Another objective on our tour was trying to track down more information about various ancestors. That was the main reasons why the Bruce girls, Margaret and Jenny, wanted to spend time in Scotland.
Great great grandfather Thomas Bruce arrived in Australia sometime between 1851 and 1865 and based on NSW marriage and death certificates we believe he was born in Perth, Scotland and his father was Alexander, a weaver. The Scottish censuses of 1851 to 1871 show an Alexander Bruce, a weaver born in Perth living in Galashiels. One of his children in the 1851 census was a Thomas, also born in Perth, but who was not with the family in later censuses. This may or may not be our Thomas.
Time did not permit any extensive family research but we were able to visit Perth and Galashiels where we believe they used to live. Perth is about an hour’s drive north of Edinburgh over the Firth of Forth bridge while Galashiels is a similar distance south in the Scottish Borders. A couple of day trips.
We decided to follow our Bruces south on Friday taking a pleasant detour via the Rosslyn Chapel. This charming little chapel has been the beneficiary of the success of Dan Brown’s novel after which the increase in tourists has funded restoration to a far better condition than otherwise.
Galashiels was a predominantly a woollen mill town in the middle of the 19th century and we were searching for No. 12 Roxburgh Street (identified in the census) where Alexander Bruce and his family lived. Roxburgh Street is still in the commercial area off the High Street and the sturdy stone buildings of No. 12 and its neighbours could be of the right age to have been the Bruce home and workshop. The local library was not able to provide further information and unfortunately the Borders Family History Society is not open on Fridays, so no further information was available on the day.
Saturday saw us off to Perth. We didn’t have any specific objective here and we just soaked up the atmosphere of this pleasant town on the River Tay. St John’s Kirk of Perth in the main church dating from the 13th century. We then planned to visit nearby Scone Palace which is where many of the kings and queens of Scotland had been crowned and resided, including Robert The Bruce.
On our driving tours we have also been following another Bruce. My TomTom from home, a present years ago from my three girls, travelled with us together with UK maps. We set up the TomTom with a distinctive Aussie voice and vernacular and naming him Bruce seemed like the obvious thing to do.
Now I expected Bruce to bring the latest GPS maps with him but it seems he didn’t. This hasn’t been a major problem but at times rather amusing as we have tended to take a more roundabout route than we should.
The Palace is almost immediately north of Perth and having been there previously I thought I knew the way but took the wrong fork in the road and ended up miles away. So we called on Bruce to guide us back to nearby this Point of Interest, and away we went.
As we approached our destination, at a T intersection we were confronted with the Gate in the high stone wall straight ahead and were directed by Bruce to proceed. It did not look familiar and as we realised later we had come in the staff and deliveries (tradesman’s) entrance. It led us to a quite large white gravelled square area at the front door of the Palace. We could see the visitor parking area in the distance behind barriers. Understanding our mistake we proceeded to do a U-turn and as we did a very official looking lady with a stern countenance emerged from the Palace glaring and heading in our direction.
We were two minds. Should we confront this staff member and say “the Bruces has arrived back home”, or beat a hasty retreat (within the 10mph speed limit, of course). We chose the latter laughing all the way.