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Friday, 26 July 2013


Ghost Stories from Scotland's Clyde ValleY

I researched these stories during 1986 and 87, while working for the Clyde Valley Tourist Board in south central Scotland. The Clyde Valley Tourist Board, now joined with the Greater Glasgow Tourist Board, covered the local administrative districts of Hamilton, Motherwell and Clydesdale and that it where these stories originate from.

The River Clyde rises in the south of Lanarkshire, near the former mining village of Leadhills, and flows past the World Heritage village of New Lanark. It continues through the fruitful Clyde Valley, famous for its tomatoes and soft fruit, flows between the towns of Hamilton and Motherwell and continues into the City of Glasgow and on to the sea at Greenock.
Thanks are due to all who shared their stories and experiences. I would like to personally thank Scott Armstrong, then manager of the Clyde Valley Tourist Board, who had the idea of turning these stories into a "ghost tour". These tours received a great deal of publicity at the time and set the seal of authenticity on the tales The booklet that was typed up by the Board's secretary, Sheila McMorran (my thanks to her also), not only sold well in our Tourist Information centres, but was also partially responsible for getting me my current job in Walt Disney Imagineering. For this, much thanks!

Finally, thanks go to Terry Primrose of Alveston Graphics, Strathaven, who produced his delightful illustrations of the ghosts for the original booklet, and which are reproduced here.

Dalzell House and its Shades of Many Colours

The Green Lady

''A long time ago, a lonely lady lived in luxurious seclusion pining for a lost love. She spent her days among silks and satins, sighing softly as she sat before her mirror, her pale sad face gazing into its glassy depths. One day, as she stared unseeing, a cool breeze from the open window made her shiver. She pulled her robe closer around her shoulders, the pale green Chinese silk rustling and shimmering in the wan sunlight. Desolation swept over her and she glanced yet again at the small dark bottle that nestled innocently among the elegant perfume flasks on her dresser. She reached out with trembling fingers, the sleeve of her robe brushing against one of the tall flasks. It fell unnoticed to the floor, the heady scent of oriental perfume filling the air as she raised the tiny bottle to her lips…"

Is this the solution to the mystery of the Green Lady of Dalzell House? Did she commit suicide? Perhaps she was murdered? Those who have encountered her have yet to discover her secret. And there have been many, among them a terrified schoolboy who babbled about 'a green lady with bloodshot eyes' floating towards him out of the paneling in the Pipers' Gallery. Then there were the security guards who saw flashing lights, and heard the floorboards creak and the sound of footsteps. Their dogs barked into seemingly empty rooms and refused to cross the threshold. But one thing is sure… the Green Lady's bedroom fills with the scent of a heady oriental perfume.

The White Lady

The very sight of Dalzell House, now within the grounds of Dalzell Country Park, Motherwell, almost guarantees at least one ghostly inhabitant. The oldest part, the central peel tower, was built in the 15th century and it has 17th and 19th century additions. Until 1952, it was the seat of the Hamiltons of Dalzell, ans as such had a turbulent and colourful history. During the persecution of Scottish Presbyterians - the Covenanters - in the 17th century, the grounds of Dalzell House provided a safe shelter for 'conventicles', open-air religious services. The Hamiltons were sympathetic to the Covenanters' cause, and a huge oak about 50 metres from the house (see photo) is known as the Covenanters' Oak. It is thought that, even at the time when it was spreading its protective branches over the Covenanting minister and his flock, it was already over 500 years old. Less than a century later it was to witness Bonnie Prince Charlie's army in retreat from Derby in 1745, looting the parish as it passed through.

Dalzell House and the Covenanters' Oak

It was during the 19th century that Dalzell House became a truly stately home, in keeping with the social status of the Hamilton family at that time. Royal visits were frequent, and shooting and fishing parties were the order of the day. This is the period that the White Lady is thought to come from - a serving girl or housemaid who, abandonned by her lover, and finding herself 'in the family way', threw herself off the battlements into the rocky gorge of the Whinney Burn. Perhaps some aristocratic conscience was pricked by her desperate act.

