Sunday, 28 June 2015

More Bad Lairds - The Edzell Connection

Following the tale of the Bad Laird of Ballumbie (posted on 15th June), we move north to Edzell Castle, now a ruin, but still possibly the most beautiful castle in the county of Angus.  The Lindsay lairds who owned this house were generally more peaceable than their kinsmen, the Earls of Crawford who inhabited Finavon Castle. But there were exceptions.  One Edzell laird argued with his tenant, a man named Black who lived at Mill of Lethnot.  After an acrimonious meeting at the castle, where the men had rowed over the matter of rent, Black was attacked on his way home by an agent of Lindsay's named Cobb.  But Black got the better of him and managed to throw him off a cliff and the attacker was drowned in a pool.  The cliff was afterwards called Cobb's Heugh and the pool became known as the Black Pot.
   Major John Wood of Inverskandy was factor to the penultimate Laird of Edzell and had an evil reputation in the district.  Although he was tall and strong, he was also mean hearted and sour minded.  Many of the locals were so scared of him that they would only venture to use the ford adjacent to his house when they were definitely sure that the Major was either sleeping or away from home.  One poor girl who used the ford was unaware of the danger and came that way as she journeyed to tell her friends about her forthcoming wedding.  The major spotted her and pursued her across the bleak moorland,  She fled towards the river, but slipped into a deep pool and was drowned.
   On his deathbed, major Wood continued to rave such wild blasphemies that a ball of dough was stuffed into his mouth to stifle these obscenities.  Satan, in the form of a crow, came to personally collect his tarnished soul:

                                      An when the Major was a deein,
                                      the Deil cam like a corbie fleein,
                                      an o'er his deathbed he did lour,
                                      speerin spews, ye may be sure.

   On the way to internment in the kirkyard, the coffin bearers suddenly found that Wood's body became too heavy to carry.  The minister exclaimed in a loud voice:  'Lord, whoever was at the beginning of this, let him be at the end of it!'  The coffin resumed its normal weight and Wood was laid in a corner of the Lindsay vault at Edzell.
   A sexton once encountered what he thought was a ghost in this vault.  A Countess of Crawford had lately died and was laid to rest here with all her jewels.  The unscrupulous sexton broke into the vault at night to steal the valuables.  Attempting to prise a ring off her finger with a knife, he pierced her skin.  This wound woke up the comatose lady, who sat up, much to the thief's alarm.  The countess showered so much gratitude on the sexton that his conscience finally began to nag at him and he fled away from Edzell forever. Versions of this ironic vignette are told in other parts of the United Kingdom.

   Two ghosts used to haunt a tree in the ground of Edzell Castle.  They were the sons of a gypsy woman and shared her strange supernatural powers.  They became the favourites of Lord Edzell after slaying a pack of wolves in the glen of the Paphrie Burn.  They were rewarded with a cottage in the forest a mile east of the castle and were employed as purveyors of game and venison for the estate.  But the other tenants suspected them of poaching and finally caught them in the act.  Edzell had them hanged on the oak tree just west of the castle.
   Following the execution, the boys' mother cursed the Laird of Edzell and his pregnant wife.  He was told that he would die in a fearful manner, while his lady would be dead before sunset and buried in the same grave as her unborn child.  The trauma of the curse made her give birth prematurely, but the child was stillborn and she herself expired before nightfall.  A year and a half later, Lindsay wooed and won a lady in the west.  preparations for the marriage went on for a week at Edzell Castle, including hunting trips every day.  One day the hunting party followed a stag from Balnamoon to the Paphrie Burn, where it was brought to bay.  While the laird watched the carcass being dismembered, two wolves appeared and pounced on him.  By the time they finished tearing at his body, his remains were unrecognisable.
   The two brothers were afterwards seen on stormy nights beneath the Hanging Oak, until the time in the 16th century when lightning blasted the tree and it was cut down.

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