Saturday, 23 September 2017
Friday, 3 February 2017
Missed opportunities are the theme of the two men featured in this post. Both men were extremely successful and busy in a Victorian way which boggles the modern mind; both would be surprised(or amused) to be accused of missing opportunities, but I am talking here specifically about what they wrote about Glamis Castle, or – specifically – what they did not write. Scottish author Andrew Lang (1844-1912) wrote everything from folklore to history to fairy stories, and was therefore well atuned to testifying and analysing aspects of the Otherworld, but he only chose to mention Glamis a brief fewf times in his writingy. One of these is in his comic poem ‘The Haunted Homes of England’ [sic.] from Lang’s book Ban and Arrière Ban: A Rally of Fugitive Rhymes (London, 1894):
The Haunted Homes of England,
How eerily they stand,
While through them flit their ghosts – to wit,
The Monk with the Red Hand,
The Eyeless Girl – an awful spook –
To stop the boldest breath,
The boy that inked his copybook,
And so got ‘wopped’ to death!
Call them not shams – from haunted Glamis
To haunted Woodhouselea,
I mark in hosts the grisly ghosts
I hear the fell Banshee!
I know the spectral dog that howls
Before the death of Squires;
In my ‘Ghosts’-guide’ addresses hide
For podmore and for Myers!
I see the Vampire climb the stairs
From vaults below the church:
And hark! The Pirate’s spectre swears!
O Psychical Research,
Canst THOU not hear what meets my ear,
The viewless wheels that come?
The wild Banshee that wails to thee?
The Drummer with his drum?
O Haunted Homes of England,
Though tenantless ye stand,
With none content to pay the rent,
Through all the shadowy land,
Now, Science true will find in you
A sympathetic perch,
And take you all, both Grange and Hall,
For Psychical Research!
I get the feeling that Lang avoided any full-scale analysis of Glamis because he either found that the ‘mystery’ (of the Secret Room) was no mystery at all or that the market for peddling shabby legends and whispers about the haunted castle was rather overcrowded with dubious literary types he did not want to rub shoulders with. Further evidence that he treated much of the repoprted supernatural world with disdain. Glamis appears,again briefly, in rather strange surroundings in Lang’s Books and Bookmen (London, 1886). In the chapter titled ‘Some Japanese Bogie-Books’ Lang writes:
A somewhat similar and (to my own mind) probably sound theory of ghosts prevails among savage tribes, and among such peoples as the ancient Greeks, the modern Hindoos, and other ancestor worshippers. When feeding, as they all do, or used to do, the ghosts of the ancestral dead, they gave special attention to the claims of the dead of the last three generations, leaving ghosts older than the century to look after their own supplies of meat and drink. The negligence testifies to a notion that very old ghosts are of little account, for good or evil. On the other hand, as regards the longevity of spectres, we must not shut our eyes to the example of the bogie in ancient armour which appears in Glamis Castle, or to the Jesuit of Queen Elizabeth’s date that haunts the library (and a very nice place to haunt: I ask no better, as a ghost in the Pavilion at Lord’s might cause a scandal) of an English nobleman. With these instantiae contradictoriae, as Bacon calls them, present to our minds, we must not (in the present condition of psychical research) dogmatise too hastily about the span of life allotted to the simulacrum vulgare. Very probably his chances of a prolonged existence are in inverse ratio to the square of the distance of time which severs him from our modern days. No one has ever even pretended to see the ghost of an ancient Roman buried in these islands, still less of a Pict or Scot, or a Palaeolithic man, welcome as such an apparition would be to many of us. Thus the evidence does certainly look as if there were a kind of statute of limitations among ghosts, which, from many points of view, is not an arrangement at which we should repine.
Again, in his Book of Dreams and Ghosts (London, 1897), Lang gives another unsatisfactory snippet about Glamis:
Here it may be remarked that apparitions in haunted houses are very seldom recognised as those of dead persons, and, when recognised, the recognition is usually dubious. Thus, in February, 1897, Lieutenant Carr Glyn, of the Grenadiers, while reading in the outer room of the Queen’s Library in Windsor, saw a lady in black in a kind of mantilla of black lace pass from the inner room into a corner where she was lost to view. He supposed that she had gone out by a door there, and asked an attendant later who she was. There was no door round the corner, and, in the opinion of some, the lady was Queen Elizabeth! She has a traditional habit, it seems, of haunting the Library. But surely, of all people, in dress and aspect Queen Elizabeth is most easily recognised. The seer did not recognise her, and she was probably a mere casual hallucination. In old houses such traditions are common, but vague. In this connection Glamis is usually mentioned. Every one has heard of the Secret Chamber, with its mystery, and the story was known to Scott, who introduces it in The Betrothed. But we know when the Secret Chamber was built (under the Restoration), who built it, what he paid the masons, and where it is: under the Charter Room. These cold facts rather take the “weird” effect off the Glamis legend.
Lang is referring to the extensive remodelling work at Glamis which is recorded to have been undertaken in the Book of Record by the 3rd Earl of Strathmore in the late 17th century. Yet, even if that disposed of the legend of the ‘Secret Room’ (which it does not), there were plenty of other stories and lenegds associated with the castle whichg Lang could have delved into, but chose to avoid. The tone and content of the above quotes may suggest that Andrew Lang adopted a uniform scepticism to the matters of the supernatural, but that is not the case. He was the president of the Society for Psychical Research in 1911 and his non-fiction works, particularly his books on history, are considered and thoughtful. So it must be considered a pity that this author did not extend his interest to Glamis Castle.
In a letter to Mrs Herbert Mills on 23 August 1908 (Lang archive at St Andrews university) the author tells his correspondent about a stay he had at Glamis Castle. There was was a game of cricket where Lord Strathmore excelled and a little girl – later the Queen Mother – offered him a lovely Persian kitten, which he refused. However: ‘the ghosts laid low’. Yet another missed opportunity from this renowned writer.
The second Victorian under consideration is Lyon Playfair, later Lord Lyon of St Andrews (1818-1898). As his forename suggests he had a family connection with the family of Glamis, despite being born in India. His grandmother’s family belonged to the branch of the Lyons who came from Glenogil in Angus. He pursued a career as a chemist initially before gravitating towards politics in the Liberal party. Like his uncle, the Meigle born soldier Hugh Lyon Playfair he had a long association with St Andrews (both men were buried there).
Playfair maintained an intermittent contact with Glamis Castle through his life. Returning to Scotland from India some of Playfair’s holidays were spent in the manse of his great-uncle the Rev Dr Lyon at Glamis. He described the kirk, manse and castle of his boyhood as follows (Memoirs and Correspondence of Lyon Playfair, ed. Wemys Reid, London, 1899):
The old manse is a comfortable minister's house, surrounded by a garden containing one of the
oldest of Scotch monuments. The church itself was close to it, in a primitive churchyard without beauty, and then kept in a careless way. At that time the fine old castle was not inhabited by Lord Strathmore. The whole estate was under the management of trustees, of whom my uncle
was one, and so the castle and grounds were open to me without risk of being considered an intruder. I naturally busied myself with trying to discover the famous secret chamber, and the awful mystery connected with it. I drew my own conclusions, which were probably as erroneous as those which have been made by others in regard to this mystery. Although my uncle had the same
name as the Earls of Strathmore, he belonged to the Glen Ogle Lyons, a collateral branch of the family. At that time the two branches had become close in the line of descent,
though now they are again widely divergent.
