There’s a fairly curious tale concerning a certain metal plaque erected on a wall in Victoria Road in Broughty Ferry; a tale filled with sadness which alludes to the altering of the course of history itself.  How could such a wee place like Broughty Ferry lay claim to a tale of such magnitude, we hear you say?

Plaque of the mystery of Princess Charlotte's visit in Broughty Ferry
Plaque of the mystery of Princess Charlotte’s visit in Broughty Ferry

Let’s go back to 1816, when Princess Charlotte, daughter of the soon-to-be King George IV, became married to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (later King of the Belgians).  News of a pregnancy soon followed – an heir to the throne – but it was quickly cut short when Princess Charlotte gave birth to a stillborn male and tragically died the following day in November 1817, aged just 21.  This dark sequence of events has been written in the history books as occurring at Claremont House in England, but here’s where the twist comes in…

Local Dundee legend has it that Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold were not at Claremont, as the story suggests, but were, in fact returning from a trip to Leopold’s homeland of Belgium when a mighty storm took hold of their ship.  With their lives in perceived mortal danger, and with Princess Charlotte heavily pregnant, they sought refuge in the Tay in the hope of waiting out the terrible weather, and ended up in Broughty Ferry.

Unfortunately, the situation had proven too stressful for Charlotte and she began to go into labour.  Getting her onto land would have proved difficult at best, but it is alleged they alighted at West Broughty Ferry and managed to secure lodgings at a nearby cottage where Charlotte gave birth and subsequently died. If Charlotte and Leopold’s child had survived, Queen Victoria would never have risen to the throne, and history as we now know it would be completely different.

So, could there be any truth to the story?  There was certainly a headstone in memory to her, of which the current metal plaque bears reference, which surely must mean something?  The inscription bears reference to her being 22 years of age, but, upon looking at her dates of birth and death, she was actually 21 when she died.  She was only a few months away from her 22nd birthday, but is this just a simple error, or signs of prefabrication?  If we look at where Belgium is on the map, it’s hard to imagine why their ship would have been so far up the North Sea to have reached Broughty Ferry if their intention was to return to England from Belgium – even if there was a freak storm.

Whilst a few of the facts don’t quite add up, it’s a mystery that some historians have spent a lot of time researching and looking into, and, quite frankly, we think the tale adds a certain richness to our local history, regardless of whether any of it is based in fact or not.  The next time you’re in Broughty Ferry, have a look at the plaque for yourself and let us know whether you think Princess Charlotte really did give birth to a would-be king in a wee cottage near the shore.  We’d like to think that she did, but we’ve got to admit, even we’re a bit sceptical about this one.

Sources:

FDCA website: www.fdca.org.uk

Wikipedia

www.innominatesociety.com

www.regencyhistory.net

The song ‘Bonnie Susie Cleland’ is an interesting one. Adapted from The Child Ballads “Lady Maisry”, which tells a particularly brutal tale of a young Scots woman being burned at the stake by her family for falling in love with an English lord. Bonnie Susie Cleland is an adaptation of this tale set in Dundee, with Susie Cleland meeting a similar fate.

The name Cleland was not common in the Dundee area, and there are no records which show the song to be based on fact, but it is not without historical context. There is a local tradition that many women were killed for consorting with English soldiers who were stationed in the city in the years after the storming of the city by General Monck in 1651. Burning or hanging was also the prescribed penalty in medieval Scottish law for sexual indulgence by an unmarried woman, unless her family protected the offender or found a father for her child.

There were also witch burnings in Dundee, the last of which was Grissell Jaffray in 1669, with women accused of witchcraft to cover the real reasons behind their burnings. The Presbytery Records do not always record the name of the women who were burned. An account from the Burgh Treasurer’s Accounts of 1590 lists sums spent on the burning of a witch, which included two shillings (£0.10) to Esmie Goldman for four fathoms of rope, fifteen shillings (£0.75) for three baskets of coal, six shillings (£0.30) for two tar barrels and six shillings and eightpence (£0.33) for the hangman’s travel expenses from St Andrews. The treasurer totals the expense as five pounds, sixteen shillings and eightpence (£5.81)—but the name of the poor woman does not merit a mention!

The cruelty of the family in the ballad in burning their own daughter is unimaginable. Whether real or not, it’s hard to listen to the song and not feel awful for poor Susie Cleland.

Lyrics:

Bonnie Susie Cleland
There lived a lady in Scotland
Hey my love and ho my joy
There lived a lady in Scotland
Wha dearly lo’d me
There lived a lady in Scotland
She’s fa’n in love wi’ an Englishman
And bonnie Susie Cleland’s tae be burnt in Dundee.
The faither tae the dochter cam’
Sayin, “Will ye forsake yer Englishman?”
And bonnie Susie Cleland’s tae be burnt in Dundee.
“If ye’ll no’ that Englishman forsake
Then I maun burn ye at the stake”
And bonnie Susie Cleland’s tae be burnt in Dundee.
“I’ll no’ that Englishman forsake
Though ye may burn me at the stake”
And bonnie Susie Cleland’s tae be burnt in Dundee.
“Oh whaur will I get a little wee boy
Tae carry tidings tae my joy
That bonnie Susie Cleland’s tae be burnt in Dundee?”
“Here am I a pretty wee boy
An’ I’ll carry tidings tae yer joy
That bonnie Susie Cleland’s tae be burnt in Dundee.”
“O gie tae him my right hand glove
Tell him tae get another love
For bonnie Susie Cleland’s tae be burnt in Dundee.”
“Gie tae him this gay gowd ring
Tell him I’m gaun tae my burnin’
And bonnie Susie Cleland’s tae be burnt in Dundee.”
Her faither he ca’d up the stake
Her brither he the fire did make
And bonnie Susie Cleland was burnt in Dundee.

