Scotland is full of stories, epic and terrible, funny and weird and very often not out of this world. The belief in supernatural powers is widespread still among the Scots today. It can be a scary country!
In centers like Edinburgh, ghost stories are marketed as tours and are very much en vogue. A very different experience though can be had away from the crowds, in rural Dumfries. Here on the river Nith in Sanquhar. The royald burgh sports the oldest active post office in the world and two ghosts in the ruined castle, one in the graveyard.
The castle is crumbling near the southern entrance to Sanquhar. Unfortunately, the ruin is in such a bad condition, it has been locked-off by the council. The fence would be worthy of a high security prison. Does it keep people out or unknown things in?
Kings and Queens once came and went. Sanquar Castle was home to the Crichton family and thus the Earls of Dumfries. They sold the castle in 1639 to Sir Willliam Douglas of Drumlanrig. When he got the title of Duke of Queensberry, he needed a more imposing house and built Drumlanrig Castle. The decay had begun.
Marion of Dalpeddar – the castle was her graveyard
Why the Crichtons sold the castle? One would assume that John Wilson and Marion of Dalpeddar played a role. Both are said to haunt the crumbling walls of the Crichton’s lost home.
Marion was a beauty with long, flaxen hair and a white lace dress. She first appeared in the castle in 1590, a picture book ghost, the white lady. Nobody knows exactly what had happened. Robert Crichton, Lord Sanquhar and sheriff of Nithsdale, seems to have been the cause of her death though. The beautiful blonde and the powerful Lord were a dangerous and apparently deadly combination.
During the renovation attempt of the castle by John Crichton-Stuart, Marquess of Bute, in the 19th century, a skeleton of a young woman was excavated outside the castle walls. It had a strand of long blond hair left on the cold skull. Was this the white lady buried secretly by her murderer? Her grave never had a stone nor was her body buried in sacred ground. The castle was her graveyard.
John Wilson – innocent victim or guilty killer?
John Wilson, on the other hand, had a very different fate, but amazingly at the same time as the White Lady, in 1590. His ruin was, that he was caught between two powerful men. A quarrel that cost John Wilson his life. The man was a friend of Lord Robert, the prime suspect in the death of the young woman and her “disposal” outside the castle walls, Douglas of Drumlanrig. The other was Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick, John Wilson worked for him. Wilson was accused, Sir Thomas defended him but Douglas of Drumlanrig would not have it and to proved his power and connections he let John Wilson hang. John Wilson is wandering the ruin at night moaning and crying and rattling his chains in the empty rooms of Sanquhar castle.
This seems to be the commonly accepted version of the story. But maybe John Wilson was not so innocent after all and maybe he was locked up and hanged because he had something to do with the disappearance of the blonde? Both incidents happened at the same time. Coincidence? There must be a connection somewhere!
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Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. These stories have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel. This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and everything about Scotland except whisky, sheep and tartan.
Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.