The park round Glamis Castle is extensive, and has a small stream running through woods. A deep pool, in a sequestered spot, was my favourite haunt, at which I spent many hours of meditation, for I had no playfellows at the old manse. I believe that this lonely pool, surrounded by trees, taught me to feel that happiness depends upon one-self as much as upon one's surroundings. The family of
my uncle consisted of his wife and two daughters. The old minister himself was simple and worthy. Daily I would drive out with the grey-haired old man, in a gig drawn by a horse which could not go beyond five miles an hour, but was believed by the owner to be one of the best and fastest horses in the kingdom. The good old man went at the same relative pace in his parochial duties. The minister's wife, my dear old aunt, lavished upon me the love of a mother to a child. Two charming young
ladies, my cousins, made my stay at the manse as agreeable as possible, and I returned with gladness at each vacation. They are all dead long since, but my memories of their love and kindness live fresh within me.
Playfair’s busy life meant he did not visit Glamis again for nearly sixty years. While he and his wife were staying at Kinnordy House, near Kirriemuir, in 1885 he was invited to the castle with his wife. Playfair wrote:
It was all wonderfully changed and beautified, but it was the old Glamis still. We went to the top of the castle, and I explained to my wife all the points of interest connected with my life as a boy at this place. Lady Strathmore was full of sympathy with my memories, and insisted on being my guide to see the manse, which I found very little changed, my reflecting haunt by the old pool, and the other objects which I remembered so well. She even showed me a secret chamber, though not the secret
chamber which has defied so many keen inquirers. It was delightful to me to see the castle again inhabited by an Earl of Strathmore, who has restored it so as to make it worthy of its great history. In the old hall of the castle we witnessed an operetta written by a son, and acted by the sons and daughters, of our hosts, and most admirably it was performed.
Monday, 9 January 2017
Another lengthy quote, this time authored by Charles George Harper (1863 – 1943), an extremely prolific writer and illustrator, in his Haunted Houses : Tales of the Supernatural (1907). Out of the dozens of books he had a hand in, this was one of the few concerning the supernatural, and it was not his area of prime literary comfort. (Most of his works fall into the travel category.)
Harper summons up a fine variety of source material, but some of his conclusions appear off the mark. Interesting is his account of the Lion Cup and his theory (wrong in my opinion) that the germ of the idea about the ghost of the earl at Glamis was inspired by the death of the Earl of Strathmore in 1728. His association of 'Earl Beardie' with 'Earl Patie' is also worth examining.
Unquestionably the most famous haunted house in Britain is Glamis Castle, in Forfarshire, and it is the more famous from the fact that the uncanny things connected with it and its secret chamber have ever been kept as inviolable secrets, and are no nearer solution now than they were hundreds of years ago. Thus, Glamis is not in the usual sense a haunted house: it is rather the abode of mystery, the home of some secret of which many have made light, but which those most nearly concerned have never been known to regard with indifference.
No other residence in the world, imperial or private, has been the subject of so much eager discussion as Glamis Castle; and no secret has been so continuously assailed by investigators as that safe in the keeping of the Earls of Strathmore, the lords of Glamis. The identity of the Man in the Iron Mask, and that of the writer of the Letters of Junius have been the subjects of furious controversies, in which the respective partisans have, every one of them, convinced themselves to be right; but those once fertile subjects have long been abandoned, or at the most attract but feeble attention. The mystery of Glamis, however, still piques curiosity, and still defies the acuteness of investigators.
Glamis shares with Cawdor—but with more show of probability—the tradition of being the scene of the murder of Duncan by Macbeth, Thane of Glamis; and the identical room in which that tragedy is supposed to have been wrought was long shown, together with the sword and the shirt of chain-mail worn by Macbeth! Such are the lengths to which, everywhere, the desires of the seekers after gory landmarks and original bloodstained weapons that have done even mythical deeds, will lead the purveyors of marvels to go. Malcolm the Second, however, was certainly assassinated in the neighbourhood of Glamis: on Hunter's Hill, according to local tradition.
Although Glamis is very old and grim, it may well be doubted if anything quite so ancient as the times of Macbeth and Malcolm the Second remain to it; and although those half-legendary, half-historic events are sufficiently tragical and have been sublimated by Shakespeare into the finest stage tragedy extant, they have no relation to the stories of unnamed horrors that reside in some undiscovered corner of the hoary pile. Those undesirable items date only from the coming of the Lyon family, in 1371. It was in this year that Sir John Lyon, Baron Fortevist, was given the lordship by Robert the Second, King of Scotland, whose daughter he had married. Among other honours conferred upon him was that of Great Chamberlain of Scotland, but he ended in a duel in 1383. It was this Sir John who brought with him to Glamis a kind of family curse, the famed "Lion Cup," a hereditary possession whose ownership is said to have caused many tragedies in the family. The plain man at this point naturally inquires why this accursed goblet was never thrown away, or at least sold, or given to some unsuspecting beneficiary against whom the Lyon family nursed a grudge, after the old Scots sort. But your plain man has no business here with family curses or spooks. Inquiry would, however, probably disclose the fact that the several disasters and violent endings of the Lyons were due less to the ownership of that item of gold plate than to the ferocity of themselves and their times.
The son of Sir John Lyon was one of those very few of the race for many centuries who died peacefully in their beds, and his son, created Lord Glamis in 1445, ended in the like natural manner. But a peculiarly horrible fate befell Janet, the young and beautiful widow of the sixth Lord Glamis, who with her son and other relatives was indicted for the practice of witchcraft, and for attempting the life of James the Fifth by the arts of magic and sorcery. Lady Glamis was found guilty on the perjured evidence of her own servants, among others, and was burned on Castle Hill, Edinburgh, in 1537. Her son John, at this time a boy of sixteen, afterwards seventh Lord Glamis, was put to the torture, and under it committed the infamy of falsely accusing his mother. He also was found guilty, but was respited until he should come of age, and was at length released and restored to his ancestral honours. His son, the eighth Lord Glamis, was killed in a chance meeting with the Lindsays, with whom the family of Lyon maintained a cherished feud.
An Earldom—that of Kinghorne—was conferred upon the castellan of Glamis in 1606, and another—that of Strathmore—in 1677. The recipient of this last honour was Patrick Lyon, who was born in 1612 and died in 1695, after having thoroughly restored the ancient castle of Glamis, and refitted it and its garden and policies according to the taste of that age.
The Earls of Strathmore at the present time own a remarkable multiplicity of titles, being also Earls of Kinghorne, Viscounts Lyon, Barons Glamis, Tannadyce, Sidlaw, and Strathdichtie.
The third Earl of Strathmore died of wounds he had received at Sheriffmuir in 1715, and was succeeded by his brother as fourth Earl. The fourth Earl had five sons and three daughters, and of these no fewer than four sons succeeded to the title. Charles, sixth Earl of Strathmore, died in 1728, in a duel arising out of a quarrel at cards or dice.
It is with this Charles, sixth Lord Strathmore, that the chief of the uncanny stories of Glamis is concerned, There are, of course, many versions, but the most generally received is that of the fatal gaming party. By this it seems that the long-standing feud between the Lindsays and the Lyons had so far healed that the members of the two families dined, drank, and diced together, like the fine old Scottish gentlemen they were: bent upon some form of ill-doing, at any cost. Those ancient Scottish noblemen who were not up to some devilry or another, from slitting the throat of monarch or friend, conspiring against the State, or making off with a neighbour's wife, down to mere ordinary sharp practices and insane gambling, were few indeed, and even those abstaining few did not generally receive the credit to which their abstention entitled them. Such another set of equally atrocious villains it would be difficult to find, in any age or country.
The legend goes on to declare that the play, one fatal night at Glamis, grew desperately high. The Earl was suffering a run of ill-luck, and when he had gamed away all his money, resolved if possible to win back his losses in staking his estates. But the bad luck was still in force, and, staking one property after another, he continued to lose, until Glamis itself stood at hazard upon the turn of a card and was lost. Then the dazed and infuriated Lord Strathmore, not able to understand such extraordinary ill fortune, lost his temper, and accused his guest of cheating.
A blow was the only reply; swords were drawn, and, after a few passes, the Earl was run through the body. Thus died the sixth Earl of Strathmore; but it would appear that it was not a Lindsay, but one James Carnegie, of Finhaven, who killed him, as appears in the trial that followed.
