept of named tartan “setts” or patterns of a specific design serving to differentiate a particular Scottish clan or family is indeed of comparatively recent origin, having evolved since the latter half of the 18th century when certain distinctive tartan patterns were first adopted by Scottish military regiments, often named after their founders, such as the Gordon Highlanders, the Fraser Highlanders, the Cameron Highlanders, etc. These regiments used tartans based on the original “Government tartan” worn by the Black Watch or 42nd Highland Regiment, with the addition of distinctively colored stripes which served to distinguish the tartans worn by one regiment from the others. The government contractor who supplied tartan cloth to the Scottish military was a firm known as William Wilson & Sons of Bannockburn, Stirlingshire, who held the monopoly on the tartan trade during much of the early 19th century. In addition to naming tartan patterns after military regiments such as the Gordons, the Frasers, the Camerons, etc., Wilsons’ expanded this practice to include tartan patterns named after Scottish clans, families, locations, historical and royal personages, etc.

Myth #3: Tartan is a Highland Scottish innovation

Portrait of Sir Robert Dalrymple circa 1720Portrait of Sir Robert Dalrymple circa 1720

The oldest known surviving fragment of tartan to be found in Britain was discovered in the Scottish Lowlands. Unearthed inside a clay pot containing more than 2000 Roman era silver coins dating to the 3rd century A.D., this ancient piece of tartan was found in Falkirk, Stirlingshire.  The oldest known tartan fragments discovered in all of Europe were found outside of Scotland itself, among artifacts belonging to Gallic tribes located in what is now Salzburg, Austria, which was inhabited by the Gauls between 400 B.C. and 100 B.C.  By the 18th century tartan was being commercially produced on a large-scale basis in the Scottish Lowlands by firms such as Wilsons of Bannockburn, who held the monopoly for tartan cloth supplied to the Scottish military regiments as part of their uniforms, and it is known that during the era of the Jacobite rebellions, many Lowlanders who supported the House of Stuart wore tartan, such as Sir Robert Dalrymple of Castleton, who appears in a portrait dated 1720 dressed in a robe of tartan.


According to Ivan Baillie of Aberiachan, writing in 1768, the style of kilt recognized today as the quintessential form of Scottish attire “is rather of late than ancient usage” and was worn by both Lowland as well as Highland Scots: “this piece of dress….was in the Gaelic termed felie-beg….and in our Scots termed little kilt; and it was found so handy and convenient, that, in the shortest space, the use of it became frequent in all the Highland Countries, and in many of our northern Low Countries also.”

Col. James Oglethorpe visits Darien, Georgia in 1736Col. James Oglethorpe visits Darien, Georgia in 1736

As the Scots began to venture overseas, the kilt went with them as a part of their everyday dress. It is known to have been worn in America by the Scots who settled  in colonial Georgia under Governor James Oglethorpe in 1736, and was likely worn by many of the Scots who had settled along Cape Fear in North Carolina as early as 1729.