Available in our shop:

Back before Castle Huntly became a prison, it had a history all of its own – and a couple of its own ghosts, to boot. There are two ghosts alleged to still haunt Castle Huntly; the White Lady and that of a young boy. When researching the ghosts of Castle Huntly, it became apparent that there is some confusion between Castle Huntly and Huntly Castle (which is in Aberdeenshire), and, as such, the ghost stories of which White Lady belonged to which castle seems to get a little skewed.

We’re going to stick with the story of the young woman being a daughter of the Lyon family, the Earls of Kinghorne (which was later changed to Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne). The title Earl of Kinghorne was actually created in 1606 for Patrick Lyon, and when Castle Huntly was acquired by the Earl in 1614, he had the name changed to Castle Lyon. It was not until the castle was sold in 1777 that the name was reverted back to Castle Huntly.

Whether the woman in the story was the first Earl of Kinghorne’s daughter or granddaughter, we do not know, but, from what we have read, it appears as though she may have had an inappropriate relationship with one of the castle’s manservants. It wasn’t all too uncommon for sexual relationships to form between social classes, as privacy was hard to come by, and servants were often put in sexually vulnerable positions by their masters or mistresses, as well as by lodgers, guests and each other. Remember there wasn’t a lot to do back then!

When they were found out, the pair were separated. Whether the manservant was imprisoned, tortured, murdered, or all three, we cannot say for sure, but it’s pretty clear that, in those times, he wasn’t just going to be sent on his way with his wages and his P45 in hand. Whoever he was, he very likely met a grisly end. The nameless Lyon daughter was locked in a chamber on the upper levels of the castle, and it was from the window of this room that she is said to have met her doom. Her body was found, broken and bleeding on the grounds directly under her bedroom window, with nothing that could be done to save her.

 

To add a twist to an already murky story, whilst some may say that she killed herself as a result of a broken heart or at being imprisoned in her own family home, others have whispered that she may not have taken her own life and may, in fact, have been pushed. There are a lot of facets to this story that don’t quite add up (which we tend to find with a lot of the older ghost stories), hence their origins as legends and not actual fact. What did happen to the manservant? And why can’t we name the Lyon daughter on who the tale is supposedly based? And the big question – did she fall, or was she pushed? We’ll just never know.

Moving away from the mysterious White Lady, the second ghost alleged to haunt Castle Huntly is that of a young boy, named the Paterson Ghost. He is believed to be the descendant of George Paterson – the man who purchased the castle from the Lyons in 1777 for £40,000, and also the man who gave Castle Huntly back its original name. Fast-forward 150 years or so, to when Colonel Adrian Paterson and his family occupied Castle Huntly.

Their only son, Richard, tragically died in a boating accident aboard the river Tay in 1939, and it is his ghost that is said to haunt the castle. He is said to be seen in the same room as the White Lady wearing a double-breasted sailing jacket. Interestingly, no-one seems to know what colour it is, which, given the “sightings”, you would think that someone would be able tell us at least if it was light or dark. Whilst the White Lady is alleged to haunt the grounds of the castle as well as the room, young Richard is said to appear only in the room once occupied by the fated daughter of Lyon.

Available in our shop:

The legend, or fairy tale of Whuppity Stoorie reads a lot like a Scottish version of Rumplestiltskin. The story is said to have taken place in a wee place called Kittlerumpit – good luck finding an exact location on that place! Robert Chalmers writes of Whuppity Stoorie in his 1858 ‘Popular rhymes of Scotland’, regaling us with a tale of a bereft mother and a fairy with a wicked plot, whose name would eventually become her undoing. We’ll let you do the reading for yourself on this one…and if anyone can shed any light on the location of Kittlerumpit, please get in touch! Here’s the tale as Robert Chalmers told it, which we found at http://www.surlalunefairytales.com.

I SEE that you are fond of talks about fairies, children; and a story about a fairy and the goodwife of Kittlerumpit has just come into my mind; but I can’t very well tell you now whereabouts Kittlerumpit lies. I think it is somewhere in the Debatable Ground. Anyway, I shall not pretend to know more than I do, like everybody nowadays. I wish they would remember the ballad we used to sing long ago:

Mony ane sings the gerss, the gerss,
And mony ane sings the corn;
And mony ane clatters o’ bold Robin Hood,
Ne’er kent where he was born.

But howsoever about Kittlerumpit. The goodman was a rambling sort of body; and he went to a fair one day, and not only never came home again, but nevermore was heard of. Some said he ‘listed, and others that the tiresome press-gang snatched him up, though he was furnished with a wife and a child to boot. Alas! that wretched press-gang! They went about the country like roaring lions, seeking whom they might devour. Well do I remember how my eldest brother Sandy was all but smothered in the meal-chest, hiding from those rascals. After they were gone, we pulled him out from among the meal, puffing and crying, and as white as any corpse. My mother had to pick the meal out of his mouth with the shank of a horn spoon.