From this comparatively simple version, which bears, in its broad aspects, the stamp of truth, many wild varieties have been elaborated, in which the evil characteristics of earlier lords of Glamis have been incorporated, to make tales of marvels. In these narratives the chief actor is "Earl Beardie," or "Earl Patie," of whom the real original would appear to be the first Lord Glamis, who died in 1454, and whose actual or imaginary ill deeds had rendered him for generations a kind of traditional Bogey or Raw Head and Bloody Bones, the terror of many a nursery in the country round about Glamis.
According to these horrific imaginings, clearly evolved in the minds of an ultra-Sabbatarian peasantry, Earl Patie was not only a gambler, and a gambler who would not merely play day and night and with his fellows, but would continue on Sundays, and in default of any of his own station, would play for bawbees with the veriest scullion in his proud castle. It was on a dark and stormy November Sabbath night (observe the excellent stage-management of this legend!) that Earl Patie, wearied of the empty day, called with his most startling oaths for a pack of cards and for a partner in the game. The cards were duly forthcoming, but it was not so easy to secure a partner. My lord, with growing fury, invited each individual member of his staff of retainers, but without avail. Starting with the steward, and working down to the meanest potwalloper in the establishment, he received refusals from all. Then he tried the rather hopeless task of persuading the domestic chaplain to take a hand, with the result that he not only got another refusal, but found that any likely waverer among his menials was scared out of obliging him by the threats the chaplain proceeded to hurl against any one who should so desecrate the Lord's Day.
Earl Patie thereupon, consigning the chaplain and every one else to Helensburgh, and swearing if possible worse than ever, took himself and his pack of cards away to his own especial room,declaring himself prepared to play with the Devil, if no other partner were forthcoming.
He had not sat long, before a knock came at the door, and a deep voice without was heard asking if he still wanted a partner.
"Yes," shouted the Earl; "enter in the foul fiend's name, whoever you are."
Thereupon there entered a. tall, dark stranger, wrapped mysteriously in a cloak. Nodding familiarly to the Earl, he took his seat, without further ceremony, on a vacant chair opposite, and the game presently began. The stranger had proposed a high stake, and in accepting, the Earl agreed, if he were the loser and found himself unable to pay, he would sign a bond for whatever the stranger might choose to ask. (What doited fools these legendary gamesters always are!)
Fast and furious became the game. Loud and louder were the oaths that resounded through the chamber and echoed down the corridors, alarming the household. Up crept the terrified servants,and listened at the door-after the manner of servants-wondering who this might be who should thus bandy words with their wicked master.
At last the old butler, who had served the family for two generations, and had peeped through many a keyhole in his time, applied his eye in the old familiar manner; but he had no sooner done so than he fell back and rolled upon the floor with a yell of agony. In an instant the door was flung open, and the Earl, with furious face, instructed the servants to slay any one who should pass, while he went back to settle with his guest.
But the guest was gone, and with him had gone the bond. It seems that while the game was in progress, the stranger had noticed the keyhole, and, throwing down his cards, had exclaimed, with a dreadful oath, "Smite that eye!" whereupon a sheet of flame had darted directly to the keyhole, blighting the butler, and the stranger himself vanished. This would make an impressive tract for the conversion of Keyhole Peepers.
For five years after this dramatic scene, Earl Patie lived, and then was gathered into Abraham's -or some one else's-bosom. But every Sabbath evening afterwards the room where the two had played at cards resounded in the same boisterous manner, until at last, unable any longer to endure this Sunday evening tumult, the family had it built up. Of course the stranger, as the intelligentreader will already have perceived, was none other than the Devil himself, and the bond resulted in his winning the Earl's soul.
An even more thrilling version tells how the Earl declared, with many dreadful oaths, that he would play until the Day of Judgment; and that on stormy nights the gamblers may yet be heard, quarrelling over their play.
The jealously guarded mystery of the secret room at Glamis may or may not be connected with this legend. There are, in fact, several "secret" chambers in the ancient fifteen-feet thick walls, but these are neither more nor less a matter of secrecy than the so-called "secret" drawers that form so perfectly obvious a feature of most old escritoires. The one absolutely secret chamber is never known to more than three persons at one time: to the Earl of Strathmore for the time being, to his eldest son (or to the next heir), and to the factor, or steward, of the estate. The solemn initiation ceremony takes place upon the coming of age of the heir, on the night of his twenty-first birthday; when the three are supposed to be armed with crowbars to break down the masonry which walls up the mystic recess. This rite duly performed and the wall again built up, the factor invariably leaves the castle and rides for home, no matter how stormy the night or late the hour. The Lyon family is wealthy-the late Earl left over a million sterling-and could easily reside elsewhere, but on the night that witnesses the coming of age of the heir, its members will be all gathered together at Glamis.
The theories as to what this terrible secret may be embrace every possibility and impossibility. An often-repeated story is that which narrates how the unhappy Lady Glamis, "the witch," who was burnt on Castle Hill, Edinburgh, was really in league with the Devil, and that her familiar demon, an embodied and visible fiend, inhabits the spot!
With other people, greedy of the horrible, a favourite theory is that there exists, in this dungeon, a hideous half-human monster, of fearful aspect and fabulous age. Another variety would have us believe that a monster of the vampire type is born every generation into the family, to represent the embodiment of a terrible curse upon the house of Lyon.
Again, a tradition declares that in the old days of feuds, when the Ogilvies and the Lindsays were for always flying at each others' throats, a number of hunted Ogilvies came to the doors of Glamis, imploring the Lord Glamis of that day to shelter them from the fury of their enemies. He was not on particularly friendly terms with either of those warring clans, but he opened his door to the fugitives and, under the pretence of securely hiding them, locked and bolted the unfortunate Ogilvies in a remote dungeon, and callously left them there to starve. The tale goes on to tell how the bones of those wretched fugitives strew the floor of that dismal hold to this day, the position of some of the skeletons showing that the captives died in the act of gnawing the flesh from their arms.
Dr. Lee, who, in his Glimpses of the Supernatural shows himself prone to swallowing anything, however startling, says: " On one occasion, some years ago, the head of the family, with several companions, was determined to investigate the cause of inexplicable noises heard at Glamis Castle. One night, when the disturbance was greater and more violent and alarming than usual, his lordship went to the Haunted Room, opened the door with a key, and dropped back in a dead swoon into the arms of his companions; nor could he ever be induced to open his lips on the subject afterwards."
Why the factor should be included in the triune initiation into the mystery of Glamis is a question that has always excited highly interested conjecture. If the factor's office were hereditary, there would conceivably be reason for it, but this is not generally the case at Glamis. But whatever the reason of the factor being always taken into the confidence of the Earl for the time being, to the exclusion even of the Countess, it is certain that the trust reposed has never once been misplaced. Whatever it is the factor has seen, or whatever the ceremony in which he takes a part, the nature of it has never been divulged.
The revelation of the mystery has often in times past been promised by reckless young heirs to the title, sceptical as to its importance, but the twenty-first birthday has come and gone and theinitiation into the secret has been performed; and the promised revelation has never been made. Instead, the subject, mentioned by expectant friends, has with evident anxiety been avoided. To an inquirer the late Earl, who died in 1905, said, "If you could guess the nature of this secret, you would go down on your knees and thank God it were not yours."
Mr. Hare, who was a. visitor at Glamis in 1877, speaks of the pleasant house-party then assembled there, and adds, "only Lord Strathmore himself has an ever-sad look. The Bishop of Brechin, who was a great friend of the house, felt this strange sadness so deeply that he went to Lord Strathmore, and after imploring him in the most touching manner to forgive the intrusion into his private affairs, said how, having heard of the strange secret which oppressed him, he could not help entreating him to make use of his services as an ecclesiastic, if he could in any way, by any means, be of use to him. Lord Strathmore was deeply moved; he said that he thanked him, but that in his most unfortunate position no one could ever help him. He has built a wing to the castle, in which all the children and all the servants sleep. The servants will not sleep in the house, and the children are not allowed to do so."
