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Travels of the Moffats - by Peter Moffat

This article written by Peter Moffat describes his travels in the footsteps of his ancestors in Berwickshire as he visited the farms and places where several generations of Moffat and Houliston ancestors lived and worked


The following was written by Peter Moffat of Balclutha, New Zealand during the 1990s, as he worked on his book about the Moffats, but it was never published. It's presented below as put together from a number of different files Peter had saved from his Brother typewriter by Roger Moffat.

AT THE BEGINNING

During Pearl's and my second trip to Scotland in 1988, we took the opportunity along with Ashley and Philippa, to spend a few days in "Our Moffat Country". From Aberdeen we did a "right hand down a bit" off the A90, taking time to visit Glamis Castle, a very interesting piece of Royal real estate, which the Queen Mum has a bit of a soft spot for. She must have been out having a cup of tea with the neighbour that day, as we missed her. Our next stop was Edinburgh where the distaff sides were measured for Moffat tartan skirts at the Anderson Kinlock establishment, kilt makers to the Royal Family. Ashley and I settled for a tie each. That evening we were splendicously entertained at the Edinburgh Tattoo. Several days and an unspecified number of drachms later, we headed to the Borders where this story begins.

For the sake of those who in time to come, may wish to retrace any of our meanderings and dig up more of the family roots than I am able to include in this booklet, I will endeavour to tell you where practical, the road numbers of the roads mentioned. For example, Edinburgh is where the (A1) ends and the (A90) begins, or Preston (A6112 X B6355). Ordinance Survey Landranger series maps Nos. 67 and 74 are also of good value for this part of the Border country. They will identify any town or farm, which I may tell of, and the highways and byways in the U.K. are extremely well sign posted.

John Moffat and Jean Bog(ue)

We are now able to go back in time to a John Moffat recorded in the O.P.R. of Swinton and Simprim (B6461), as being born in 1747. On the 18.5.1776 he married Jean (or Jane) Bogue, born 1758. John died 8.11.1829, Jean died 12.4.1838. There is also a possible link back to a John Moffat b.1719, d. 23.10.1883. He married a Margaret ? b. 1715, d. 19.7.1811 at Swinton aged 96, and no retirement villages in those days either! I understand these particulars have been gleaned from grave stones, and O.P.R.s in the Swinton area by Roger Moffat.

But back to John and Jean before we get side tracked too far. We understand there was an issue of five, namely. (Jean knew what oranges were for).

 Betty       b. 21.11.1778 chr. 29.11.1778
John        b. 05.02.1781 chr. 11.02.1781
Margaret    b. 15.05.1783 chr. 25.05.1783
*George      b. 25.05.1791 chr. 29.05.1791 from O.P.R. Swinton and Simprim.
William     b. 04.02.1795 chr. ?          from O.P.R. Buncle and Preston.

At this stage we have not been able to find any more records about *George's siblings, but as this story is not a family tree as such, that is of no great consequence. My intention is to trace my family tree in a straight line from *George down to the present time, and include some yarns about our families who have lived in Te Houka.

We assume that George was an agricultural worker, as that occupation seems to come up regularly among the Moffat families. He married a daughter of William Clark and Agnes Donaldson. Isabel was born ?.1.1792. at Fogo (off B6460), the couple were married at Greenlaw (A6105 X A697) on 30.06.1817. It would appear that they then moved through Duns (A6112) to a place then known as the Coppermines. We tried for some time in 1988 to find this place, but it was only when we were talking to some elderly folk at Grantshouse (A6112 X A1) that one chap remembered that there was in fact a copper mine at a place called Alba, about four miles away toward Preston. It had been reworked during World War Two, but was now abandoned. We eventually found this place at the junction of the Otter Burn and the Whiteadder water, off the A6112. The Otter Burn lived up to it's name, and supplied the splendid spectacle of an otter at it's best, sculling around and playing in the water, until disturbed, then swimming off up stream to a quieter place. The mine consisted of a shaft about three feet high and one and a half feet wide, driven horizontally into the sheer rock face about two feet above the water level. Needless to say we did not explore too far into the mine portal. This place is now known as Elba, with about the only visible relic being a now derelict house which was maybe where George and Isabel had the first of their of their seven children.

*George Moffat and Isabella Clark

 Alexander   b. 18.12.1818 at Coppermine
Agnes       b. 18.12.1819 at Hordweel
Margaret    b. 20.12.1821 at Hordweel – from O.P.R. Buncle and Preston.
Elizabeth   b. 04.11.1825 at Blackerstone chr. Longformacus
William     b. 04.11.1829 at Blackerstone chr. Longformacus
#George      b. 25.05.1831 at Blackerstone chr. Longformacus – from O.P.R. Longformacus
Catherine   b. 27.01.1834 at Drakemyre – from O.P.R. Buncle and Preston

One would wonder why the three children who were born at Blackerstone should be christened away across the moors, six or seven miles away. Elba, Hordweel, and Blackerstone are all farms within about one mile radius just off the (A6112), and bound the Whiteadder water. One must believe that the parents were satisfied with their life in that district as they did not move further than to the neighboring farms during at least sixteen years, and their last move to Grantshouse (A1) was only about two miles.

