Stirling Ghost Walk


Stirling Ghost Walk
OF the
Stirling Ghost Walk
David Kinnaird
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Over the years I’ve encountered all manner of myths and legends drawn from
the darker recesses of Stirling’s history and folklore. Some have been found in
books of local lore, or mentioned as footnotes of the biographies of the Royal
Burgh’s most famous sons and daughters. Others have been passed down through
the centuries through the oral tradition – the best way to keep such tales alive, in
my view, as each teller will add their own personal twists, turns and tricks keeping
their audience on the edge of their seats – stories every boy and girl in the town
knows to be true. Well, they must be true… after all, that’s what Grandpa said.
Of course all that really means is that the tales in question have been part of the
‘cultural currency’ of the community of the Castle Rock for a long long time.
The following stories are amongst my favourites – the texts taken from past
Stirling GhostWalk scripts. Some, like those of The Green Lady (by far Stirling’s
most famous phantom) and Auld Staney Breeks, are favourites, familiar to those of
you who have visited the town’s old haunts since the show started, way back in 1989.
Others – stories of Corpse-Lights and the wild and wayward Wolf of Badenoch - tell
of rarer ghosties and ghoulies, who have bumped in the Stirling night less often, but
are still much loved by aficionados of the odd.
If your favourites aren’t amongst those included here, I’m sorry – but you can
rest assured that we’ll dig them up again, sooner or later. Let us know which are
your favourites: it’s feedback from our audiences – and queries from those with an
interest in the strange and the sinister – which have kept us seeking out new tales
over the years.
So, until we meet in a darkened graveyard, some dank and stormy night… I
hope you enjoy the stories which follow. Pleasant dreams.
All content ©2009 David Kinnaird
This work is published under a creative commons license.
A Modern Mystery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The Curse of Alloa Tower. . . . . . . . . 33
Auld Staney Breeks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
The Green Lady. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Blind Alick and the Great Beast . . . 9
The Green Man. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Graverobbers! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
The Hand of St Fillan. . . . . . . . . . . 45
Lighting the Crow Road. . . . . . . . . . 17
The Hanged Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
This PDF may be freely distributed for viewing on any suitable electronic device,
but may not be printed, altered or physically duplicated.
Park and Ride . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
The Miser’s Horde . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
Something For The Road. . . . . . . . . 23
The Unquiet Grave. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Typset by Steven D. Reid of
The Beast and the Bell. . . . . . . . . . 25
The Wolf at the Door. . . . . . . . . . . 59
Visit for more information.
The Blue Lady. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Which Witch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
A Modern
Location: Cowane’s House, St Mary’s Wynd
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
true tale… and a warning to the curious. Not so long ago I was asked by
members of a Psychic Circle to lead them on a sightseeing tour of the
Old Town. It made a nice change for me - not escorting an audience in full historic
costume and ghostly make-up. Now, they weren’t so woolly-minded as to think I
had a psychic bone in my body – the Stirling GhostWalk is focussed firmly on local
folklore and history, after all - but wanted to pick my brains about the tales told of
the venues visited. Fair enough.
I’d lead them to a site they’d never seen. Once there, they’d seek out strange
sensations… try to commune with whatever spirits they believed might be in
evidence… then I’d relate, from history and mythstory, any tales I’d catalogued
concerning the location in question.
Now, whether they were right or wrong I cannot say for sure… but there were
coincidences a-plenty.
One talked of discord, turmoil, blood and fire in the kirkyard… where battles,
more than once, were waged by those that sought to seize the Castle. One talked
(incessantly) of witches and the Dark Arts. Another, in the ruins of Mar’s Wark
- supposedly cursed by the Abbot of Cambuskenneth (See ‘The Curse of Alloa
Tower’) - talked of ‘malevolent forces’… And I? Well, I was unconvinced. There was
nothing in their words that would persuade me that that what they thought they
saw, or heard or felt was real.
I had led the group early in the evening, to what appeared to be a paper-closet
in the Tolbooth – an Arts Centre which now operates within the original Town Jail.
Entering via the kitchens, I doubt the group were even aware of the building they
were in, let alone the nature of the room we had just entered. Most hummed and
hawed, singularly unimpressed. One chap’s reaction did interest me, though. He
talked of this being a place associated with death. There was a great deal of fear and
anger evident, he said – and much of the anger was aimed at a woman named ‘Mary’.
Very interesting. The room was the Condemned Cell, the last occupant of which
was the murderer Allan Mair (see ‘The Hanged Man’), who blamed his victim – his
poor wife, Mary – for his crime.
Mind you, Mary is a common enough name, and it would be an easy leap of
logic to think that a building featured on a ‘ghost tour’ would be associated with
ramshackle ruin… a house, dark and derelict, rarely subject to the public gaze… It
was a damp November night, bitterly cold, and rain encouraged the group to huddle
together beneath their umbrellas. It was just the sort of heady, stormcast eve (and
murky moonless mansion) when even the most sceptical of souls might get lost in
the shadows and dwell on thoughts of haunted houses.
Most, deterred by the dank interior, did not linger long, but one – the same gent
who had mentioned ‘Mary’ in the Condemned Cell - spoke of a stifling, smothering
sensation. His head was reeling, he said, and his breath came in laboured fits and
gasps. Confused and frightened, he left… and I was forced to confess that I knew of
no tale that might explain all he had felt. His imagination was playing tricks upon
him, I was sure.
Looking back, I may possibly – just possibly – have been mistaken.
Days later, as I perused my files, preparing to write the next year’s GhostWalk
script, I chanced to glance on a bundle of newspaper clippings concerning sites in
the Old Town given to me by a colleague, but which I hadn’t had time, as yet, to
One clipping, sitting on top of the pile, caught my eye. Dating from the mid
‘80s – long before I ever took an interest in Stirling’s spooks - it told of a poor, poor
soul, driven to distraction by depression – the ‘Black Dog’, as some have called it –
who had climbed this wall into the long-abandoned gardens to the rear of Cowane’s
House. He was intent, it seems, on taking his own life, but, lacking courage, had
brought whisky to while-away his final moments in that forgotten place. In drunken
despair he tied a cord to the branch of a tree, coiled the other end about his throat…
and jumped. When, quite some time later, he was found, it was discovered that he
had botched the job. His neck had not been snapped. Slowly and painfully he had
choked his life away.
I could only imagine the horror of his situation: his head reeling, unable to
draw breath, consumed by despair… just as my psychic friend had described.
Proof of a life beyond the one we mortals know? No… far from it, but perhaps
enough to give us pause for thought!
At the evening’s end we entered John Cowane’s House (see ‘Auld Staney
Breeks’), once the stately townhouse of the Burgh’s most famous son, but now a
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Auld Staney
Location: The Guildhall (John Cowane’s Hospital)
Passage taken from 2007 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
ook at the effigy which adorns the entrance to this fine white building. A
pretty fellow, don’t you think? Proud too, and with just cause.
Master John Cowane. Merchant. Dean of Guild. Parliamentarian. Friend to
Kings and Princes f many lands. The Cowanes were esteemed servants of the people.
And John, there, played a greater part than most in forming Stirling’s fortunes. The
Cowane Trust, his lasting legacy, still survives today in offices within the walls of
this Hospital – built as an almshouse, offering care and comfort to members of the
Merchants’ Guild who through fickle fate had fallen face-first into the steaming
cowpat of Destiny, and who - grateful for this generous relief - thanked the Lord
who moved the late John’s mind to do so good a work.
The effigy is known to locals as ‘Auld Staney Breeks’. Now local worthies will
have you believe that that is on account of the dirty weather-worn paintwork on his
great stone britches. Others might argue that it’s a warning to other like-minded
gentlemen that if they are not careful of what they do in this life, they may still be
washing their dirty laundry in the next.
A fine man, indeed. Yet, my friends, where virtue is to be found vice is never far
behind… lurking in the sinful shadows. It is said he financed his more speculative
schemes by engaging privateers to pluck and plunder treasure from foreign ships.
‘Hostile takeovers’ are nothing new, after all!
