25.  Hunter of Polmood


The Country House of Polmood is located near the confluence of the Polmood Burn and the River Tweed in the Upper Tweed Valley in Scotland.  Access was via a ford across the Tweed.  The etymology of the word Polmood is said to mean Wolf Stream.   Certainly Pol meaning a pool/stream can be from Old English(1) but here it is more likely to be from Scottish Gaelic - Poll for pond/pool/deep stream and madadh for dog/wolf (2).    

The house is situated just north of the Polmood Burn - the burn being the present boundary between the parishes of Tweedsmuir and Drumelzier.   However in 1775 the boundary was about 100 yards south of the burn nearer to the Crook Inn - this was probably the boundary between the estates of Hearthstanes and Polmood see item 3.6 on page 3 Standing Stones  The Polmood lands at this time included the Bowerhouse.(2)  More about the Bourhouse on page 25.4. Bourhouse.

The owners and occupiers of Polmood have been the Hunter family from earliest times.  Indeed, they must have been the earliest recorded family name in the Upper Tweed Valley.   The Hunters were at Polmood until the early years of the nineteenth century.  The chart below is based on that by Buchan/Paton(3). 


The recorded history of the Hunters of Polmood is very patchy and what there is came to an end in 1765 with the death of Thomas Hunter known as "last of the old line."  See family tree above.(3)(20).  The fallout from this death was a long running litigation regarding the Heirs of Polmood that became known as the Hunter Case.   For more about this see page 25.1 The Hunter Case,  The family tree continuing from Robert Hunter of Polmood d 1689 above will be found on the Hunter Case page.

The seat of Clan Hunter is at Hunterston Castle in Ayrshire .   However, the heraldry of all Hunters include the emblems of hunting horns or hounds indicating that the origin of the name is associated with the hunt.  An intriguing notion is that the origin although still associated with the hunt is that it predates heraldry and is a distant memory of the tribe that inhabited the Tweed Valley at the time of the Romans c100 AD and later.   This tribe was an Iron Age Celtic tribe known as the Selgovae, a name that translates as the forest hunters,(6) or hunters.(7) !    The Selgovae are also associated with Merlin(5).

The heraldry of the Hunters of Hunterston has a hunting dog as a crest while the heraldry of the Hunters of Polmood is very distinctive with the crest of the drawn short bow.    The armorial shown on the left is from Buchan/Paton(3).  More about the Hunter of Polmood heraldry at foot of page.  The crest of the drawn bow stems from the tradition that King Malcolm Canmore, in or about, 1057 gave to Norman Hunter the lands of Polmood, and in proof of this signed a charter that basically gave the Polmood lands to Norman Hunter in exchange for "a bow and a broad arrow".(3)  The bow/arrow emblem also has a connection with the hunt.

An estate north of the Polmood lands is named Stanhope and has connections with Polmood.   The name Stanhope first appears on record in Peeblesshire in 1473.(3).   Stanhope was part of the lands owned by the Murrays of Broughton, although Presbyterian, had long been associated with the Stuart (Jocobite) cause.  The Murray of Stanhope armorial above(3) has the three stars of Murray with the hunting horn of Hunter in the first and fourth quadrants indicating a probable marriage between the two families.   This connection must be the marriage between Robert Hunter of Polmood and Veronica Murray.   It was at this time that Wrae Castle - in ruins even then - passed from the Murrays to the Hunters.   Robert Hunter was the son of George Hunter of Polmood (1650-1721).  Veronica was the  daughter of Sir David Murray of Broughton and brother of Sir John Murray 6th Baron Stanhope.   The marriage took place in Drumellzier Parish Church on 05-09-1721.  

Sir John Murray - brother of Veronica - was the secretary to Prince Charles Edward Stuart - Bonnie Prince Charlie.   After the battle of Culloden in 1746 and the defeat of Prince Charlie and his Jacobite army Sir John Murray was wanted by the Redcoats and he went into hiding.  In disguise he visited Dickson relatives in Kilbucho then proceeded to Polmood seeking shelter from his widowed sister Veronica, the Lady of Polmood.  He was captured at Polmood and taken prisoner by the Redcoats. More about the capture of Murray see page  25.3 Capture of Sir John Murray at Polmood.   In order to save his own skin he turned "King's Evidence" or "ratted"(11) and gave information to the authorities that resulted in the execution of other Jocobites including Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat.  Lovat is remembered as Simon Fraser the grandfather of Jamie Fraser of "Outlander" fame!(12)   Sir John Murray thus earned the nickname of "Evidence Murray" and the disdain of his fellow Jacobites.   The Murray family forfeited their lands including Stanhope which then came to Sir James Montgomery.(3)

A Hunter family researcher correspondent has kindly advised me that he had noted that Presbyterian Hunter families in North Carolina had Stanhope as a middle name and also as a first name.  He thought this indicated a possible connection with Stanhope.(8).   I think that this notion is correct and that these Hunters in North Carolina indeed do have a connection with the Hunters of Polmood but also that the inclusion of Stanhope in these names could be a nod to the Stuart cause.  It is of interest that Flora Macdonald, who was also a Presbyterian, fled to North Carolina.   