Ah well, when the goodman of Kittlerumpit was gone, the goodwife was left with small means. Little resources had she, and a baby boy at her breast. All said they were sorry for her; but nobody helped her — which is a common case, sirs. Howsoever, the goodwife had a sow, and that was her only consolation; for the sow was soon to farrow, and she hoped for a good litter.

tour-banner-ad2

But we all know hope is fallacious. One day the woman goes to the sty to fill the sow’s trough; and what does she find but the sow lying on her back, grunting and groaning, and ready to give up the ghost.

I trow [trust, believe] this was a new pang to the goodwife’s heart; so she sat down on the knocking stone [a stone with a hollow in it for pounding grain, so as to separate the husks from the kernels], with her bairn [child] on her knee, and cried sorer than ever she did for the loss of her own goodman.

Now I premise that the cottage of Kittlerumpit was built on a brae [hillside], with a large fir wood behind it, of which you may hear more ere we go far on. So the goodwife, when she was wiping her eyes, chances to look down the brae; and what does she see but an old woman almost like a lady, coming slowly up the road. She was dressed in green, all but a short white apron and a black velvet hood, and a steeple-crowned beaver hat on her head. She had a long walking staff, as long as herself, in her hand — the sort of staff that old men and old women helped themselves with long ago. I see no such staffs now, sirs.

Ah well, when the goodwife saw the green gentlewoman near her, she rose and made a curtsy; and “Madam,” quoth she, weeping, “I am one of the most misfortunate women alive.”

“I don’t wish to hear pipers’ news and fiddlers’ tales, goodwife,” quoth the green woman. “I know you have lost your goodman — we had worse losses at the Sheriff Muir [a common saying, in response to a complaint about a trifle]; and I know that your sow is unco [strangely, extremely] sick. Now what will you give me if I cure her?”

“Anything your ladyship’s madam likes,” quoth the witless goodwife, never guessing whom she had to deal with.

“Let us wet thumbs on that bargain,” quoth the green woman; so thumbs were wetted, I warrant you; and into the sty madam marches.

She looks at the sow with a long stare, and then began to mutter to herself what the goodwife couldn’t well understand; but she said it sounded like:

Pitter patter,
Holy water.

Then she took out of her pocket a wee bottle, with something like oil in it; and she rubs the sow with it above the snout, behind the ears, and on the tip of the tail. “Get up, beast,” quoth the green woman. No sooner said than done. Up jumps the sow with a grunt, and away to her trough for her breakfast.

The goodwife of Kittlerumpit was a joyful goodwife now, and would have kissed the very hem of the green woman’s gown-tail, but she wouldn’t let her.

“I am not so fond of ceremonies,” quoth she; “but now that I have righted your sick beast, let us end our settled bargain. You will not find me an unreasonable, greedy body. I like ever to do a good turn for a small reward. All I ask, and will have, is that baby boy in your bosom.”

The goodwife of Kittlerumpit, who now knew her customer, gave a shrill cry like a stuck swine. The green woman was a fairy, no doubt; so she prays, and cries, and begs, and scolds; but all wouldn’t do.

“You may spare your din,” quoth the fairy, “screaming as if I was as deaf as a doornail. But this I’ll let you know: I cannot, by the law we live under, take your bairn till the third day; and not then, if you can tell me my right name.”

So madam goes away round the pigsty end; and the goodwife falls down in a swoon behind the knocking stone.

Ah well, the goodwife of Kittlerumpit could not sleep any that night for crying, and all the next day the same, cuddling her bairn till she nearly squeezed its breath out. But the second day she thinks of taking a walk in the wood I told you of. And so with the bairn in her arms, she sets out, and goes far in among the trees, where was an old quarry hole, grown over with grass, and a bonny spring well in the middle of it. Before she came very near, she hears the whirring of a flax wheel, and a voice singing a song; so the woman creeps quietly among the bushes, and peeps over the brow of the quarry; and what does she see but the green fairy tearing away at her wheel, and singing like any precentor:

Little kens [knows] our guid dame at hame,
That Whuppity Stoorie is my name.

“Ha, ha!” thinks the woman, “I’ve got the mason’s word at last. The devil give them joy that told it!”

So she went home far lighter than she came out, as you may well guess — laughing like a madcap with the thought of cheating the old green fairy.

Ah well, you must know that this goodwife was a jocose woman, and ever merry when her heart was not very sorely overladen. So she thinks to have some sport with the fairy; and at the appointed time she puts the bairn behind the knocking stone, and sits on the stone herself. Then she pulls her cap over her left ear and twists her mouth on the other side, as if she were weeping; and an ugly face she made, you may be sure. She hadn’t long to wait, for up the brae climbs the green fairy, neither lame nor lazy; and long ere she got near the knocking stone she screams out, “Goodwife of Kittlerumpit, you know well what I come for. Stand and deliver!”

The woman pretends to cry harder than before, and wrings her hands, and falls on her knees with “Och, sweet madam mistress, spare my only bairn, and take the wretched sow!”

“The devil take the sow, for my part,” quoth the fairy. “I come not here for swine’s flesh. Don’t be contramawcious, huzzy, but give me the child instantly!”

“Ochone, dear lady mine,” quoth the crying goodwife; “forgo my poor bairn, and take me myself!”

