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First Home of the Griersons In Scotland
by Ralph Terry

"What was Lag Tower and what does it look like?"  "I have a picture of Lag Castle when it was a great and beautiful castle."  I have heard several questions and statements such as these, especially while publishing The Greer International Newsletter.  These questions and statements come up from time to time, partly because of some misinformation that has been given in several publications over the years.  To set the record straight, I will give you the erroneous misinformation first.

A bit of mis-information has been handed down since about 1940 when Green More Greer of Sikeston, Missouri published a booklet of his family genealogy and included two pictures.  The first picture was identified as "The Ancestral Home of the Greers - Lag Castle, Dumfrieshire, Scotland."  The second picture used is a picture of "Ruins of Dumstaffnage, on the Sound of Mull." (See below.)  The reproductions in his book was not very good, but recognizable.  These pictures, and the information about them, has been perpetuated in at least three writings that I know of: A Greer Family Record by John M. Greer, about 1942; A Tribute to Thomas Lacy Greer by Eliza M. Wakefield, 1953; and My Greer Lineage by Mary Lee Barnes, 1992. 

Duart Castle on the island of Mull

Incorrectly identified by Green M. Greer as
"The Ancestral Home of the Greers - Lag Castle,
Dumfrieshire, Scotland,"
but we now know it to be Duart Castle on Mull.

Incorrectly identified pictures used in Green More Greer's publication in 1940.

Indentified by Green M. Greer as
"Ruins of Dumstaffnage, on the Sound of Mull."
Dumstaffnage is on the main island of Scotland,
north of Oban.

On our first trip to Scotland in 1992, my wife, Judia and I wanted to see the ancestral home of the Greers.  We knew "Lag Castle" was in the Dunscore area of Dumfrieshire, so with a copy of the picture of "Lag Castle" from the publication of Green Moore Greer in hand, we set out to find it.  We showed the picture to the local pub keeper at Dunscore and several of his patrons.  They all assurred as that no castle of that magnitude was in their area.  We were referred to the local historian of Dunscore, John Crockett, a wonderful man and now long-time friend, who lived across the street from the pub.  John guided us a couple of miles from Dunscore to "Lag Tower," as it is truly named, which is a small ruin and has been, since it burned in the 18th century.  See later in this article for pictures of Lag Tower, now and then.  But now to continue with the bogus "Lag Castle."

John Crockett could not give us any information about the castle pictured by Green More Greer, Sr. and identified by him as Lag Castle, but we keep a sharp eye out for the rest of our journey for the castle in the picture identified as "Lag Castle."  We did finally locate it ... turned out to be Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull, home of the McCleans.  We are not sure what led Green More Greer to think this was Lag Castle ... he possibly felt Lag Tower was not impressive enough to show the homefolks or possibly was just mixed up about the castles.  Duart Castle is across the bay from Dumstaffnage, across the sound of Mull, so possibly he thought there should be some connection between the two.  At any rate, he published the picture as "Lag Castle," and began a cycle of misinformation that has been difficult to end.  The pictures were later used from Green More Greer's publication by John M. Greer in his book, followed by Eliza M. Wakefield and then Mary Lee Barnes, and possibly others.

Modern photographs of Duart Castle on the Island of Mull, taken from about the same angle as the picture used by Green More Greer in his publication, which he identified as Lag Castle.

The other picture which Green More Greer used in his publication is Dumstaffnage, but it is not on Mull, but across the Sound of Mull, on the main island of Scotland, north of Oban.  As it looked in the 1940's, is much the way it is today.  Prince Gregor, from which the McGregor Clan is said to have sprung, was said to have been born at an early castle on this same spot.  The present castle is said to have been built on the foundation of the earlier one.  So apparently, Green More Greer confused the castle on Mull with Lag Tower.  I cannot help but wonder if he actually ever went to Lag Tower.


The Real Lag Tower

There have been a number of pictures of and other information about Lag Tower published in past years.  Following are the ones that I have located while in Scotland.  If you have additional information from authentic sources, I will be glad to include it.

The two following engravings of Lag Tower were published February 6, 1790, by S. Hooper.
They were in a file at Ewart Library in Dumfries.

Lag Tower - near Dunscore, Scotland

Lag Castle

as shown in
The Historical Families and the Border Wars,
by C. L. Johnstone, 1878.