Elizabeth Hunter married James Ochoncar, 18th Lord Forbes, at Crailing House in Roxburgh in 1792 and lived there. Elizabeth had inherited Crailing through her mother Lady Caroline Mackenzie.(3)  On 27-06-1798 Elizabeth had a son named Walter baptised at Crailing Parish Kirk.  On the baptismal entry her husband is styled as the Hon. Lord Forbes of Crailing however Elizabeth is named as the Hon. Elizabeth Hunter of Polmood!   She is still using her maiden name indicating that the Polmood name was important to her.  How important was revealed when her son Walter, the 19th Lord Forbes, sold Polmood and the farms of Badlieu and Tweedhopefoot in 1847 for £6,600 to Houston Mitchell.(3)   This resulted in the lands of Polmood being out of Hunter hands for the first time in over 800 years.  Mitchell built a new house c1887 on the site of the ancient ruins of Polmood House that he had destroyed in an act of wanton destruction.  For more about the houses see page 25.2. Polmood

During the seventeenth/eighteenth centuries there were many other Hunter families in the Tweedsmuir and Corehead areas.  See page 9 Covenanters in Upper Tweed.  At the moment there is no evidence to suggest that any of these many other Hunters families were related to the Hunters of Polmood although further diligent research may prove otherwise. It is surprising that there were not more claimants for the Polmood title during the course of the Hunter Case that lasted for many years.

The big question must be are the Hunters of Polmood actually extinct?  Some people seem to think so but I think otherwise.   One avenue of research is via heraldry that could highlight unknown family lines as indicated in the Heraldry Section below.   For example, the David Hunter of 1738 and Thomas Hunter of 1609 and other armorials give a hint of unrecorded family lines - there must be others.  The family tree shown above demonstrates that there could be many patrilineal lines descending from the early Lairds of Polmood.  Marriages into the aristocracy/landed gentry helps as demonstated by the marriages of Margaret and Elspeth Hunter into the Naysmith and Veitch families as they are very well documented.  They of course could only be a possible heir to the title, the Hunter lands having long gone.

( Ed.   Recent research has revealed that a Walter Hunter domiciled at the Crook Inn had a daughter named Veronica born on 11-05-1731.   This Veronica Hunter must have been named after Veronica - The Lady of Polmood - see above.   This indicates a possible connection between these two Hunter families and possibly  also indicating that the Crook Inn family were supporters of the Stuart cause?)  

Heraldry of Hunter of Polmood.

In Sir Bernard Burkes The General Armory(14) is the following - Hunter, (David Hunter, cadet of Polmood, 1738) Ar. a chev. wavy az. betw. three hunting horns vert stringed gu, Crest - A dexter and sinister hand and arm holding a bow and arrow in full draught, ppr.   Motto Fortuna Sequatur. - example at head of page.  However the matriculation of David Hunters arms with the Court of the Lord Lyon lists him as only David Hunter 1738.   This is because the matriculation describes him as descended from the Hunters of Polmood and not Hunter of Polmood while Burke lists him as cadet of Polmood.   The date of 1738 is the earliest Hunter matriculation that the Court of the Lord Lyon have listed.  However in The General Armory(14) there is also listed Hunter (Polmood, co. Peebles) Ar. three hunting horns vert, stringed gu.     This shows that the David Hunter armorial is the same as the Polmood armorial but differenced with the addition of the blue wavy chevron. 

The heraldic features that distinguish the Hunters of Polmood from the Hunters of Hunterston and their cadet branches are :-

 the crest of the bow/arrow for Polmood and crest of greyhound for Hunterston

 the motto of Fortuna Sequatur for Polmood and Cursum Perficio for Hunterston

 the field - the background - silver for Polmood, green for Hunterston and

the emblem on the field is three hunting horns for Polmood and racing hounds for Hunterston.