Myth #4: Clan Crest Badges date back many centuries


The notion that what is commonly referred to as a “clan crest badge” is derived from some supposedly historical practice of Scottish noblemen giving their retainers a metal representation of their heraldic crest to wear suspended from a leather strap and buckle, which was coiled about the crest when not being worn, as described by Margaret O. MacDougall in Robert Bain’s The Clans and Tartans of Scotland, is a modern fiction. Nowhere in any of the early works on Highland Dress by authors such as James Logan, David Stewart of Garth, R. R. McIan, or Charles Niven MacIntyre North is there any mention of the clansman’s crest-badge. It is not until the latter half of the 19th century, during the Victorian era, that clan crest badges in the form of a heraldic crest surrounded by a “strap and buckle” design borrowed directly from the insignia of the English Order of the Garter first make their appearance in the artwork of Kenneth MacLeay who painted a series of portraits in 1869 which were published in a volume entitled “The Highlanders of Scotland.” It should be noted that during that early period of the clan crest-badge’s development, the strap and buckle surround was not indicative of a follower of a clan chief, as MacLeay painted clan chiefs such as The Chisholm wearing exactly this style of crest badge on both his kilt and his bonnet  while earlier portraits pre-dating the Victorian era show a complete absence of clan crest-badges of the style known today. It is thought that the use of heraldic cap badges surrounded by the strap and buckle Order of the Garter style insignia was first introduced by the British military regiments whose regimental cap-badges often included the Garter-style surround. Among certain Scottish military regiments such as the 5th Territorial Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, raised by the Duke of Sutherland in 1859, minature silver eagle’s feathers were worn behind the regimental cap badge to indicate the officer’s rank; with a single feather designating a lieutenant, two a captain, three a major, and four feathers a colonel.  This style would later be adopted by civilians in the wearing of minature silver eagles feathers to indicate whether the wearer was an armiger, a chieftain, or a clan chief.  “The use of feathers is one of custom and convention, and has no legal basis” (Opinion of the Lord Lyon King of Arms; from the Clan Convention at The Scottish Parliament; 25 July 2009; afternoon session).

Myth #5: The status of Clan Chief is subject to the determination of the Lord Lyon


While the Lord Lyon is the foremost authority and arbiter in matters pertaining to the legal protection and use of coats of arms recorded in Scotland’s Lyon Register, he has no power to determine the status of Clan Chiefship. This is made clear in the Introduction to the Law of Scotland, 9th edition, 1987, p. 25, where we read: “The Lord Lyon King of Arms has jurisdiction, subject to appeal to the Court of Session and the House of Lords, in questions of heraldry, and the right to bear arms. (Hunter v. Weston (1882) 9 R 492, Mackenzie v. Mackenzie (1920) S.C. 764, affd. 1922 S.C. (H.L.) 39.) He has no jurisdiction to determine rights of precedence (Royal College of Surgeons v. Royal College of Physicians, 1911 S.C. 1054.), nor to decide a disputed question of chiefship or chieftainship. (Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean, 1938 S.L.T. 49; and see 1941 S.C. 613.)” This was determined in part by the case of Maclean of Ardgour v. Maclean, in which Lord Wark stated: “I agree with your Lordships that Lyon has no jurisdiction to entertain a substantive declarator of chiefship of a Highland clan, or of chieftainship of a branch of a clan….The question of chiefship of a Highland clan, or chieftainship of a branch of a clan, is not in itself, in my opinion, a matter which involves any interest which the law can recognise. At most, it is a question of social dignity or precedence. In so far as it involves social dignity it is a dignity which, in my opinion, is unknown to the law. It was decided in the case College of Surgeons of Edinburgh v. College of Physicians of Edinburgh (1911 S.C. 1054), that Lyon has no jurisdiction except as is conferred by statute, or is vouched by the authority of an Institutional writer, or by continuous and accepted practice of the Lyon Court….in my opinion, there is no practice or precedent which entitled Lyon to decide a question of disputed chiefship or chieftainship, either by itself or incidentally to a grant of arms….But it is a different thing altogether to say that in a case of dispute Lyon has jurisdiction to determine and declare who is chief. For that no precedent has been cited to us. In my opinion, it is outwith his jurisdiction to decide because (1) at best it is a question merely of social status or precedence; (2) this social status is not one recognised by law; and (3) and, most important of all, it depends, not upon any principle of law of succession which can be applied by a Court of Law, but upon recognition by the clan itself. Like your Lordship, I am at a loss to understand how any determination or decree of Lyon ever could impose upon a clan a head which it did not desire to acknowledge.”

Myth #6: – Scotland is what makes the Scots “Scottish”

Britain circa 600 AD. Areas occupied by Scots shown in green.Britain circa 600 AD. Areas occupied by Scots shown in green.