Whatever the nature of this heirloom, the late Earl seems to have found it a subject for constant prayer. A guest who had been staying at the Castle, and was leaving in the early morning, passed by the private chapel, and there he saw his host kneeling in prayer, and still wearing the evening clothes he had worn overnight.
Once, in the temporary absence of a former Earl of Strathmore, a party of guests, headed by the Countess herself, made an ingenious effort to discover the secret chamber. Starting on the supposition that it must have a window (but why?) they hung towels out of every casement, concluding that any window which displayed no towel would be the mystic chamber. The attempt failed, and while it was in progress my lord returned, with unpleasant results. It was even said that Earl and Countess parted, never to meet again.
It will thus be seen that it is not from want of inquiry that the secret has been kept. Sir Walter Scott, Sir Augustus Rumbold, Augustus Hare, and many antiquaries have puzzled their brains over it, with the solution as far removed as ever. Lord Playfair, who was a distant relative of the Lyon family, had been on the estate as a boy, and was possessed with a furious zeal to pluck out the heart of the mystery. Lord Strathmore was not in residence, and young Playfair had the run of the place, his uncle being one of the trustees. "I naturally did my best," he says in his autobiography, "to discover the famous secret and the awful mystery connected with it. I drew my own conclusions, which were probably as erroneous as those which have been made by others in regard to this famous secret." He left the neighbourhood no wiser.
Fifty years passed, and he was again at the Castle. Lady Playfair was with him, and the then Countess of Strathmore conducted them all over the place. "She even showed me," he says, "a secret chamber, but not the secret chamber, which has defied so many keen inquirers." She could not, as we have already proved, have shown it if she would.
Of course many attempts have been made to show that the mystery is of merely commonplace origin, and the extraordinary activities of Patrick, first Lord Strathmore, in constructing secret roomsin his various residences, have been pointed out. A secret staircase, which would seem to have been built about 1670, and afterwards bricked up, was discovered in 1849, during some alterations; and a splendidly carved fireplace, whose existence had not been suspected, was accidentally revealed, a few years since, in the drawing-room.
Patrick, Lord Strathmore, left behind him an account of his works, called by him the Book of Record, printed by the Scottish History Society in 1890. In this he gives very full details of the work done by him at Glamis Castle. For instance, the construction of this back staircase, so long forgotten, is distinctly described; and from his references to certain leaden statues which he had erected in the grounds, these works of art were recovered from their undignified seclusion in some of the cellars, and have been restored to their original positions. When confronted with a mystery like that of the secret chamber, one naturally turns to the Book of Record to see if it contains any allusion to this apartment. The diligent student of that remarkable book will find two curious entries that seem to have some hearing on this subject. Writing on June 24th, 1684, Lord Strathmore records the following transaction: "Agried with the four masones in Glammiss for digging down from the floor of the litil pantry off the Lobbis a closet designed within the charterhouse there, for wch I am to give them 50 lib. scotts and four bolls meall."
The work of constructing this closet or small chamber was more serious than the Earl had contemplated. Judging from similar chambers which he caused to be made at his other residence at Castle Lyon (now Castle Huntly) in the Carse of Gowrie, the closet was probably dug out of the thickness of the wall.
On July 25th there is another reference to this closet, which shows that its construction was an arduous undertaking: "I did add to the work before mentioned of a closet in my charterhouseseverall things of a considerable trouble, as the digging thorrow passages from the new work to the old, and thorrow that closet againe so that as now I have the access off on flour [one floor] from the east quarter of the house of Glammis to the west syde of the house thorrow the low hall, and am to pay the masones, because of the uncertainty yrof dayes wages, and just so to the wright and plasterer."
From these precise entries it becomes evident that in 1684 the first Earl of Strathmore caused a secret chamber or closet to be constructed, with an entrance from the charter-room. This was by no means an unusual thing, for many noble Scottish families have had frequent occasion to conceal documents that would have compromised them in times of war, and even a charter-room might not have been secure against the searches by enemies. The first Lord Strathmore himself was deeply implicated in a Jacobite plot with the Earls of Southesk and Callander in 1689; and though he afterwards became reconciled to William the Third, it would have been useful for him to have a secure hiding-place for treasonable papers. Several of his descendants were concerned in the risings of 1715 and 1745, and a chamber of this kind would be useful either to secrete documents or to afford shelter to a fugitive. By that time, it is urged, the masons who had constructed the secret chamber thirty years before would have passed away, and the lingering rumours of its existence would be linked in the popular mind with the "wicked" Earl. For obvious reasons, it is pointed out, the successive Earls of Strathmore would not seek to dispel this superstition, and thus the simple "closet designed within the charter-room" has been elevated to the dignity of a haunted chamber.
Such are the matter-of-fact deductions drawn from the unromantic entries in the Book of Record; but they do not, it will at once be seen, meet and controvert the tales of magic and terror at all points.
Sunday, 18 December 2016
The following clipping comes from the Dundee Courier, dated 27th December 1900. Although this is a fairly local paper to Glamis, the story seems syndicated, hence the mention of the Morning Leader. Note the variant in the tale: other versions state that Lord Strathmore came home unexpectedly the same day and that the 'towels at the window' ruse did not extend overnight. Note also the inference that the Bowes-Lyons appear to have been talking down the legend to the press, an effort at legend dampening which didn't in any way quash the growing body of folklore.
Christmas is the appropriate season to report on ghosts and chronicle their doings, and the Glamis ghost has always been one of the most interesting, socially and psychologically. Therefore it may be a matter of disappointment to many to hear that the gloom which hung so long over Glamis Castle, in Forfarshire, has lifted. Members of the family assert that it is now like an ordinary great Scottish house, and the wing from which sounds and groans were always said to issue is now in common use and normally quiet.
What the mystery was none ever knew except the owner, the steward, and the heir, who was told when he reached his majority. The most generally believed in theory was of a monster – a kind of Frankenstein – kept hidden in the haunted wing of the castle, who presumably is now dead. An attempt was made to penetrate this mystery some years ago, says the London Morning Leader, when, it is said, Lady Strathmore laughingly suggested to her guests one night at dinner that each one should hang a towel out of his or her window the next morning, the inference being that the window which did not show one of these would be the window of the haunted room. The next morning the towels were hung out, to the great annoyance of Lord Strathmore, who ordered the servants to take them in at once, and expressed himself severely on what he termed a breach of courtesy and hospitality. The party broke up, and the mystery remained as great as before.
Friday, 16 December 2016
Who is Outis? Quite literally, Nobody.
When Odysseus was battling the Cyclops Polyphemus, and put out the monster’s eye, he said his name was ΟΥΤΙΣ, meaning ‘No-one’. The other Cyclopes responded to the agonised shrieks of their compatriot and asked who had hurt him. ‘No-one,’ he said, so they went off again and Odysseus escaped to fight another day. ΟΥΤΙΣ has ever since been a handy pseudonym for someone who wished to be discreet about their true identity. So, its English form of Outis was used as ‘Anon’ by the author of a piece about Glamis Castle which appeared in Notes and Queries in 1908. The article is by no means original and contains nothing outside the 'norm' or Glamis legends, but its content is instructive to the extent by which it shows these tales had been crystallised by the very beginning of the 20th century and thereafter taken (and endlessly regurgitated) as 'fact'.
