Sorbie family members travelled from all over the globe to be together on a glorious sunny weekend
The 7th UK Sorbie gathering was held on Saturday 9th July 2022 at The Radstone Hotel, Larkhall. It was 6 years to the day since the last one, the event having being delayed twice due to the Covid pandemic. It was well worth the wait, as it proved to be a great success with 38 persons in attendance. Local and UK cousins were joined by 17 overseas travellers from USA, Canada and Australia who had made the trip despite difficult circumstances. It was extremely gratifying to see everyone there and this was rewarded with a memorable get-together.
The Gathering had been a couple of years in the planning and this time it had a different feel as it took place over the full weekend, rather than the traditional one day event. This gave more opportunity for cousins to get to know each other better and also explore the local area where their ancestors once lived. This was especially exciting for our non-UK visitors who had never seen Scotland before, let alone this part of Lanarkshire. The Radstone Hotel had also been used for the last Gathering in 2016 and is a perfect location, lying dead centre between Stonehouse and Larkhall. This basically is the heartland of where most of the Sorbies originated and is built next to Swinhill Colliery where many of our forefathers toiled down the mine.
Assembled Sorbie cousins take their places for the Gathering
The attendees were welcomed by an opening address from Muriel Sorbie. She also paid tribute to those Sorbie relatives that have passed away since the last event. Elma Sorbie, Elaine Sorbie and Mary Brown have been stalwarts of our group and always gave their time to assist at every Gathering. Their helpful manner and sunny disposition will be sadly missed.
Following this, Andy Potts took the floor to present a summary of the recent work carried out on the Sorbie Family tree and website. This is often referred to as the 'Sorbie Quest'. The tree has expanded in size from 3,500 individuals at the first gathering in 2001 to an amazing 17,850 at the present day. The Sorbie website www.sorbie.net now consists of over 120 pages and 1,100 photographs and documents. A huge amount of work has been carried out and both are fantastic repositories of family information. In addition the 'Sorbie Worldwide' FaceBook site has rapidly grown to 222 members since it's inception in September 2020 and is a more instant and dynamic medium than our previous e-mail group.
George Baker aged 97 years has attended every UK Gathering
Next up was the buffet lunch and refreshments. This allowed family members to chat and get to know each other and exchange stories and family tales. In addition laptops were available featuring the Sorbie tree, which allowed cousins to view their individual lineage and make connections with other people in attendance. Recent events could be added as this is a living document and it is important it keeps moving forward. As much as it is important to research our ancestry we also like to include all new generations right down to the latest newborns.
One success in this area were mother and daughter Sarah and Amy Conroy from Ontario, Canada who found their relatives Linda Hunter and her aunt Jean McDonald from Clackmannanshre, Scotland. They had never met before, but they discovered they were all descendants from John McKenzie and Agnes Sorbie married 1873 in Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, making them 3rd cousins.
Following lunch the attendees ventured outside into the summer sun for the traditional Sorbie group photo shown above.
In addition items of Sorbie merchandise were sold including the tartan ties, scarves, baseball caps, tammy hats plus keyrings and coasters.
L:R Cousins - Amy and Sarah Conroy: Linda Davidson and Jean McDonald
We were now into the main part of the day and Andy took the floor to make a slide presentation on a number of subjects of interest. Firstly an overview of how the 'Sorbie Quest' began in 1996 and how data started to be collected and relationships built with family members and historians in the Lanarkshire area. This led to the first formal Gathering at St. Ninian's Church, Stonehouse in 2001 with 75 people in attendance. This proved to be the turning point as credibility was gained, especially with the local Sorbies. It gave the impetus to push on with the expansion of the family tree and Sorbie website which was launched that same year. At this point Andy also paid tribute to Tom "Tamaur" Sorbie who was also instrumental in setting up the first Gathering, but was sadly too ill to attend The Radstone this time.