“The devil is in the daft jade,” quoth the fairy, looking like the far end of a fiddle. “I’ll bet she is clean demented. Who in all the earthly world, with half an eye in his head, would ever meddle with the likes of thee?”

I trow this set up the woman of Kittlerumpit’s bristle, for though she had two blear eyes and a long red nose besides, she thought herself as bonny as the best of them. So she springs off her knees, sets the top of her cap straight, and with her two hands folded before her, she makes a curtsy down to the ground, and, “In troth, fair madam,” quoth she, “I might have had the wit to know that the likes of me is not fit to tie the worst shoestrings of the high and mighty princess, Whuppity Stoorie.”

If a flash of gunpowder had come out of the ground it couldn’t have made the fairy leap higher than she did. Then down she came again plump on her shoe-heels; and whirling round, she ran down the brae, screeching for rage, like an owl chased by the witches.

The goodwife of Kittlerumpit laughed till she was like to split; then she takes up her bairn, and goes into her house, singing to it all the way:

A goo and a gitty, my bonny wee tyke,
Ye’se noo ha’e your four-oories;
Sin’ we’ve gien Nick a bane to pyke,
Wi’ his wheels and his Whuppity Stoories.

During the 15th century, a family of cannibals are alleged to have lived on the outskirts of Dundee, in a place which came to be known as ‘Fiends Den’; later to be known as ‘Denfiend’ or ‘The Den of Fiends’.  The location of Denfiend is said to be at a dip in the road between Newbigging and Monikie, just by the aptly-named Denfind Farm.  The legend goes that the family would lure in or ambush passers-by before murdering and eating them.  No-one was safe from the voracious appetites of the cannibalistic family of Denfiend, but it is said that they preferred their victims young, as the meat was more succulent and tender.  Initially the family never aroused suspicion, careful who they chose for their next meal so as not to cause any alarm, but, as time went on, their appetite for younger prey proved to be their downfall.  With a lack of travellers to the area, the family looked to their neighbours for their next meal, causing a significant swell in locals being reported as missing.  It did not take long for the family to be held to account for their crimes, and they were all swiftly executed, with the exception of the youngest daughter, who was merely a baby.

She was re-homed with another family, who shielded her from the truth about her family in an attempt to give her a better start at life.  As time went on, however, she began to display “disturbing” behaviour, such as harming other children and animals and licking or sucking the blood from their open wounds.  Despite their best efforts to rehabilitate her, it was decided that she, too, suffered from the same affliction as her family, and it was for the best that she be executed.  Due to her young age, she was not put to death immediately, but instead was allowed to live until her 18th year, at which time, if she had not changed, she would be executed.  Her habits did not abate, and her drive for human flesh and the taste of fresh blood was too powerful for her to control.  The young woman was taken to the Seagate and burned at the stake, in the same fashion as her late family.  Her last words are alledged to have been “why chide me as if I had committed a crime.  Give me credit; if ye had tasted human flesh, you would think it so delicious that ye would never forbear it again.”

With no real facts alluding to the authenticity of the tale, we have to assume it is based purely in legend.  However, it does have very similar borrowings from the tale of Sawney Bean and his family – the alleged 16th century cave-dwelling family of cannibals.  Like the Denfiend legend, Sawney and his clan of almost 50 cannibals, lay undetected by locals for 25 years or so, having made their den in a deep coastal cave.  Upon capture, the men had their genitals cut off before their hands and feet were severed.  The children and female members of the clan were forced to watch the men die before they too were executed by being burned alive.  The stories’ similarities do not end there.  It is said that one of the daughters left the clan of her own volition, settling herself into a normal life not too far away from her cannibalistic familial lair.  She is alleged to have planted a tree, which became known as ‘The Hairy Tree’ and was used as gallows in public hangings.  Ironically, it was this very tree from which she herself was to hang, when the villagers found out she was part of the murderous Bean family.

The story of Denfiend has many similarities to the legend of Sawney Bean; just on a much less grand scale.  Whilst the incidents at Denfiend are alleged to have happened in the 15th century and the Bean killings in the 16th century, it doesn’t stand to fact that the legend of Denfiend did in fact precede the legend told of Sawney Bean.  The way stories are told and passed down through generations, it is possible that someone knocked a century or two off the legend after hearing the story of Sawney Bean and his cannibalistic family.  Either way, neither story has any real basis in fact, and, whilst many still believe that each story may be true in its own right, we are concluding our investigation into both matters as purely legend.

However…as they say, there’s no smoke without fire.  We’ve all heard crazy things on the news and throughout history relating to cannibalism.  Whether they be based in fact or fiction, one thing is very clear – we’ve been engaging in it for millennia. We did a bit of digging into the history of cannibalism (as you do), and found that the human link between Neanderthal man and Homo sapiens as we are today, were cannibals.  The reasons for this appear to come down to a need for nutrition, but, as we evolved, we developed better hunting techniques which allowed us to kill animals for meat instead of using our own species as a food source.

denfiend2

The name “cannibal” is derivative from the Carib tribe, who were encountered by Sir Christopher Columbus when he travelled the Americas in the 1490’s.  The ‘Caribs’ were cannibals for ritualistic reasons, using stone axes and hardwood machetes to execute their sacrifices in a brutally gruesome manner.  Columbus and his men brought with them weapons made of iron, and were regarded by the Caribs as good spirits of the sea.  The name was lost in translation and was referred to as ‘Canibs’, which was further translated over 50 years later to ‘cannibal’ or ‘cannibals’.