The Grey Lady

The Great War of 1914-18 brought a change to the house. The North wing was converted into a military hospital and was soon filled with convalescing soldiers. The House's third ghost, 'The Grey Lady of the Dalzells', haunts this wing, her grey appearance being the grey uniform of the army nurses of the time.

So the three ladies of Dalzell retain their secrets and, now that the hosue is now longer open to the public, they will probably continue to do so. But, if you should be in the grounds, listen for the sound of mocking ghostly laughter.

Oscar, the Phantom of the Cinema

The New Century Theatre, 1903
The Rex Cinema, latterly a snooker club, in Motherwell's Windmillhill Street, was built in 1936. The building incorporated part of the New Century Theatre (pictured in 1903) and some of the Theatre's scenery remained within the new premises. Many theatres are thought to be haunted and the New Century was no exception. It was when the theatre became a cinema that the nickname for the ghost was coined - he became known as 'Oscar'.

He never revealed his reason for haunting the cinema, though some say that a man committed suicide by jumping from the balcony into the stalls (a tragedy actually documented for another Motherwell theatre, the Old Music Hall). However, Oscar made the atmosphere sufficiently spooky that the theatre management couldn't retain usherettes.

Oscar seems to have recognised his cue - he abandonned the building when it was turned into a snooker hall.

"Old Davy" Livingstone

The David Livingstone Centre, in the Lanarkshire village of Blantyre, commemorates the birthplace of one of the area's most famous sons, David Livingstone. Doctor and missionary to Africa, David Livingstone started life in Blantyre's 18th century mill buildings. He later worked in the mill, educating himself by reading as he worked on the looms.

The Livingstone Centre, Blantyrd

The phantom has never been seen, but the Centre's staff reckon that "Old Davy" is still around and has turned into a kleptomaniac. Items disappear for months, only to turn up eventually in the exact spot from which they disappeared.

Willie Primrose, The Ghost in Ladies' Lingerie

Many a ghost has had several sightings. Much fewer have a logical and satisfactory explanation. Very few actually have a name. Willie Primrose has all three, AND has the distinction of appearing in the Clyde Valley's most unusual location - a ladies' lingerie factory!

Willie was a general handyman and labourer at the Wishaw factory in the 1930s, and he liked a drink. In fact, it's thought that perhaps he'd had one or two too many on the Friday when young Jimmy, closing up the factory for the weekend, accidentally locked Willie in the boiler-room.

Willie's body wasn't found until the factory opened on Monday morning and, from that moment, strange things started to happen. Willie found a way to make machinery work even with the power switched off. He also seemed to enjoy riding up and down in the lift, which sometime seemed to be working on its own, even though the only method of operating it was from the inside with the door shut. He teased the canteen staff by switching the lights off and on, and terrified a night-watchman, an ex-Royal Marine Commando, who was found after his first night of employment sitting on the factory's front step. Not only did this redoubtable character refuse to go back into the building, he didn't even wait to be paid!

Most of the regular employees, however, didn't mind having Willie around because his pranks were usually harmless. Only one employee felt a sense of foreboding - Jimmy, the young man who had locked Willie in the boiler-room and continued to work at the factory. Incidents only ever happened in the parts of the building where Jimmy worked, and several times after locking up at night he would be half way home when the factory's alarm would go off and he would have to return.

Jimmy never talked about the strange goings-on, except to say that he felt that he was the reason for the haunting, and it must be true, because, since Jimmy died, the factory has been left in peace.

The Haunting Tale of the Beautiful Black Lady

Broomhill House was one of several large houses in the Millheugh area of Larkhall. It belonged to a Captain McNeil, a sea-faring gentleman, who sought his fortune in far-flung exotic locations. Legend says that the Captain returned from one of his adventures with a beautiful Indian princess, ,with whom he was very much in love. She was installed at Broomhill, but her happiness was short-lived. Her ignorance of Western customs made her a social embarrassment and the Captain forbade her to leave the house except at night. After a while, she was no longer seen at all and the Captain claimed that she had disappeared. However, her ghostly form soon returned to seek revenge.

