It was an epic quest marked by gritty determination, gruelling endurance and great, great fun.
Like families up and down Scotland, the Simpsons loved Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail.
But the adventurous clan went the extra mile. In fact, they went many extra miles to spend two weeks touring the country to find every Wullie statue.
The family, from Culross – who have dubbed themselves Oor Simpsons – were on the road for 14 days following the trail, collecting codes for all 200 big Wullies.
They clocked up 1,799 driving miles, took more than 20,000 steps walking, and clocked up another 76, travelling to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness in search of the nation’s favourite son.
And they managed to raise hundreds of pounds for a charity close to their hearts at the same time.
“It’s been a busy summer, but absolutely amazing,” David said. “Definitely one of the best summers I can remember.”
In the midst of a career change, David – who recently swapped 20 years in finance for a new life as a sound engineer, celebrant and TV extra – decided to spend the whole summer holidays with kids Eve, 8, and Hamish, 5, ahead of Eve’s return and Hamish’s first day at school this week. But he soon realised he needed to find activities to fill their time.
“I couldn’t have faced seven weeks with the kids either running wild or being bored,” David, 43, said. “We needed a challenge to get us out and about.
“On the first day of the holidays we went through to Edinburgh to see the Oor Wullies. We ended up finding 12.
“The kids had a ball. They loved the satisfaction of ticking another one off and the anticipation of finding the next one. So I asked if they fancied the challenge of finding all 200.
“We picked up a map, came home and started to make a plan.
“Of course, I had to explain to them who Oor Wullie was, so I dug all my old annuals out of the loft and told them stories about how much of a fan I was in my childhood.”
David and the kids created their own Facebook page and Instagram account to document their adventure.
They managed a few days here and there in between holidays and Hamish having a routine operation at Glasgow Children’s Hospital.
And the Simpsons turned the last leg into a road trip –with mum Kerry, 41, and dog Molly tagging along – and hired a motorhome to find the more northern Wullies.
“The statues were brilliant,” David said. “Each one was different and we all had our favourites. I liked the one of Dons and Scotland legend Willie Miller, Hamish liked the Ash Ketchum Pokemon one and the Cogs and Gears superhuman, and Eve loved the Glasgow Galaxy.”
Kerry added: “What a summer it’s been. We’ve walked miles, had sunshine, wind, rain and I think even hail at one point. We’ve visited beautiful places all over Scotland which we will definitely be going back to.
“To have an amazing collection of art in a free-to-participate trail was brilliant. An adventure to remember for life.”
Hamish added: “I loved every minute. It was the best summer holiday ever.”
Through sponsorship the Simpsons raised £750 for Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, a cause close to their hearts.
“Eve spent the first seven weeks of her life in Yorkhill and has since been a regular at Glasgow Children’s hospital for follow-up surgery and check-ups,” David said.
“She was born at home on Hogmanay – a surprise to us all. In fact, she came so fast I ended up delivering her while the ambulance was on its way.
“She was really struggling so was quickly taken to the intensive care unit in Glasgow where they ran further tests. We were terrified and felt helpless.
“Eve was diagnosed with VACTERL association – a rare condition effecting many different systems in her body. In her short life so far, she has already had six complex operations to allow her to lead a normal childhood but nothing stands in her way.
“We have received such amazing support from Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity that we wanted to give something back.”
The Bucket Trail finishes on Friday before the Wullies are gathered for farewell parties then fundraising auctions.
So far, 44,298 fans have downloaded our app, and nearly one and a half million check-ins have been made, with a week still to go.
The miles walked by app users is more than 26,000 – that works out at 1,000 marathons.
When the trail is complete, we’ll be throwing a series of farewell parties before the statues are auctioned off in September to raise millions for Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity and The ARCHIE Foundation.
Shona Cardle, chief executive of Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “The lengths that some families have gone to in order to complete Oor Wullie’s BIG Bucket Trail are truly remarkable.
“We’ve had the pleasure of speaking to so many incredible people from across the country who have been inspired to explore Scotland thanks to the trail, and heard countless inspiring stories from those who have been helped by Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity, the ARCHIE Foundation and Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity.
“With just one week left to go, we hope that everyone has the chance to see their favourite Oor Wullie one last time before the farewell weekend and auctions in September.”
Oor official Big Bucket Trail souvenir Guide is packed full of snapshots of every Oor Wullie sculpture. At 144 pages, it highlights every one of the Wee Oor Wullies – designed and created by schools, community groups and youngsters from the children’s hospitals. And we’ve squeezed in loads of your brilliant selfies as well.
The guides are available now from Bucket Trail shops at £10, with proceeds going to our good causes.