The original Scots were not native to the country now called Scotland (which did not exist until the High Middle Ages), but were a tribe of Gaels who inhabited the north of Ireland. These Gaels or Scotti, as they were known to the Romans, eventually established an outpost colony called Dalriada in what is now Argyllshire around the year 500 A.D. About 350 years later, Kenneth MacAlpine, a descendant of both the royal lines of the Irish Scots of Dalriada and of the Picts (who were descendants of the native Britons that inhabited the non-Romanized northern third of Britain) united both tribes to form the Kingdom of Alba, which would eventually become known as “Scotland” several centuries later. At one time Ireland was referred to (in Latin) as Scotia after the Gaels or Scotti. When the Scotti emigrated to the northern third of Britain, that part of Britain came to be known as Scotia Minor while Ireland was known as Scotia Major.  We know that the Gaels were also the Goths, Guts, Gots, all from Gutland, Carruthersland, who settled in Northern Ireland and Northwest Scotland at an earlier time, then when they came to Scotland in 450 A. D.


These Irish Scots, together with the Picts and some Viking admixture, became the ancestors of the Highlanders. The Lowland Scots were descended mainly from the native Celtic Britons and Picts together with  a bit of admixture from the Angles who came to Britain from Germany during the Dark Ages and settled in Bernicia (Northumbria). The majority of the population of Britain however is descended from the native Celtic Britons, a people who the Germanic Anglo-Saxons referred to as Welas meaning “strangers”, from which the modern words Welsh and Wales are derived. The Britons of Ystrad Clud, Rheged, and Goddodin, which were located in the Scottish Lowlands were ethnically and culturally the same people who are known as the Welsh today, though in Scotland they became the ancestors of the Lowland Scots.


The Gaels who first came to Ireland from the European continent by way of Spain were of Scythian origin. Scythia was a vast region that in ancient times encompassed much of Eastern Europe including present day Ukraine and the Caucasus. The Scythians were known by many names: Scyths, Sacae, Skuthes, Skuda, Scoloti, etc. (meaning “archers”) and from them the Gaelic tribe known as the Scotti or Scots is descended. It was in that part of Scythia, located along the current Polish-Ukranian border, that the ancient province of Galicia is found. Galicia was the original homeland of the Gallic people, who were the earliest ancestors of the Gauls of Europe, and the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland. This history is recalled in the words of the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath, addressed to the Pope in 1320:


“Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today. The Britons they first drove out, the Picts they utterly destroyed, and, even though very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, they took possession of that home with many victories and untold efforts; and, as the historians of old time bear witness, they have held it free of all bondage ever since.”

The “chronicles and books of the ancients” referred to in the Declaration are undoubtedly the annals contained in the medieval Irish text known as the Lebor Gabala Erenn (Book of the Conquest of Ireland), which describes how the Gaels originated in Scythia and made their way across Europe until they at long last reached Ireland, their prophesied destination:


