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The Dalyell family

The House of the Binns is the only Trust property still home to the family who originally built it. In 1612, Thomas Dalyell bought the land of the Binns to create his family home, and he was an Edinburgh merchant who initially specialised in the buying and selling of butter from Orkney. However, due to its poor quality, by the time it was transported to Leith, he ended up selling it as grease instead! Thomas’s marriage to Janet Bruce (a daughter of Edward Bruce, one of King James VI and I’s most trusted advisers) later benefited him because his father-in-law brought him into the king’s court in London, where these two ‘hungrie scottis’ made a lot of money. Thomas then returned to Scotland after his father-in-law’s death and began to build the House of the Binns, which continues to be the main residence of the Dalyells to this day.

Thomas and Janet’s eldest son would become the creator of the famous Scottish regiment, the Royal Scots Greys. He was known for having been an accomplished but brutal military commander, a skill that helped him forge close alliances with both King Charles II and Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich of Russia when he commanded their armies. Known to history as General Tam, he once escaped from the Tower of London, while there are also colourful legends of his dealings with the Devil!

Tam Dalyell, the late Labour MP, is a more recent Dalyell that many visitors, especially within the West Lothian area, are familiar with. After being elected MP for his local area in 1962, Tam would be given the title of Father of the House of Commons in 2001 for the longevity of his parliamentary career. He was famous for asking the West Lothian Question, opposing what he saw as unjust conflicts, and trying to help reveal the truth behind the sinking of the Belgrano. Tam passed away in 2017, but his family, including his widow Kathleen, still reside in their remarkable family home.

Our guided tours focus on the Dalyell family’s story, incorporating a wealth of household tradition and legend and touching on how the family has been involved in many key events in British and Scottish history.