Hay of Yester
House Hay of Yester, Lords Hay of Yester, Earls and Marquesses of Tweeddale, Earls of Gifford, Viscounts Walden
The great border branch of Yester is a cadet of the House of Erroll, but there is some doubt as to the exact relationship. Certainly, there seems to be little to support the notion that they are descended from Robert de la Haye, younger brother of the first Chief, although the connection was recalled in the remainder to the earldom of Erroll on its creation in 1452, and at the time when the earldom was re-granted in favour of the 11th Earl in 1666.
The first reliably recorded Chieftain of this branch is John de la Haye, who married the daughter and heiress of Robert de Lyne. With her he acquired the lands and barony of Locherworth, from which the family took its territorial designation in its early generations. His son, Sir William, swore fealty to Edward I of England after the Battle of Dunbar, where he was taken prisoner. The next two generations saw further property acquired with the marriages of Sir Gilbert, third of Locherworth, to the heiress of the patriot Simon Fraser of Oliver, and of Thomas, fourth of Locherworth, to the heiress of Sir William de Coningsburgh, which brought to the family the lands of Tullybothwell in Clackmannan.
From this couple descend the great northern branch of Hay of Lochloy. The effigy of Sir William Hay of Lochloy (d. 1421) can still be seen in full armour in Elgin Cathedral. Cadets of the Hays of Lochloy include the branches of Woodcockdale, Carriber and Bridgehouse, and the descendants of these families survive in many distinguished American Hays today.
The marriage of Sir Thomas, sixth of Locherworth (d. 1397) with the heiress of Hugh Gifford of Yester brought that property into the family. This much grander estate became their principal seat and from this time they became known as Hay of Yester. The next generation saw a union between the two principal branches of the clan with the marriage of Sir William Hay of Locherworth and Yester (d. 1421) with a daughter of Sir Thomas Hay of Erroll. Their third son was the celebrated Sir Edmund Hay of Talla, founder of a dynasty of Hays that stretches from Banffshire in the north to Berwickshire in the south.
John Hay, fifth of Yester was created Lord Hay of Yester in 1487/88. His son, the second Lord Hay, was killed at Flodden in 1513. From his younger son descend the Hays of Haystoun in Peebles, a branch which continued into modern times until the death of Sir Bache Hay of Haystoun, 11th baronet, in 1966.
Like their distant cousins of Erroll, the Hays of Yester were supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots. The fourth Lord was taken prisoner at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 after which he was confined in the Tower of London. The fifth Lord was one of the leaders of the Marian faction. He changed his allegiance in 1571 but was implicated in the Raid of Ruthven in 1582 when the King was kidnapped and this compromised his future career.
The eighth Lord was created first Earl of Tweeddale in 1646, in recognition of his loyalty to Charles I during the Civil War. From his second son, William Hay of Drumelzier, descend the Hays of Duns, now represented by Alexander Hay of Duns, and the Hays of Nunraw, whose descendants married into the Frescobaldi family in Italy and still continue in an Italian branch of the family.
The second Earl of Tweeddale was a prominent political figure in the troubled years of the second half of the 17th century, serving both king and Commonwealth during the 1640s and ‘50s. He led the Squadrone Volante, one of the leading political groups in the old Scottish parliament. His career fell victim to the Duke of Lauderdale’s enmity, although he was restored to favour after Lauderdale’s downfall in 1680. A further change of heart led him to support the accession of William of Orange, by whom he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Scotland in 1692 and created 1st Marquis of Tweeddale in 1694. From his second son, Lord David Hay, descend the Hays of Belton who survived in the male line until the death of Major James Hay of Belton in 1954.
The second marquis was as prominent in public life as his father, becoming Lord Chancellor in 1704 and Lord High Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament in 1706. He was an enthusiastic supporter of union with England in 1707, having been well paid for his vote in its favour. From his third son the Hays of Newton, the Hays of Newhall and the Hay Mackenzies of Cromartie are descended, now represented by the Earl of Cromartie (Mackenzie.)
The fourth marquis was the last person to hold the office of Secretary of State for Scotland in the 1740s, but was compromised by his mishandling of the rebellion of 1745. He later became Lord Justice General in 1761. The seventh marquis had the misfortune to find himself in France at the outbreak of hostilities with Napoleon, by whom he was imprisoned in the fortress of Verdun where both he and his wife died in 1804. His second son, Lord James Hay, married the heiress of Forbes of Seaton and became the ancestor of the Hays of Seaton, now represented by Malcolm Hay, 5th of Seaton, the present Clan Hay Commissioner.
The eighth marquis (d. 1876, aged 89) was a distinguished soldier of the Peninsular War where he served as ADC to the Duke of Wellington and ended his life as a Field Marshal, Lord Lieutenant of Haddington, a Knight of the Thistle, Knight Grand Cross of the Bath and honorary Colonel of the Life Guards.
Yester House, the magnificent Palladian mansion at Gifford in East Lothian, passed from the family after the death of the 11th marquis in 1967. The late 12th marquis served in the Merchant Marine during the Second World War when he won the George Cross, the highest British decoration for civilian bravery. His second son, Charles David Montagu Hay, is the present 14th Marquis of Tweeddale and Chieftain of Hay of Yester.
© Alan Hay 2010. Updated May 2023