We had been invited for lunch by Bill and Cathy Robertson. Bill and his sister Evelyn share a great, great, grandfather with us ( I think, Ant help me out in the comments!)

On the way to their house we knew that the village of Torpichen was important, as that was where everybody in the family records were baptised. It was a good five miles from the farms we had just seen. We couldn’t figure out why they would go so far, surely there must’ve been closer places!

But when we got there, and saw the historic places signs on the way, we got it. This church has been here since the 1100’s. Probably from the time of the first Stormin’ Norman de la Haye.


In the graveyard we found an Isabelle Walker and James Hay from the 1800s, and a James Hay ( Bill’s uncle) who died in a submarine attack in the First World War.

Lunch was AMAZING. How could Ant have possibly thought that this wasn’t going to take a while.. perhaps right up until his first whisky. Or his second wine. The soup. The beef, or the sponge?


When the photos came out we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We think this is the brother of our great, great, great grandfather. This couple were the last two to live on the farm. They left it in the 1890’s, just thirty years or so before our side of the family emigrated to New Zealand.


If you are reading this and you remember my father, then the shock of this image will probably hit you as much as it did me. All I can see in this photograph is Dad.

Halfway through this trip I had a brief moment where I didn’t really want to carry on, as I have mixed feelings about this side of our family history. But seeing this photo made me realise that families are about a lot of people and a lot of lives.

Look at these two. They must have worked so hard. And they are so dignified with it.

Ok, so this really is the end now for our journey. It has been such good fun and neither of us could believe just how emotional and rewarding it has been. But Loxy needs a rest before her next big adventure, and so now the final word can go to our intrepid Time Team navigator..


So we headed further into the farm to look for the next one.

This one was actually a little more exciting, as you might be able to tell from my voice in this video. As we didn’t expect it, and also because it took us a long time to find it as the woods were quite dense and we couldn’t see anything for ages.

It was very overgrown, and harder to make out what it might have looked like, but it was awesome.


Further along was what was obviously once a road or a track and gateposts and fences.


And this would have been their view..


So the Time Team journey was over, we had found another farm, which was much more likely to be the Hay’s we think, as well as our original goal of seeing the ruin we knew about.

But the next stop was a visit to the long lost relatives who still lived up the road to see what they could tell us about who lived here and when.



The first farm

So we are heading to the site that we have seen on Google Earth. When we approach it we can’t quite believe what we are seeing. It is so much more significant than what we expected.


The stonework is really beautiful and it must have been a really solid house with perhaps outbuildings and maybe stone pens for gardens or animals.

We walked around the ruins and just took it all in. Imagining them perhaps building it, quarrying the stone, living in the rooms and of course working from dawn to dusk on the surrounding land.


We had heard another story that after Culloden many of the prisoners were taken by boat to a nearby place called Bo’ness. So it could make sense that between that time, 1746 and the 1780s, the Hays and many others established themselves after being released as tenant farmers ( they didn’t own the land, they just worked it) in this area as they couldn’t go home.

They married into the families of all the nearby farms, the Walkers and the Gentlemans. So this house could have been occupied by a number of these families.

So, we were very pleased with ourselves for finally  getting here to finally walk in their footsteps.



While this site is what we had always understood to be called Drumbowie Farm, which possibly refers to a number of cottages and farmhouses in the area, the farmer whose land it is told us that there is actually ANOTHER farmhouse/cottage ruin further into the woods. And he said that the local name for that farm was Drumbowie Farm..


There is only one thing for it. And we know who to call..


The Farm

Ok, so we are getting ready now for the big event. We had found the ruins of a farmhouse several years ago on Google Earth, and Ant had been in touch with relatives who had told us that this was the family farm from around 250 years ago.

Ant had got permission from the farmer for us to go onto the land, but it is about a mile from the road, and pretty sludgy. So we needed to get prepared.

We ran into the farmer after this, gumboots on ready to walk, and asked him for directions. He asked us what kind of car we had. “Er, ..< proud pause > ..we’ve got a Landrover.”

“OCH, yewl ba FYNE!”

We love Loxy…

We are getting closer now..



Bannockburn is a famous battlesite where Robert the Bruce defeated the English in the 1400s. We have a romantic suspicion that the Hays we descended from were given their land in the area after this battle as a reward for fighting for the Bruce. But that wasn’t the reason we were visiting Bannockburn.

Three years ago I met the guys who were designing the visitor centre here, as I was researching battlefield interpretation for the First World War project my company worked on recently. They had shown me some visualisations and described how it was to be a multi-user 3D computer game. I had been dying to see how it turned out, so that was the real reason for the visit.

And wow. It is an immersive, 3D, game-based experience that uses amazing animations and projections for battlefield recreations. The visiting group plays the roles of all the armies in the battle. It is run by a gamemaster, and works for all ages. We absolutely loved it and I think it really does show the way that history can be gamified.

The road to Culloden

The drive was a little bit scary..

We stopped a few places along the way including Pitlochry where Ant lived and worked 20 years ago. We went up into the hotel and he looked around all his old haunts. He was a bit worried that a girl who moved there for him 20 years ago might still be there waiting. He was actually serious.

The scenery was incredible – it had only been a day of snow but it made the trip magic. What wasn’t quite so magic was arriving in Inverness to find that the Culloden Visitor Centre was closed, and so was the Family History Research place we had planned to visit.

But anyway, we trudged through the battlefield in the snow – stood on the site where over 800 scots were slaughtered, and then the rest were either hung, run off their land, or progressively moved out of the Highlands by clearing of the land for sheep farming.

That was 1746, and so now the journey is back down to Armadale, to find Drumbowie farm where we think the Hays ended up after Culloden.



We spent the night at Mat and Marie’s in Glasgow, got snow-bombed by Michael and Euan and then headed off into the Thundersnow. This was the name for the weather system arriving through the UK. It wasn’t actually that bad at all, it was just some snow.  We planned to get to Inverness that day,  but would make a call once we got to Pitlochry depending on the conditions.

We are heading to Inverness because as far as we can tell the Hays didn’t settle onto farms in Armadale, our final destination, until around the 1780s. So our theory is that after the battle of Culloden, they were driven off their land and ended up as tenant farmers. Our plan is to work out a bit more of the story and also find the ruins of the farmhouses. And to survive the Thundersnow.


Finding Loxy

Finding Loxy and getting her up to Scotland

Seeing Loxy for the first time was quite a moment. I arrived at Nene Overland by taxi and was dropped off amidst maybe fifty Landrovers all parked along two rows. I walked along looking at each one, searching for the number plate. I found it, and I looked up. She looked at me. We were made for each other. To add to the chemistry we were both in identical outfits.

The plan now is to drive up the country, meet Ant in Glasgow and then explore some family history sites, perhaps with some whisky tasting along the way.

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