Twice he was forced to sit, shamed and scorned, upon the Penance Stool before
the Kirk door. His sin? Seduction of two servant girls. The girls, their bellies swollen
with child, were quickly banished from the town - on pain of death, no less - for
their pernicious part in the corruption of so fine, upstanding and honourable a man.
Politicians don’t change much over the years, do they?
Were his posthumous kindnesses prompted by fears that the Great Bookkeeper might hold him to account for his dark deeds in life? He was a businessman,
after all… and every good businessman knows it’s best to balance the books at the
end of the day.
Stones for this Hospital were stolen away from the ruined Cambuskenneth
Abbey, desecrated years before by the Protestant Earl of Mar and other Kirkmen
of the town, Cowane’s father included. Some dim-witted, simple minded, muttonheaded hoydens hold that bearing forth those bricks incurred the unearthly wrath
of the long-dead Abbot of that place, a mighty wizard of great renown. Construction
was halted, and it’s doors and windows shut up tight, twice, by outbreaks of the
The same dunderheaded dolts claim that each New Year, as the Tollbooth clock
rings out the first chimes of midnight, the statue is vested with the merchant’s
restless spirit. They say he leaps and lurches forth, dancing and dandling his
wayward way through the wynds and vennels of the Old Town - intent, no doubt,
on fondly fondling the female flesh he was so partial to in life.
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Blind Alick and
the Great Beast
Location: The Ladies’ Hill, Holy Rude Kirkyard
Taken from 2004 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
nce there dwell’d in Stirling, a braggart by the name of Tam Bone,
barkeep of the Stirling Arms. Amongst the regular visitors to this
sinful dive was an old preacher by the name of Alick Lyon, who came not to share
a demon-draught with the thieves and scoundrels, but to spread the word of God
to those with half an ear - or half a mind – to listen. Blind since birth, Lyon had
one constant companion – an old leather-bound bible. He had no need of the good
book – he was blind, after all, and had, in any case, memorised each chapter and
verse of Holy Writ.
Oh, his memory never failed to impress even the most drunken dullard. They
had no time for Scripture themselves, but found some sport in offering whispered
wagers with one another, to test the preacher’s wits. Tam Bone, though, had had his
fill. The time his patrons spent in taunting or testing the pious poltroon was time
that might be better spent quaffing his own heady brews. Night after night this
priestly prattling was costing Bone dear.
When next, one storm-lashed eve, Alick entered the arms, Tam Bone was
waiting for him. The rascal wrenched his bible from him and cast it out, through
the door, to land in the muck and mire of the gutter. Then, just in case his message
had not been clear, he hurled the old man after it. Bone’s customers? They did
nothing. They thought his actions cruel but… well… what was the preacher to
them? None sought to rise to his aid, as he struggled, choking, in the river of mud,
the rain beating down upon him. None – save Bone, himself – saw the lightning-flash
of cold fire reflected in the milky white cataracts of Alick’s angry gaze as he turned
his sightless eyes towards the laughing bully.
“Heed the Word,” the old man whispered, “lest you be judged!”
And with that, Alick vanished into the night. He did not return. He was not
Months later, Bone, after an evening spent enjoying his own ales, closed the
tavern, and cut across the churchyard - toward his home beyond the Gowan Hill.
As he drew near to this great rocky promontory, he spied two figures – shadows
in the moonlight – battling on the hilltop. Fond of a good fight, he laughed, and
clambered eagerly up the worn stone steps, keen for a closer view of the conflict.
As he climbed he thought he could hear something… what sounded like a prayer…
then nothing.
There was Alick Lyon, his beloved bible clutched, as ever, to his breast, his face
contorted in rage and agony, struggling to speak, his great white eyes bulging from
his head as some-one… some-thing… some hell-spawned beast… wrapped a calloused
claw about his throat and began to crush the breath from him. The preacher’s legs
buckled under him. Bone gasped… and the beast turned it’s hungry gaze upon him.
It dropped old Alick and, rocking on it’s haunches, it licked it’s lips and began to
move slowly but surely toward him.
His fearful eyes fixed upon those of the Great Beast, he backed, trembling,
away. Desperately, he tried to recall the words of the Lord’s Prayer, or of some
scrap of Scripture which might defend him against the creature… but words failed
him… .as did his footing. He fell, tumbling backward onto the hard steps. The beast
But, before it could pounce, Alick - battered but not broken - was upon it,
wrestling, writhing, grabbling, grappling… crying out all the while for the Lord to
send him the strength to defeat the demon… to send him the words to send it on
it’s way. The words? The Word! That was it! Sudden realisation flashed across his
tired face: his greatest weapon was in his grasp all the time! Lyon raised his bible
high above his head, and, for a moment, his sightless eyes seemed to burn deep
into Bone’s soul – then he plunging the book down, deep into the Beast’s heart. An
ungodly wail cut through the night, a blinding blaze of light and colour bleached the
hillside… and Bone found himself alone.
He told any who would listen of his encounter. They laughed, of course. They
thought him moonstruck… a feeble minded fool too fond of his own wares. Soon
even his most loyal patrons learned it was best to avoid the Stirling Arms – lest
they be subjected to yet another telling of the tall tale of Blind Alick and the Great
Beast. The man was simple, they whispered amongst themselves… .sure, wasn’t Alick
Lyon dead and buried these many months past?
It is folly to underestimate the outcast and the underdog. Tam Bone learned
that lesson, at last, but lost his mind… or so they say. Was that too high a price to
pay for enlightenment? Who can say? But remember this, my friends: every action
has consequences.
As he reached the summit, his heart stopped, and his hair stood on end.
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Location: Holy Rude Kirk-Yard
Taken from 2004 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
on a frosty Winter morn in Eighteen Hundred an’ Twenty Three one
Maister Livingston, a Beadle o’ the Holy Rude, felt fear within his
hert. He’d stepped out - that bitter, cauld-crisp morn - tae glory in the wonder o’
God’s Creation as he walked the kirk-yard path. An’ then – oh woe – he’d seen a
sight tae chill the blood within his veins. He wrapped his cloak about his tremblin’
frame, turned ‘pon his heels, an’ ran, church-ward, as quick as his frail auld feet
cou’d carry him.
An’ what had chilled his heart? Eh? Why, ‘twas there, no’ two days past – ‘pon
the very spot he’d halted - that the body o’ gudewife Mary Stevenson had been
interred. A pretty thing she was, too young and fair to be taken from this life, so
soon. Yet, taken she was – her poor heart broken by the passing, on some distant
shore, o’ her ain true love – a sailor in King George’s fleet. They were to wed, they
say. But now…? Now the new-turned-earth was sunken, stirred… the pit empty…
save for petals frae the wreath o’ rose-blossom that had adorned the bier, scattered
‘pon the ground.
Now Mary was a common woman o’ the parish wae nae family o’ note, nae
fortune tae thieve. Why should her grave be so defiled?
Sure, it seemed the terror that so long had plagued the busy kirkyards of our
Capital had come, at last, tae Stirling’s Royal Burgh… Graverobbers! Resurrection
Men! Rogues that sought silver as their right reward for plundering the flesh o’ the
new-dead… that the fine anatomists o’ the great universities might dissect an’ study
them. The better for us a’, they said – that their science might be thus advanced!
But at what cost? Eh? How cou’d a body subject tae their butchery rise anew at the
Last Trump’s call?
An armed guard was ca’d - a watchtower raised. Townsfolk scrambled in the
dirt tae satisfy themselves their own dear ones were not defiled. Days passed, then
weeks. Mort-safes – large flat stones too heavy to lift – were placed ‘pon new graves
to guard the skin an’ bone beneath.
Soon gossip reached the Beadle’s ears - tavern-tales o’ a local lad who sought
to sell a ring new come tae his possession. A particular-pretty thing it was - a silver
gimmal, much like that, the worthies whispered, that once adorned the finger o’
poor Mistress Stevenson. A gift from her poor lost lover. The Beadle thought the
story worthless tattle… ’til, that is, he heard the name o’ the lad that sought to make
the sale - James McNab, the church-servant… the Sexton… the very man that had
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
buried poor Mary… .a man whose presence in the kirk-yard, day or night, spade in
hand, none would ever think tae wonder at…
Brought afore the Bailies, beaten by the Guard, McNab confessed his crime, an’
named his partner in the deed, a schoolmaster named Mitchell.
