Nicholas Thorne's Family History Pages. Thorne family. Stephens, Colwill and Westlake. Hay family, Wemyss, Dalrymple-Horn-Elphinstone and Rattray.

Three days in Scotland, August 2006
Click to Enlarge:  Neidpath Castle, 2006.

Neidpath Castle from the carpark.

Click to Enlarge: Towards Peebles from the Castle roof walkway.

Towards Peebles (East) from Castle roof.

Click to Enlarge:  The River Tweed from Neidpath Castle.

The Tweed form the castle.

Click to Enlarge: The ruined wing from the banks of the Tweed.

The ruined wing from the Tweed.

Click to Enlarge: The 'new' 17th century door.

The 'new' 17th Century entrance door.

Click to Enlarge: Lower vault with main 17th Century entrance door on right.

Lower vault, main entrance from 17th Century onwards.

Click to Enlarge: The Guard Room. Dungeon beneath, reached through a grate in floor.

The Guard Room.

Click to Enlarge:  Dungeon entrance. Prisoners dropped down through floor!

Dungeon. Prisoners dropped through floor.

Click to Enlarge: Lowest level of Neidpath Castle.

Lowest level inside the castle.

Click to Enlarge:  The smallest room (Garderobe) in Neidpath.

Neidpath Garderobe.

Click to Enlarge: Someone has left the seat up on the lavatory!

Gentlemen, don't leave the seat up!

Click to Enlarge:  Neidpath Castle from the River bank.

Neidpath from the river bank.

Click to Enlarge:  The River Tweed.

River Tweed, August 2006.

Introduction to Three Days in Scotland Cuttlehill, Fife Craighall Castle, Perthshire. Hay family tree in form of a cartwheel. Auchindinny House Neidpath Castle Yester, Gifford and Garvald.
Introduction to Three Days in Scotland. Cuttlehill, Fife. Craighall Castle, Perthshire. Hay family tree. Auchindinny House Neidpath Castle Yester, Gifford and Garvald.
I entered Peebles and turned off to the right. In very little distance I saw the sign for Neidpath Castle and drove up an incline into an almost empty car park, save for one other car. At the top of the steep steps down to the courtyard I got my first sight of the castle, with the Scottish Saltire flying gently in the breeze.

A polite young man, outside the keepers cottage, spotted me and gave me a welcoming smile. He put down his work and came to take my entrance fee of £3.00. I also purchased a guide to the castle and read about how this tower was raised by the Hays, and how it was that the Lordship of Neidpath came into this branch of the family, from the Frasers.

On the death of Sir Symon Fraser, his only daughter Mary brought the lands and Lordship with her when she married into the Hay family in 1312. I must confess I knew little about that period of Scottish history and here I was finding out that in my veins, albeit by now, extremely diluted with quite a mixture of other blood, flowed yet more from Normandy. This time it was of the Frasers, to add to that of the de Haya or Hay line.

The guide book told me how, in the second half of the 14th Century, the Hay's built the present Neidpath Castle and then went on to hold it for almost 380 years. It was a tall narrow tower which presented less wall to defend than a house with a bigger footprint. Built before guns had been invented its strong walls were designed to resist a medieval siege engine, but not cannon. The style was typical of Scottish Tower Houses and is in an L shape with a main block and a west wing that is now ruinous.

In 1650 the English Cromwellian army besieged the castle, but no great damage was caused by their bombardment with cannon. In the 17th century the interior was altered by the Marquess of Tweeddale to make it more comfortable, but no extra wings or storeys were added. In 1694 the castle was sold to the Duke of Queensberry whose descendant, the Earl of Wemyss and March own it today. Constantly, in in my Scottish trip, I keep coming back to familiar clan names where I do not expect to find them. This time the Wemyss - the family that have strong roots in Fifeshire.

Back further in time, however, in 1357 the Tweeddale Hays had obtained the Midlothian estate of Yester through marriage to the daughter of Sir Hugh Gifford. They built a courtyard castle there and it became their principle seat, with Neidpath retained as a second home, in their role as Sheriffs of Peebles.

1478 saw John Hay created “Lord Hay of Yester” His descendant became the Earl of Tweeddale and his son was promoted Marquess of Tweeddale in 1694. If we are to believe the Hay family-tree then the Marquess' half brother was Edmond 1st Laird of Hopes and from him is descended great-grandfather Edward Hay.

As I walked around the castle I read how Mary Queen of Scots had been entertained there by the Hays in 1563. I discovered that King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) had held a Privy Council there in 1587, although there is some debate as to whether the Hays were back in Royal favour at the time as they had incurred the King's displeasure!

I realised that I was not only walking in the footsteps of Kings and Queens, that previous to this had only been remote people in the dry history books  I had read as a child, but that I was also walking in the footsteps of forefathers of mine that had had interaction with these characters. And that felt jolly weird to me!

I have no idea if others will understand this sense of history and connection to generations past that I experience, but this explains why I feel so passionate about my family research whether it is here in Scotland, or in England on the riverside at Dartmouth, in Devon, with Captain Henry Thorne, master mariner and my paternal line.

I took a path down from the Castle to the River Tweed and, before I left, dipped my hand in its waters. On a sunny August day its beauty is indescribable. Next stop was a dash across country to Garvald, Gifford and Yester.

Next page.

In the late 13th Century the Fraser family were Sheriffs of Tweeddale and raised a Tower castle on this site. They were Normans, imported by King David I of Scots, (1124-1153) with the aim of bringing their ruthless Norman efficiency to Law and Order in the region.  The  last of the branch of the Frasers, who was Lord of this land, was Sir Symon  Fraser. At the siege of Caerlaverock castle in 1300 he had stolen horses and armour from King Edward of England (1272-1307) while in the very service of that King. Then joining William Wallace he defeated the English three times in one day, in 1303, at Roslin.
In retribution the English burnt the Fraser lands at Neidpath!

Wallace was betrayed and executed for treason by  being hung drawn and quarted. Sir Symon returned to King Edward's 'peace' and having been forgiven, served the English King as a soldier in France. Returning to Scotland, however, he rebelled again and joined King Robert the Bruce. In 1307 the Scots were defeated at the battle of Methven and Sir Symon was captured and put in chains to be taken to London. He was tortured and executed in the same manner as Wallace. That is, he was strung up to be cut down while alive and choking. Then he was Castrated and disembowelled, with his entrails burnt before him while still alive. Finally he was quartered and decapitated. His head was displayed on a stake above London Bridge. It is assumed that the Fraser tower at Neidpath was torn down and that is why there is no trace of it today.

Click to Enlarge:  First Floor 17th century room.

First floor 17th century room.

Click to Enlarge:  Huge fireplace.

Huge fireplace over 10ft. wide.