At first she was seen at the window of Broomhill, beckoning to passers-by. Then she was seen roaming the surrounding orchards and the area known as Morgan Glen. Her revenge on the Captain is not documented, but his death certificate states that he died of premature old age!

The Black Lady was the subject of the first attempt to perform an exorcism live on television. It was in the 1960s, and the BBC team who visited the Larkhall site to document the event found that their cameras were freezing over although the weather was not cold. And was it the Black Lady who added the final macabre touch? When the filming was completed, the director set off for another location and was killed in a car crash.

Craignethan Castle and Mary Queen of Scots

 Mary, Queen of ScotsThe most romantic and tragic figure in Scottish history is surely that of Mary, Queen of Scots (pictured left): child bride, teenage widow, subject of court intrigues, cause of national uprising and eventual victim of her suspicious cousin, Elizabeth of England. Like her equally romantic and tragic descendant, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary travelled widely and left a trail of claims that "Mary, Queen of Scots slept here".

Craignethan Castle, near the Clyde Valley village of Crossford, and now a Historic Monument, belonged to the Hamilton family, long-time allies of the young Queen. They helped her to escape from her imprisonment in Loch Leven Castle and entertained her at Craignethan before escorting her to safety at Dumbarton Castle. However, she was never to reach this destination.

She was intercepted and defeated at the battle of Langside in 1568. She fled to England and threw herself on the mercy of her cousin. But the jealous Elizabeth, fearful for her own throne, kept Mary imprisoned for 19 years. She was eventually beheaded for supposed treason in 1587 and is naturally assumed to be the headless lady seen wandering around Craignethan Castle, the last place in her beloved Scotland where she was warmly received and lovingly protected.

Craignethan's Other Inhabitants

The headless lady is not the only phenomenon at Craignethan. This 16th century castle, although of somewhat unusual design, is an example of the tower house dwelling characteristic of prominent Scotsmen of that period. A bridge crosses the ditch from the outer courtyard to the confines of the castle itself, and the castle's custodian has noticed that many dogs refuse to cross that bridge. Animals are supposedly particularly sensitive to psychic phenomena, which may explain why no dogs will go down to the castle's cellars. This possibility has been reinforced by a psychic medium who claimed to have been pushed down the stairs by an unseen force.

Craignethan CastleIn the outer courtyard stands a house built in 1661 by the Covenanter Andrew Hay, using many of the stones from the castle's demolished west rampart. The house (left) is now the home of the custodian and his family, but it has other inhabitants also. The temporal occupants of the house often hear the sound of women's voices talking in urgent and unhappy tones, though the subject of their discussion remains a mystery. Perhaps they worry about the fate of their Covenanter husbands, or perhaps they come from an earlier time when the west rampart was still intact.

Sir Walter Scott once considered Craignethan as a home for himself before he decided to purchase Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders. He may have used it as inspiration for Tillietudlem Castle in his novel "Old Mortality", though he denied this and claimed that Tillietudlem was purely imaginary. However, many of the incidents of the book actually happened at Craignethan, so who can tell…?

Myself, as MQS, for a publicity shot

Braidwood's Mining Monks

In a wooded hollow off the beaten track between Braidwood and Crossford lies a cottage otherwise known as St. Oswald's Chapel. It stands on, or near, the site of a monastery of unknown date and although the building itself no longer stands, its bell can be heard ringing and at least one of the monks has been spotted wandering in the woods. The monks mined the coal seam running through the valley and the mine, now filled in, supposedly had pillars hewn out of coal that were beautifully carved by the monks.

The Phantom Car of Kirkfieldbank

Scotland's first fatal road accident happened at the entrance to Linnmill, Kirkfieldbank, in 1912. At the time, the house belonged to Scots playwright Robert McLellan and it was his sister who was killed as she played at the entrance to the property. A phantom car door banging shut is often heard by the present occupants of Linnmill.