Mitchell, a canny cove, smiled as he confessed their crime. Ten pounds the
pair were paid for snatching Mary’s bones… but by whom? Ah that he wadna say!
Where, says bold McNab, was the body? There was no proof against them, save
the ring the gossips swore was Mary’s own, but what worth was tattle-talk afore
the Law? An’ what had been confessed ‘neath the Town Guard’s blows cou’d quick
enough be denied in Court. Sure, soon - e’en if the corpse had passed into some
physic’s hands - it would be burned or buried – hid frae sight. Where was the proof?
And McNab, bolstered by his partner’s bold and couthy ways, said that if the pretty
bauble he had sought to sell were poor Mary Stevenson’s he’d freely give it back…
she’d but tae ask. Sure it was a rogue, indeed, that wadna help a lady… but they’d
have tae find her, first!
Sickened tae his heart, the Provost threw wide the Tollbooth door. The callous
coves wad be releas’d – marched through the night tae the Burgh Gate, the streets
lined in hateful silence wae them that willingly wad spill their blood upon the
causeway. Banished, on pain o’ death shou’d they ever dare return.
They laughed as they went – sure they’d cheated Death, and robbed the
hangman o’ his bounty. The silver gimmal-ring? Well that they returned to bold
McNab… there was no proof it wasna his, after a’! How he laughed… but not for
long, I’m glad to say.
O’ Mitchell nowt was ever seen again. The sinful Sexton, though – well, he
would show his face from time to time as year passed intae year. A sorry sight, he
soon became – weary and forlorn, a thing o’ threads an’ tatters. He’d turn up at the
Burgh Gate in dead o’ night – frightened, furtive, or so it seemed - begging that
the Town Guard let him pass, for there was someone he must see… something he
must return… or else he’d ne’er find rest. Foolishness. The Guard, of course, had
no time for his tricks – feigning madness so they’d pity him, an’ turn a blind eye
tae his former villainy. They spun him right about and sent him on his way,’though
– strange to tell - them that watched the rogue depart swore until their dying day
that, ‘though he walked alone into the darkness beyond the Gate, footsteps – faint
at first, but growing firmer with every fleeting footfall – were heard to follow in his
wake… the scent o’ blossom, too.
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
A trick of the night, I’m sure. An echo in the darkness - never just in time with
the Sexton’s step.
Mind you, he never stopped in one place quite long enough for it to catch him
Lighting the
Crow Road
Location: Causewayhead
Taken from 2002 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
nce upon a time there was a man name o’ McDonald, lived in Stirling.
An’ strange as it might seem, auld MacDonald had a farm. Anyway,
this was long ago - afore they drained the marsh ‘round the banks o’ the Forth… the
line o’ the land, in fact, that traces now the rail-tracks from the heart o’ the Royal
Burgh, tae the Allan Water and beyond
A wild night was comin’ - as grim an’ gray as ye might expect in sic a tale as this.
Storm clouds had gathered since the early afternoon - dark, black and pendulous
in the slate grey sky - an’ the air was heavy. Aye, a wild night was on it’s way, sure
enough. Pity the poor fool that was caught in it’s wake.
A chill wind began to rise. Suddenly, through the gloaming, the farmer saw
somethin’… a light… shinin’ frae the path on the other side o’ the river. A mile or
so away… perhaps a little more. Closer it came… o’er the old Stirling Bridge… ’til it
strayed frae the safety o’ the path into the bog o’ the riverbank.
“Faith!” The farmer gasped! What madness was this? Sure, this was the same
sod that swallow’d up the English cavalry when Wullie Wallace forc’d the first great
Brig tae fa’. His heart skipped a beat, as he thought he heard a cry cut through the
howling gale. But he didna budge… oh no… he’d no’ risk his neck for some daft
gowk dim enough to venture forth on such a wild night. ‘Twas near full dark, by
now… why should he risk his life for such an oaf ? The light lingered… blinking o’er
the bog… then fluttered on, t’ward his home.
His home?
Aye, t’ward his very door. An’ as it drew near he saw it was borne by no mortal
hand. It floated and flickered in the air afore him. Then it guttered an’ vanished
intae air.
Noo Auld MacDonald ken’t fine well what he had seen… ‘Corpse Lights’…
’Death Candles’ the hen-wives an carlin’ crones wou’d ca’ them… beacons on the
Crow Road from our world tae the next.
might well protect himself. He rose, an’ ca’d a farmhand tae his side - a foolish
quot, but fleet o’ foot - tae send word to his son an’ heir. A clerk that laddie was, in
service tae the Provost o’ the town, new moved tae Stirling frae the family home:
is braw an’ brainy boy; his faither’s pride an’ joy. Sure, his boy had sense beyond the
superstitious folly o’ a farmer’s heart… he’d ken how tae cheat the Reaper!
He slept, then.
Day came, then - an’, soon, the gloom o’ afternoon. Darkness followed, an’ wae
the dark the same chill wind returned. The farmer fretted a’ the day, for the rain
had fall’n like Noah’s Flood - the Forth near fit tawe burst her banks - an’ he’d seen
neither hide nor hair o’ the farmhand or his bonny boy. ‘Twasna safe tae travel, no’
e’en in light o’ day!
Fearful, the auld man peered oot intae the black o’ night. An’ there it was,
again… the ghostly light.
Again it moved t’ward him ower the bridge, off the path… onto the marsh an’
t’ward MacDonald’s farm.
Again, a cry cut through the howlin’ gale. But he widnae hear it… widnae
budge. He’d been warned, after a’. As if tae prove he’d cheated Death the twinkling
flickered ‘fore his distant gaze… and vanished in the dark, an’ wind, an’ rain. He
smiled, then, shut the door, an’ slept through the stormy night.
His neighbour woke him ‘fore the dawn’s first light. Bleary eyed the farmer
cursed the cur for cuttin’ short his rest. Rest? The neighbour wept How cou’d he
sleep wae the storm ragin’ ‘round his walls? Was he deaf? Aye, deaf he must hae
been… no’ tae hear the woeful cries frae the marsh as his son’s carriage strayed
intae the bog. Blin’ enough, too, no tae see the coach lights afore they sank intae
the mud…
Death was comin’ for him. That much was certain. ‘Twas no random thing for
those lights tae grace your threshold. But why had they turned back? And when
wou’d they come again?
He didna sleep that night. When he closed his eyes he saw a vision o’ the
darkling-light - moving t’ward him through the gloom. He tel’t himself it was a
warnin’ that he shouldnae venture out onto the marshlands – for ‘twas there that
death and danger waited for him. But still… there might be other ways a man
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Park and Ride
Location: The Darnley Coffee House, Broad Street
Taken from 2001 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
ome would have you believe that it’s just grand old mansions, castles and the
like that are afflicted with sprites and bogles. Stirling Castle, after all – the
fabled, favoured seat of the Stuart Kings, has such a catalogue of creeping sprites
that you’d need am ectoplasmic ‘Who’s Who’ to keep track of all the stately spooks
who linger there
Mind you, it’s not just the grand buildings here that harbour hauntings with
royal connections.
Down by the very foot of Broad Street you’ll find the Darnley Coffee House,
which some folks say is plagued by a playful poltergeist.
Now, if you hark tae the worthies that write the guide-books you’d think it was
just a humble hostel where - once in a while - Lord Henry Darnley, second husband
tae Queen Mary, used to rest his head when she’d taken a strop an kicked him out
of the Castle for the night. Not quite true. You did rent rooms, but it was, shall we
say, a special kind of hostel… the sort where you rented your room by the hour, and it
wasn’t just ghosties and ghoulies that went bump in the night.