We took time to visit each of these farms, the first being Alba, as described earlier. The next was Hordweel on the other side of the river. It looked a fairly well kept farm, carrying some flourishing crops. A trip round three sides of a square brought us to Blackerstone. It seems that it had been an impressive place in it's time, still supporting a large Main house, and on the other side of the road, a row of five semi detached cottages. Could it have one of these in which Elizabeth, William and George, first saw the light of day? Drakemyre is a farm halfway between Blackerstone and Grantshouse off the A6112. We did not visit there as it was not at that time on our list and we were unaware of it. We will now take a tiki tour round this lovely part of the Border Country.

Longformacus off the B6355 is an isolated, but pretty little place out on the Lammermuir hills, on the banks of the Dyewater, which is very aptly named because of it's very dark colour. The drainage from the peat has a very marked influence on the colour of the water. I doubt if a very good Whisky could be distilled using the local product as a carrier. The winter in the hill region is rather rigorous and the land very exposed.

One would wonder if the Lammerlaws in Otago were not named after those Scottish hills. The outlook and the topography are very similar, although very little of the moor is over 1300ft.

Longformacus is at times referred as " Godforsacus". The church and cemetery are secluded rather nicely beside the Dyewater, over the bridge from the village, and very well kept both inside and out, and at least in the summer time when we were there we could have stayed in the local pub and just mucked around for a day or two, if time had not been of the essence. Abby St. Bathans is also where one could spend a day or two. It probably owes its main existence now, to the present occupiers of the Blackerstone farm. The tea rooms situated in an old mill are managed from there, and can turn on a very acceptable luncheon, specialling a very nice trout, fresh out of their own trout farm on the Whiteadder, the waters of which used to drive the wheel of the old mill. There is also a timber creosote treatment plant which draws it's raw material from the wood lots on the Blackerstone farm, of which there are quite a few, these being mainly situated on the banks of the stream between Abby St. Bathans and Elba. Among these wood lots, and on the indigenous riparian strip, there is what is now known as Retreat House which can be reached by a walking track downstream from Abby house, or upstream by a rough driving track from Elba. This rather large home we understand, was part of the Abby St. Bathans complex, of yesteryear. The present occupier of Blackerstone farm new nothing of past tenants or workers of the farm, but no doubt George, Jean and family would live in one of those five semi detached cottages along one side of the farmyard.

There are two churches in the Buncle and Preston parish, one a small church and graveyard, just off the B6438, close to the ruins of the old Bunkle Castle, the other is at Preston (A61120. But more about there later.

Little is known the whereabouts of the family between 1834 when Catherine was born, and the 1841 census. The Census Records for Coldingham, (A1007 X B6438) record that the parents along with Alexander, "Eliza",, and Margaret, were all recorded as agricultural workers, perhaps Agnes was working away or was married by then, William, George Jnr. and Catherine would be too young to be classified at their age. At that time they are said to be resident at Grantshouse, and probably at Renton Smithy.

We understand that they lived at Renton Smithy cottage for some time, it being one of three situated along with the smithy on the corner section of (A1), and the left hand side of the road leading into Renton House. It is no longer there, and the area is now a waste land, the smithy and associated cottages being rendered uninhabitable by flooding in 1965, and since demolished. An extract from a search commissioned by Ashley and Philippa, states that "The 1851 Census Schedules for Coldingham (for Grantshouse), Cockburnspath, and Buncle and Preston were consulted but neither William Moffat nor his mother, Isabella Clark, was found to be living in any of these Parishes at that date" This would suggest that the rest of the family were still living at Smithy cottage. Perhaps William and his mother were visiting Agnes out of the district. We know that George and Isabella later flitted to the neighbouring farm of Harlawside, as that is where *George's death is recorded as having taken place in 1844. Some fourteen years later, Isabella died at the next door farm again, known as Penmanshiel.

The couple are buried in the old church yard of Preston, "ye ken that yin oop the bunk!" as told us by an old chap we spoke to. The site gives a commanding view from the top of it's small hill, just on the outskirts of the village. The monumental inscription reads, "George Moffat, at Harlawside, 15.1.44 52 years. wife, Isabella Clark, 13.1.58. 64 years". An extract from the B.D.M. Cockburnspath reads "On the 31st of January, 1858, at Penmanshiel, Cockburnspath, Isabella, Clerk, (sic) or Moffat, Died aged 64; married, (sic) and the daughter of William Clerk, agricultural labourer, and Agnes Donaldson. Buried at the Churchyard of Preston. Informant, George Moffat, her son.

