The House of Dronlaw
The Hays of Dronlaw have long since passed into history, but they and their descendants formed a large and powerful branch of the clan from which many Aberdeenshire Hays of today can trace their descent.
Sir Gilbert Hay, first of Dronlaw, was the younger son of Sir Thomas Hay, seventh of Erroll, by Princess Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of King Robert II. He received the estate of Dronlaw, now known as Dronley, situated on the outskirts of Dundee, from his elder brother. This Gilbert was a fierce warrior even by the standards of the 15th century, and distinguished himself in France in the army of Joan of Arc, fighting for the French against the English in the Hundred Years’ War. In 1416, he married Elizabeth Reid, a native of Slains, by whom he had a large family.
His eldest son, Alexander, married Marjorie Fraser, the heiress of Ardendraught and Delgatie, bringing these properties to the family and thereby establishing a line that played a large part in the subsequent history of Scotland. Their grandson, Sir Gilbert Hay, third of Delgatie, was the ancestor of the next three lairds but his line failed with the death of the 6th laird in 1548. He fell at Flodden with his cousin Walter Hay of Carmuck, whose descendants later inherited Delgatie.
Sir Gilbert’s younger brother was James Hay, Bishop of Ross. The bishop lived in an age when Catholic clergy were not as celibate as they should have been and fathered an illegitimate son, Thomas, who later became Abbot of Glenluce. At the reformation, he conformed to the new religion and managed to secure a substantial part of the church’s lands in Galloway for himself. He is the ancestor of the Hays of Park.
With the death of the sixth laird in 1548, Delgatie passed to the heir of entail, Alexander Hay of Artrochie, a descendant of Sir Gilbert of Dronlaw’s younger son, Gilbert Hay of Carmuck. His heir, William, eighth laird, married Lady Beatrice Hay, daughter of his chief, the seventh Earl of Erroll. Their son, the wild and ungovernable Alexander, ninth laird, was a participant in a celebrated bigamy case which rendered subsequent lairds illegitimate. He is the laird who fled the castle during the Earl of Argyll’s siege in 1594, leaving it in the care of his formidable mistress, a ghastly six-foot redhead named Rohaise, whose ghost is said to haunt Delgatie Castle to this day.
Financial disasters plagued the family in the next generation and the 10th laird sold Dronlaw to one distant cousin and mortgaged Delgatie to another. On his death in 1636, there was little but an empty territorial designation left for his son to inherit.
Sir William Hay, 11th of Delgatie, was the most distinguished of this family. An ardent Royalist and key lieutenant of the Marquis of Montrose, he shared both victory and defeat with this greatest of Scotland’s heroes. The two were hanged in Edinburgh in 1650, when Hay’s last request was to be buried beside Montrose. His request was granted 10 years later. After the Restoration, King Charles II ordered a state funeral in Edinburgh for Montrose and Hay, and the two were laid to rest in the same side chapel of St Giles Cathedral. Among his pall bearers were the cousins who had received his inheritance, George Hay of Kininmonth and Robert Hay of Dronlaw.
Meanwhile, the Hays of Park continued to prosper. The Abbot’s son, Thomas, second of Park, married the daughter of MacDowall of Garthland and built the present Castle of Park in 1590/91. A series of marriages into the Kennedy, Boyd and Hamilton families quickly made the Hays of Park a powerful force in Galloway. Thomas Hay, son and heir of the fourth laird, was created a baronet in 1663, within the lifetime of his father. The third baronet, also Thomas, was a loyal government supporter in the rebellion of 1745. He fought bravely at the Battle of Prestonpans where he lost an arm and both legs. These injuries did not prevent him subsequently fathering 11 children to continue the line.
With the death of the fourth baronet in 1794, his estates were inherited by his sister who married John Dalrymple of Dunragit and this line is now represented by Sir Malcolm Dalrymple-Hay, eighth baronet (b. 1966.) The Hay of Park baronetcy passed to a distant cousin, descended from Dr James Hay of Dumfries, a younger son of the second baronet.
Lt Col Lewis Hay, a grandson of the doctor, had a particularly successful military career, prematurely terminated when he was killed at the Battle of Den Helder in 1799, where he was serving as chief engineer to General Sir Ralph Abercrombie. He had previously spent many years in the Americas where he was on particularly good terms with the leading soldiers of the day, especially his fellow Scot, General Sir John Moore. With the death of the sixth baronet, it was the Colonel’s posthumous, infant son who succeeded to the title.
Following a series of inheritances by distant relatives, and early deaths among male members of the family, money was in short supply. The infant Sir John Hay grew up in straitened circumstances and had to make his own way in the world. He became a lawyer and served for many years as Sheriff Substitute of the county of Stirling. His great grandson, Sir John Hay of Park, 11th baronet, was the last Chieftain of the Hays of Dronlaw. He died on 9 July 2020 and it is not known who is now the senior representative of this family.
© Alan Hay 2010