Many readers of ‘N. & Q.’ have doubtless heard of the ‘Mystery of Glamis.’ It was told to the present writer some sixty years ago, when he was a boy, and it made a great impression on him. He heard the legend related quite recently, in nearly the same words. The story was, and is, that in the Castle of Glamis, the celebrated old castle of the Earls of Strathmore, is a secret chamber., In this chamber is confined a monster, who is the rightful heir to the title and property, but who is so unpresentable that it is necessary to keep him out of sight and out of possession. The secret is supposed to be known to three persons only – the Earl of Strathmore, his heir and the manager of the estate. This terrible secret is said to have a depressing effect on the holder of the title (who, if the legend were exact, would not be in possession lawfully of either title or property) and on his heir. When the legend of my childhood was recently repeated in my hearing, I ventured to suggest that the Earl of Strathmore, at the time I heard the story, was about seventy years of age, and the reputed monster, in order to have a claim superior to his brother’s, must have been still older than the one who bore the title of Earl. As in captivity the monster would have had difficulties in producing a legitimate monster to carry on the legend, it was improbable that there could now survive any imprisoned monster whose presence and claim would exercise a depressing effect on the present holder of the title. This view, however, received little support from my audience, the general verdict being that the legend was so well-established and interesting that it was almost impious to attempt to explain it away. It was also advanced, as evidence against my view, that a member of the family had recently stated that the mystery was ‘the same as ever,’ and that, therefore, the monster must still exist. Although nearly every one who has ever been to Glamis, and many who have never been there, are generally believed to be able to speak with authority regarding the monster, the family are known to discourage the many embroidered editions of the legend to which the public have held so pertinaciously, and they are in no way responsible for this long lived myth. On re-reading lately Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft,’ I came upon a passage in a letter written in 1830, which would seem to help to explain the Mystery of Glamis. I sent this to ‘N. & Q.’ at the risk of being impeached for trying to spoil a good legend, which has long been popular public property. It will be borne in mind that, in addition to the monster, the salient points in the mystery are the secret chamber, and the secret known to only the holder of the title, his heir, and the third person – the family lawyer or manager. Now this is what Sir Walter wrote on the subject nearly eighty years ago: ‘I have been myself at two periods of my life, distant from each other, engaged in scenes favourable to that degree of superstitious awe which my countrymen expressively call being eerie.’ ‘On the first of these occasions I was only nineteen or twenty years old, when I happened to pass a night in the magnificent old baronial Castle of Glamis, the hereditary seat of the Earls of Strathmore. The hoary pile contains much in its appearance, and in the traditions connected with it, impressive to the imagination. It was the scene of the murder of a Scottish King of great antiquity – not indeed the gracious Duncan, with whom the name naturally associates itself, but Malcolm the Second. It contains also a curious monument of the peril of feudal times, being a secret chamber, the entrance of which, by the law or custom of the family, must only be known to three persons at once, viz. the Earl of Strathmore, his heir apparent, and any third person they may take into their confidence. The extreme antiquity of the building is vouched by the thickness of the walls, and the wild and straggling arrangement of the accommodation within doors.’ Thus we have here the greater part of the legend as popular with the public – the mystery; the secret chamber known only to the Earl, his heir, and a third person taken into confidence; and the secret preserved from generation to generation by the law or custom of the family. The monster does not, indeed, find a place in Sir Walter Scott’s account, but this may have been provided later by some one with the aid of superstitious awe called ‘being eerie,’ in the place so favourable thereto. The chamber, like that known in one or two other ancient buildings, probably led to a secret exit, to be used as a means of escape in case of danger. The thickness of the walls, and the arrangement of the accommodation as described, would much favour the provision of such a secret chamber and passage. And if existing conditions be as suggested, then a member of the family may with perfect accuracy have recently assured an inquirer that the Mystery of Glamis was now even the same as ever.
Saturday, 3 December 2016
Strange chap, James Wentworth Day (1899-1983), by my standards at least (and I do not pretend not to be odd myself). Certainly to be admired as a prolific writer with a profound love of his country and his native region of East Anglia, he was an arch traditionalist, an ardent countryman and a right wing Tory. His type is both profoundly old fashioned and absolutely enduring. He had an interest in the supernatural and was staunchly behind the Royal Family. Both these facets of character stood him in good stead when he wrote a book about the family of the Queen Mother, snappily called The Queen Mother’s Family Story (first published 1967; revised edition 1979).
More than a mere fawning filler filled volume on the Scottish antecedents of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the volume offers a thoughtful, though selective, exploration of events concerning the family of Glamis. He also interviewed several members of the Strathmore family, as detailed below. Some of his omissions are peculiar, to my eyes. There is a good chapter on the involvement of the Bowes-Lyon family supporting the Jacobites in the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, for instance. But strangely he does not mention the murder of Lord Strathmore in 1728. It was not because he despised lurid historical drama, since he lavishly documented the extraordinary soap opera concerning Lady Mary Eleanor Bowes and her psychopathic lover Andrew Robinson. (Four chapters are devoted to this sad saga.)
Instances of Second Sight.
In my previous post I mentioned a story about the early 18th century earl, John, 4th Earl of Strathmore, who was told that his four sons would all be earls by a man he met on the road. John stated that he hoped they would not be, because the prediction necessarily meant that at least three of his sons would die premature deaths. And so it happened. Wentworth Day’s book has a story which is strangely analagous to the previous prognostication. Some time around 1907, when the future Queen Elizabeth and her sister were playing on the road in the village of Glamis, a gypsy or tinker woman told her fortune: ‘You shall be a queen and the mother of a queen.’ A story about her siblings in the same chapter suggests that abnormal insight was also demonstrated within her own family. Fergus Bowes-Lyon had been killed in the First World War and the next eldest brother, Michael, was reported dead. Another brother, David, insisted, despite the evidence that Michael was not dead and accurately reported ‘seeing’ him convalesce in a large house somewhere, which eventually proved to be true.
The meat of the matter, as far as the folklore of Glamis is concerned, comes in Chapter 11 of the book, which is entitled ‘The “Monster” of Glamis’, and it deserves to be examined in detail. The chapter covers the broad spectrum of myths:
The Household ‘Beardie’ Legend.
The author repeats the fallacy that the ghost of the old knight seen in the 19th century represents the 4th Earl of Crawford, when of course he died as a relatively young man, even by medieval standards. Although Wentworth Day summarises the written authorities such as Lord Halifax about the legend, he also gives the established view of the Glamis household. So, he gives the tour guide type summary of the tale given to him by Timothy Patrick, 16th Earl of Strathmore. The earl showed the author an uninhabited room in a tower, replete with trap door. This version says that the Lord Glamis of the day threw Beardie down the stairs as the result of a gambling quarrel. Beardie demanded someone else gamble with him, but the chaplain forbade it. He swore that, if no man would play with him, he would dice with the Devil. Cue appearance of the Unspeakable One. An inquisitive butler put his eyeto the keyhole of the room where man and Satan gambled and his eyes was seared yellow. Beardie died five years later.
|The 16th Earl of Strathmore|
Regarding the Monster legend, the earl told the author that that he believed the secret of the ‘hidden heir’ died with his father (Patrick, 15th earl, who died in 1949), or with his own brother. Wentworth-Day was also told by Sir David Bowes-Lyon of the story of the mysterious Jack the Runner who races across the castle lawns on moonlit nights.
Further to the earl’s rather bland take on the tale, there was the added testimony of his ‘apple-cheeked Australian born cook’, Florence Foster. Said cook told Wentworth Day, ‘I’ve heard them [Devil and the Earl of Crawford] rattle the dice, stamp and swear.’ She had also heard someone 9 was it Beardie, though, or someone else?) knock three times on her bedroom door, but no-one was there. And she lay in bed afterwards shaking with fear. (Other sources state that the cook reported the same story to a newspaper in 1957.)