The Korowai tribe of Papua New Guinea are the last known tribe of cannibals on the planet. There are around 3000 of them. They mostly live in tree houses in their territory, which is so isolated that, until about 40 years ago, they weren’t aware of the existence of any other humans.  The Korowai people are cannibals for superstitious reasons, believing that when someone dies a mysterious death, it is the work of a ‘khakhua’, or a male witch.  As the victim dies, it is usual for them to whisper the name of the ‘khakhua’ to their relatives or loved ones.  Whoever is named, whether it be from their own clan or not, he will be seized and killed, as it is believed his body has been possessed by a witch.  Despite any protestations, those branded a ‘khakhua’ must die and be eaten.  This still happens today.

After this, we’ll be sticking to veggies for the next couple of days, but if you want to know what it tastes like, the resounding response seems to be “pork”.  Think of that the next time you’re tucking into some bacon or a big, fat sausage…

As we mentioned in our ‘Black Magic & The Occult’ section, rumours have been rife for decades about witchcraft and black magic rituals being undertaken in various locations around the city such as ruined castles, parklands and gloomy, wooded areas.  If we look at the rumours on a national scale, the stories of witchcraft, devilment and sorcery all seem to blend into one; the only notable exception being the location of the proposed rituals.  Whilst of course, some of these practices are indeed happening up and down the country (sometimes with deadly consequences), the majority of people who class themselves as “witches” are very far removed from what public opinion would have us believe as dark magic-wielding hags who consort with the devil and aid his workings on us mere mortals. The idea of a “black mass” or dark ritual is abhorrent to them, and is not a path on which they walk.  There is no “evil” deity, and there is certainly no worship of it.  The misconception of Satan as someone with who they communicate is founded in complete fallacy, and is reserved for those known as “Satanists”.  Association with the devil is exactly the stigma that witches do not want – it is unwarranted, unfounded, and grossly damaging.  Of course, as with any walk of life, there will be those for whom the lines are blurred, but, for the many who practise witchcraft today, the life of a witch has absolutely nothing to do with malevolent evil or devil worshipping.

This damaged perception over the centuries has claimed countless lives. Those seen as witches were hunted, tortured and murdered on a mass scale during the witch-hunting eras. Here, in our own town, we burned Grissell Jaffray as a witch, and put a burning effigy of Hurkle Jean on a boat out to sea. We have such a fear associated with the word “witch” that we resort to savagery, closed-mindedness and the perpetuating of myth thousands of years old. With this in mind, we set about trying to wade through the good, the bad and the ugly – separating the myth from the reality to see what was really behind the mask of “witchcraft”.  It was one of our toughest challenges yet, and without the help of a pair of witches who were more than happy to help, we would have had a difficult time separating fact from fiction.  Kymmy and Ffyona agreed to answer a few of our questions so that we could show witchcraft in our city in a more positive light, and hopefully dispel one or two myths associated with the words “witch” and “witchcraft”.  If you don’t know these women, you clearly haven’t read my blog post on my time with them.  You should read that now if you haven’t already.

Read my interview with them below – there’s lots of great information and links for anyone who wishes to investigate this a bit more for themselves.  Please also remember to be respectful of everyone’s belief system – the world outside is a lot more diverse than just you and I.

Could you explain what a real Witch is and also what it means to you as an individual?

K – To me a REAL witch is someone who believes firmly in their Craft and has an affinity with it. Personally my Craft is very important to me, as important as going to Church is to a Catholic person. It’s a way of life for me.

F – A real witch to me is someone who lives their beliefs and lives their life in the now. Someone who takes personal responsibility for all their actions in this world.  A person who follows the lunar cycle and the cycle of the seasons and feels the changes as the Wheel turns.

What type of witchcraft do you practise?

K -I practice an eclectic mix of witchcraft, involving Wicca, Druidry, Buddhism and many more. I like to call myself a Patchwork Pagan, whatever works for me, I will go with.

F – I practice in my own way.  I have a fairly eclectic base as my beliefs are Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) combined with the cycle of the seasons here where I live. I also borrow stuff from books to use in ritual, if it works brilliant, if not then I don’t use it again.

How long have you been a witch, and what drew you to it?

K- Like I said at our meeting, I was attracted to The Craft after being involved with the local Spiritualist Church or “Spookies”, I briefly ventured into Christianity but it really wasn’t for me, I’ve always been drawn to the Craft since my early teens.

F – I went looking for something to believe in when I was 14. I was brought up a catholic and it just didn’t work for me.  I found a book on Wicca and the things I read made more sense to me than anything I had heard before. I liked the equality of it all as it wasn’t patriarchal and had a Goddess as a central figure. This made more sense than the women playing almost a supporting role as if it were not for women man wouldn’t even be born.  I started practicing my Craft when I was around 20. I have drifted off my path for short times and always got back on.  I also like the fact that if you asked 10 Witches what they believe you would get 10 different answers and none of them would even think of telling the others they were wrong.

Does it bother you that there are still stigmas attached to the words “Witch” and “Witchcraft”?

K – It does.  Witch can be such a negative word, when really we are quite positive folks. It’s absolutely awful that there is still witch-hunting going on in this day and age.

