Saturday, 3 January 2015

Melgund Castle

Melgund Castle, near Aberlemno, was for a long time a roofless ruin, but was happily restored in the latter part of the 20th century.  Although it is a 16th century building, tradition says it was home in the mid 15th century to Sir David Lindsay.  One night in the year 1450 a castle watchman on the battlements was astonished to see a hearse draw up to the castle gates.  It was drawn by four coal black horses and behind it followed a procession of armoured knights and vassals.  At the moment this apparition appeared, Sir David became suddenly ill within the castle.  Knowing he was dying, he called for a priest, which surprised his wife and daughter because he had always mocked religion.  But a priest was summoned and heard the knight's confession.
   Sir David admitted that he had led a wastrel's life after his father died.  His greatest sin was killing his mistress Isadora and their young daughter fifty years before.  More recently he had been visited by Isadora's ghost.  After relating this, Sir David died.  Meanwhile the watchman reported his vision to his wife.  She told him of an unusual dream she had.  A lady and a new born child came into a room.  She drank from a cup and fell down dead.  Behind her stood a knight, whose face lit up with a fiendish smile of triumph.  Six day's later, when Lindsay's corpse was taken to the family vault at Finavon castle for burial, the cortege was identical with the vision seen by the watchman.

   Melgund was actually built around 1560 by David Bethune, a kinsman of Cardinal Beaton.  It was said that the castle was originally going to be sited on Angus Hill, north-west of the present building.  But the walls of this original construction were demolished each night by an unseen force.  When a watch was kept a strange voice was heard:

                                    Build it in a bog,
                                    whare 'twill neither shake nor shog.

   The castle was therefore moved to its present site.  The same theme of fairy warning is attached to Glamis Castle and also to Finavon Castle, where the first, aborted construction is really a hill-fort.

   Melgund Castle collapsed internally several centuries ago, probably due to neglect, but legend gives the building a more sinister end.  Local story (probably first reported by Robert Chambers in his Picture of Scotland (1827) ) says that Melgund - like the castles of Vayne and Edzell - was mysteriously abandoned one winter night.  The lights were left blazing,  all the fires were lit, and a full dinner was spread out on the dining table.  The last laird was named Murray and it was said he vanished because of his gambling debts.  He led his family into a cave beneath the building and they were never seen again.  One reckless Aberlemno man investigated this cave and said that it contained unbelievable wonders, but he never divulged what they were and the cave collapsed soon afterwards.  Happily the castle was later restored and is now being occupied again.


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