Andy then talked about the origins of the Sorbie name and the connection with Sorbie village in South West Scotland. It is believed the family was banished from the area in the early 1600's after feuding with local clans. This caused them to move north to Stonehouse and take the name of the village from which they came, maybe in a bid to stay anonymous. The first recorded family member in Stonehouse was William Sorbie in 1626 and the family expansion continued right through to 1901 when there were 100 Sorbies recorded in the census. Almost every family member and descendant in the world can trace their lineage back to this handful of Sorbie families.
2nd Cousins - Jim Clark of New Jersey (left) and Tim Healey of New York
Next up was a discussion on Sorbie Tower and the excellent work being carried out by the Hannay Family. The tower was built in the 1580's by Alexander Hannay, but was in use for less than 200 years before it fell into disrepair. The Clan Hannay was formed officially in 1959 and they were bequeathed the tower by a local landowner in 1965. As a result of local Government funding and private donations they have restored the building into a much improved condition. The work is ongoing but the framework of the tower has been re-inforced and the first floor level restored to use. Contacts have now been made with the Hannay family and future co-operation and get-togethers are envisaged.
Finally an overview was given on how the Sorbie tree has developed through detailed research and contact with new family members. Also it was explained how DNA can be used to join the various branches. The main ethos is 'quality rather than quantity' and no connections can be made without proven documentary evidence. However this can only get us so far and the next big step will be to connect individuals through genetic matching. This has proved successful in 2021 when we were able to plug in a separate (Lanark/Paisley) branch of the family, joining 405 individuals into the main tree. This took place after 4 individuals on either side of the family came up as a match, proving they were 5th cousins with common gt.gt.gt.gt.grandparents. This exciting work will continue and hopefully we will have more breakthroughs to report at the next Gathering.
Local folk musicians, Ian Baker (left) and Willie Scanlon
To round the day off, the gathering was treated to some splendid entertainment by local musical duo featuring Ian Baker and Willie Scanlon. They have very strong links with the Sorbie Family and have performed for us at previous Gatherings. They certainly got the toes tapping and played some traditional Scots songs and poems set to music such as those by Rabbie Burns and even modern tunes by The Shadows and Johnny Cash. Willie also raised a laugh with some humorous stories and anecdotes.
Finally Muriel Sorbie gave the "Vote of Thanks" to close the formal section of the 7th U.K. Gathering. She recognised all those who had helped to make it such a great success, especially those who had travelled from far and wide to attend. This was the greatest number of overseas visitors at any Gathering, which made it all the more worthwhile. It had been a really enjoyable day with lots of good humour and many new friendships made. Everyone agreed that the Radstone was a top-class venue with excellent facilities and fantastic hospitality.
Sorbie cousins from Wisconsin USA L-R Alex Peschman, Morgan Moore, Kylee Stauss
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However the party wasn't over as we still had lots of Sorbie adventures and sight-seeing ahead of us.
On Saturday evening after the Gathering the group headed the 5 miles or so up the road to the pretty town of Strathaven. Sitting on the Avon Water, this is a pretty market town, gaining its Royal Charter in 1450 and home to a number of Sorbies in times past. Here we had our evening meal at 'The Strathaven' bar and then crossed the road to 'The Weavers', voted Lanarkshire Pub of the Year for the last 4 years running. It has also won numerous awards for its real ale. It was great to sample the local atmosphere and we were made most welcome by the regulars. They certainly got a big shock when a large gang of strangers appeared! It was definitely a great way to unwind at the end of what had been an eventful day.
Looking down Avon Water to the East Church, built 1772
Sorbie cousins from home and abroad relaxing together
Cheers! - Toasting a successful day
Having fun with the locals in Strathaven
A great atmosphere at The Weavers
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Sorbie Gathering - Sunday 10th July
Morning History walk around Stonehouse
On Sunday morning the Sorbie group made the short journey into Stonehouse where we met met Rob Freel and Jim Monie from the local Heritage Group. A small voluntary group formed in 1991, they conduct valuable research into local history and provide a social record of life of the village. Both Rob and Jim are friends of the Sorbie Gathering and have made presentations to us before. In beautiful July sunshine we were treated to a two and a half hour walk around the streets of the village where the majority of our ancestors lived and worked. The whole place feels like an 1800's time capsule as not much has changed since the Victorian era.