Something For
The Road
Taken from 2003 GhostWalk
It was there, mere months before he’d be blown up by an assassin’s bomb at
Kirk o’ Field, that Darnley dallied the evening after the baptism o’ his son, Prince
James – who would grow to greatness as James the Sixth o’ Scotland an’ First o’
England. On that same eve dear Mary was having herself a fine time wae James
Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, up the street in Bruce of Auchinbowie’s house. The
same Bothwell, that is, that folk think planned the pyrotechnic passin’ o’ Hooray
Henry. Mary had visited he Earl to give him a gift of a blue silken suit, as a gift for
attending the baptism of her heir and – by all accounts – stayed to do the fitting
Charlie an’ Camilla don’t seem so bad, now, do they?
Could it be that the spook that causes lights tae switch themselves on in dead
o’ night, an’ pots tae hurl themselves around the kitchens of the Coffee House was
a ‘professional acquaintance’ of poor dead Darnley? Perhaps. The café area once
served as stables to the brothel, where gents could tie their horses before climbing
the stairs to the warm welcome waiting in the rooms above.
An early form o’ ‘Park an’ Ride’, in fact!
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
ur Celtic cousins, the Irish, are famed for their fondness of toasting’
the health of the corpse and holding’ a Wake the night before burial.
Of course the Scots don’t engage in that kind of drunken debauchery - we get
‘blootered’ on the way to the kirk itself ’. Or we used to. In times past, if the
pallbearers passed a pub on their way to the funeral it was bad manners not to pop
in for a dram or two. One for you, an’ one for the corpse – though he dear departed
wouldn’t mind if ye had a wee sip of his. If it was a long walk to the kirk, past two
or three taverns, you might need to organise a relay, or defend the deceased from
other tipsy townsfolk eager to snatch the stiff an’ take him on a posthumous pubcrawl of their own
The Beast and
the Bell
Mind, it wasn’t just drink that was used to toast the dead. All manner of tasty
treats might be laid out for the funeral feast.
Location: Dunblane Cathedral
Taken from the 2006 GhostWalk
As he lay upon his cot, ready to breathe his last, it’s said that one old chap caught
the scent of fresh-baked shortbread wafting warm and sweet from the kitchen. He
summoned up what last wee bit of strength he still possessed – dragging himself
frae his deathbed toward the enticing odour. As he reached out a wrinkled, withered
hand to steal a wee bit o’ Shorty a vice-like grip seized him from behind and dragged
him back toward his deathbed. It wasn’t the Grim Reaper, mind you… it was his
wife. “Get yer hauns aff that, ye auld bugger!” She says. “It’s for the Wake!”
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
n auld Scots a kirkyard is, oftimes, called a ‘Howff ’. A meeting’ place. Death –
the Pale Rider – they says, is ‘The Great Emancipator’… ’the poor man’s only
friend’, as Rabbie Burns would have it. After all, be we Baillie, beggar or thief we’ll
all return to the dust and the dirt when our time comes. We’re all equal in death,
aren’t we?
horned beast, and heard the clatter of cloven hooves upon the great stone floor.
He summoned up his strength – his fiery faith in his Creator – and threw wide the
heavy doors, ready to confront the hellish horned foe his thundering heart told him
must lie beyond: Beelzenub, the Prince of Flies; the Fallen Samael; Azazel; Satan
himself, in the form of a Great Beast.
Well… not quite. I mean, they’re not going’ tae bury worthless scruff like
ourselves just anywhere. A kirk-yard is prime Real Estate after all! In ages past they’d
bury villains to the North of God’s Acre. The worthies – those with a little silver to
spare – would get planted in the South. Here in the East – nearest the kirk – you’d
have clerical types, ministers, elders and the like. And in the West, the wastrels.
Well, truth be told, it wasn’t quite the Beast he’d bargained for. It seems some
trickster had crept into the kirk and tied the bell-rope to the horns of a grumpy
great Blackface Ram.
Mind you, perhaps it was the poor beggars that had the last laugh… The cost of
planting’ the poor was covered by the kirk charging’ a fee of Two Shillings for hire
of the Parish Mort-Cloth – a black velvet drape used to cover the casket of richer
folk as it lay in the church before burial… or for ringing’ the Mort-Bell to announce
the passing of their dearly beloved brethren tae the town.
Still, it wouldn’t be the first time a grumpy old goat had caused trouble in a
Scottish church!
No one – save for the kirk elders, that is – was allowed tae touch this Death
Bell, and for it to be heard to chime by any other hand was seen as an ill omen… as
the 17th-century citizens of Dunblane could testify.
Picture the scene. It’s the dead of night. The bairns lie sleeping in their cots,
their parents huddled in their pillows sleeping the sleep of the just – or trying to,
anyway. Many feel the need to keep one wary eye open, as if in fear of some terror
in the night. For there’s been talk of witches and bogles in the town, and sleepless
nights have been the norm for many in the weeks just past.
Then – sudden, sharp and clear – a sound cuts like a knife through the still
night air. The Cathedral Bell – the Mort bell, that proclaims the passing of the
worthies of the town and sounded out their coffins’ march from kirk to grave. But
why should it chime now, in dead of night? Surely the Elders of the kirk were all
a-bed - the kirk itself locked up tight!
The anxious Beadle heard the baleful clatter, leapt from his bed and raced to
meet the Town Guard, then raced to the Cathedral door. There they found that half
the town were gathered, huddled tight by the old oak door, shivering as they heard
the harsh clamour of the old iron bell, within.
The Beadle put his eye to the keyhole – then fell back in horror! There, in
the pale moonlight by the altar he saw, but for a fleeting second, a horrible, hairy,
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
The Blue Lady
Location: Stirling Castle
Taken from 2001 GhostWalk (The Blue Lady’s Monologue)
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
child I was, when first I came to this great Seat of Kings. A foolish
puppet, made to dance… and always to another’s tune. A pretty thing.
Pleasing to a Princely eye – or so my father hoped, eager I should make a match
within the Court, and thus advance the Drummond name. He bid me flaunt my
youth and charms - to be an ornament… to decorate the arm of any noble fool who
deigned to dart his eye at me.
King James – fourth of that House - he smiled on me: a smile that promised
passion. Foolish child, I took those looks for love. My heart leapt as he took me
in his arms, and I… I gave him my most precious gift… a secret which my mother
bound me never to reveal, save to him to whom I’d yield my heart. I told him of
my Second Sight – my skill to scry that which had not yet come to pass. He laughed at first.
He thought I spoke in jest. But as I named those nobles I divined would rise in
favour in his eye, or fall from courtly grace, and found I fashioned the very mirror
of his will, he smiled on me, and I was sure my craft could serve my King. My love.
My heart’s desire.
glorious flower of his glitt’ring court would find their place amongst the honoured
heroes of the age. I told no lie. Heroes all… the honour and the glory of their blood
stain red the pages of our history, still.
Aye, for Flodden’s bloody mire is Jamie Stewart known above all else.
My name is lost… was lost while I still breath’d - and hate for Him has been my
very breath in life… and death. A harbinger of doom to one and all am I. Bad tidings
bring I in my wake.
Beware then, friends… and those that claim false fealty with a wicked heart.
For, sure as dawn turns to day, I see that truth will find you out, in time.”
With each appointment, each decree, he’d seek the secret counsel of my
hidden eye, and at my word one Earl might rise on Fortune’s Wheel… another find
disfavour in it’s stead.
A dream came to me then – a Thistle and a Rose, entwined, pressed to my breast, a
bloody bead upon the thorn. An ill omen. That was sure enough. My love should strike, I
said, ‘gainst Harry Tudor’s Crown, lest Scotia come to harm! But James… he turned
from me. He sought advantage by another means, he said - a marriage with proud
Margaret, daughter to that English King, and I … and I was cast aside. But still, he
said, I would be his, and his alone. My frail form, now, was nought to him… but still
my Sight would serve His Royal Will.
I saw his former smiles for what they were - the honeyed lies of Princes. With
all my Sight, how could I be so blind… be so deceived by one I thought so true?
I cursed him… cursed Him, then, for sake of foolish love - for blind ambition’s
flame burned black within His breast… . renounced his heart, his love, his kirk, his
state and all the world of men. My Lord decreed so great a gift as mine could serve
no other House than his. It was not safe to leave me free to seek revenge… to use
my power for aught but him. Yet I lived on, in sufferance of his whim… so long as I
might prophesy the fortunes of his Realm.