Mrs Maclagan’s Story
Wentworth Day also includes what he describes as a hand-written copy of the account of Mrs Maclagan, previously published at length (though not word for word apparently) in The Ghost Book of Lord Halifax. While the Maclagan account in Halifax occupies many pages, the verbatim account in The Queen Mother’s Family Story runs to a disappointing two paragraphs. Here the story related is confined to the tall, cloaked figure seen by Dr Nicholson, Dean of Brechin, in ‘Earl Patrick’s Room’. The Dean met Dr Forbes, Bishop of Brechin, in Glamis the following year, along with the Provost of Perth. He Provost told the Dean he had seen the same figure in the same room. Forbes offered to exorcise it, but the 13th Earl of Strathmore was too afraid to sanction it.
Lady Granville’s Gossip
The writer asked Lady Granville, an elder sister of the Queen Mother (Rose Leveson-Gower, Countess Granville born Rose Constance Bowes-Lyon, 1890 – 1967), who was apparently at Glamis when he visited. She told him that children often woke at night screaming in the upper storeys, saying a huge bearded man leant over them All furniture was cleared out of that particular room twelve years previously and nobody now slept there (nor in the Hangman’s Chamber).
Lady Granville authoritatively told Wentworth-Day that her parents [Claude, 14th earl and his wife]would never allow the children to discuss the matter of the Monster. Claude and the 13th earl, also Claude, ‘refused absolutely to discuss it’. This, as we have seen elsewhere (and will examine again in the future), runs counter to some others’ version of what the Strathmore family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was prepared to say. Lady Granville also told Wentworth-Day that she had seen the Grey Lady in St Michael’s Chapel (and the earl said the same thing). Other revelations were the bloodstain that used to be seen on the floor of King Malcolm’s Room (until boarded up by Rose’s mother), and an unseen ghost which pulled the sheets off the bed in a room. It was once a bedroom, but the haunting prompted it to be converted and it was later the Queen Mother’s Bathroom.
The Monster of Glamis: a Lurid Version
Wentworth-Day steps up a gear to describe the ‘Monster’ of Glamis, which he does with obvious relish. According to his take on the story, he vaguely states that some time over a century previously a seriously deformed bot – ‘shaped like an egg’ – was born into the family and kept untyil adulthood in the castle. He states that the Monster was house in the Secret Room constructed by the Earl of Strathmore in 1684. But there are two problems with this theory: firstly, the cited evidence of The Book of Record written by Earl Patrick in the late 17th century hardly conclusively records ‘a man with a passion for secret hiding-places’ as supposed; secondly, why was this supposedly Secret Room constructed? Had it lain idle and empty – in wait as it were – from the late 17th century until the early/mid 19th century when the Monster took up its tenancy?
Physically, the deformed boy had an exceptionally strong body, but underdeveloped arms and legs. The heir to the earldom was shown the wretched captive when he came of age. The child lived to an immense age and an un-named admiral told the author that he lived until 1921.
Departing from other versions, Wentworth-Day states that four people at a time (not three) knew of the secret of the Monster at any one time: the earl, his heir, the family lawyer, and the estate factor.
The Factors of Glamis: Proctors and Ralstons
James Wentworth-Day quite rightly states the the office of estate factor at Glamis was passed down through only two families from 1765 to the 1940s, the Ralstons and the Proctors. Peter Proctor served from 1765 to 1815, succeeded by his son, David, who died in 1860. Then came Andrew Ralston (factor for fifty-two years), follwed by his son Gavin Ralston.
The author does not mention it, but the first Proctor was the amiable gentleman who welcomed the young Walter Scott to Glamis and got him so ‘fou’ with wine that he went on the wrong road when he departed. The Proctors were an old family in the parish, Jacobite minded like the Lyons, and a Peter Proctor, recorded as a workman from Glen Ogilvy, is recorded as having fought with the rebel army in the ’45. In the parish records (dated 5th August 1832) we find the reference to another likely family relative: ‘Francis Proctor and his wife Isabel Isles...were rebuked for the sin of antenuptial fornication & rebuked from church scandal.’ Another member of the extended family was Robert Proctor, Writer to the Signet, son of Patrick Proctor, writer at Glamis Castle, who died 5th January 1823.
Andrew Ralston (1831-1914) is a better known figure, and it was he who allegedly told a Countess that she was better off not knowing the secret of the Monster of Glamis. The other well-known anecdote is that he refused to stay one night under the castle room, but insisted on workmen digging a path through snow drifts one night so he could reach his own home. (This house was probably the Glamis House or New House near the village.) Wentworth-Day follows tradition by stating this first Ralston was dour and ‘hard-headed’, though much respected, as was his son Gavin Ralston (1870-1951). Andrew married Jane Wallace and raised six children in Glamis, including Andrew Ralston (1866-1926), who was factor to the Earl of Hopetoun. Another son, William Henry Ralston (1863-1943), was employed by the Strathmore family on their English estates. Other sons were Claude Lyon Ralston (born 1867), who worked for a time for the Earl of Airlie, and Charles Ralston (born 1864), an employee of the Duke of Buccleuch.
|Gavin Ralston and the future Queen Mother|
The Paul Bloomfield Version
Following a length summary of Lord Halifax’s stories from The Ghost Book, Wentworth-Day turns to the theories presented by the journalist Paul Bloomfield. The key points here are as follows: the real Monster was the son of Thomas, Lord Glamis, the son and heir of Thomas, 11th earl. This Lord Glamis married Charlotte Grimstead on 21st December 1820. Their first recorded son was Thomas George, who became the 12th earl, born 22nd September 1822. Bloomfield speculates that there was another son born before this child. He cites Douglas’s Scots Peerage which states that Thomas and Charlotte had a son who was born on 21st October 1821 and who died the same day. Cockayne’s Complete Peerage states the same, but give the date as 18th October 1821.
Which Earls Knew? Shane Leslie and Sir David Bowes-Lyon
Wentworth-Day follows other accounts by saying that the Monster was long lived, but the 14 earl Claude George was not told of the secret when he attained his majority on 14th March 1876.
Sir Shane Leslie (1885-1971) wrote Wentworth-Day a letter which stated that Pat Lyon was the last family member to know about the secret, plus Abbot Oswald (David) Hunter-Blair (1853-1939) had two interesting theories about the family Monster, which Leslie unfortunately never recorded.
Last word should be given to Sir David who told the author that a great amount of rubbish was written about Glamis in the Victorian era. ‘Most of them seized on the monster as a peg and then thought up the most unutterable bosh.’
Sunday, 30 October 2016
The Strathmore family’s affiliation with the deposed House of Stuart brought them great sorrow in the 18th century and though they avoided the forfeiture and ruin suffered by many other noble families in Scotland who allied themselves to that forlorn cause, the price paid was great. John Lyon, 4th Earl of Strathmore (more properly 2nd Earl of Strathmore and 4th Earl of Kinghorn), died in 1712 and his four sons each succeeded him in turn. The eldest two died unnatural and premature deaths: John Lyon, 5th earl, died on the Jacobite side at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715 and his brother Charles, 6th earl, was cut down in his prime in a street in Forfar by a man who was his friend.
|The 6th Earl of Strathmore, d. 1728.|
The bare facts about the killing in the county town are these. On Thursday 9th May 1728 there was a funeral held in the town for the daughter of Patrick Carnegie, 2nd Lord Lour. Among those who were present in Forfar was the Earl of Strathmore, his kinsman John Lyon of Brigton and James Carnegie, the laird of Finavon (who was a cousin of the deceased and a grandson of David, 2nd Earl of Northesk). During an afternoon of drinking around taverns and the houses of acquaintances, there was some antagonism between Lyon of Brigton and Carnegie of Finavon. Finavon was physically knocked into a gutter or drain by Brigton. Covered in filth, enraged and severely under the influence of liquor, Carnegie drew his sword and went for Lyon. But, instead of reaching his antagonist, his sword ran through the Earl of Strathmore. Two wounds were received. Strathmore was grievously wounded and died of his injuries on the following Saturday. Carnegie of Finavon was duly detained and charged with murder, appearing before the Justiciary Court in Edinburgh on 25th July.