For a number of our party this was the first time they had seen Stonehouse and it was a poignant journey treading in the footsteps of their forefathers. Jim and Ian's knowledge of the village is second to none and they pointed out places of interest and told local tales along the way. The weather couldn't have been any better and Stonehouse and the surrounding countryside looked at its best as it basked in the July sunshine.
Rob and Jim make their introductions
Discussing the distinctive Weaver's houses in Angle Street
Walking through the Stonehouse Conservation area
Chatting with Gary Sproat, Pastor at Paterson Church which hosted the 2003 Sorbie Gathering
Looking towards the Avon Valley and the Railway viaduct which was demolished in 1968
Stonehouse's ancient St. Ninian's Churchyard "The Auld Kirk"
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Afternoon visit to the Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies
Following the Stonehouse History walk the group headed the 35 or so miles north to Stirlingshire to visit the unique rotating boat lift that links two canals, the Union and the Forth and Clyde. The Falkirk Wheel was completed in 2002 and consists of 1,200 tonnes of steel and 15,000 bolts and it cost £84.5million to construct. Over 1,000 people were involved on the project and it took 4 years to complete. The wheel is 35 meters tall and each of the rotating gondalas holds 500,000 litres of water, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool.
More than 5.5million visitors have visited the wheel over the last 20 years and experienced this dramatic 21st-century landmark. It has helped to regenerate Scottish waterways and re-connects Glasgow with Edinburgh for the first time since the 1930's. It was opened by Her Majesty the Queen as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations in May 2002, so it was fitting that we visited the attraction shortly after her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
One of a kind - the Wheel was originally thought to be "unbuildable"
The boat tour up the wheel, a trip along the canal and then back down takes about 50 minutes
Entrance to the watertight aquaduct door
From the wheel we then made the short 10 minute drive to another unique structure the 'The Kelpies'. These are the two 100 feet tall horse head sculptures that stand majestically above the surrounding countryside. Completed in 2014, they are a tribute to the working horses of Scotland that used to pull barges along Scotland's canals. Kelpies were shape-shifting water horses in ancient mythology that possessed great strength and endurance. The Kelpies have quickly become one of the top tourist attractions in central Scotland and the visitor centre sits alongside a newly developed extension to the Forth and Clyde canal which has a specially constructed barge turning pool.
As you approach the Kelpies they have an other-worldly quality
The huge scale of the sculptures can be seen from the walkers infront
A great group photo on what was the hottest day of the year in Scotland so far
Evening meal at The Applebank Inn, Larkhall
Following the hectic day in Stonehouse and Falkirk the group held their farewell evening meal at the historic Applebank Inn, close to the Radstone Hotel. Built in 1740 and steeped in history it was also the venue for our Sorbie Gathering in 2005. It sits on a dramatic position overlooking the River Avon valley and is reputed to be haunted, featuring in a number of Scottish T.V. programmes.
Stone floors and oak beams in the atmospheric 280 years old Inn
Andrea Rutley received the award for the "furthest travelled" person, attending from Brisbane, Australia.
L: R Morgan, Vhairi and Alex on Millheugh Bridge above the River Avon.
Final Sorbie group photo outside the Applebank Inn
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It was certainly a fitting location to close our Gathering weekend, surrounded by cousins and friends. It had been a fantastic weekend with lots of special memories made. We had experienced a fantastic flavour of the area where our ancestors lived and witnessed some stunning scenery. We expect another Gathering to take place in due course as we enter our third decade of get-togethers. Time certainly flies!!
See you at the 8th Gathering!
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