New Lanark's Lady in the Inverness Cape

The World Heritage village of New Lanark (pictured below at the turn of the century) is famous for its preserved 18th century mill buildings on the banks of the River Clyde. The mills were built and run by industrialist Robert Owen, a man with revolutionary ideas about how to treat his workers. A school, a co-operative store, a community hall are all witness to his enlightened thinking.

New Lanark

Alan Graham was born in New Lanark in 1909. As a young boy he was at home alone one night - his parents were visiting his grandmother in an adjacent building - when he awake due to the bright moonlight shining through his uncovered window. He saw a lady standing in the room, dressed in a tartan or checked Inverness cape. When he spoke to her, she stared straight at him, walked towards him and then turned and disappeared through the closed bedroom door.

When he told his parents, they persuaded him that it had been a dream and it was 30 years before his sister confessed to having seen the same lady. At the age of 96, Mary Graham told her story to the New Lanark Oral Archive…

"I see her yet… It was when we flitted [moved house] to the New Buildings, next to the Bell door. The shop [her parents'] was level with it. It was a surgery in the olden days. We lived in the flat above. … I was mysel' in the back bedroom. I wakened frozen. When I opened my eyes the figure was coming towards me. She had an old fashioned Inverness cloak and a wee black hat but she had a veil over her face… she put her hand out to me, I remember that. She had gloves on… The next thing I saw there was a bright red spark going through the door… the door was bolted and nailed and we never used it. I told my father and mother and they said, 'Don't be frightened - it's supposed to be haunted. But she'll no hurt ye. It's no' you she wants.' It must have been somebody who was killed in the surgery or poisoned… Alan saw her. Alan was a boy. We went to see my granny. Alan was in bed… he didn't know anything about the ghost. My mother and father said that they wouldn't tell him or it would frighten him and he wouldn't stay in the house himself… He got such a fright."

Now there's no way of finding out who the lady might have been, but it seems, according to a medium, that she is just one of many spirits living in the village.

The Jovial Monk of Lanark

There's an old song which begins, "A jovial monk am I, contented with my lot…", a song that might have been written especially for the Grey Abbott of Lanark's Clydesdale Hotel. It was his 'habit' to roam around the cellars of the Hotel - a spirit among spirits, so to speak!

Though now a hotel, it was previous a coaching inn, and this was built at the end of the 18th century on the site of a Franciscan monastery. This monastery was founded by Robert the Bruce in 1315, just one year after the Battle of Bannockburn, and the cellars of the present hotel were once part of the crypt.

The Grey Abbott makes his presence felt quite often in the Hotel's cellar bar, where many people have felt someone pushing past them, even when there was no one in the vicinity. Glasses and doors rattle for no apparent reason and the heavy front door can be heard banging even when there's no one near it. Mostly, though, the Grey Abbott keeps to the cellars, which is where, after all, all self-respecting spirits should be!

The Nun's Story

Part of the local administrative offices in Lanark was once a hospital staffed by an order of nuns. In fact, there was a hospital on this site as far back as the 15th century. The building's cleaners claim to have had many inexplicable experiences of hearing their name called or having the eerie feeling that there was someone else in the room with them. One cleaner, as she approached the building one evening, was surprised to see a nun turning the corner, heading away from her. Most surprising was the fact that the nun was not in modern dress, but wore a full-length navy dress with pockets and an old-fashioned wimple.

When fire destroyed the roof of the hospital in the 1960, the premises were moved to another site, where a nun has since also been seen. So, maybe what the cleaner saw was the nun heading for her new home…

The Lady in Grey

Insomniacs as the Shieldhill House Hotel at Quothquan, near the town of Biggar, should listen for things that go bump in the night, for, behind the door of a certain room, someone is definitely not sleeping. The room is in the "keep", a part of the hotel dating back to the 12th century, and the Grey Lady making all the noise is one of the Chancellor family, who owned the house right up to the 1950's. The Grey Lady, however, comes from the 17th century, a time of religious persecution in Scotland. One story suggests that she was driven to suicide after being molested by soldiers passing through the area. The more accepted story, however, is that she fell in love with a "commoner" and when her father forbade the marriage the broken-hearted lass threw herself from the battlements.