There was no doubt that Carnegie of Finavon had struck Strathmore and that his argument was with Lyon of Brigton who had undoubtedly severely provoked Carnegie. It was an admitted fact that James Carnegie was extremely drunk, another contributory factor to the violence.
The immediate reaction among the people of Angus was scandal and outrage, well captured in an anonymous missive sent a week later (later published as ‘A Letter from a Gentleman in Forfar, to his Friend at Edinburgh’).
SIR, Forfar, May 16th, 1728.
ACCORDING to your Desire, I have sent you an Account of the lamentable Catastrophe, which happen'd on Thursday the 9th of May instant, which has filled all the Kingdom with an universal Regret ; and this Part of it with the utmost Grief and Confusion imaginable, which is to be seen in the Faces young and old, all over the Country ; the Fact is as follows,
On Thursday being the 9th Instant, several of the neighbouring Gentlemen were invited to this Place to a Burial, and among the rest the Earl of Strathmore, Carnegie of Finhaven, and Mr. Lyon of Brigton; after the Burial was over, a great many of the Gentlemen; among whom were these three before mentioned, went to a Tavern, where after they had been there some Time, Finhaven and Brigton fell a quarrelling, as some say, concerning the Lady Kinfawns, whose Brother Finhaven is; and others say it was about the Marriage of a Daughter of Finhaven's to a young Gentleman in this Country ; but however that be, Finhaven went to take his Horse, and had one foot in the Stirup, as his Servants say, when Brigton attack'd him, and threw him in a Mire, where he had certainly perish'd, had not his Servants come to his Rescue, together with the deceast Earl; Finhaven was no sooner recover'd, and his Servants endeavouring to make clean his Cloaths, but he drew his Sword; and the Earl stepping in to prevent any Mischief that might happen, received from Finhaven a mortal Wound, about an Inch below his Navel, which wounded his Puddings in three Parts, and went quite throrow his Body. His Lordship, after he received the Wound, spoke little till Saturday's Night he called for his Lady, endeavouring to comfort her, and grasping her Hand, he died about 12 a Clock that Night. This is the unfortunate End of this universally beloved Nobleman, whose rare Qualities render'd him an Ornament to his Country, a Pattern of Youth, and the Admiration of all that knew him.
I am Yours, &
Finavon soon found himself locked up in the tolbooth of Edinburgh, facing the death penalty. Those pressing the murder charge were the dead man’s widow Susan (or Susanna) Lyon and his brother James, who now became 7th Earl of Strathmore. The king’s advocate in the case was the formidable Duncan Forbes of Culloden. James Carnegie was charged that , ‘without the least Colour or Cause or Provocation ...[he had attacked] the said deceast Earl, who had no Weapon in his Hand, and did basely and feloniously murder and kill him, by giving him a Wound therewith in the Belly, some Inches above the Navel, which, by following the thrust with a second Push, went through the Intestines and the Back, a little lower that where the said Weapon entred the Belly...’
Finavon defended himself by claiming , of course, that it was an accident, that he had been drunk, and that Lyon of Brigton had severely provoked him. The accused stated that he ‘had all due Regard, Respect and Kindness for his Lordship [Strathmore], that I ever had for any Man. I had the Misfortune that Day to be mortally drunk, for which I beg GOD’s Pardon... I do not remember what happened... if it shall appear that I was the unlucky Person who wounded the Earl, I protest, before GOD, I would much rather that a Sword had been sheathed in my own Bowels.’ Carnegie was ably defended by Robert Dundas of Arniston.
The court had heard that the accused, along with the earl and some others had dines after the funeral at Carnegie of Lour’s house in Forfar. This party that left there included Finavon and Strathmore, along with David, Lord Rosehill (another Carnegie relative of Finavon’s), Thomas Lyon and John Lyon of Brigton, plus Strathmore’s brother Thomas. At a tavern named ‘Clerk Dickson’s’, the group ‘drunk pretty plentifully’ and Carnegie of Finavon was frankly ‘overtaken with too much Liquor’. It was at stage that the trouble began to foment. Brigton began to niggle at Finavon – ‘bearing hard’ upon him – and tried to antagonise him. Strathmore then led the others to the lodgings of his Lady Auchterhouse (James Carnegie’s sister, Margaret, widow of Patrick Lyon, uncle of the Earl of Strathmore), and it was here that things further got out of hand. Lyon of Brigton goaded Carnegie about his family affairs, his debts, and also allegedly pinched the lady’s arm.
When the group were back on the street, at the place called Bridge-stone near the Shambles, close to 9 pm, Carnegie rebuked his antagonist: ‘Sir, tho’ you be a Gentleman, you are uncivil.’ (Another witness thought one of Carnegie’s servants uttered this.)
Brigton bodily threw the drunken Carnegie into the kennel, the deep gutter or ditch at the side of the road – which was 2 feet deep and presented a danger of drowning - and stood there, with his arms folded, laughing at him. As soon as Carnegie was helped out of the gutter (by William Macgleish, a servant of Lord Strathmore) he drew his sword and ran towards Lyon at a staggering pace. His enemy ran towards the Earl of Strathmore, whose back was to him, and attempted to draw out the earl’s sword. At that instant, Carnegie approached and tried to push Lyon and then the earl shoved his kinsman aside and was wounded by the thrust of Carnegie’s sword. It was alleged by Finavon’s lawyers that the reason Lyon of Brigton had no sword of his own was that ‘the known Ferocity of his character and behaviour, is such, that the Country Gentlemen of his Acquaintance decline to keep Company with him if he wear any Armes...’
One witness at the trial, Robert Hepburn, a hammerman in Forfar, confirmed the push by Brigton and sword drawing by Finavon. Hepburn also stated that Strathmore pushed Brigton aside and took some steps forward and tried to embrace the advancing figure of Carnegie with open arms. The two men came together, then the earl stood aside and lifted up his shirt; then he said three times that he was wounded and fell to the ground. Other swords were drawn by others in the party. While another bystander, a maltman named Thomas Adam, went to assist the stricken nobleman, and either Lord Rosehill or Thomas Lyon forcefully twisted the weapon out of James Carnegie’s hand. (Rosehill himself said it was Thomas Lyon who disarmed Carnegie.) Nobody attempted to apprehend the assailant as he calmly walked away at a slow pace towards the house of Lady Auchterhouse; although Rosehill stated that Carnegie actually ran to his sister’s door. Andrew Douglas, another witness, told the court that Thomas Lyon and Carnegie engaged in some swordplay after the mortal wounding of Strathmore, but no blows were struck and soon Lyon twisted the other’s sword out of his grasp. Others claimed that the assailant was chased by armed men to his sister’s.
A servant name John Ferrier who was watering his master’s horse saw the drinking part spill out of Lady Auchterhouse’s dwelling. John Lyon of Brigton was overheard haranguing Carnegie of Finavon, evidently continuing an argument from inside.
‘You must give me an answer to my question,’ Lyon was demanding Carnegie. The question was about whether Finavon would give his daughter in marriage to Lord Rosehill. When Finavon answered no, Brigton then asked if he would drink a bottle of wine and if he would drink to the health of the King? Finavon again said no. Brigton then grabbed him and threw him into the gutter, shouting, ‘Go and be damned, and your King George, whom you love so well.’
What the witness did not state, but what was well known, was that James Carnegie was notoriously regarded as a turncoat who had changed allegiance from the Jacobites to the Hanoverians. He had switched sides nor from personal belief, but because he had allegedly been offered a massive bribe . Even more scandalously he had deserted the Jacobite army in the middle of the Battle of Sheriffmuir, running from the field of conflict. Feelings ran high on this subject, so soon after the ‘rebellion’ of 1715. In that conflict not only had the earl’s brother, the previous earl died, but so had Patrick Lyon of Auchterhouse, Carnegie’s brother-in-law (who also died at the Battle of Sheriffmuir). So this sly mention of the Hanoverian King George doubtless enraged Carnegie of Finavon.
