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Ferniehirst Castle
Chapter VIII - Border Families, Houses & Names

This booklet is essentially about Ferniehirst and the family who lived there, but we should never forget that many other families, nearly all of whom remain in the Borders to this day, shared the burden of holding the Line and the profits and adventure of frequent raids across it. Due to constraints of time and space it has not been possible to include all the Border families which should logically have been given a place in this Chapter. The selection given here was to some extent arbitrary and depends in part on how difficult it was to obtain and check the necessary information. If this booklet runs to a second edition I hope to include sections on the ARMSTRONGS and DOUGLASES as well as a chapter on the KERS of CESSFORD. This Chapter, however, should be enough to establish that the defence of the Border was very much a joint enterprise and not a single-handed effort by the Kerrs.


1.Until about that time, Earls were the only "peers" in Scotland, i.e. permanent and hereditary advisers to the King with an automatic right to be called to any Parliament that was held. A "baron" was simply the holder of a "barony", that is, a large estate which traditionally had that description (others, equally large, might not be "baronies". He might be called to Parliament but had no automatic entitlement. English barons were, since the thirteenth century or earlier, the equivalent of our "Lords of Parliament"; English Earls were very substantial landowners and there were fewer of them than in Scotland.

2.James III was affected by the spirit of the Renaissance somewhat earlier than his nobles. He therefore surrounded himself with men of non-noble background but considerable artistic talent (Cochrane, for instance, who was of "better" family than most of them, was an architect; others were musicians or painters), spent much of his time with them (instead of governing the country) and gave land and money to them (instead of giving it to his nobles, who naturally felt aggrieved). A number of these favourites were seized and killed in the King’s presence at Lauder. Thereafter a dispute arose between James III and the Homes regarding the patronage of Coldingham Priory. The Homes regarded it as theirs, the office of Prior and the revenues that went with it being given to an unmarried member of their family, but James awarded it to another of his friends. This, and the king’s continuing activities as a ‘culture vulture" led to the rising of 1488.

The Earl of Angus, the Homes and other nobles banded together and defeated James III at Sauchieburn near Stirling; the king was murdered while fleeing from the scene and his son Prince James immediately succeeded as James IV.

3.This followed on the loss of a by-election in Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, for which Sir Alec was unfairly blamed. The Tories had already lost much of their support locally through the persistent non-residence of the previous M.P., the seat was now marginal and the Liberal candidate, David Steel, was exceptionally able and energetic. The writer of this booklet, who fought as an Independent Scottish Nationalist, considers the seat would have been extremely difficult for the Tories to hold. The feeling that Sir Alec had been stabbed in the back did far greater harm to party morale than the by-election itself.

4.The office of Foreign Secretary, unlike that of Prime Minister, can very conveniently be held by a peer; the last to hold it was Lord Carrington, who resigned in 1982. Peers have no constituency commitments and are not needed for vital divisions in the House of Commons. The job itself is very demanding and calls for a great deal of travel in any event (and more still if the Foreign Secretary has to fly back to vote and then return immediately to whatever business he was transacting abroad). The strain killed a recent Labour Foreign Secretary, Tony Crosland, at a relatively early age.

5.The difficulty in controlling this area lay in (i) the existence of several "binational" families straddling the Line itself (the Elliots, however, were entirely Scottish) and (ii) the presence of a shifting population of "broken men" and outlaws, some sheltered by powerful families, others banding together in bothies or hiding out on their own, and raiding indiscriminately in all directions. The terrain, rugged in some places and marshy elsewhere, made it difficult for both sets of national authorities to deal with these unruly elements.

6.The Elliots, the Turnbulls and some others generally describe themselves as "clans" (and there is a Scots Act of Parliament of 1589 mentioning them as such) while the Kerrs are a "family’. In the period of the Border Wars "clan", "family" and "name" or "surname" were all used to cover much the same concept.

7.What is normally referred to as "The Boer War" (1899-1902) should properly be called the Second Boer War. The first was very brief (1881) and the Boers won it.

8.After the Reformation, Scottish Catholicism flourished mainly in areas where hiding-holes as such were not necessary. and where Catholics could generally be quite open about their beliefs. Many English country houses, however, still have them.

