Johnnie Gray had taken charge of the U.P. Church in Rothesay in the autumn of 1886. The call to the congregation in ]une, 1886, was individually signed by 253 members, inviting Rev. ]ohn Gray M.A. of Stonehouse, to be their new pastor. The ordination and induction was an important and solemn ceremony in the U. P. Church and was fully covered by the local newspaper. The date of the ceremony was Sept. 8, 1886.
On November 27th, 1886, he married Maggie Poore; there was no honeymoon and they went straight to the Manse. It was a genuinely Scotch wedding, with nothing free to the guests except a thin slice of cake. The wedding gifts were as follows - as juicy a collection of the ripest fruit of Victoriana as was ever assembled: alabaster vases of neo-classic design, colored glass of all shapes and sizes, ghastly souvenir dishes and ash trays of Rothesay, painted dishes of fantastic contours and similar Victorian rubbish with which housewives of the period cluttered up their mantlepiece, tables, sideboards or pianos, any vacant flat surface being considered a reproach until properly restored to its rightful purpose of supporting junk.
Within two years however, Johnnie Gray became sick with a serious heart condition forcing him to retire as minister and so by Jan 24th 1888 he left Rothesay. Return to the smoggy environment of Stonehouse was out of the question, so the choice lay between Hamilton and Carluke where relatives were already settled. Then, out of the blue, William Tudhope, an uncle of Johnnie’s, aware of what had happened, wrote, offering as a gift, his home in Carluke. He must have been well on in years, probably finding his home with its two or more acres getting to be more than he could manage. It is also likely that he had prospered, and could well afford such a princely gift. They had no children of their own. A heavy seam of coal had underlain the property worked from a mine not far off, and there would have been royalties. The coalmine was now worked out and closed.
The house, at that time called “Hillhead Cottage” , still stands, about a half-mile south of Carluke at Bushelhead Road. The grounds are triangular in shape, bounded on two sides by the highway leading to Lanark, and the minor road to Crossford and the Clyde, and on the third side by open fields.
The property was a freehold, without any ground rent to a landowner. Part of the property facing the Lanark highway was rented to tenants who occupied an ancient stone, semi-detached cottage (demolished in 1980) with thatched roof having ample gardens both sides. Hillhead Cottage itself had been a farmhouse originally, having a large stone barn with slate roof, containing a two-stall stable, large storage and wagon space, and a spacious loft over, formerly for hay storage. The house had its own, private, walled-in garden on the south side, with evergreens, rowan and fruit trees, flowering shrubs and flowers. On the north side was a lawn, vegetable garden and numerous ornamental trees, chestnut, red hawthorn and copper beech.
This was to become the children’s playground. The greater part of the remaining acreage was in grass, with a sizeable portion fenced off for soft fruit, - gooseberries, raspberries and red and black currants. The fencing came later after we children discovered what all this bounty was really for. High hedges of privet and similar shrubs enclosed the grounds and there were, and still are, large beech trees bordering the road.
The House itself has thick, buff-sandstone walls and a gabled slate roof, four rooms down and four bedrooms upstairs with large dormer windows facing east and west. Water supply at that time was from eaves gutters leading to an underground masonry cistern with hand pump. Heating was by open coal fireplaces in every room and the kitchen range. There was no hot water. The toilet was outside, later moved indoors. Altogether it was a dream come true, at least for children. They employed a servant girl and an outside handy-man, to manage the estate.
Sometime during 1888, exact date unknown, Granny Massie died at the age of 86. Her will included a half-yearly income of 230 pounds stipend with 20 pounds for expenses.