Jedburgh - Borders Clans and Families
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Scottish Borders - Roxburghshire - Jedburgh
Scottish Borders - Roxburghshire - Jedburgh
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Clans & Families...

Family names associated with Roxburghshire include:

Kerr | Scott | Douglas | Turnbull | Eliott | Rutherford | Haig | Hepburn

The Kerrs - 'Sero Sed Serio' (Late, but in earnest)

Kerr, Ker, Carr Carre. sometimes pronounced Care, Car or Cur were a notorious reiving family and one of the few to survive intact and to retain their status and their lands in spite of serious quarrelling amongst themselves. They are noted for being left handed. Two branches of the family lived near Jedburgh, the Kers Of Cessford and the Kerrs of Ferniehirst, and a deadly feud existed between them. Both attained high office and both became Warden of the Scottish Middle March. Sir Thomas Kerr of Ferniehirst fought for Mary, Queen of Scots at the Battle of Langside, while Sir Water Ker of Cessford took the side of James VI. The feud was only ended after the Union of the Crowns with the marriage of Anne Ker of Cessford to William Kerr of Ferniehirst. The chief of the Clan in the Marquis of Lothian.

A powerful borders family, composed of two main branches; namely the Kerrs of Cessford (including the Dukes of Roxburghe) and the Kerrs of Ferniehirst (who gave rise to the Marquesses of Lothian). These branches regularly faced each-other from opposite sides in various conflicts. Notably, the Ferniehirsts supported Mary, Queen of Scots, while the Cessfords opposed her. Coming originally from southern Norway in the 10th C., the family settled in France before coming to Britain with the Normans in 1066 and arriving in Scotland about 100 years later. The name is thought to derive either from the Norse Kjarr, meaning 'a small wood' or the Gaelic Cearr, meaning 'left handed'. This trait became a notable characteristic of the family when the naturally left-handed Sir Andrew Kerr had found it useful at the Battle of Flodden (1513) and had trained his supporters to follow suit. Several of the Kerr family homes, for example Ferniehirst Castle, are adapted for use by left-handed individuals. Several Kerrs have been Provosts of Jedburgh and Sir Andrew Kerr was created Lord Jedburgh in 1622. The politician Michael Ancram (b.1945) is the son and heir of the Marquess of Lothian. Other notable Kerrs are the actress Deborah (b.1921) and rock singer Jim (b.1959).

Clan Tartan

The Scotts - 'Amo' (I love)

Known as the 'rough clan' or 'saucy scots', the Scotts settled in the Teviot and Ettrick Districts of the Scottish borders during the 13th century. The original home of the Scotts was a small area round Bellenden, near the head of the Ale Water in Roxburghshire. The Scotts later acquired Branxholme near Hawick, before adopting the name Buccleuch, which later became one of the richest Dukedoms in Scotland.

A mile or so to the west of Alemoor Reservoir on the road west from Hawick is Ballendean, the principal mustering ground of the Scotts when they prepared for battle. As they went to war their battle cry was "Belleden!". The principal permanent forms of defence in the Borders were castles, bastles and towers. In simple terms, a bastle was a fortified farm house. The walls were thick, usually about four feet, and the roof was of stone slabs. There were two storeys, the ground floor being for animals and the family lived above. Almost all surviving examples of bastles are found in England within 20 miles of the border. The Black Middens Bastle is an excellent example. A surviving example of a Scottish bastle is Mervinlaw on Jedwater.

Clan Tartan

Clan Douglas - 'Jamais Arriere' (Never behind)

Associated with the settlement of the same name in South Lanarkshire, the Douglases were the pre-eminent family of South-West Scotland, with significant power and political influence from the 12th C. The family includes the Earls of Douglas (the 'Black Douglases'), Earls of Angus (the 'Red Douglases'), the Earls of Morton, the Viscounts of Drumlanrig and the Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Queensberry. The Dukes of Hamilton have been Douglas-Hamiltons since the Duchess Anne married the third son of the 1st Marquess of Douglas in 1656.