F – It irritates me slightly that companies like Disney are still portraying witches as the” bad guys” I have no problem with identifying myself as a Witch to my friends and family. I would not put it down on a job application nor would I introduce myself to a new person as one just because there is still a stigma.  In this day where more people are turning to the Nature religions, you would think people would be more accepting but we can hope it will happen in time.

Does Dundee have a particularly high magical population?

K – I believe it does have a fairly large population, although most witches, don’t go around bragging or broadcasting their beliefs, we don’t proselytise either.

F – Dundee is an extremely powerful place. The energy coursing through the land around here is so varied it is amazing. People wise I know a good few Witches/Shaman/Druids/Heathens and others, they know others that I do not. Am sure for every one I do know there are more that I don’t due to the perceived stigma.

What dates are important in your magical calendar?  Why?  How do you celebrate them?

K – I celebrate the Wheel of the Year, which has 8 Sabbats. Previously I stuck to the traditional dates on the calendar, but I now prefer to “FEEL” for the changes in my surroundings that tell me what’s happening, like the smell of spring, the full on pulse of high summer, the melancholy yet abundant autumn, and the nestling down of winter. I do still celebrate the traditional pagan dates of Samhain (31st October), Yule or Winter Solstice (21st December), Imbolc (Feb 1st or 2nd), Ostara or Spring Equinox (on or around March 21st), Beltane (May 1st), Litha or Summer Solstice (21st June), Lughnasadh or Lammas (Aug 1st), Mabon or Autumn Equinox (on or around 21st September), but these celebrations tend to be with likeminded friends or as part of our local moot, I do my own private celebrations. We celebrate the seasons and what’s we see happening around us and give thanks to The Goddess and God for the ever changing Wheel and for the abundance the Earth provides to sustain us all. I also celebrate the cycle of the Moon, I observe each of the phases from New to full and back to Dark again. I find great comfort from the Moon which isn’t surprising as humans are made primarily from water and the moon pulls on the tides, seems only right she should have the same effect on us.

F – The dates that are important in my magical calendar mark the changing of the seasons and the solar festivals of the Equinoxes.  We celebrate them to mark the turning of the Wheel and the changes that happen in nature. I also celebrate the lunar cycle and use this to work spells if I feel that one is required for something or have possibly been asked to perform one for someone.  The celebration itself usually involves some kind of ritual from a really complicated one that takes a lot of planning to one that might just involve sitting under the full moon and soaking up the power.

What is your personal view on death and the afterlife?

K – Hmm I would like to hope I don’t just STOP and that there is an afterlife, I think we become part of all life, that our conscious permeates everything. I also think our “SOUL” has to rest and reflect on the life we have lived and then be reincarnated into another “life” I have stated that I want to be buried in an eco-coffin when I die and that I want no embalming, I want to go back to the Earth as pure as I can be and that a fruit tree be planted on top of me, so that my family and friends can eat the fruit that my body has helped to nourish. None of us truly knows what happens when we die so here’s hoping it’s wonderful.

F – I believe that when you die you essence or soul travels to the Summerlands and there you reflect on your past life and learn any lessons you lived through, see any karmic debt you may have incurred and to whom.  When you have learned all you can from the life you just lived then you are reborn to the next life to continue your travels on the Wheel and continue to learn.

Where could an interested party get involved with the magical community?

K – There are loads of online sites to connect with other magical groups and most big cities have Moots and other Pagan friendly events. It’s really just about asking around and looking out for flyers etc. The Scottish Pagan Federation is a great source of information and help also The Children of Artemis.

F – Well a first point of contact locally would be Dundee Pagan Moot. We have a Facebook page, website and a YouTube channel. We also have a monthly meeting on the last Sunday of every month.  There is also the Scottish Pagan Federation. They too have a facebook page, website and a youtube channel.  In most towns and cities in Scotland there will be some kind of a pagan moot or meeting on a regular basis. There may even be a shop that will advertise things like that. This shop will usually sell things like crystals, statues, candles, incense etc. All are things that can be used magically.

Any dark or creepy stories to tell us?