The Griersons of Lag have continued in the male line from Gilbert, second son of Malcolm Dominus de MacGregor, who died in 1374. They were created baronets in the 17th century, and intermarried with the  Maxwells, Charterises, Kirkpatricks, Fergussons, and Queensberry family. Lag Castle stands about seven miles from Dumfries, and, like Lochwood, was built in the midst of morasses and thick woods. Sir Alexander Grierson of Lag, born 1858, is the head of this ancient family.

(The Historical Families and the Border Wars, by C. L. Johnstone, 1878.)

Lag Tower, Dumfriesshire

This keep stands about three miles from Auld Garth Bridge, the road winding round green pasture hills.  It is situated on a knoll in the midst of a wilderness of rank vegetation and ruins, adjacent to a farm-steading.  The building (Fig. 315) of which the walls remain to a considerable height, measures 29 feet, 9 inches from north to south, by 25 feet 3 inches from east to west.  The door is in the middle of the south end, and led directly by a passage through a wall 5 feet 9 inches thick into the basement floor, which

consists of an apartment 17 feet 11 inches long by 13 feet 6 inches wide.  The upper floors, of which there were three, contained each one room of the same dimensions.  From a passage in the north-east corner of the tower a wheel-stair 3 feet 3 inches wide led to the upper floors.  The entrance seems to have had both an outer door and one which folded into the passage.  Another door also opened into the ground floor, and it is probable that the foot of the stair had also a separate door.  None of the floors were vaulted.  The ground floor is lighted by a small slit 5 inches wide, and has no other opening.  The first floor has a fireplace in the north end, and two side lights with pointed arches.  The second floor has a fireplace also in the north end, with a garde-robe alongside, and similar arched windows towards the west.  The corbelling for the joists of the third floor remains, but most of the walls above this height are gone.  From the north-west corner of the tower a ruined wall runs diagonally down the hill for about 35 feet, and at the foot of the hill, at a distance of about 40 feet north- westwards, there are the remains of ruined outbuildings.  Lag belonged from the beginning of the fifteenth century to the family of Grierson, the last occupant of the house being Sir Robert Grierson of Lag, a well known enemy of the covenanters.

Fig. 315 - Lag Tower - Plan

(Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Volume III, 1889, by MacGibbon and Ross, pages 396-397.)

Dunscore, Dumfries

Castellated and Domestic Structures.

     136.  Lag Tower - This grim, broken little dwelling is situated on a knoll adjoining the farm of Lag, in hummocky ground surrounded by hills 1 1/4 miles north-north-east of Dunscore village.  The tower is oblong on plan, measuring externally 29 feet 6 inches from north to south and 25 feet 6 inches from east to west, with walls 5 feet 10 inches thick on ground floor.  The entrance, which is in the south wall, opens to the right on a wheel staircase, 3 feet 3 inches wide, leading to the upper floors.  The only window on the ground floor is a narow slit in the east wall, widely flauned to the interior; there is no fireplace.  There are three storeys above the basement.  The first and second floors have fireplaces in the north walls and windows with pointed scoinson arches.  The building has not been vaulted.  There is a garderobe recess on the first floor at the west end of the north wall, and a lintelled opening at ground level in the north wall communicates with a circular garderobe flue to the second floor.  A courtyard wall runs diagonally from the north-west angle for a distance of 38 feet, where it returns southwards 27 feet to an arched gateway 6 feet wide.  Against the walls in the courtyard are traces of out-buildings.  The tower appears to belong to the 16th century.

The first authenticated Grierson of Lag is Gilbert "Grerson" in the 14th century, whose son, another Gilbert, married in 1412 one of the three heiresses of Sir Duncan of Kirkpatrick, Lord of Thorhorwald.  In 1545 "John Greorsoun of the Lag" is one of the sureties for Robert, Master of Maxwell, the Warden.  (Visited 23 July 1919.)

(from Inventory of Monuments in Dumfriesshire, 1928, page 55.)

Part of this article was reprinted from The Greer International Newsletter, compiled by Judia and Ralph Terry,
Volume 1, Number 4, July / August 1995.


See other informative websites about Lag Tower at:
Caledonian Castles
Lag Tower Ruins
William Greer's Tower of Lag

Greer Articles Index
Greer Research Tools
Please send additional links, comments or suggestions for articles to:
The Coleman County Historian

This page last updated November 3, 2002
© 1990 - 2002 Ralph Terry.  All rights reserved.