Now the Grey Lady prefers to keep to her own room, which is one of the rooms available to guests. Sleep in it if you dare.

Why the Shepherd's Hair turned White

During the 1920s, a strange incident happened to a shepherd near the village of Coulter [pronounced "Cooter"] in the south of Lanarkshire, and his daughter still tells the story of how her father's hair turned white.

The shepherd had been helping with the sheep dipping at a neighbouring farm and, among the sheep, found one of his own that had wandered over the hill from his own flock. That night, after the dipping was finished, he set off for home across the hills with the stray sheep on a lead and his dog running by his side. As they approached an old ruined house, the dog stopped in its tracks and, hackles raised, growled into the gloom. The shepherd spoke to the dog, but it continued to growl and, looking up, he was surprised to see a well-dressed couple walking towards him. Later, he was to realise that the couple had been dressed in Victorian garb, but at the time he was so surprised to see them at all that he automatically said "Good Evening". The second he spoke, the couple vanished into thin air, and when the shepherd woke the following morning, it was to discover that his hair had turned white overnight.

The house where the ghosts were seen is known locally as "The Vaults". It was originally Windgate House, built by the Laird of Lamington in this secluded spot to avoid the prying gaze of his neighbour, the Laird of Symington. The foundations of the house were excavated by a descendant of the old shepherd during the 1980s. A plaque explains the architectural style of the 19th century building: a single storey of living accommodation built over a vaulted area used for housing animals. It is known as a "Bastel" house.

Tales from a Coaching Inn

To the casual observer, the picturesque village of Crawford might look like a restful spot to stop for the night or the ideal place to do a little fishing. Such observations would be totally accurate, but somewhat short of the whole truth. For it is only in recent times that Crawford has dwindled in significance. At one time it was one of the most important places in Scotland.

Crawford was known to the Romans, and, during their sojourn in Scotland, it ranked as their second most-fortified area. Watling Street, the main Roman Road north ran through it. It still does, and the Romans are still there too, but in somewhat less solid state. Ten ghostly Roman soldiers have been seen marching down Watling Street in the middle of Crawford. But, of course, the level of Watling Street has risen over the years, and the soldiers are now only seen from the knees up!

The coaching inn in the village of Crawford was a staging post on the major North-South road, the 6th of 40 stops between Edinburgh and London. The inn, now the Post Horn Hotel, was built in 1744, and Bonnie Prince Charlie must have passed this way on his fateful retreat from Derby, which ended with the Battle of Culloden in 1745. The owners of the Hotel have experienced two separate ghostly phenomena. The first, a little girl, is thought to be the daughter of the owners in the early 19th century. She was killed by a coach and four outside the inn and now appears in the dining room, the former stables. Either she moves the chairs around or she skips, singing as she goes.

The area has many tales of tragic coaching accidents - runaway teams, broken bridges and coachmen blown from their seats by gales. One of the most tragic events happened in February 1805, when a coach overturned on nearby Beattock Summit in a raging snow storm. The two coachmen set off to look for help, but never found it. One died within two miles of the crash, the other made it to Crawford, but the storm was so wild that he passed within a few feet of the inn without realising it, and walked on to his death in the snow. On a stormy night in the 1980s, the owner of the Post Horn Hotel, unaware of this story, saw a man with snowy white hair and dressed in a brown cloak, passing the window of the Hotel's bar. When no one came in, he went out to investigate who could be wandering about on such a night, and found nothing - not even a footprint in the snow.

1 comment:

  1. I lived in kirkfieldbank and have heard the phantom car doors open and close but nothing there