“Now Feinius had two sons: Nenual, [one of the two] whom he left in the princedom of Scythia behind him; Nel, the other son, at the Tower was he born. Now he was a master of all the languages; wherefore one came [to summon him] from Pharaoh, in order to learn the multiplicity of languages from him. But Feinius came out of Asia to Scythia, whence he had gone for the building of the Tower; so that he died in the princedom of Scythia, at the end of forty years, and passed on the chieftainship to his son, Nenual. At the end of forty two years after the building of the Tower, Ninus son of Belus took the kingship of the world…..Now that is the time when Gaedel Glas (from whom are the Gaels descended), was born……Now Sru son of Esru son of Gaedel, he it is who was chieftain for the Gaels who went out of Egypt after Pharaoh was drowned with his host in the Red Sea of Israel: Seven hundred and seventy years from the Flood till then. Four hundred and forty years from that time in which Pharaoh was drowned, and after Sru son of Esru came out of Egypt, till the time when the sons of Mil came into Ireland.….Forty and Four ships’ companies strong went Sru out of Egypt. There were twenty-four wedded couples and three hirelings for every ship. Sru and his son Eber Scot, they were the chieftains of the expedition. It is then that Nenual son of Baath, son of  Nenual, son of Feinius Farsaid, prince of Scythia, died; and Sru also died immediately after reaching Scythia….Eber Scot took by force the kingship of Scythia from the progeny of Nenual, till he fell at the hands of Noemius son of Nenual…..For that reason was the seed of Gael driven forth upon the sea, to wit Agnomain and Lamfhind his son, so that they were seven years on the sea, skirting the world on the north side. More than can be reckoned are the hardships which they suffered….they had three ships with a coupling between them, that none of them should move away from the rest. They had three chieftains after the death of Agnomain on the surface of the great Caspian Sea, Lamfhind and Allot and Caicher the druid….It is Caicher who spoke to them,….Caicher the druid said: Rise, said he, we shall not rest until we reach Ireland. What place is that ‘Ireland’ said Lamfhind son of Agnomain. Further than Scythia is it, said Caicher. It is not ourselves who shall reach it, but our children, at the end of three hundred years from today….Thereafter they settled in the Maeotic Marshes…..It is that Brath who came out of the Marshes along the Torrian Sea to Crete and to Sicily. They reached Spain thereafter. They took Spain by force…..Four ships’ companies strong came the Gael to Spain: in every ship fourteen wedded couples and seven unwed hirelings…..Brath had a good son named Breogan, by whom was built the Tower and the city – Braganza was the city’s name. From Breogan’s Tower it was that Ireland was seen; an evening of a day of winter Ith son of Breogan saw it.”

18th century illustration of a Pictish warrior18th century illustration of a Pictish warrior

The Scythian origin of the Scots is also recorded in the text known as Chronica de Origine Antiquorum Pictorum (The Pictish Chronicle),  which is based on  an earlier work, dating to the  7th century, entitled Etymologiae by Isidore of Seville, who wrote: “The race of the Picts has a name derived from the appearance of their bodies. These are played upon by a needle working with small pricks and by the squeezed-out sap of a native plant, so that they bear the resultant marks according to the personal rank of the individual, their painted limbs being tattooed to show their high birth. The Scots, now incorrectly referred to as Irishmen, are really Scotti, because they originated from the land of the Scythians…..It is a well known fact that the Britons arrived in Britain during the third Age of Man (the time between Abraham and David), while the Scotti, that is the Scots, migrated into Scotia or Ireland during the fourth Age of Man (the time between David and Daniel). The Scythian people are born with white hair due to the everlasting snow; and the colour of their hair gives name to the people, and thus they are called Albani: From this people both Scots and Picts descend. Their eyes are so brightly coloured that they are able to see better by night than by day. The Albani people were also neighbours with the Amazones. The Scythian territory was once so large that it reached from India in the east, through the marshland of Meotidas (the Sea of Azov), till the borders of Germania.”

18th century illustration of a Pictish woman18th century illustration of a Pictish woman

The Picts were simply non-Romanised Britons, as the Romans didn’t conquer the entire island of Britain, they ended up building a coast to coast fortification (Hadrian’s Wall) to separate Romanised Britain from the non-Romanised Britons living in the northern third of the island of Britain. Because the Britons living north of Hadrian’s Wall were not under Roman control, they retained their own indigenous native Celtic culture and language, whereas the Britons living south of Hadrian’s wall were more influenced by Roman ways and manners. The names Briton and Britain themselves come from the Celtic words Prytani and Prydain, which the Britons used to refer to themselves and their island. These words are derived from the Celtic root word Pryd, meaning “to mark” or “draw” and refer to the native Briton practice of painting or tattooing their skin with designs using a dye or ink obtained from the woad plant which produces a blue color; a trait described by Herod of Antioch in the 3rd century A.D., who wrote: “The Britons incise on their bodies coloured pictures of animals, of which they are very proud.” So the Britons (or Prytani, as they called themselves in their own language) were the “painted” or “tattooed people”. This is something Julius Caesar himself remarked about in his journals when he invaded Britain in 54 B.C.: “The mainland of Britain is inhabited by a people who claim to be indigenous to the island, on the coast live the immigrant Belgae, who crossed over for war and pillage, but settled to cultivate the land…Those living inland do not sow grain but live on milk and meat and wear clothes of animal hides. All Britons paint their skin with woad which makes them blue and more terrifying to confront in battle.”