Following Carnegie to his sister’s house, some of men came with drawn swords and dragged the laird into a room where they locked him in until the burgh baillie came to arrest him. A great mob had gathered outside the house of Lady Auchterhouse by the time that the baillie, named David Cauty, arrived. He went to the house of the burgh clerk Mr Dickson, where the wounded earl had been carried, then went back to the Auchterhouse property. A certain Fletcher of Ballinshoe was adament that he wanted to smash the door in, but Cauty talked him down and also relieved Thomas Lyon and Brigton of their swords. Although Lady Auchterhouse and her servants denied that Finavon was there, Cauty found him and took him along to the town gaol. There Carnegie of Finavon fell into anguish and said ‘that he deserved to be hanged for wounding such a worthy Earl...’ Cauty claimed that he had heard Carnegie state there was some grudge or misunderstanding between himself and Strathmore, though matters had improved recently and it was not a factor in the recent violence. This disagreement was confirmed by Alexander Binnie, Provost of Forfar, who stated that Carnegie informed him that the dispute had been about a process of bastardy which was being dealt with by the Court of Session.
The ill-feeling between Finavon and Strathmore was confirmed by Charles Carnegie, Lord Lour, who affirmed it had been going on for two years. He believed, however, that the dispute arose from a business deal between the two men concerning some meal. Thomas Crichton, an apothecary from Dundee, had been urgently summoned to attend the stricken earl in Forfar and realised immediately that the injuries were likely mortal. He gave testimony that Strathmore admitted he thought the attack was intended for his relative Brigton and not himself. But there was one circumstance he could not account for: that after the sword entered his body, Finavon pressed it forward, until the body of it went right through his and the two men were therefore face to face.
It was perhaps unsurprising that Margaret Carnegie, Lady Auchterhouse, gave a fairly positive picture of her brother’s conduct. There was no dispute between Finavon and Strathmore, although her brother was admittedly drunk. Brigton manhandled Carnegie of Finavon several times and asked him if he would not give one of his daughters to Rosehill? there were snide comments about Carnegie's lack of a son also. He further taunted him by saying if he were a young man and if Finavon refused one of his daughters, ‘he would maul him...’
At the trial in Edinburgh, Dundas was such an intelligent advocate that he managed to set a precedent in Scots Law by the power of persuasion and precedent and event persuaded his opponent, Duncan Forbes, to study Hebrew to better understand the examples he had cited. By ancient precedent, and overturning more recent practice, the power of duties to find an accused party guilt or not guilty was re-instated, disregarding the recent alternatives of proven and not-proven. As a result, the system in Scotland was blessed – or cursed – with the current triple choice of guilty, not guilty, and not proven.
But was James Carnegie of Finavon in fact guilty of murder or manslaughter? There was bad blood between himself and Strathmore. In truth, he had been provoked, he was mortally drunk. But, then there was the question about his character and the question about whether he had stabbed Strathmore once or twice. Additionally, there is is the haunting image of the unarmed Earl of Strathmore approaching this enraged and drunken friend with his arms open wide and receiving a sword wound (or two) which passed right through his body. By his own account, the earl stated that there was a pause after that brutal first stroke and then Finavon brutally drove the blade home to its hilt – and the two men were brought less than inches apart. Despite these doubts, Finavon walked free from the proceedings. The jury had decided by a majority of twelve to three on his innocence.
Here's how the Newgate Calendar reported the event:
Here's how the Newgate Calendar reported the event:
MR. Carnegie was a gentleman of fortune, whose estate being contiguous to that of Charles, Earl of Strathmore, a considerable degree of intimacy subsisted between the parties, which was increased by the similarity of their political sentiments, both of them being favourers of the claims of the Pretender. Lady Auchterhouse, who was sister to Mr. Carnegie, having invited some of the neighbouring gentry to visit her, there went among the rest John Lyon, Esq. a young gentleman who paid his addresses to another sister of Mr. Carnegie. Mr. Lyon's view in this visit was to ask Carnegie's consent to the match; but this the latter absolutely refused, and treated Lyon with so much asperity, that a quarrel ensued, and swords were drawn by both parties. The Earl of Strathmore, anxious to prevent bloodshed, exerted all his influence to reconcile the contending parties; and at length so far succeeded, that all animosity seemed to have subsided, and the company sat down and drank together, as if no quarrel had arisen. The conversation now took a political turn; and, as the company were of different sentiments, high words of altercation arose; and the King and the Pretender were abused in a manner equally illiberal. At length the passions of the parties were so inflamed that they had recourse to blows; and some of them quitting the house, among whom were Lyon and Carnegie, the former pushed the latter on the ground, which enraged him so much that he arose and drew his sword; but Lyon had consulted his safety by flight. Carnegie followed him a little way, but, falling in the pursuit, was lifted up by some of the company; when, turning about with the fury of a madman, he ran his sword into the body of Lord Strathmore. This melancholy event had no sooner taken place than the company returned to Lady Auchterhouse's, except the Earl of Strathmore, who was carried home by his servants, and died, after languishing two days. A neighbouring magistrate, being informed of what had happened, went to the house and demanded the gentlemen's swords, which were delivered: but Mr. Carnegie having been concealed under some flax in an outhouse, it was required that Lady Auchterhouse should tell where he was, which she did; and the magistrate, having received his sword, sent him to the prison of Forfar. Some weeks afterwards he was removed, to be tried before the Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh, which is somewhat similar to our Court of King's Bench in England. [Note: There are no grand juries in Scotland; the king's advocate draws the indictment. The judges determine if the crime be capital; and the fact is tried by a petty jury.] It was fully proved upon the trial, that Lyon had behaved in the most insulting manner to Carnegie, who did not draw his sword till he had been pushed down, as above mentioned. It was likewise proved, that Lord Strathmore had lived on terms of the utmost friendship with Mr. Carnegie; and that, on other occasions, when the latter had been insulted by Lyon, the earl had protected him. A witness swore that Mr. Carnegie had proposed Lady Strathmore's health when in company, and that he sat next the earl. It was sworn also that Carnegie, since his confinement, had regretted the melancholy issue of the quarrel, as it had deprived him of one of his most valuable friends, and a person whom he could have had no thought of injuring. Another evidence deposed that the behaviour of Mr. Lyon to Mr. Carnegie was insupportably aggravating; that he pushed him on the breast, and otherwise ill-treated him; and that he had seized Lady Auchterhouse by the hand, and struck it so violently on the table, that she cried out through the extremity of pain. On the other hand, one of Lord Strathmore's servants swore that Mr. Carnegie stabbed his master twice in the belly; but the surgeon who examined the wound gave a more favourable account of the matter than the servant. The trial lasted a considerable time, when the jury, considering on the whole matter, gave a verdict that the prisoner was Not Guilty. These transactions took place in the month of July, 1728.
In the final analysis, Carnegie of Finavon was certainly not guilty of premeditated murder, although the ferocity with which he drove his weapon home and the allegation that the Earl of Strathmore allegedly received two wounds would suggest that he was guilty of manslaughter at the least. Finavon died peacefully in 1764 and his estate passed to his son (by his second marriage), and thence out of Carnegie hands through the marriage of that son’s daughter.
A story about premonition was told in the Dundee Magazine for January 1800 about John Lyon, the fourth earl who died in 1712:An old man being in company with the earl, who had his four sons with him, his lordship, in conversation, said, ‘Are not these four pretty boys?’ To which the old man replied, ‘Yes, but they will be all earls, my lord, all earls.’ The earl said, he would be sorry if he were sure that such would be the case. The old man again affirmed that it would be so, and added, ‘God help the poor when Thomas comes to be earl.’ This was literally accomplished in the year 1740, when scarcity and dearth threatened famine in the land.