Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bad Lairds Part Three - The Dark Earl of Southesk

Some individuals are like magnets who attract strangeness, and such a person was James Carnegie, the second Earl of Southesk (c. 1582-1669).  He was nicknamed the Black Earl, principally on account of his swarthy complexion, but he also had a reputation of being black hearted, which may in part be inspired by the incident in London in the year 1660 when he killed the Master of Gray in a duel.
   The earl, along with certain other individuals, was said to have studied black magic in Padua, and the Devil was one of his tutors.  The lessons were free, but one day Satan declared that he would claim the soul of the last person to leave the room.  All the students naturally stampeded towards the door.  Carnegie was the last to reach the threshold, but saved himself by quick wittedly pointing towards his shadow and shouting, 'Deil tak the hinmost!'.  Satan was fooled into seizing the dark reflection.  Southesk had to avoid direct sunlight ever afterwards for fear that people would see he had no shadow.
   When the Earl of Southesk died at Kinnaird Castle, in March 1669, Satan arrived to collect his overdue soul in a fiery coach drawn by six jet black horses.  The vehicle thundered off and vanished down the Starney Bucket Well in the Deil's Den, south of the family burial ground in the Kinnaird estate.  This coach is still seen at certain times, usually driving through storms, emitting a stange blue light.
   Southesk's reputation spilled out of Angus into the neighbouring county of the Mearns, where he also owned land, and was the unpopular Laird of Pitarrow:

                                   The laird of Pitarro, his heart was sae narrow,
                                   He wadnae let the kaes [rooks] pike his corn-stack,
                                   But by there came knaves, and pikit up thraves,
                                   And what said the Laird of Pitarro to that!

   The knaves refer to Southesk's enemies secretly damaging his property.

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