The immigrant Belgae, mentioned by Caesar as having settled on the coast of Britain, were a group of Gallic tribes which included the Cimbri, who had formerly inhabited the Himmerland in the Jutland peninsula of Denmark, prior to the occupation of that region by the Germanic Danes  The Greek historian Plutarch mentions the Cimbri in his Life of Gaius Marius, written in 75 AD:


“There are those who say that Gaul was once wide and large enough to reach from the furthest sea and the arctic regions to the Maeotic Sea eastward, where it bordered on Pontic Scythia, and from that point on the Gauls and Scythians were mingled together….so that the whole legion was generally known by the name of Gallo-Scythians. Others say that the Cimmerii, anciently known to the Greeks, were only a small part of the nation, who were driven out upon some quarrel among the Scythians, and passed all along from the Maeotic Sea to Asia, under the conduct of one Lygdamis; and that the greater and more warlike part of them still inhabit the remotest regions lying upon the outer ocean. These are said to live in a densely wooded country hardly penetrable by sunlight, the trees being so close and thick, extending into the interior as far as the Hercynian forest….and from this region the people, anciently called Cimmerii, and thereafter, by a slight change, Cimbri”


Somewhat earlier, in about 60 B.C., Diodorus Siculus wrote: “They [the Britons] are so noted for a fierce and warlike people that some have thought them to be those that anciently overran all of Asia [Minor] and were then called “Cimmerians,” and who are now (through length of time) with a little alteration called Cimbrians” [Brythonic: “Cymru”].” The Cimbri, or Cymric tribes as they were known in Britain, were descendants of the ancient Cimmerians who originally inhabited what is now the Crimea on the northern shores of the Black Sea bordering Scythia, until they were scattered after generations of intramural struggles for rulership with competing Scythian tribes; not unlike the events described in the Lebor Gabala Erenn.


While the Britons living in the southern two-thirds of Britain became more “civilized” under Roman military rule and adopted Roman ways and manners, the Britons living in the northern third of the island beyond Roman control retained their own native Celtic customs and practices, which included tattooing their skin with woad. Thus by the end of the third century AD, the Romans began to refer to the Britons living in the northern third of the island as the “Picti” or Picts (from the Latin word Pictus, meaning “painted”). The term Pict first appears in a in a verse praising the emperor Constantius Chlorus written by the Roman orator Eumenius in 297 AD; while in 416 A.D. the Roman poet Claudian wrote:”This legion, set to guard the furthest Britons, curbs the savage Scot and studies the designs marked with iron on the face of the dying Pict”.


Thus it is not the country of Scotland that makes its native inhabitants Scots, but rather it is the Scots themselves who, by inhabiting the northern third of Britain, made the country that came to be called Scotland “Scottish.”


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Landscape Genealogy - Carruthersland, Uncategorized

New Abbey And The Surrounding Area

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New Abbey and The Surrounding Area

New Abbey, about six miles from Dumfries, is said to be one of the prettiest places in Dumfries and Galloway.

New Abbey, about six miles from Dumfries, is said to be one of the prettiest places in Dumfries and Galloway.


With a population of fewer than 100 people, the quiet village boasts a number of important buildings, including many that are listed.



1.New Abbey is home to Abbey Vale FC.

It changed its name from Loch Vale FC in the early 1970s but had to keep ‘Vale’ in the title to stay in the Dumfries Amateur League. The original pitch was cut by a farmer in his tractor, who also played for the club.


Today the team plays at Mayfield Park, which can hold up to 1000 spectators.


2. Criffel, one of the highest hills in the area at 1872 feet (570 metres), stands above New Abbey.

2. Criffel, one of the highest hills in the area at 1872 feet (570 metres), stands above New Abbey.

Although not considered particularly high, it stands out above the other smaller hills that are part of the Southern Upland Way.


