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The Comlongon Tragedy






Simon Carruthers was born in 1517, son of Simon 9th of Mouswald and his wife Katherine, daughter of William Lord Carlile. In Apr 1531, Simon succeeded his father as 10th of Mouswald. In 1538 he married Agnes, daughter of Cuthbert Murray of Cockpool. In about 1540, his eldest daughter Janet was born and on 30 Nov 1541 a second daughter Marion was born. In 1544, Simon married Mariota, sister of John Johnstone of that Ilk. In the same year, Simon got a new free barony of Mouswald from the Crown. It included parts of the older Carruthers barony with various additional lands. The date of the instrument of sasine was 12 Jan 1514/15.


Simon died after 12 Jun 1548 and before 13 Aug 1548 probably in a Border raid by the "Thevis of the Marche" (Lord Herries). On 13 Aug 1548, Queen Mary granted Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig ward and marriage of Simon's two daughters. For this privilege, he had to pay 3000 pounds cash to secure their inheritance and he had to support and maintain them until they reached marriageable age. In return, of course, he intended to marry them to men sworn to him and thus secure their inheritance for himself.


On 21 Mar 1557, the uncle of the two girls Charles Murray of Cockpool and his brothers Archibald and Cuthbert wrote to the Lords of the Counsel stating that the two girls were now past the age of 14 and lodging a protest against Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig. The protest states that he has kept both Janet and Marion in "subjectioun and thraldome" and will not permit them freedom to go about and visit their friends and deal with their affairs. The Lords demanded that Douglas bring the girls to Edinburgh and show the Counsel whether they were kept in "thraldome" or not and so the Counsel could see to it that they were set at liberty.


In 1560, the elder sister, Janet, reached mature age. Sir James told her that since her lands lay so near the Border, they had been laid waste and she and her sister would get no profit from them. He therefore proposed that she marry Thomas Roreson of Bardannock and Drumlanrig would give her a dowry (or tocher) of 1000 marks and "other considerations." Janet, seeing the way things were and that Drumlanrig was determined to acquire the lands, meekly accepted the proposal and on 14 Mar 1560/61, Janet signed her lands over to Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig.


Shortly thereafter, Marion came of age. She was informed by Sir James that she would marry John M'MATH, younger of Dalpedder and would receive the same settlement as was given to her sister. Marion, however, didn't have her sister's meek nature. She informed Sir James that she would choose her own husband and would dispose of her lands as she saw fit.


Drumlanrig kept Marion in close confines, to prevent her marrying someone who would support her opposition to Drumlanrig. On 28 Jan 1562/63, Marion appeared before Queen Mary and the Privy Council with her uncle Charles MURRAY of Cockpool. Drumlanrig insisted that if she appeared, she must be unmarried and in full possession of her lands. At this time she was living with the Chancellor, Lord Morton. On 30 Jan 1562/63, Drumlanrig went to Marion and insisted that she comply with his arrangements.

On 1 Feb 1562/63, John, Lord Borthwick appeared with Marion before the Queen and Council and said that since she was his friend and kinswoman, he would take her into his care for the next 40 days. She had to pledge not to leave him and go anywhere else under penalty of 2000 pounds and, under like penalty, not to leave his house AT ALL without notice to the Privy Council.


Later in 1563, Marion had to post bond (supplied by Thomas Borthwick of Pryncardo and Michael Borthwick of Glengelt) not to marry a traitor or a "broken man."

On 11 May 1564, at Comlongon Castle, Marion conveyed her lands to her uncle, Charles Murrayof Cockpool. The deed was confirmed by Queen Mary on 24 Jun 1564. Sir James DOUGLAS of Drumlanrig challenged the deed on the grounds that his rights of ward and marriage made such a document illegal. Her sister Janet and her husband sided with Drumlanrig. The Queen agreed and rescinded confirmation of the deed.

On about 16 Feb 1564/65 or 25 Sep 1568, Marion Carrithers supposedly committed suicide by throwing herself from the top of the tower of Comlongon Castle. There has been a question as to whether she jumped or whether an adherent of Drumlanrig's pushed her to her death. It is easy to reason either way. She had been frustrated at every turn in trying to get free of Drumlanrig. Her cousin James Murray later married Drumlanrig's granddaughter. Perhaps she became depressed enough to jump. However, there is also the very real possibility that the powerful Drumlanrig hired someone to make sure that Marion ceased to be a thorn in his side. However she died, she was adjudged a suicide (a neat political answer) and as such her lands were turned over to the Crown. The Crown then on 17 Oct 1570 deeded them to Sir William Douglas of Hawick, son of Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig.


However it happened, the story goes, that grass refuses to grow on the spot where she landed and that Marion Carrithers continues to walk in Comlongon Castle. (And she still hates the name of Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig and gets very irritated if anything pertaining to him is brought into the Castle.)



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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024