The Hunter of Polmood armorial apart from being listed by Burkes and the Lord Lyon above are also mentioned in the following sources:-

a)Fairburns Book of Crests(15). Hunter, Scotland, two hands shooting an arrow from a bow. all pr. Fortuna Sequatur.

b) The Original Historical Description of the Chapel Royal, Holyrood.(16)  Is a very neat carved stone over the remains of Baillie Hunter and his lady.   He is supposed to have been of the family of Polmood in Peebles-shire; and the arms of that family are sculptured on the stone, around which is the inscription:- Thomas Hunter Baillie in Edinburgh, and Katherine Norman his spouse. MDC1X (1609).

c)  A Collection of Armorial Bearings.(17). Hunter of Polmood in Tweeddale bore - argent, three hunting horns sable.   This armorial has black unstringed hunting horns.  The unstringed black hunting horns differences this armorial from The David Hunter arms above indicating a different line of Hunters of Polmood.

d)  British Crests:(18) Hunter of Polmood: hunting horn vert, virrelled or, and stringed gules. Motto In Corun Salutis Spero.   This is differenced from other Polmood arms by having gold collars on the hunting horns - this must be a nod to the Hunters of Hunterston as they have gold collars on their hounds.  Also the motto is quite different.

 e) Lawrences Auctioneers; Sale 11-10-2016.(19).   Rare Late 18th Century American Silvergilt Table Spoon.  With pointed end, engraved with a crest ** below the motto "FORTUNA SEQUATOR" and on the reverse, with the script initials "H" over "CG". maker's mark only by Lewis Fueter, New York 1770-1780; 9" (23 cms); 2 oz.

** Crest and motto of Hunter, Cadet of Polmood, Peeblesshire.

(Sale price estimate was £150-200 and was sold for £420.)

( The spoon could be part of a wedding service - the H being for Hunter and CG the initials of the bride?)


 Glossary of Heraldic terms.

Ar - argent (Silver or White),

Az - azure (Blue)

betw - between.

Chev - Chevron.

Dexter and Sinister - left and right.

gu - gules (Red)

or - Gold.

ppr - proper - (Natural Colours)

sable - (Black)

vert - (Green).

virrelled - collared.



1)   Gelling, Margaret; Place-Names in the Landscape, Phoenix Press, London, 1984. p27 for Pol. 

2)  Dwelly, Edward, Compiler; The Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary, Gairm Publications, Glasgow, 1988. Pol p731 and madadh p621.

3)  Buchan, J.W. & Paton, Rev. H; History of Peeblesshire, Jackson, Wylie, Glasgow, 1927. p445 for Stanhope, p451-461 for Polmood, p451 for bow/arrow, p452,  for Mongomery, p455-456 for Family Tree, p457 for Crailing, p457 for Badlieu/Tweedhopefoot.

4)  Not in use.

5)  Tolstoy, Nicholai; The Quest for Merlin. Coronet Books, 1986. p88. 

6)  Moffat, Alistair; Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms, Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2012 .  pp65-70.

7) Branigan, Keith; Oxford Companion to British History (2nd Ed), Oxford University Press, 2002.

8)  Hunter, W. C; Private email August/2017.

9)  Not in Use

10) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory for Peeblesshire, Edinburgh, 1967.  Vol II No 579, p305.  Canmore ID 49757.

11)  Fraser, Sarah; The Last Highlander, Harper Press, London, 2013. p347

12)  Gabaldon, Diana; Outlander, Arrow, London, 2015.   (Now a TV series)

13)  Strang, Alexander, Charles; Borders and Berwick, An Illustrated Architectural Guide to the Scottish Borders and Tweed Valley, Rutland Press, Edinburgh, 1994. p248-249.

14)  Burke, Bernard, Sir; The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland & Wales, Heritage Books, 2007. Vol2 p521.

15)  Heraldry Today; Fairbairns Book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland, Reprint of the 4th Edition, London, 1996.  p293 and plate 200/2 for image.

16)  Mackie, Charles; The Original Historical Description of the Chapel Royal Holyrood, Edinburgh 1830. p83-84.

17)  Stoddart R. R; A Collection of Armorial Bearings, AD 1370-1678, William Paterson, Edinburgh, 1881. Vol 2.

18) Deuchar, Alexander; British Crests: containing the crests and mottos of the families of Great Britain and Ireland, Kirkwood & Sons, Edinburgh, 1817.  Vol 1 p156

19) Auctioneers, Lawrences; Sale catalogue 11-10-2016,  Somerset, UK.  Page 2 item 79.

20) Hoare, Philip; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Noel Coward, Oxford University Press, 2004.

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