And I spoke truly to my lord… my love. At Flodden Field, I swore he’d find
his just reward, his place in History – aye, there’s truth enough in that. There the
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
The Curse of
Alloa Tower
Location: Mar’s Wark
Taken from the 2007 GhostWalk (The Countess Mar’s Monologue)
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
ook yonder. See ye there the stately walls of our fair Castle –
favoured seat of our great Stewart kings?. Be not deceived, though,
by shows of pomp and majesty… for a kindly face may mask a cruel heart. Aye, it
seems that some new remnant of that fortress’s fierce past is found… some bloody
token of long forgotten crimes.
Wild-eyed, my husband came to me in dead of night. Mary’s bairn had not the
strength to see the dawn, he said. His talk was all of duty – not duty to the Queen, or to
the Realm he swore to serve – but to his own great name. Our child was like to hers, he
mus’d? Could not it take the Prince’s place? No-one, save we, should know… yet, by
this act, might not his line, his blood be then advanced?
Why two years past was found - ’neath one tiny weather-worn chamber, nearby
the King’s Old Building - some fifteen human skeletons, their dry bones grained
with age and long neglect. A mystery, indeed – for no mention can be found of such
a grave in castle chronicles. Were these poor souls giv’n comfort of the Christian
rite, in some forgotten chapel? Were they brave Scots starved in Edward’s siege…
their bellies swoll’n… brought, thus, to a cruel, slow and painful end? Or is there,
p’rhaps, yet some more sinister cause that binds their spirits there… like that proud
Douglas Earl that came to sup with James, the Second of that Name, and had his
throat then split from ear to ear by his right royal host, and who’s unruly wraith is
said to haunt the grassy plot where his bones were buried? The Douglas Garden
they call it, now, in his honour. Oh such an honour, for a Douglas by his Sovereign
bled – who paid the bloody price of Princely pride.
He snatched our baby from my breast. Was this not part of proud Patrick’s
curse? I was a fool, he said, to heed such childish taunts.
Beware of sinful pride… of base ambition borne of noble blood. My husband
was possessed of such of such great pride. John Erskine, Earl of Mar. What matter
that he had defiled the Abbeys walls to build for us a home? ‘Twas the good men
of Stirling that had sacked the Abbey, smashed the papist icons and o’erturned the
altars. Twas them – old John Cowane, Robert Jaffray and the like – that had incurred
the Abbot’s wrath.
He laughed, my proud and worthy Sire, when Abbot Patrick placed his curse upon him:
“Proud Chief of Mar! Thou shalt be raised still higher ‘til ye sitteth in the very place of the
King. Thy Wark shall never be finished. Thy lands shall fall unto the stranger. Thy titles shall
lie amongst the dead. The branch that springs from thee shall grow long, but yield a bitter
fruit… … and many shall be born who shall never see the light!”
He summoned Mary’s midwife… her silence bought with silver. I yearned
to snatch my love from Mary’s arms - to tell the Court ‘twas her heir now that
moulder’d in the grave, not mine. My husband’s cruel gaze was ever upon me… my
silence thus assur’d. Hourly my hatred grew… for Mary, blind to our deceit… for my
own coward’s heart… for my proud husband’s noble name.
When Mary fell – driven from her throne into an English gaol – my heart
rejoiced! In time my husband took the Regent’s reigns, and so could guide the
King’s young hand. I hoped my boy might then be given to my care, once more…
deceptions all forgot. But, no. Was not England’s Queen a Maid?, my husband mus’d…
she had no heir… might seek a Union of the Crowns! His Changeling might be king of England,
And yet, for all his boastful pride… my husband’s fortunes failed. His health
declined… his flesh worn out, they said, by selfless service to the Crown. His Wark his townhouse – incomplete… our heirs, a ragged band of little worth… blindness a
blight to our bloodline! And James, our King… my bonnie boy… depriv’d a mother’s
love, became his father’s son… as proud and vain as any Erskine lord.
‘Twas the Abbot’s curse… .I told them… .told them all. But they would not
listen. They did think me mad… distraught with widowhood… distracted by the
ruin of my house… but still I tell my tale…!”
Why should Mar’s Earl not make good use, then, of those lonely stones… of any
lands and titles left behind? He bid me pay no heed to talk of Abbot Patrick’s curse:
if he were hex’d, then so was half the Burgh. What should he fear? He was high in
favour at Queen Mary’s Court - his line was now secured… his Countess delivered
of a healthy heir. My bonnie boy.
Queen Mary, too, delivered, then, a child - James, a pale and sickly bairn. But
I… I could spare no sighs for any but my own sweet boy!
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
The Green Lady
Location: Holy Rude Kirk-Yard
Taken from the 2005 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
ell from beneath is moved to meet the at thy coming; it stirreth up
the dead for thee, e’en all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised
up from their tombs all the kings of the nations… Thy pomp is brought down to the
grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee… and the worms
shall cover thee!’ (Isaiah XIV)
Why do spirits walk abroad, my friends? Why should those whose days are
past – whose bones bide amongst the dust and the dark things that moulder in the
musty earth - torment themselves in nightly visitation of those that live and breathe
and walk in light of day?
Some say we spirits are but memories. Shadows of things past. We have no
substance – no will or worth to call our own: reflections of a mood or moment
trapped in time like a fly in amber. Others would have it that we lack the wit to
know our days are done, that we endure in breathless imitation of our former daily
drudge, or that we are unable – unwilling, perhaps – to take our rightful places in
the Cities of the Dead.
And what is it that binds us here? Unfinished business? Longing? An unrequited
yearning for revenge… or romance?
The sad soul of the Pink Lady, the scent of rose-blossom preceding her, searches
these very grounds each night for the long forgotten grave of her poor dead child.
The Black Lady, a ghostly nun – or so they say - treads the Back Walk when the
moon is full - ever hopeful of an illicit starlit reunion with her secret priestly lover.
The White Lady lurks in the shadows, a fury awaiting revenge for some longforgotten wrong.
But perhaps the most feared and fabled of them all is the Green Lady. Some say
she was a poor lass, driven to despair – separated from her love, trapped, starving
within the Castle walls during King Edward’s siege of that great fortress. Others
that she was a serving girl in the employ of our most romantic and tragic monarch,
Mary, Queen of Scots.
A Highland lass, gifted with the power of Second Sight, the girl had a
premonition that if Mary slept but one night within the ancient fortress she would
not live to see the dawn. Fearfully she told her Queen of her concerns and, fond of
the girl, her monarch listened kindly. She could not reject the hospitality of those
good Stirling folk who had fought so hard to protect her against the advances of
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Henry VIII’s army, in her youth, but would allow the girl to watch over her as she
slept – and call for aid should any threat present itself.
This the girl did. Through the long night she sat, bundled in a great soft chair,
guarding her beloved Queen. Weary from their long journey, Mary fell into a deep
slumber as soon as her head fell upon her pillow. The girl, too, was weary. She
fussed and fretted, fearful that she would doze and leave her mistress open to some
outrage. She barred the door, and, lighting a taper, set it by the bedside – that if her
Queen should wake she would not fear the darkness.
There she sat for what seemed an eternity, near-hypnotised by the flickering
taper-light. But, try as she might, she could not resist the weariness in her bones.
Her limbs grew heavy, her eyelids heavier still. She felt a fool: what harm could
come to Mary, here? What was there to fear? Sure it would do no harm to close her
eyes… just for a moment.
And so she did. When – what seemed like no more than a few moments hence
– she opened them again, she blinked against the sudden brightness of the chamber.
Had dawn come so soon? Had her Queen wakened? What was that curious canker
which assaulted her lungs…? Bleary eyed, she tried to call out to her mistress, but
found her throat dry… and, in that wakeful moment, realised the truth of her plight.
The tiny taper, set so carefully by the Queen’s cot had fallen… the bedclothes were
alight, the tapestries too. Coughing, she darted from her chair. She tried to call for
aid once more; to rouse her mistress from her slumbers; to alert all of their peril.