Clan Tartan

The Turnbulls - 'I saved the King'

The Turnbulls belonged to what is known as the Border Reivers, those clans that survived by raiding and looting. Disturbing as this may sound, it must be remembered that the Border Clans lived between two countries in constant warfare. The objective was to survive at any cost and by any means. It was not only the way of life, but a necessary way of life. It goes without saying then, that the Turnbulls were far from being law abiding citizens. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Only twice is a Turnbull mentioned as having a connection with the administration of the law. The first was John Turnbull, who was Sheriff of Selkirkshire in 1360, and another in 1364 held the post of Deputy Sheriff. The Turnbull's reputation for unruliness and disrespect for authority was so great that not only were they a regular in Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, but in 1510, King James IV had two hundred Clansmen arrested, forcing them stand before him wearing sheets with swords in hand and halters around their neck. Some were eventually hanged while others were imprisoned. The mercenary tactics of King James caused many of the Clan to flee. Some went to Europe and joined mercenary bands, while others went further North.

Clan Tartan

The Eliotts (Elliott, Elliot) - 'Fortiter Et Recte' (Boldly and rightly)

Originally the name was from a French form of Elias. Redeugh. near Newcastleton, was one of their major strongholds. Elliots were one of the greatest reiving families living in upper Liddesdale to which they moved at the time of Robert the Bruce, from Angus. Their home was established at Redhaugh near the confluence of the Liddel Water and Hermitage Water. After the Union of the Crowns, the Elliots, together with many other Border clans, were scattered and their lands confiscated. Many were forcibly sent to Ulster and America. Some moved into Northumberland where the name is quite common. The Elliots had, at one time, 40 towers in Liddesdale. Jean Elliot (1727-1805) wrote "The Flowers of the Forest. Robert Elliot, the 13th chief of the clan, was killed at the Battle of Flodden. Records of their early history were destroyed by a fire at Stobs in 1712.

Clan Tartan

The Rutherfords - Nec sorte nec fato (Neither by chance nor fate)

The clan Rutherford comes from the lands of Rutherford near Maxton in Roxburgshire and there are two possible origins of the name. One explanation is that Rutherford is derived from "Rue the Ford", a name given to a site on the Tweed where an English army abandoned a strong position to attack a Scottish force on the other bank, but were soundly defeated for their troubles. The other explanation says that a man named Ruther guided an ancient king of Scots over a little-known ford in River Tweed, helping him to attain victory over the Northumbrians. According to the story, the King then rewarded Ruther with a grant of land named after the crossing. The earliest records of this name come from the early tenth century and since that time the Rutherfords have had a strong military tradition, being fierce defenders of their lands, especially against the English. One instance of this was during the Battle of the Red Swire at Carterfell in July of 1575. During a meeting that was made for the purposed of negotiations, an English army attacked a Scots army and initially drove them back. However, a force led by Thomas Rutherford ("The Black Laird of Edgerston") was able to defeat the English force and capture several of it's officers.

From the village of Rutherford, near Maxton between Kelso and Selkirk, in the Borders. There are several theories of how the Border name Rutherford originated. One theory is that, at one time, a man of some standing safely escorted Ruther, King of Scots, across the Tweed when the river was in flood. The place was named Rutherford. The King rewarded the man with a gift of lands and decreed that henceforth he should be named Rutherford. Another version is of a Scottish force which encountered an English force on the opposite back of the River Tweed. Both sides prepared for a fight and the English, the greater force, succeeded in forcing a crossing of the river and a violent battle ensued. Many fell on both sides but the Scots emerged as the victors and forced the English to retreat back into England, badly mauled. The English named the place Rue-the-ford because of the heavy losses they had suffered there. The village of Rutherford is located by the River Tweed, between Selkirk and Kelso. As a family spread from its source, by a strange Scottish custom the various branches that developed were often known as "------- of that Ilk." For example the Rutherford's of Rutherford would be known as the Rutherford's of that Ilk. At the Battle of Otterburn, a force led by Thomas Rutherford defeated the English and captured several of its officers.

Clan Tartan

The Haigs - 'Tyde What May'

Derived from the old english 'haga' or enclosure, the Haigs first appeared in the Scottish borders in the 12th century. From 1412, the family of Haig was associated with Bemersyde near Newtown St. Boswells. The Haigs of Bemersyde died out in 1857, but the estate was later gifted by a grateful nation to Field-Marshal Earl Haig. The name Haig also appears in Fife and Kinross, and in particular is associated with the family producing a noted brand of Scotch Whisky, distilled at Cameron Bridge.