It can be seen from Cumbria on a clear day and is inhabited by skylarks.

3.Loch Kindar sits at the foot of Criffel.

3.Loch Kindar sits at the foot of Criffel.

It contains a crannog, an ancient dwelling found in lochs in Scotland and Ireland.

The loch is owned by Loch Kindar Angling Club, which restocks the loch regularly with rainbow trout and brown trout.

4. Sweetheart Abbey was built in 1273 by Lady Devorgilla as a memorial to her husband, John Balliol.

4. Sweetheart Abbey,was built in 1273 by Lady Devorgilla as a memorial to her husband, John Balliol.

She was said to have carried his embalmed heart in an ivory casket and was buried with it after her death in 1290.


Originally called New Abbey to distinguish it from Dundrennan Abbey, the monks changed its name after her death in 1290


5.The artist JMW Turner made sketches of the abbey on his first visit to Scotland in the summer of 1831.

5.The artist JMW Turner made sketches of the abbey on his first visit to Scotland in the summer of 1831.

He filled eight pages of his sketchbook with pictures of the abbey drawn from every angle and different distances.


Many are now part of the Turner Bequest, a large number of drawings and paintings given to the nation by the painter.

6.The Waterloo Monument can be reached by a short walk from New Abbey.

6.The Waterloo Monument can be reached by a short walk from New Abbey.

It was built in 1816 to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo the year before.


Although there are no individual’s names on it, the inscription reads, “To record the valour of those British, Belgian and Prussian soldiers who… gained the Victory of Waterloo by which French tyranny was overthrown and peace restored to the world.”

7. Sir William Paterson, one of the founders of the Bank of England, was said to be buried in New Abbey in 1719.

7. Sir William Paterson, one of the founders of the Bank of England, was said to be buried in New Abbey in 1719.

He convinced the Scottish government to undertake the Darien scheme, a failed attempt to establish an independent Scottish Empire in modern day Panama.

Many of the 1200 Scots who sailed for Darien in 1698 died, including Paterson’s wife and child.

8. One of the many listed buildings in the village is the New Abbey Corn Mill.

8. One of the many listed buildings in the village is the New Abbey Corn Mill. 

It is now owned by Historic Environment Scotland and you can join a guided tour to see what life was like for its workers.


Small children were employed in the mill and accidents involving hair, clothing and even body parts being trapped in the workings were not unheard of.

9. Shambellie House, on the outskirts of the village, was once home to the Museum of Costume.

9. Shambellie House on the outskirts of the village, was once home to the Museum of Costume.

It closed in 2013 and there is now a trust in place, which is investigating alternative uses for the building and grounds.


It is looking into running courses and workshops on subjects including photography, arts, crafts, history and wildlife.


10.  There are two burns that flow through New Abbey: the Sheep Burn and the New Abbey Pow which runs into the River Nith Estuary and open into the Solway Firth.

If you look closely at one of the houses in the main street, you’ll see a carving of three women in a rowing boat. They are said to have worked tirelessly transporting materials across the Solway Firth during the construction of the abbey.

Written by R. Gibbons and Submitted by William Carrothers



CarruthersClan Nominees for Chieftan



We are all so blessed to belong to Clan Carruthers. We share the ancestors of a proud and loving family.

The 2018 Carruthers Clan Gathering is happening in London, Ontario Canada, Labor Day Weekend, August 31, through Sept 4, 2018.   If you car interested in joining us, please drop us a note at carrothersclan@gmail.com
Every one of our nominees for Chieftan are admired and respected by this Clan, and especially admired by the person that nominated them.  Voting for the Chief will take place at the Clan Gathering 2018.