She shook Mary, but found she would not wake – the smoke lulling her mistress
ever deeper into the bosom of Morpheus. Near blind, struggling for breath, she
bundled the Queen in her frail arms and carried her toward the door, feeling the
first flickering fronds of flame begin to lick at the folds of her emerald gown and
the soft, pale flesh beneath. She heard the splintering of wood as the barred door
buckled under force, and anxious arms strained to carry them both to safety…
Mary? Well, history tells us that she endured for two-and-twenty years more
– before her life was cut short by an English axe-man. Of the girl little is known,
though it is feared that she quickly perished from the wounds she received that
fateful night. Even her name has been forgotten: she is known only by the colour
of the gown she wore – the Green Lady. And, though she acted kindly – bravely,
too – in saving her monarch’s life, she is feared as a harbinger of doom, death and
despair… forever paying penance for the folly which led her to be the instrument of
her own passing from this world.
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Visitors to Stirling should be mindful that our female phantoms have but one
thing in common – save for their colour-coordination. It is said that whosoever
looks but once into their eyes will nevermore see the Dawn. So, should you spy a
ruffled robe or well turned spectral heel as you pass between the headstones, turn
away, avert your gaze – for your soul itself may hang in the balance.
The Green Man
Location: The Holy Rude Kirk-Yard
Taken from 2008 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
od’s Acre. The foolish Faithful would have you call this Garden of the
Dead a place of peace – of final rest and refuge. Those planted here
are but ‘sleeping’, they say, awaiting the promised End of Days, the final Hour of
Judgement when each may rise anew and meet their Maker. ‘Not Dead, but Resting’.
And in days not so long gone doctors were often tardy in telling one from t’other.
Imagine that, my friends, to fall into some deep doze, some cataleptic slumber…
only to wake to the darkness of the grave… gasping your last amid the cloying
musky earth, lungs straining for each new breath… crying in vain for those above
the grassy sod to hear…
would eat, drink, and be merry for twelve long days, until the days grew longer and
the grass greener. ‘Yule-tide’ our Nordic cousins called that festival of mirth. Could
it be the simple folk that cut His mark upon these cold, cold stones saw a hint of
another promise of Life frae Death - another promise o’ Resurrection - favoured by
their own favoured Faith?
Oh yes, the old ways - and the old Gods - linger on in the most unexpected of
Mind you, it would be wondrous indeed if the decomposing denizens could
enjoy their final rest in the clamour of this Kirk-yard. Look upon the tower of God’s
House and yonder ruin, Mar’s Wark - their brickwork battered and pockmarked
by the musket-shot and cannon-fire of many a bloody battle fought within these
grounds. Troops loyal to Mary Stuart hid here from the Castle guns, trembling
behind the tombs as they sought to steal away her heir, the young King James… as
did Wade, the Covenanters, and Bonnie Charlie, the Young Pretender, too. A place
of rest? No - for as many, here, by blood and bile, have joined the silent dead aboveground as rest below.
Marked upon these stones you’ll see the signs of those that walked our city
streets, as you do now. A last testament, if you will, to each life lived and lost. You’ll
see the Hourglass, a Skull or Crossed-Bones - reminders that we a’ must die, in
time. Some might show a Tailor’s shears, a Hammerman’s anvil, a Guildry mark, or
some other token of trade - reminding us of how those that lie beneath once served
our town, in life. Many carry no date of birth or death… no name to tell us that
breathe who lies beneath. Sure, in the end, we’ll a’ be forgot - an’ the resting place
o’ e’en the noblest soul need only be known tae One… an’ He (or She) knows where
we’re planted, anyway.
Yet, even here, amid the fancy marks of Angels, and icons borne o’ Holy Writ,
you’ll find the strangest sights.
The Green Man, for example - The Wudwusa, the Angel o’ the Woods - vines
creeping’ from his fat wee face. Old when Odin an’ the Northern Gods were nought
but a flicker in the fireside tales o’ those ancient realms. A curious thing, indeed - to
chance upon a pagan sprite in a good Christian kirk-yard? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
He’d sacrifice himself ’, they say, upon the Winter’s darkest day, that his blood
might bind, then, with the barren earth. To celebrate his sacrifice, the common folk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
The Hand of St
Location: Bannockburn
From the 2008 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
he faithful born in ages past were gulled and goaded by their Priests
– persuaded that they might be spared some portion of their time in
Purgatory by purchase of some Holy Charm: a bone, a braid of hair or scrap of skin
from some ancient seer or Holy Man. Thieves and charlatans, these clerics, spinning
sinful superstitious webs to trap the foolish and part them from their gold.
And yet, the locals here do tell a tale of such a relic one they claim has the
touch of Truth.
St Fillan was an Irish priest, a sage and worthy man who dedicated all his days to
copying of Holy Writ. So fierce did Faith burn within his heart, the clerics claimed,
that those who held his last remains – his age-browned finger-bones – would find
their own hand guided by Divine Will. In Thirteen Hundred and Fourteen that
revenant did rest in Cambuskenneth’s Prior, where word came to the Abbot that
proud Robert Bruce had need of aid, for with the coming dawn his tattered troop
would face the might of Edward, England’s King – him that cried himself the
‘Hammer of the Scots’.
“Fool!” He raged. “Might Scotland’s cause be lost because of this?”
The Friar fell, then, to his knees… begged for mercy… braced himself for the
swift and fatal blow he knew must come… but never did. In the sudden stillness
of the night, he opened wide his eyes There stood the King - still, silent, a look of
puzzlement upon his brow as he gazed in awe-struck wonder at the casket in his
grasp – perplexed as to how it was the box he held should seem to grow so heavy I
an instant. He opened wide the lid, and there – where nothing was before – were
Fillan’s bones.
By what mystic means was the relic brought so sure and swift to Bannockburn?
In Faith or Magic should we credit Fate? No matter. ‘Twill suffice to note that Bruce
did, that day, prove to all that his proud hear was true and sent King Edward – as the
song and story goes – homeward, to think again!
Now, Bruce was burdened by a guilty heart. ‘Twas not so long since he had
served proud Edward’s sire, old Longshanks, and set his sword ‘gainst them that
now he led. He’d slain his cousin, good John Comyn – aye, and others, too, that
did oppose him on his path to princely power – and for that sin, and many more
besides, he and the nation which he now led were Excommunicated by the Kirk of
Rome… left, alone and friendless, to their fate.
“Bring me Fillan’s hand!” the King had cried “That mine might be guided by
God’s own!” But… was bold Robert worthy of this boon? He’s once sworn fealty to
the English, after all, and called King Edward ‘brother’, ‘’friend’, and more. Might
he, again? And, if he did – his sword now guided by the force of Fillan’s faith – might
Scotland’s cause and Scotland’s liberty be lost?
The fearful Abbot bid the bones be hid away, then, locking tight their empty
cask, he sent it, empty to King Robert’s camp. His Friar told the King ‘twas folly
‘mid the chaos of the camp, to risk the safety of so powerful a prize: ‘twas best the
bones should bide within their casket ‘til th day was done.
But, no. Bruce declared he’d look upon the bones right there and then; swore
he’d touch them, too – that, hand in hand with God’s own power he might lead the
Scots to victory. He snatched the casket from the Friar’s grasp, snapped the lock
and found it… empty.
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
The Hanged Man
Location: The Tolbooth, Broad Street
Taken from the 2005 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
f horror’s what you want, my friends, then you need look no further than
this grim grey edifice – the Tolbooth Gaol - a place of true terror for those
unfortunates once bound within its walls. Men, women, children as young as six
summers old – all could be bundled together, twenty to a cell, unfed, unwashed,
untended by their Jailors – left to wallow in their own muck and misery through
each dismal dusk and dawn.