Clan Tartan

The Hepburns - 'Keep Tryst'

A family of the Lothians and Borders. Originating in Northumbria, the name appears in East Lothian around 1271, where they were later gifted lands by the Earl of March. Later again, they were associated with Nunraw Abbey. The Hepburns included Sir Patrick Hepburn of Hailes, created Lord Hailes in 1467, and whose grandson, also Patrick, was created the Earl of Bothwell in 1488. The most famous of the Bothwells was James, the 4th Earl, who married Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87). The family maintained Hailes Castle (East Lothian) and James added Crichton Castle (Midlothian).

Clan Tartan


A landlocked county in the heart of the Scottish Borders, Roxburghshire is bounded by Berwickshire to the east, Selkirkshire and Midlothian to the north, Dumfriesshire to the west, and England to the south. Roxburgh, the town from which the county takes its name, has long since disappeared, but in the 12th century it was one of David I's four royal burghs (the others were Edinburgh, Stirling and Berwick-on-Tweed) and its castle was a royal residence, King Alexander III being born there. By the mid 13th century the town was reckoned to be the fourth largest and most important in the kingdom. However, the town suffered badly during the Anglo-Scottish wars, and its castle was frequently occupied by English troops. Somewhat shamefully, it was in Roxburgh Castle in 1356 that the puppet king Edward Balliol virtually sold his kingdom to Edward III of England for a lump sum and a pension. The castle then spent 100 years under English control until being retaken by the Scots in 1460. During that siege, however, King James II was killed by an exploding cannon, and after taking the castle the Scots reduced it to rubble to ensure that it never again became a place of strife between the nations. Nothing now remains of either town or castle, although there is a village of Roxburgh some two miles away.

In the south of the county, in a bleak and lonely position in Liddesdale, stands grim Hermitage Castle. The de Soulis family built the original castle here in the 13th century and by doing so managed to spark off an international incident on the grounds that the castle would be a constant menace to England. One de Soulis man was believed to dabble in witchcraft and, legend has it, was eventually captured by the local people, wrapped in lead, and boiled in a cauldron. The castle later passed by marriage to the Douglas family and it was here that Sir William Douglas, curiously referred to as "The Flower of Chivalry", imprisoned and starved to death the unfortunate Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie who had been captured while praying in Hawick. A trickle of grain from a granary above Sir Alexander's cell managed to prolong the poor man's agony for 17 days. In the 16th century the castle was owned by the Hepburn Earls of Bothwell - James, the 4th Earl, was the infamous lover of Mary Queen of Scots and in 1566, when James was ill, Mary rode 25 miles from Jedburgh to visit him, stayed at the castle for two hours, and then rode back again, a feat which cost her a 10-day fever. Later Mary married James, but it is not known why the unhappy queen's ghost today haunts the castle's ruins.

Roxburghshire is also famous for its Abbeys, Melrose, Kelso and Jedburgh. When Robert the Bruce's heart was brought back from Spain, it was, in accordance with his wishes, buried at Melrose Abbey, where it was recently rediscovered in a lead casket. Kelso was probably the largest of the Border Abbeys, and Jedburgh, though smaller than the other two, is today probably the most impressive. All were repeatedly plundered and damaged during the Anglo-Scottish wars and none recovered from the devastation meted out by the Earl of Hertford's English troops in 1544/5 during the "Rough Wooing" when Henry VIII, infuriated by Scotland's cancellation of the betrothal of Henry's infant son Edward to the 6-month old Mary Queen of Scots, reacted by ravaging the Borders. Kelso Abbey offered stout resistance, its defenders eventually being driven into one of the towers where they were massacred to a man.

The county's largest town is Hawick. In 1514, shortly after the flower of Scotland's manhood had been wiped out at the disastrous Battle of Flodden, a band of local youths or "callants" surprised and virtually wiped out an English raiding force, capturing their banner, the "Hexham Pennant". The event is commemmorated both by a vigorous equestrian statue in the town and by the annual Hawick Common Riding Festival. However, like its neighbours, Hawick was devastated during the Rough Wooing when the town was fired by the English troops. The only building to survive the conflagration was Drumlanrigs Tower, now a museum.

On a more peaceful note, three centuries later Sir Walter Scott, author, poet, and lawyer, had his home at Abbotsford, just outside Melrose.