K – Gods where do I begin? Well, when I was wee, my Granny was a great teller of creepy stories (bless her) and one night we were sitting in front of her coal fire and she told us about the night my Dad was out drinking down the Perth Road with a bunch of friends, he was totally bladdered and decided to walk home through Balgay, en route to Dryburgh where my Gran lived, this was before I was born apparently. On walking through Balgay, he became aware of a strange footstep behind him, kind of a “THUMP” “SCRAPE” kind of noise, he looked around but no one was there, this continued all the way through the park and he was getting a bit worried by this time. He began to pick up his pace as best he could in his inebriated state but still the strange footsteps continued, all the way through Lochee and right up to my Granny’s front door when they disappeared suddenly. He got in and told my Gran what had happened and she told him that would have been your Dad making sure you got home ok as he had been carrying a flick knife in his pocket. My Grandad had passed years before, had a limp and scraped his boot when he walked apparently.  I was well creeped out.  Another Balgay story; I was about 3 years old and my Mum had taken me and my wee brother who was in a pram at the time for a walk up Lochee Park and into Balgay, I was holding mums hand as you do and she was pushing the pram with the other. She let go my hand to see to my wee brother and right about where the Jewish graveyard is I turned round to see a wee tiny man dressed on green clothes, he was beckoning me to come over to him, I stood staring at him and tugged on mums coat unable to speak, she was too busy with my brother to see what was going on he kept on beckoning and smiling at me. I began walking towards him and suddenly mum noticed me wandering off and shouted on me, he disappeared instantly and I told her about him, she says I imagined it, but to this day I KNOW I saw him. One more…We used to stay in Lochee High Street when we were really wee and we had an outside lavvy at the time, mum had safety pinned my wee brother and I to the couch so she could go to the loo (yes they actually did that) so we were babbling away to each other on the couch I reckon I was about 5 and my brother about 4 at the time, when from the room to our right a strange figure walked past us. It was human in form but completely see though. I could see the outline of the body kind of like the “Ready Brek” man used to look, but there was a lot of lights right up the centre of the body, it walked right past us into the next room. We told mum when she came up the stairs and she said we were being daftys, my Dad believed us though but never said what he thought it was, to this day my brother and I will swear we saw this and that to us it was totally real.  I also saw my Dead uncle a week after he died, again I must’ve been about 5. I came out of our closey on to the High Street in Lochee and he was standing there it a black suit, white shirt with a red carnation in his pocket, he smiled at me and kept walking. I ran upstairs to tell mum I had just saw Uncle Jim and that he might be on the way to the pub, she sat me down and told me that he had died the previous week and that I couldn’t have seen him. I told her what he was wearing and only when I was older did she tell me that those were the clothes he was buried in. Creepy eh?

F – Not really. I have had a few encounters with the Spirits of Place (Genus Locii) and a couple of encounters with spirits in old places but not anything that creeped me out.

For those of you who don’t know what Hellhounds are; be thankful.  Prominent and frequently-reported features include mangy fur, the colour of night, glowing red eyes, a pungent odour and possessing supernatural speed and strength.  Often used as guardians of the entrances to the underworld, legend has it that if you stare into their eyes three times, you are doomed to die.  The legend of the Hellhounds is told around the world, and is known by many names – some of which you may be familiar with; Black Shuck, Barghest, Cerberus, Gwyllgi or Cadejo to name but a few.

shop-banner-ad5

According to a submission to the paranormal database (www.paranormaldatabase.com), a mystery “large hound” has been spotted on the A93 north of Blairgowrie.  With reports that the phantom dog patrolling the road is “huge” and “its presence makes normal dogs nervous and horses shy”, it seems to allude to the suggestion that this beast has been spotted more than once.  Checking through the website, there are a LOT of references to large hound sightings up and down the country.

Bungay, in the English county of Suffolk is one such place where the legend holds possibly the largest sway and centres on the events of a stormy Sunday in 1577.  The church service had begun, and it was between 9am and 10am when a violent and sudden storm broke out.  As the sky darkened, the church began to shake, and, before the eyes of the parishioners, a huge dog appeared as if from nowhere.  It ran about inside the church, lit by flame and is said to have killed two people just by passing them and causing a man to shrivel up and burn.  As if this wasn’t strange enough, similar phenomena was reported in a church seven miles away, the incidents having occurred simultaneously.  This time, three were left dead and scorch marks were left on the North church door – marks which are still there today!

One person submitted a photograph to www.britishwildboar.org.uk – it’s undated, so we don’t know the year – of a wild boar that was spotted in woods north of Blairgowrie on New Year’s Day.  The shot isn’t great, as the submitter acknowledges, but it’s quite clearly a boar.  Could it be possible that the Hellhound of Blairgowrie is, in fact, a big, fat, wild boar?  Sounds more likely to us, but then, we’ve never encountered it ourselves, so who are we to say?  Why not take a walk there one night and find out for yourself if there’s any credence to the stories?

Happy hunting.

hellhound2

Top image credit ‘thegopfather.deviantart.com

In the latter part of 1882 and into the first few months of 1883, Dundee had a somewhat alarming visitor “…described as being rather tall, and is generally seen dressed in a long dark cloak, although occasionally he sometimes assumes a luminous appearance, supposed to be due to the inside of the cloak being lined with cloth dipped in phosphorus, and exposed to view.  Several yards of crape are also suspended from his hat…”  This dark, mysterious figure began appearing in and around the Blackness Quarry area around December 1882, and continued into February of the following year.  Reports of the way he walked, or was able to leap in huge bounds earned him the popular moniker, “Springheels”.  The situation became so phenomenal in the city, that stories of alleged sightings were ten a penny, with almost everyone knowing someone who had seen “Springheels”.

From children, to the elderly, butchers to policemen, nobody was safe from the man in black.  Although many reported seeing him, very few actually reported having any physical contact with him.  Stories range from far-off sightings, to alleged exchanges with the perpetrator, some of which are told in Geoff Holder’s ‘Haunted Dundee’.  How many of these accounts can be written off as fallacy or attempts for attention is unclear, but it is very plausible that someone was indeed going about the city with the intent of causing alarm.

The name “Springheels” is a common one, and refers to Springheeled Jack, a notorious supernatural entity of the Victorian Era. He was very popular in this time, due to the tales of his bizarre appearance and ability to make extraordinary leaps, to the point that he became written into works of fiction.  His eyes were alleged to burn with red fire, his hands clawed, and his features deformed and demonic.  With his origins believed to have been in London circa 1837, the legend of Springheeled Jack quickly circulated throughout the lands, with sightings becoming more and more frequent, and in some cases, more aggressive.