9.The Rutherfords hold some sort of a record for the variety of spellings of their name — more than twenty-five, including some only used in France or Germany — but I have kept to the most usual form to simplify matters, regardless of what individuals in succeeding generations actually called themselves.

10.This seems to confirm the validity of the legend. allowing "King Ruther" to have been Malcolm II or less probably Malcolm III Canmore, and the enemy to have been Ethelred or William the Conqueror rather than the Ancient Britons. Anybody of sufficient standing to witness a royal chatter would normally have to be a well-established landowner, or a senior churchman.

11.The year of Magna Carta. The King of Scots. who was of partly English descent through St. Margaret, was also a very substantial landowner in England. ranking as an earl, and was one of the leaders of the Barons at Runnymede. This is one of the rare occasions when a Scottish army has been seen south of York, the others being in 1644-46 (from Marston Moor to Charles l’s surrender at Newark) and in January 1660. when Monck, as GOC Scotland, took the forces stationed there from Coldstream to London as a prelude to the Restoration. Feudal obligations being what they were, it is reasonably certain that many Borderers were present at Runnymede, though their names have not been recorded for posterity.

12.These sons were respectively the ancestors of the Rutherfords of that Ilk (the senior branch of the family) and of the Rutherfords of Hunthill and Hundalee.

13.It is not clear what constitutional arrangements he envisaged, since James VI and I was already King of both countries; possibly that he should be succeeded in England by his eldest son Henry (who died soon after) and in Scotland by his younger son, later Charles I. This might have been a very good thing for Charles, as the Scots were prepared to defy him on occasion but not to behead him. His arguments also are not stated, but one may assume them to have been similar to those of Lord Belhaven in 1706-07 and of the SNP today. i.e.. in any union of the two countries under the same government, the decisions that mattered would always be taken in England and in England’s interest. At that time no one could envisage that the two countries might have the same reigning but "non-ruling" monarch, with quite distinct Governments and Parliaments (the system which Belhaven sought to maintain and which the National Party seeks to re-establish): the Government consisted of the King and whomever else he chose, and Parliament was an occasional rather than a permanent body, meeting essentially when the King needed to raise large sums of money or enact important legislation.

14.At the Restoration he was summoned to appear before Parliament to answer for the publication of his allegedly seditious book "Lex Rex" (the Law as King) which had been banned and publicly burnt. His last illness had begun and he replied; "Tell them that I have got a summons already from a superior judge and judicatory, and ere your day arrives I will be where few kings and great folks come".

15.The Scottii or Scots, who gave their name to this country, originally lived in Northern Ireland and began to migrate in large numbers to Argyll and Galloway in the fifth century. though small groups seem to have come earlier: the first of our national heroes, Galgach (Galgacus) was probably a Scot rather than a Pict and held the Romans to a standstill at the Battle of the Grampians in AD 84:

the Romans were left in possession of the field but did not pursue their campaign. The Scots combined with the Picts in the ninth century; at the time "Scotus" could still mean "Irishman", as in the case of the philosopher Scotus Erigena; and for some generations thereafter the Gaelic language was called "Scots" and the "Scots" language, derived from Northumbrian with a large admixture of Celtic and Scandinavian words, was known as "Inglis" (this was also the name of the part-owner of Branxholm, who exchanged lands with Sir Walter Scoff in the fifteenth century). The Scoffs may have acquired their surname by holding on to Gaelic longer than their neighbours, as the Wallaces probably got theirs by being the last Welsh-speaking family in Strathclyde, or possibly immigrants from Wales itself.

16.Only the King, the Wardens of the Marches and a few others were generally entitled to conduct capital trials and pronounce the death sentence. There was one important exception. however, the right of "pit and gallows" held by many if not most landowners of any real substance. This entitled them to imprison and execute criminals caught in flagrante delicto on their land, but nowhere else.

