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Turnbull Pilgrims Return Home


A recent tour of the Borders in 2007 by members of the Turnbull Clan Association. The clan had almost 50 members gather in the Borders from Australia, Canada, the United States and Mexico.


The group gathered around a flag at a ceremony on the Bedrule Castle mound.

When the Scottish and English crowns were united 400 years ago, many clans were dispersed throughout England, Ireland, and the Colonies. Turnbulls were no exception. Then, in 1977, John F. Turnbull of Hawick, one of the few whose family had not been exiled, was determined to retie the frayed
ends of his bloodline. He founded the Turnbull Clan Association in an effort to reunite Turnbulls from around the globe. Today, TCA has more than 600 members.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the organization, 46 of the members gathered in Scotland from the
United States, Canada, Mexico, and Australia. They spent a week in the borders, retying the final threads that John had begun piecing together before his death in 1982.

This wasn’t a typical family reunion, nor was it a simple vacation. The week in the borders was a pilgrimage of sorts, a visit to the sacred lands where their ancestors had once walked, the lands their distant cousins still call home. In that spirit, the Turnbulls began at the beginning. They visited Stirling Castle where William Rule is said to have turned the bull in Stirling Forest and saved Scotland’s beloved king Robert the Bruce. A lunch awaited them at Loch Lomond, and they imagined that William must have also eaten salmon along the loch’s edge.

From Stirling, they journeyed to Hawick. As the group turned on to High Street, they looked up to see the TCA arms, newly granted by the Lord Lyon, flying high above the Town Hall. The visitors couldn’t help but notice that this reception was a little warmer than the one their ancestors received four centuries prior.


Historian Walter Elliott talking about the history of the Bedrule Kirk.

The group paid a special visit to the Hawick Heritage Hub, which is to be the home of the Turning of the
Bull monument. The monument depicts William Rule in his fateful moment of glory. Angela Hunter, the monument’s sculptor, met the pilgrims at a reception in their honor.

Other highlights from the trip included a hike to Minto Craig where the group paid homage to Fatlips Castle, once a Turnbull stronghold. The visitors were also welcomed with open arms at Glasgow University, founded by Bishop William Turnbull in 1451. Performance by the University Choir, lunch in the Turnbull Room, and worship service in the chapel reminded the group of their proud heritage.

A Turnbull banquet in Denholm reunited the foreign pilgrims with their Scottish cousins. Over 100 guests attended the feast, enjoying the performance by Scocha and the history lessons from celebrated speakers Ian Landles and Alan Brydon.

No pilgrimage is complete without a prayer in a hidden church at the end of long, dusty road. And this was no exception. Tucked away in Bedrule, the ancient lands given to William Rule when he was knighted Sir Turn-e-bull, lies a stone church. This is the epicenter of the Turnbull sacred lands. The Reverend Anthony Jones conducted a special service for the 46 visitors and welcomed them home.

The Turnbull flag once again flew high above the Bedrule Castle mound, and as the lonesome notes sang out from the bagpipes, it seemed, even if only for a minute, that the pilgrims were finally home again.


The group after climbing to Fatlips Castle, Minto Craig.

Visit www.turnbullclan.com

For more details contact:
Wally Turnbull, TCA President
5216 Tahoe Drive
Durham, NC 27713
Telephone: 1-919-361-5041
Email: president@turnbullclan.com


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