It is noted that #George Jnr., brother of William, was at one time a porter on the railway that ran through Grantshouse between Edinburgh and London, but this was only a transitional period, as at a later date we have him living in the Stewards House at Renton House, and that would mean only one thing, that he had a position of seniority on the farm. The Steward was the manager. We learned this through the census records. At some later date he must have moved into Renton House itself as he is recorded somewhere as having lived there.

We spent a night in Renton house, Pearl and I in the main bedroom. Was this the same one with the fourteen foot walls that great Uncle George and Isabella Patterson whiled away their bedtime hours? We believe that it was.

William Moffat and Ellen Houliston

Let me start by telling you that we know very little about either William's or Ellen's lives before they were married, except what has been gleaned from the Old Parish Records from the districts in which they had earlier lived. Ellen Shiels Houliston was born in 1837, at Ednam (B6461), in Roxburghshire, she died 15.5.1919 at Balclutha. Ellen was the eldest daughter of Robert Houliston b. ?.10.1814, at Lochtower, (off B6352) on the West side of Town Yetholm Hill. He died 5.10.1879, at Balclutha. Alice (Allison) Wright, his wife to be, was born at Town Yetholm (B6410) on 10.2.1814. near the North Western slopes of the Cheviot Hills. They were married about twenty miles north of their birth places, at Coldstream (A697X698) in 1835. She died at Balclutha, 27.7.1901.

Robert Houliston was a shepherd "of a very independent nature", and not one to stay with the same employer if he believed his work was not appreciated. As mentioned before, Ellen was born at Ednam (B6461), about seven miles S.S.E. of Coldstream. The next two children, Agnes, and Margaret, were born in 1839 and1842, respectively, at a place known as Kennetsideheads, (off A 6463). about two miles N.W. of Ednam. In 1845 the fourth child, Jane, was born at Middlethird, (off A61050 a further three miles N.W. of Ednam. Two years later again, Adam, was born at Castle Mains, ( off B 63650 that entry would lead me to believe that they had by this time moved to the area of Duns Castle, (A6105xA61120 about ten miles to the N.E.. Twenty miles further North and two years later, Robert and Alison are recorded as parenting Samuel at a place, called Doon, (off A1 T) two miles S. of Dunbar on the coast. Their next shift took them a half mile S. to Spott, (off A1(T) where George was born in 1851. Robert was also born there in 1854. Again in 1857 the wanderlust struck them, and we find them at their last residing place in Scotland – Dovecote Hall. That is where Alison Wright, was born, and also Helen, born 1859, who was brought up as the youngest member of the Houliston family. It can readily be seen that the records of the family are contained in many Parishes, so have not been easy to find as contained in Pat Caldwell's book, "Here a Name".

We visited Dovecot Hall (off A1(T)) in 1988, it was easy to find. We were in the Cockburnspath area and there it was, exactly as shown in Pat's book. One did not need a second look. there was nobody at home, but it was quite evident that it was in normal occupation at that time. Again in 1994, Pearl and I passed that way with the definite intention of making a visit, this time we were to be rewarded, the door knocker was answered and a very amiable lady came to the door. We told her our interest in the cottage, and she told us all she knew about the place. Dovecot Hall is now used as a casual holiday cottage, and has a Three Star rating with the Scottish Tourist Board. It has been extensively renovated to original, as far as practicable, and redecorated very tastefully. The holiday maker said it was a lovely place for a holiday for the whole family, as it was away from everything that was common to city life. The children had the freedom of the country, the parents had the freedom from the children. If ever I catch up with Robert or Alison, I will be able to report to them that Dovecot Hall is well, and in good hands. A point of interest when we are talking about Cockburnspath, is the fact it is at the northern end of a walking path, known as the Southern Upland Way, which begins at Portpatrick on the Gallway Peninsula near Stranraer, and wanders in a northwesterly direction, past Moffat, St Mary's Loch, and Longformacus, to Reed Point, on the coast about a mile from Cockburnspath. I will not promulgate the notion that the Moffats followed this walking path from the Annan Valley area, when they migrated to Berwickshire, but I believe they did follow well known roads which picked up some of these places enroute, and maybe including Selkirk and Kelso, as these areas are noted as it is noted in "Moffats of that Ilk" by Major Francis Moffat, that Moffats were inhabiting those places in the mid fifteen hundreds, but more about those times later.



Linked toIsabel Clark; William Clark; Agnes Donaldson; Pearl Doreen Fotheringham; Adam Houliston; Agnes Houliston; Alison Wright Houliston; Ellen Shiels Houliston; George Houliston; Helen Houliston; Jane Houliston; Margaret Houliston; Robert Houliston; Robert Houliston; Samuel Houliston; Agnes Moffat; Alexander Moffat; Living; Betty Moffat; Catherine Moffat; Elisabeth Moffat; George Moffat; George Moffat; John Moffat; Margaret Moffat; Margaret Moffat; Peter Watson Moffat; William Moffat; William Moffat; Living; Alice Wright

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