Following is the list of Nominees for Clan Chieftan for the Carruthers Clan:

Stanley Carrothers Edmondton, Alberta CA
John Carothers Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA
Michael C “Bear” Carruthers Petrolia, Ontario, CA
Glenn Carruthers Hamilton, Ontario CA
Patrick E. Carrothers Albequerque, New Mexico, USA
Cliff Carrothers London, Ontario, CA
Keith Carrothers PortageLaPrairie, Manitoba, CA
Matt Carrothers Sarnia, Ontario CA


Our Viking Ancestors, Uncategorized

Vikings’ Unicorn Bluff Fooled Europeans For Hundreds Of Years

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Vikings’ Unicorn Bluff Fooled Europeans For Hundreds Of Years


Vikings were famous for their raids and conquests of new lands, but they had also other ‘talents’. The Norse warriors were cunning businessmen who were not always completely honest.


Actually, Vikings managed to fool Europeans with their unicorn bluff for hundreds of years.


When famous Viking Erik the Red and his men colonized Greenland, they encountered the narwhal, a medium-sized toothed whale that possesses a large “tusk” from a protruding canine tooth.


The tooth reminded of an alicorn, a horn of a unicorn, a mythical animal described in myths, legends and mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a re’em or ox. During the Middle Ages most people believed in the existence of the unicorn in Western Europe. People were convinced that the horn of the unicorn possessed many healing properties and could be used as medicine to treat poison.


How the Vikings’ came with the idea to start selling narwhal’s tooth as a unicorn horn, is unknown, but they sold it to very high prices to many merchants and princes throughout Europe.


Image of narwhal from Brehms Tierleben (1864–1869). 

It was a bluff and the Vikings knew it of course, but this didn’t prevent them form earning money. They had the advantage that their secret was safe because no-one, expect the Vikings themselves had seen a narwhal on Greenland.


For 500 years no travelers reached Greenland and the Vikings could keep their secret and continue selling their faked unicorn horn”.


In 1577, British seaman and privateer Sir Martin Frobisher (1535-1594) reached the Christopher Hall Island, a Baffin Island located in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in the territory of Nunavut. There, he and his men discovered a dead narwhal on the beach. They had never seen this kind of animal before, but its horn looked familiar and they gave the animal the name sea-unicorn.


One of these is real. From Pierre Pomet’s Historie Generale Des Drouges, Traitant Des Plantes, Des Animaux & Des Minearuc. Paris, 1694. Credit: New York Academy of Medicine


In his journal, Sir Frobisher wrote, “Upon another small island here, was also found a great dead fish, which, as it would seem, had been embayed with ice, and was in proportion round like to a porpoise, being about twelve foot long, and in bigness answerable, having a horn of two yards long growing out of the snout or nostrils. This horn is wreathed and straight, like in fashion to a taper made of wax, and may truly thought to be the sea-unicorn.”


Sir Frobisher was familiar with stories about the unicorn from the Bible and he was convinced he had found something truly precious. When Sir Frobisher returned back to England, he gave the horn of the sea-unicorn to Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603), who kept the treasure together with her crown jewels. In those days, there was nothing more valuable than a unicorn horn and Elizabeth I was said to have paid 10,000 pounds for a unicorn horn, the price of a castle.


Sir Frobisher hoped this gift could convince the queen to finance more of his expeditions.


The gentle and pensive maiden has the power to tame the unicorn, fresco, probably by Domenico Zampieri, c. 1602 (Palazzo Farnese, Rome)

In Europe, Scandinavian merchants continued to sell faked unicorns, but what had turned into a lucrative business ended in 1638 when Danish scientist Ole Worm studied the alleged unicorn horn in detail and exposed the bluff.


Worm who was a respected scientist revealed the so-called unicorn horn people bought was in fact the tooth of a narwhal.


News about Worm’s research spread across the Europe and the interest in the faked unicorn horn faded.


So, as we have seen, Vikings were not only sarcastic jokers, but they could be dishonest businessmen as well.


What many people also didn’t know at the time was that the unicorn in the Bible was an oryx. It was all an ancient translation mistake.


ClanCarruthers Int LLC

Written by Ellen Lloyds

Submitted by Tim McIntyre 

Thank you Tim