Whoever the Dundonian version of Springheels was, William Anderson was the man targeted for the crime, as he had been drunkenly frightening locals whilst “acting the part of a ‘ghost’”.  He was charged with a contravention of the General Police Act, and was given a warning.  Geoff writes that, after Anderson’s reprimand, Springheels was never seen again in the city.

Get Geoff’s book, “Haunted Dundee” here

Read more about the Legend of Spring Heeled Jack here

The Grey Lady of Glamis haunts the family chapel and the Clock Tower of the world-famous Glamis Castle.  Steeped in centuries of tale and legend, the castle has been standing since the late 1300’s, and has seen its fair share of goings-on.  The Grey Lady of Glamis is believed to be Lady Janet Douglas, burned at the stake as a witch in 1537, and who has haunted the grounds of Glamis Castle ever since. Family feuds involving illegitimate children, forced imprisonment, civil wars and seizures of lands and titles fuelled King James V’s hatred towards his stepfather, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus.  Once married to his mother, Margaret Tudor, tensions had become bitterly acrimonious, to the point that the King held nothing but contempt for the Archibald Douglas and the Clan Douglas. Imprisoned by his stepfather and held against his will, King James V was finally broken free and Janet quickly became the target of his revenge.  Archibald Douglas fled to England, leaving Janet in the firing line.

In 1528, upon the death of her first husband, John Lyon, 6th Lord of Glamis, Janet was immediately summoned for treason, accused of supporting the civil war against the King and of poisoning Lyon.  Charges were eventually dropped, and she remarried Archibald Campbell in 1532, having ceased all communication with her brothers to prove her innocence in any plot against the King.  Janet’s reprieve was short-lived, however, as in 1537, she was once again summoned for treason.

This time, the charges brought against her included being in secret talks with the Douglas clan, attempting to poison the King and witchcraft.  Glamis Castle was confiscated by the Crown, and Janet’s family and servants were savagely tortured until they gave false evidence against her.  Even her young son was forced to watch the torture before he too, was put to the rack.  These testimonies were enough to convict Janet of witchcraft, and she was burned at the stake as a witch in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle.  It is said King James forced her son to watch her agonising death before letting him go.

Many witnesses claim to have seen the Grey Lady of Glamis whilst visiting Glamis Castle, so why not visit it yourself and see if you can spot her?

The tale of Alexander Lindsay, the 4th Earl of Crawford is by far one of the most popular ghost stories of Glamis.  Known as “Earl Beardie”, Alexander Lindsay is alleged to have been a cruel, evil man with a wicked temperament and a searing bloodlust.  Born to nobility and of a particularly influential character, he was involved in the battles against King James II as part of the Douglas clan uprisings.  As we mentioned, he was an evil man, and it is alleged that he once had a black house-servant stripped naked and forced to run around in the grounds for his and the other Earls’ entertainment.  In a macabre twist, the ‘entertainment’ was actually a hunt, and the poor man was chased down by Earl Beardie, his guests, and their hunting dogs.  His screams rang out over the land as he was stabbed with spears and literally torn apart by the dogs, defenceless and stricken by mortal fear.

It is further alleged that the display was watched by the noblewomen from the safety of the castle, where they laughed in delight.  What happened to the body after the hunt was over does not appear to be recorded, but is more than likely he would have been eaten by the dogs or other animals on the land.  The ghost of this manservant is reputed to be that of ‘Jack the Runner’ – a spirit who runs through the halls at night screaming in pain and terror.  The Earl’s indulgences in vices lead us directly to his own ghost story, as it was whilst gambling that Earl Beardie is reported to have met his demise.  There are various different takes on how the story begins, but they all centre around a game of cards being played late on a Saturday night at the castle.  Whether a fight broke out over alleged cheating, failure to notice the lateness of the hour, or perhaps just from sheer petulance, we will never know, but the legend leads us to believe the Earl was forewarned by a servant that it was close to midnight, and that gambling on the Sabbath was sacrilege.  The Earl is said to have scoffed at the servant, ordering him out of the room.  Again, depending on the story you read or hear, either the other players take heed and leave, or they do not, and the game continues.

At the stroke of midnight, a knock is heard on the door of the room in which the card game is still being played, and a dark, mysterious figure asks to join the game.  The Earl agrees that the mystery man can play, and a new game begins.  Sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning, arguing and shouting was heard coming from the room.  When the servant opened the door, the Earl was engulfed in flames.  The mystery man is always reported to be the devil himself, having won the Earl’s soul in a game of cards, and condemning him to play until Doomsday for daring to play cards on the Sabbath.

In other versions of the story, a cloaked devil appears out of thin air, taking both Earl Beardie and his playing companions back to the underworld where are destined to gamble for all eternity.  Sounds such as shouting, stomping feet, banging doors and swearing are all reported to come from the West Tower of the castle – the alleged site of the card game (according to some).  There have also been reports of residents and guests sighting a bearded man wandering the castle, again, believed to be the spirit of Earl Beardie, and others have even described being touched by the spectre itself.

As far as legends go, it’s certainly a vibrant tale, adapted and altered over time to suit the listener or reader, but, with so many inconsistencies in the tale, we’ll probably never know the real story of what happened to the man nicknamed by many as the “wicked Earl.”