They could also accept suitable compensation and often did; in an earlier generation Willie Scoff could have been required to enter into a "bond of man-rent" and accompany Elibank on his raids (transactions of this kind are actually on record); the unmarriageable lass would then have been thrown in as a bonus. Serious raiding, however, was now nearly at an end, so the marriage was the whole of the penalty. It proved very happy and successful.

Sir Walter Scoff gained much of his knowledge of history and genealogy from the family historian, Walter Scoff of Satchells, a near-illiterate old soldier who had researched them thoroughly and then dictated his account of them to the boys from Hawick High School, whom he hired for the purpose. His considerable knowledge of the Highlands was largely derived from one of the last survivors of the Forty-Five, the Fifteen and pre-Union Scotland, Alexander Stewart (1695- 1795) who was one of his father’s clients. He promoted the "Tartan revival" of the 1820’s, which closely followed the last independent Scottish rising (1820). The modern Home Rule Movement was started in the 1880’s by men who had all been influenced by Sir Walter Scott, and some of whom could actually remember him.

17.At this time, the knowledge of Greek had almost entirely died out in Western Europe. apart from Sicily and the heel and toe of Italy, where it survived among peasants and fishermen, rather than scholars, and therefore could not have been used directly to retrieve the classical heritage of Athens and the other city states, or the science of Alexandria and Hellenistic Greece. The study of Aristotle was only possible in translation, and came back to the West by a strangely roundabout route. Arab scholars from the Eastern Mediterranean first translated the original Greek text, or what was available of it, into Arabic, and brought it to Spain and specifically to Cordoba and Toledo. Two sets of rabbis then took over, one working from Arabic to Hebrew and the other from Hebrew to Latin (which would have been their third language, after early Castilian and Hebrew!) By learning Arabic, Michael Scott eliminated one of the steps in this three-stage translation. Direct study of Greek, by educated men who already knew Latin, was resumed on a small scale towards the end of the twelfth century. Though the Greek-speaking peasants and fishermen mentioned above were themselves illiterate, they were served by priests from whom basic literacy in the language could be acquired, after which the Roman, Florentine and Neapolitan scholars were on their own. It became a more serious pursuit in the fourteenth century, but the real impetus came with the unsuccessful negotiations for a reunion between the Eastern and Western Churches in the 1430’s and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. This was followed by a massive emigration of Byzantine academics, students and clerks, together with their books. The exiles then set up as professors if they were lucky or renowned, and as more or less impoverished private tutors otherwise, and Greek quickly became fashionable.

18.The Rus, who gave Russia its name, were Swedes who established themselves first in Novgorod (about 100 miles south of Leningrad), and then in Kiev, setting up and controlling a profitable trade route with the Middle East. At one time it was fashionable for young Anglo-Saxon thanes to join them for a while, as it later became fashionable for Anglo-Norman knights (and many others) to fight in the Holy Land or in Spain.

19.Unlike England, Scotland was never conquered by the Normans. But many of them were invited by St. David I to build castles and help to defend the country, while others sought refuge here, having (like St. David himself) backed the losing side in the wars of Stephen and Matilda. Frenchmen and Flemings also came direct from the Continent during his reign, brought in by him to build towns and abbeys: it is due to them that Kelso, for instance, has a distinctly North French or Flemish appearance.

20.There was a more or less permanent Crusade in both countries, against pagans in one case and Muslims in the other.

21.ln any event he used this as his defence at his trial. But it is also possible that he was alienated by the inept way in which the clergy interfered with General Leslie’s command before the battle of Dunbar, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He joined the Society of Friends (Quakers) and wrote many tracts in support of their principles.

22.This involved a prolonged lawsuit, compelling the Swintons to sell the fine tower at Cranshaws — which had been in the family for 300 years — in order to pay the heavy legal fees.

23.The first working television system, also devised by a Scotsman, John Logie Baird, involved fairly cumbersome mechanical apparatus and had a limited range. It was superseded by the modern system, based on Campbell Swinton’s theories and relying on electronics (and in particular on the cathode ray tube). Campbell Swinton was a contemporary of Lord Rutherford and also a Fellow of the Royal Society, and they worked to some extent in related fields. He was responsible for many other inventions and technical improvements, and introduced Marconi to the Post Office.

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