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CLAN KERR

Crest: The Sun in Splendour
Motto: Sero sed serio (Late but in earnest)

Possibly of Viking descent, it is thought that the Kerrs arrived in Britain from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066. The clan name is rendered in various forms, including Kerr, Ker, Carr and Carre. It stems from the Old Norse, ‘kjrr’, meaning ‘marsh dweller’. Settlement in the Scottish Borders took place shortly after the victory of Robert the Bruce over the English at Bannockburn, 1314. That famous victory was a turning point in the development of an independent Scotland, and the Kerrs, along with other Borders families, would play an important part in protecting this emerging nation from outside aggression.

The Clan descended from two brothers, Ralph and John, who settled in Jedburgh c.1330. Ralph Kerr’s line became the Marquesses of Lothian, while John’s rose to the Dukedom of Roxburgh. At different times both lines held the title Warden of the Middle March, an appointment by Scottish kings to administer law and defend Scotland’s frontier against the English.

By the 15th Century the Kerrs were considered highly important Crown vassals, and with loyalty came rich rewards. By the close of the 15th Century, the Clan Kerr held the honours of possessing the Castle and Barony of Cessford, and the Barony of Oxnam. A considerable achievement for any Border Clan.

The Kerr's loyalty to the Crown of Scotland continued throughout the centuries. They fought under their chief, Sir Andrew Kerr, at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513, standing beside King James IV against the English. Once, while defending one of their Border castles, it is said that the English besiegers believed the Kerrs, to be aided by the 'devil himself', as they fought so ferociously.

After the Battle of Flodden, some of the Leddesdale clans put themselves under the protection of Kerr of Ferniehurst, but in 1523 his castle was taken by the English after a protracted defence. The Chief Kerr of Cessford was killed in an attempt to rescue King James V of Scotland from the Clan Douglas. Thirteen years after the Battle of Flodden, Sir Andrew died in defence of the infant King James V of Scotland when the royal procession was attacked on the way to Edinburgh Castle.

During the Scottish Reformation (c.1559), a period of religious and political conflict, Sir Thomas Kerr prepared Ferniehirst Castle to receive Queen Mary, then imprisoned in England, and helped to plot her escape, while his cousin, Mark Ker, supported Mary’s opponents.

At the beginning of the 17th century King James of Scotland was also made King of England in the Union of the Crowns in 1603, after Queen Elizabeth I died without heir. A century later in 1707 the Treaty of Union was declared, officially uniting England and Scotland. A union that was supported by the Kerrs. Lord Mark Kerr, son of the Chief Marquess of Lothian, was a distinguished, professional soldier and is reputed to have had a high sense of personal honour and a quick temper. He fought several duels throughout his military career but rose ultimately to the rank of general, and was appointed governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1745.

During the Jacobite uprisings the Kerrs supported the British government. At the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Lord Mark’s younger brother, Lord Robert Kerr, who was captain of the grenadiers, received the first charging Cameron on the point of his lance, but then a second slew him. He has the dubious distinction of being the only person of high rank killed on the Government side.

Of less dubious distinction is the contribution the Kerr family have made to the building of a Scotland, with a history and ethos of its own, within the United Kingdom. Their story is central to the shaping of this nation. Below are a number of Kerrs who have distinguished themselves in politics, industry and the armed forces.

Robert Kerr, 4th Earl and 1st Marquess of Lothian (1636-1703), left Scotland and was educated in Paris. A supporter of the Glorious Revolution, he was appointed a Privy Counsellor to William III and was appointed Lord Justice General of Scotland in 1689, holding the office until his death. He was also Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland in 1692.

John William Robert Kerr, 7th Marquess of Lothian (1794-1841), was a Scottish Tory politician. He entered the House of Commons in 1820, holding the Huntingdon seat until he succeeded his father in the marquisate in 1824.

Schomberg Henry Kerr, 9th Marquess of Lothian (1833-1900) was a politician, who rose to become Secretary of State for Scotland. He served as President of International Exhibition of Industry, Science and Art, which took place in Edinburgh in 1886. Kerr jointly established the Lothian Coal Company and built the Lady Victoria Colliery, which was named after his wife. He was given the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1887.

Admiral of the Fleet Lord Walter Talbot Kerr, GCB (1839 - 1927) served as Naval Cadet in the Baltic during the Russian War, and as Midshipman with the "Shannon" Naval Brigade in India during the Mutiny. He has been secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, A.D.C. to the Queen, Second in command of the Mediterranean Fleet, and Second Sea Lord at the Admiralty. Lord Walter wears the Humane Society's Silver Medal for saving a bluejacket's life.

Philip Henry Kerr, 11th Marquess of Lothian (1882-1940), was a Director of United Newspapers 1921-22 and served for four months in 1931 as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and was Under-Secretary of State for India 1931-2. He was later British Ambassador to the United States of America, from 1939 to 1940.

Peter Francis Walter Kerr, 12th Marquess of Lothian, KCVO (1922–2004) was a British peer, politician and landowner. He took part in the Wolfenden inquiry into the UK's laws on homosexuality and prostitution in 1954. He joined the UK's delegation to the United Nations General Assembly during the Suez crisis in 1956, and was later sent as a delegate to the Council of Europe in 1959 and the Western European Union. He served as Parliamentary private secretary to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Home, from 1960, and was also a whip in the House of Lords. He served as a junior minister at the Ministry of Health during the short period of Lord Home's term as Prime Minister in 1964. He returned to the Foreign Office with Lord Home in 1970, serving as parliamentary under-secretary for 2 years. He was nominated as a member of the European Parliament in 1973, when the UK joined the European Economic Community. He retired from politics in 1977, and Lord Lothian served as Lord Warden of the Stannaries, Keeper of the Privy Purse to the Duke of Cornwall, and Chairman of the Prince's Council for the Duchy of Cornwall. He was appointed KCVO in 1983. He was also a member of the Royal Company of Archers, commandant of the Special Constabulary in the Scottish Borders, and a Knight of Malta.

The current head of the Kerr Clan is the Rt Hon. Michael Ancram, QC, MP, once Earl of Ancrum, now 13th Marquess of Lothian.

His younger brother, Lord Ralph Kerr, High Sheriff of Derbyshire (2008-09), is the current owner of Ferniehirst Castle. His wife, Lady Ralph, is an accomplished portrait and landscape painter.

Clan Kerr has two recognized tartans, (Kerr Modern) and Kerr (Hunting). There are four clan branches, Ker of Cessford, Kerr of Ferniehirst, Kerr of Linton and Ker of Kersland.

Clan septs: Kear, Carr(e), Carrach, Cessford, Kar(e), Ker, Mac Ghiolla Cheara, Kier, Linton and Herriott.