Posted by: Elder and Sister Hambelton | July 28, 2012

McKay Ancestoral Home

Following our trip to Aberdeen we traveled up to Thurso, the McKay ancestral home. A missionary couple from Ireland, Elder and Sister Spear serve there as Member and Leader Support and they invited us to stay with them. They are originally from South Africa of Dutch and English origins, they migrated to Ireland when safety became an issue in South Africa 22 years ago.

We enjoyed getting to know them and appreciated so much all they did to arrange for people for us to meet who knew McKay history and chauffeured us around to all the sights. We even visited Dunnet Head the northern most point of mainland Britain.

It was special watching Pat respond to being in the village and farm where her ancestors became the first converts in Northern Scotland. She was truly touched by the pilgrimage to Thurso and the surrounding area. She seemed to sense her ancestor’s spirits and appreciated the wild, hard climate and geography of the McKay clan. We visited the ruins of castle Thurso and the Mey Castle, one of which may have been where Helen’s parents worked. We also went to the village of Tongue where many of the McKay’s originated. The McKay name was everywhere.

We went to the site of the Old McKay Croft (small stone farmhouse with thatched roof that tenement farmers lived in). This is where William and Helen Oman McKay  heard the gospel and joined the church and lived with their family including their sons, David (direct line for David O McKay) and Isaac (direct line for Pat’s grandfather). It is in ruins now and the stones apparently are being salvaged by the current owner for other uses; it has decayed a lot since the last pictures we have of it. Pat even insisted on driving back to the croft site again as we left Thurso to see the croft once again and the burn (or small creek) that was damned up to provide the water for the baptisms of William and Helen. The townspeople came and broke the damn down trying to prevent their baptisms. The burn is now only a trickle, perhaps just a drainage ditch today but Pat was pleased to see it.

As we traveled west and south we entered Southerland (county) and there was a marker inscribed in Gaelic and English that we were entering Clan McKay country. We saw from a distance the Varrich Castle ruins where clan meetings were held. It was all very special to us. It caused us both to reflect again on our heritage and  how much we owe our ancestors, and once again how blessed we feel to be here in Scotland.



  1. So glad you are having so many wonderful experiences! Love your photos-beautiful. Enjoy it all. Miss you. Life here seems so much more busy to me. Maybe 5 hours from grandchildren is about right. : / Actually, it is all good but we are busy. It is constant work and play, not much down time. Carry on!

  2. Did you walk right out of Wuthering Heights? It gives me chills (and not because of the grey weather) to look at the pictures. It must have been thrilling to see those landmarks in family history.

  3. How fantastic. I’m so glad you got to visit it. Great pictures!

  4. What a wonderful treat! To be able to physically make that connection with your ancestral home must be a very spiritual experience. Please send some of that delightful moisture our way! We could use it about now.

    Be well!

    Rich V.

  5. I’m going to have to show Tim! We were just talking about this last night.

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