Master Mair – promised the corpse for surgical dissection and study, if he did the
job aright. Too weak to walk, the villain was tied to the chair on which he had sat to
enjoy his final breakfast, and carried over the jeering, smiling faces of the countryfolk – come to the Market to see the fine entertainment of an old man’s life being
snatched away. Forced to stand, the rope was placed about his neck, and the crowd
cheered as he dropped…
An open sewer flowed, free and fetid past the dungeon windows – spilling it’s
muck and mire upon the poor penitents below. Aye, ‘twas said that more, there,
died of the dirt than by the hangman’s hemp.
His tongue swelled. His eyes bulged as though they were like to burst from
their sockets. His flesh took on a curious purple hue. A pretty sight, indeed. But,
sad to tell, he did not die. Schooled in the fine art of preserving life the hangman
had miscalculated the length of rope necessary to snap the old man’s neck… and
he was left to dangle, and slowly strangle, as the noose slowly tightened about his
gullet. He twitched. He twisted. He somehow freed his frail arms and tried to
loosen the hemp from his withered throat.
Now, look up towards the highest window of that fearful place. A papercupboard it is now, but once – once upon a time it served a darker purpose: the
Condemned Cell, where those sentenced to hang by the Burgh Baillies would spend
their last seven days and nights on God’s green earth before being taken to meet
their Maker, courtesy of the public gallows, by the Mercat Cross.
Now, the last man to enjoy the questionable comforts of that chamber was a
farmer by trade, an old rogue named Allan Mair. Eighty-six years of age he was, in
1842 when he was cast into that wretched place - the same year it was damned as the
worst Jail in the land. But, before you hink to ‘Oooh!’ and ‘Aaaah!’ at the thought of
some poor old soul suffering’ so, think again. He was as black-hearted a rogue as you
might ever fear to meet. He’d beaten and bullied his old wife, Mary, every day and
night that they were wed. He starved her, too, locked her in a trunk and left her there
for days on end. And, if any thought to aid her in her misery, he’d snarl, and bid them
mind their business and leave him be to attend to his.
Then, one night, he returned home to find old Mary freed from her trunk. Oh,
it wasn’t her fault, she said… she swore a neighbour had heard her weeping and ended
her captivity, she hadn’t meant to defy her husband’s will… but Alan knew better…
He felt that his wife should be left a lasting message as to the error of her wilful
ways, and, with his walking stick, he dashed her brains out on the floor.
Now, there hadn’t been a hanging in Stirling for many years, and the Bailies
hoped that prison would prove too much for the old soul, and he would have the
good manners not to outlive his welcome. But, no… he clung to life, like a miser to
his last penny.
Months passed. Then, one dull October morn in 1843, embarrassed by the long
delay, the magistrates set a date for the old rogue’s death. No hangman could be
found to do the deadly deed, but a Medical Student was employed to despatch
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
At this the crowd quaked, thinking him possessed - fearing that Auld Hornie
himsel’ might free his servant an’ let him wreak revenge on them that scorned him
in his final hour. How else, after all, could one so old and frail survive such an
ordeal? The hopeless hangman leaped from the gib, grasped the murderer’s ankles…
and swung upon them until Mair’s neck was heard to snap.
Now, having botched the job, the medic was deprived of his prize, but this
posed a problem for the Court. Mair’s kin polaced no claim upon the corpse, and
no Godless villain was welcome in the kirkyard… so it was decided that his bones
should be buried beneath the new step then being laid by the Tollbooth door.
And then… it started: doors locked tight in dead of night, were found, wideopen, by the dawn’s first light; lanterns, dimmed, found blazing bright… and a dread
chill was often noted by those that ventured to the upper chambers… where Mair
lived out his last malicious months upon this Earth.
Then, as sudden as death itself - as the old Jail’s conversion to an Arts’ Centre
- required the murderer’s bones be moved, and the Kirk, mellowed by the passing
of the years, allowed his burial, at last, within consecrated grounds – these odd
occurrences ceased.
Coincidence? Perhaps
His bones lie, now – unmarked, untended – in a secluded spot within the old
kirk-yard, forgotten by all save the unquiet dead! Does his evil endure, I wonder?
Does he mind our passing? Does his vengeful wraith seek to ensnare unsuspecting
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
travellers upon our dark path… to snatch from them the precious breath of life they
hold most dear…?
Probably not… but I’d tread softly as you go by… just in case!
The Miser’s
Taken from the 2002 GhostWalk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
n the early years of the last century a man named Miller took the tenancy of a
failing farm nearby the Bannock Burn. ‘Twas a ruin: little more than a huddle
of old barns and weeds. ‘Twas said, though, that it’s former master, a miser, had
concealed about the place some secret treasure… a treasure undiscovered by greedy
kin and fair-weather friends on his passing from the world. Miller tore the boards
from the floor, and ripped the plaster from the walls, he turned the earth, too, but
could find no trace of the miser’s horde.
Then, one winters’ eve, a feeble, grey haired ghost – the spirit of the old man –
appeared before him. Silent, it reached out a long and bony finger and pointed to a
far corner of the fallow field. Then the spirit vanished.
Excited, Miller worked through the night, digging up what remained of the
field… sure that this was where the treasure lay. Nothing.
The Unquiet
Location: Holy Rude Kirk-Yard
Taken from the 2005 GhostWalk
Then, that evening, as the sun set over the earthy plot, the spirit of the miser
appeared once more. This time, though, he beckoned for the farmer to draw close.
“Dae ye have yer spade, Maister Miller?” he rasped.
“Aye!” trembled the farmer
“An’ wad he hae that thing I left behin’ me?
“That thing guid Scotsmen prize ower a’ else?”
“Aye! Aye, I would!”
“Well… I planted some tatties ower there. Dig ‘em up an’ ye can huv chips fur
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
ehold I shall show you a mystery! We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed.
In a moment… in the twinkling of an eye, at the last Trump… The Trumpet shall
sound, and the dead shall be raised, incorruptible… and we shall be changed.’
‘Pon this promise o’ everlasting life were the countless souls whose bones do
rest beneath the earth on which you stand interred… these graven markers raised
that them that live might know to let them lie in peace. Yet there are those that
would presume tae wake the dead… tae steal their slumber frae them.
Aye, an’ them from it, an’ a’.
Sure, e’en a grave itself might swift be stol’n away.
Such was the fate o’ poor Jamie Quinn - a frail bairn who’d scarce spent five
summers on this earth when sickness took him frae his widowed mother’s warm
embrace an’ put him in the cold, cold ground. She scrimped an’ saved - securing him
a tiny corner-plot – unmarked, save for a wooden cross… but a testament, still, to
his brief life an’ her great love.
Each day she would visit the lair, tae weep, an’ laugh, an’ tell him all her cares…
’till Winter came.
Long hours of toil and darkness occupied her, then. She’d have tae still the woe
she felt ‘til she could visit again in the Spring.
Weeks passed. One night, as she lay a-bed, the Widow woke frae a tense an’
troubled sleep - a distant ringing in her ears. She sat up, startled by the movement o’
a shape by the window, and gasped aloud. There, by her bedside - a shadow, framed
in the light of the silver moon beyond - stood her bonnie boy. “Oh Mother”, said a
small, thin voice “Put me back tae my ain bed!” Sure she slept, still, the poor woman
closed her eyes, turned away and passed, in time, into a tearful slumber.
The shade had vanished but the ringing in her ears remained: “Mother!” it said
to her, time and time again, “Mother, put me back tae my ain bed!”
Out intae the streets of night she ran, weeping… wailing wild through wynd an’
vennel – her hands clutched ower her ears, unable tae escape the dreadful pleading
whispers. Puzzled neighbours noted her frightful passage an’ followed close ‘pon
her heels… ’til they came, at last, upon the kirkyard, an’ the spot where Jamie Quinn
was laid… but his poor wooden marker was now gone… the pit a gapin’ maw… his
tiny casket gone… .
The Sexton was summoned. Looking but once ‘pon the weeping frail, the
gravedigger fell to his knees an’ confessed a shameful crime.
An old biddie was to be buried that very morn, an’ cutting through the cold,
hard Winter earth posed too tiring a task for the feckless rogue. The earth of Jamie’s
plot was more newly turned, and none had come tae look upon the infant’s lair in
many weeks – so what real harm was there in lessening his labour – in turning-out
the tiny coffin and placing it in the paupers’ pit? In doin’ so the reckless sot had
shattered Jamie’s cask… spilled his tiny form into the muck…
Where was the harm?
