The Hay family that is best remembered and recorded in Tweedsmuir is that of Hay of Yester.   Gilbert Hay had married Mary Fraser who was the joint heiress of Simon Fraser of Oliver Castle - see Fraser of Oliver page.   Gilbert inherited half the lands of the Barony of Oliver that were duly added to the already extensive lands held by the Hays of Yester.   

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Part of the Barony inherited by Gilbert must have included the valley of Talla and what would appear to be a fortalice shown on Blaeu's map of 1654 above.   This is shown as Talasheels.  Its location would be such so that from the roof there would be a warning signal-fire line of sight to at least one of the Oliver forts.  The Oliver forts on this map are shown well out of position.   To be included on Blaue's map indicates that Talasheels was significant.  The spelling sheels is an alternative spelling to shiels as in Galashiels etc that is defined by the Scottish Language Dictionary as A temporary or roughly made house or shed, a hut or bothy - sometimes applied to a summer or country retreat in the hills occupied by the gentry.   The SLD have added a quote Many of the Scot's gentry had their summer retreats, pleasantly informal places, often referred to as their "sheils" sometimes within only a mile or two of their principal residence.    This latter definition would indicate that Tallasheels was a country retreat, rather than a fortified castle, of the Frasers then of the Hays.       

A descendant of Gilbert and Mary was Sir Edmund Hay who had married Annabelle Boyd.   Sir Edmund took the title of Hay of Talla and was the first Laird and he died c1463.  Sir Edmund and Annabella had several children, their eldest son Sir William Hay became the 2nd Laird of Talla and he married Margaret Mowbray.    Other children of Edmund and Annabelle were the ancestors of lines of Hays of Barra, Rannes, Mountblairy, Cocklaw, Faichfield, Ranfield, Linplum, Alderston and Mordlington.  These Hay lines were remarkably fruitful; unlike the Hays of Talla.

Sir William the 3rd Laird of Talla married Margaret Cockburn.   Unfortunately along with more than fifty Hays he perished at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

Sir William Hay the 4th of Talla married Janet Spotiswood.

Sir John Hay the 5th of Talla married Janet Hepburn.

Sir John Hay the 6th of Talla was allegedly one of the principal conspirators in the murder of Lord Darnley, the wife of Mary Queen of Scots, at Kirk 'o Fields in Edinburgh.   He was hung, drawn and quartered in January 1567 in the Grass Market, Edinburgh.

This was not just the end of the 6th Laird of Talla but it was also the end of the line of the Hays of Talla.  As the records state "Not long after this the principal branch lost their estates, and gradually dwindling away, fell into such obscurity that no trace of them in the male line can be discovered."

It is possible that the Hays of Talla never actually resided at the retreat in the Talla valley but just took the title.

Armstrong in 1775 notes Talla as a farm and is shown as two adjacent dots on his map.   This was the same location of the retreat in Blaeu's map of 1654.   Interpolating this location with more recent maps with contours show that the site was approximately at 1000 feet above sea level.   This level fortuitously is the design level, when full, for the Talla Reservoir that fills the valley.   Not surprisingly there is no vestige of any habitation at the possible location as the site could well have been obliterated during the dam constuction see also page on the Tweedsmuir Standing Stones.  

 

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A possible location of the retreat site would have been near the clump of trees on the headland on the north bank - left of image - of the Talla reservoir or now under water.   Talla Linns can be seen on the right of the image, between the branches of the tree, at the head of the reservoir.    The construction of the reservoir has made the valley into a more of a dog-leg shape.   Prior to this the valley would have been more linear.   In the foreground of the image is the original metal railings that completely encircled the reservoir when constructed.  These railings are more than one hundred years old!

 

Tony Hope