- Dundee History Archive, Ghosts, Myths & legends
- coffin mill, ghosts, haunted dundee, white lady, white lady of balgay
Nearly everywhere seems to have a story about a White Lady, so let’s have a wee look at some of our own local legends concerning mysterious ladies in white…
The White Lady of the Coffin Mill
Now, we all know the media likes a headline, but by and far, this is one of the best. “Ghost walks bridge – Dundee throng visits scene – ‘The White Lady’ of Coffin Mill.” This was the Courier & Advertiser’s announcement on 5th September 1945. The Coffin Mill was named not because of the type of work it undertook, but because of its peculiar shape – very similar to the outline of a coffin.
Believed by some to be the ghost of a young girl who met an untimely death with a mixture of a carding machine accident and a subsequent plummet from the connecting metal bridge, the spectacle drew the attention of the locals, who visited the site in droves hoping to catch a glimpse of the phantom. Another theory is that she is the ghost of a woman who told her employer she was pregnant and was flung to her death from the bridge, but neither tale can be substantiated. The crowd became so large and bothersome that Police eventually had to break up the spectacle, amidst scenes of high alarm and aggravation.
Whatever the legend, our “White Lady” fair gets about; which brings us to the next haunting…
The White Lady of Balgay
As stories go, the White Lady of Balgay is a fairly spooky one. Widely popular, but rarely ever sighted, the White Lady allegedly haunts the area around the bridge at Balgay Park which connects the hill to the centuries-old cemetery, once known as the Western Necropolis. A common area for theft, assaults and suicides, the area quickly gained a reputation as a scary, unsafe place to be after dark. Although men, as well as women, died on or around the bridge area – George Bruce jumped to his death in 1837 & both James Newlands and William Parker shot themselves in separate incidents almost a decade apart – the legend focusses solely on a “White Lady”.
In his book “Haunted Dundee”, Geoff Holder deliberates the possibility that the White Lady could be the spirit of either Janet Fenton or Christina Fraser, who both committed suicide by jumping or dropping from the bridge. Janet died in 1882 aged 59, and Christina died in 1911, aged 53. Geoff notes that whilst Janet is believed to have died instantly, Christina survived for 4 days, before finally succumbing to her injuries. The ghost of the White Lady is said to be heard screaming as she plummets from the bridge, which lays some credence to the origins of the legend – but some of the other stuff, such as turning people into pools of blood is just a wee bit harder to swallow.
The White Lady of Claypotts Castle
On 29th May each year, the ghost of the White Lady of Claypotts Castle is alleged to appear at one of the upper windows of the castle. She is described as waving a white handkerchief towards St Andrews – the direction of her lover, whilst weeping uncontrollably. There isn’t a lot of information to go on, but there are certainly more inconsistencies and inaccuracies surrounding the legend than there is fact. It is noted that the ghost may be that of Marion Ogilvy, but there are no records stating that Marion Ogilvy ever visited or stayed at Claypotts Castle. Despite the fact that the landscape has changed considerably over the centuries, it would have been just as impossible then as it is now for Marion’s “lover” (who, incidentally, was Cardinal Beaton – the man who executed John Wishart as a heretic) to have ever seen her signal from St Andrews! Even the date her ghost is supposed to appear is uncertain, with various dates throughout the year given as the date of sighting. With all of this in mind, could it be possible that the White Lady of Claypotts doesn’t actually exist…or do we have the identity of the mystery woman all wrong? Does a ghost really haunt the upper levels of Claypotts Castle? Maybe we’ll never know…