Perhaps the rogue had time tae think on that when the Bailie turfed him out o’
town. An’ Jamie…? His bones were gathered up, and quick return’d unto their place
of rest. He lies there now, sleepin’ still… nevermore tae disturb his lovin’ mother’s
The same faint ringing roused her frae her rest the next night… an’ the next.
Each time she gazed wae tearful eyes upon her lad’s frail form. Each time she turned
away… and wept that she should be tormented by such woeful dreams.
Once again the ringing came. An’ once again she woke tae the boy by her bedside
an’ his now familiar message: “Mother, put me back tae my ain bed!”. Each whispered
syllable seemed tae chafe an’ chime within her head, until she could bear no more.
Close she looked ‘pon her laddie’s form. What was this? His shroud was ragged… a
thing o’ threads an’ tatters… his cheek black wae muck an’ mire. She reached out tae
touch the vision… an’ grasped at nought but air.
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
The Wolf at the
Location: The King’s Stables (Whistlebinkies Pub, St Mary’s Wynd)
Taken from the 2006 GhostWalk (The Maid’s monologue)
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
was the end of me.
ho’s there? Who’s there, I say! My heart holds fear for
those who come as strangers in the night… for one such
He came, in dead of night, to the stables that my Master tended for King James
- the Third to bear that name. A messenger he said he was, on business of the
Crown. Delayed upon the road, he’d come too late to gain admittance to the court.
The night was cruel, and bitter cold. The stranger begged that he might warm his
bones by our good hearth… aye, and sleep an hour or two, perhaps, for he had trod a
long and lonely road and was sore tired. Sure, he’d be no burden to our house… and,
by the coming of the dawn, would soon depart. He would not ask for e’en a crust to
eat… just chance to sit… to warm himself… to rest awhile.
My Master growled. He did not wholly trust this lean and hungry wretch… but,
no, it would not do to cast him from our door. But he should not be left alone.
The household soon retired, and I was left to tend the fire, and, with the rising
of the sun, bid our visitor depart. A bell was placed beside me, on the hearth: if the
stranger show’d one sign of foul intent, my goodsir said, then I should all alarums
Long hours I sat, eyes fixed upon the stranger – his face in shadow, save for
the grim and knowing smile stretched thin upon his lips. I sat back upon my chair,
half-closed my eyes against the bitter brightness of the candlelight, and sighed…
and as I did the stranger stooped t’ward me, his eyes bright and black, and, for a
moment, held me in his gaze. He thought I slept, and, thinking so, smiled then a
cruel smile…
Eager fingers probed beneath his tunic’s folds, from which he pulled… a dead
man’s hand… parchment flesh stretched, brown and withered over bone. He daubed
one digit in the tallow-wax, and set it then to flame:
oust his kinsman from the throne… that he consorted with witches, warlocks and
the like, and could change his form, to be fleet as hare or hound.
Frozen with fear, I watched the villain placed the corpse-light on the floor. He
slipped the bolt, threw wide the door, and stepped into the wild and windy night.
He howled… .and, from that stormcast void his voice was joined by another, and
another, and another…
I leap’d, quick, to my feet, slammed and bolted shut the door. I grabbed the
bell my Master placed beside the hearth. But none answered its call. I cried for all
to hear that the Wolf was at our door. The stables were in peril… aye, and p’raps the
King himself… for if his fortress walls were now assailed King James would flee here
first, to ready his escape.
Then, I to my Master’s chambers ran. I shook his arm. I beat his breast… but
still he would not wake. “Let them that sleep their slumbers keep!… ” ‘Twas a charm!! A
binding! My Master could not wake so long as that foul Hand of Glory burned.
‘Twas left to me to hold back the beast? To me to save our King from tooth
and claw?
To the hearth I hurried once again, grabbed the wretched withered thing… and
cast it ’pon fire. As it cracked and burned the oaken door was shattered… splintered
from it’s frame. There stood the snarling stranger. He fell upon me… his breath
rank upon my cheek, his hands tight-clutched about my throat… and, as all life was
crushed from me, I saw my ‘wakened Master, sword in hand, raise his blade behind
the villain’s skull…
Beware, friends, of strangers in the night…!”
“Let them that sleep their slumbers keep!
Let them that wake, advantage take!
NOTE: I first heard this tale told by an elderly resident of the Old
Town, though I know of versions not relating to the notorious Wolf of
Badenough, which are told in Cornall and Cumbria. Which is oldest?
Who knows?
For the Wolf, and the Moon,
And the Blade and the Blood!”
“For the Wolf…?” Alexander: brother to the King. The Wolf of Badenoch. So,
they were true… those whispered warnings that that devil did employ Dark Arts to
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Which Witch
Location: Castlehill
Taken from 1999 GhostWalk (‘Mad Bessie Stivenson’s monologue)
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
here no’ very nice tae auld Bessie in this toon. No nice at a’! They
set her feet on fire, ye ken!
Maister Norris, the Magistrate, he says it was on account o’ Auld Bessie bein’ a
Witch. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch tae live!” he says. He said a lot o’ thing like that did
Maister Norris. Bessie’s not sure o’ the details, though. She wasnae really listenin’.
Well somebody’d just set fire to her feet. That kind o’ thing can be quite distractin’!
“You are charged”, they says, “Wae tryin’ tae kill a bitch in heat, tae use its liver for a
charm!” Jings! Bessie widnae dae that! I mean who wants a boggin’ thing like that
danglin’ frae their bracelet?
“Bessie Stivenson!” He says “You must be put tae the test!” An he took a long thin
blade – a bare bodkin it was called – and poked Old Bessie with it. ‘Cos they say
that when a witch is pricked no blood will flow or pain be felt! Nae blood? It was
scooshin’ oot all ower the place, so it was. Ower the walls, the floor… a’ ower Mister
Norris as well.
Now, I ken whit ye’re thinkin’ – “Who writes this rubbish?” – but apart frae that
you’re thinkin’ “Bessie, did it never occur to you to just tell them that you weren’t a witch?”
‘Course it did, I mean… does Auld Bessie look daft? They just didnae seem very
interested. [SLY.] But Old Bessie was too clever for them then, Oh aye!… Aye! I tel’t
them I was guilty. Ha! They didnae expect that, I can tell ye!
It was then that Bessie saw a big light, an’ she ken’t fine well that a’ her suffering
was ower… it was time tae move on… intae the light… intae the light… Paradise
‘Course Bessie cou’d be wrong… that was when they tied her tae a post an’ set
her feet on fire!”
Old Bessie tel’t him, so she did: “That’ll leave a mark!” So Maister Norris he says
“Shuttit! It’s a witch’s trick. Just you wait ‘til ye see my Pilniewinks!” he says
“You saucy swine!” Says Bessie.
He put Bessie’s fingers in a vice, stickin’ jaggy big needles deep into the bloody
quicks, tearin’ the nails frae ragged flesh, an’ she could feel each wee bone snap,
crackle an’ pop.Put her right aff her breakfast, so it did!
“Ho-ho!” he says. “How’s about the Cashielaws?”
I disnae ken wit tae say, like… I mean, Bessie’s never been asked that afore, so
she just says “Aye!” – just tae be polite, like. Then he ups an locks Bessie’s legs in a
muckle big cage, an’ hoisks her ower a burnin’ brazier. Waxin’ was the least o’ Auld
Bessie’s problems!
“Ye’ll confess noo!” Says Norris. “For ‘twas good King James hissel that brought this fine
device frae Denmark – a weddin’ present from his faither in law!” Mind you, he wisnae the
first person tae get a toaster!
Then they put The Boot on Auld Bessie! A big metal thingie it was, that
clamped ower her feet. Then they tightened a’ the gears so that it slowly squeezed
an’ squelched an’ squished her toes til’ they swell’d up a’ purple an’ popped like…
well… wee purple poppy things!
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk
Tales of the Stirling Ghost Walk

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