A lad from Galston, Billy's holidays were with his granny at Bowhill until at 16 he hitchhiked to France, Germany and went on a school trip to Russia whose language he had studied at Kilmarnock Academy. Landing from Thailand in Hawaii at 23 his friend chose the queue of an attractive lady immigration officer who, noticing dilated pupils, granted him only a 3-month entry visa whereas Billy chose the officer called McLeod, told him about his ancestral homeland and got a 9-month one which went to show that you don't need to rely on good looks when you've got the strength of the Scottish character to play for!
Billy kay with his Book The Scottish World
Literacy was key to the Scottish diaspora since other travellers didn't have comparable historical records. When Swedish Col John Crafoord paid a visit to the old family home at Crawfurdland, he was recognised and invited to a family wedding to be hailed as "our cousin from Sweden 600 years removed". After a war between Sweden and Denmark, the negotiators from the two sides were half-brothers from the East Neuk, and a story had it that when peace negotiations had been conducted between Poland and Turkey in French, the Turk turned to the Pole and asked "weel weel, Geordie, fou's aa yer fowk in Inverurie?" Bergen and Kristiansand had Jacobite communities, and Edvard Greig's migrant ancestor returned twice a year to take Communion in the church at Cairnbulg. Norway's most famous seventeenth-century author Petter Dass was the son of merchant Peter Dundas who had arrived from Dundee in 1640. The new city of Gothenburg attracted Scots merchants who founded bachelor clubs offering billiards and other entertainments, and Scots took with them not only golf and curling but also football.
Poland was a tolerant country that attracted mass migration by Scots from the seventeenth century, with Scots brotherhoods set up in 12 cities. The image of the Scots peddlar was such that Polish mothers warned errant children "you wait until the Scots come." James VI was asked in 1612 to prevent further migration lest it might threaten the wellbeing of the Scots already in the country.
Other Germans blamed the mentality of the Prussians on the number of Scots settled there. The role of Scots in Russia would be discussed in Billy's next programme to be broadcast on 22 December : the present-day descendant of Nicholas Learmonth or Lermontov of the family of Thomas the Rhymer is Mairi Koroleva who teaches Gaelic in Moscow, and it was Prince Barclay de Tollie who had defeated Napoleon.
James VI had been only too glad to pacify the Anglo-Scottish border by clearing out its warring nobles, and several of the first men on the Moon were descendants of Border reivers, giving unexpected significance to the traditional reiver motto "there'll be moonlight again".