Highland Horror!

A ‘true’ Scottish ghost story for Hallowe’en…

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Battle of Bannockburn by Brian Palmer
Battle of Bannockburn by Brian Palmer

 

Back in the olden days, any time there were no English around to be slaughtered (see above), the Scots used to practice by massacring each other. (This rarely happens today, except after a Rangers-Celtic football match.)

 

The 1980 Scottish Cup Final
The 1980 Scottish Cup Final

 

In the early 15th century, Clan Cumming and Clan Mackintosh had been feuding for decades. The Cummings had driven the Mackintoshes from their lands in Meikle Geddes and Rait, but the Mackintoshes had bloodily retaliated and the fighting had gone back and forth ever since. In 1442, both sides agreed to down arms and the Cummings invited the Mackintoshes to a feast of reconciliation at Rait Castle, a place that had been at the centre of the feuding between the two clans since the days of Robert the Bruce.

 

 

Things were not as they appeared, however, for the Cummings secretly proposed to murder their guests. All the Cummings were under an oath not to reveal the plot, but the daughter of the Chief had fallen in love with the young leader of the Mackintoshes. Sneaking out from the castle, she met her lover by a stone, known to this day as the Stone of the Maiden, where she revealed her father’s plot.

 

The Stone of the Maiden alastaircunningham07.blogspot.com
The Stone of the Maiden
alastaircunningham07.blogspot.com

 

As the feast came to its end, a toast was announced to ‘The Memory of the Dead’. This was the signal for the Cummings to rise up and slay their guests but, forewarned, each Mackintosh drew his dirk and killed his Cumming neighbour with a strike to the heart.

Only the Chief survived. Realising that his daughter had betrayed them, he rushed in rage to the tower where she was hiding. Terror-stricken, she tried to escape through the tower window, but as she hung from the ledge, the Chief drew his sword and chopped off both her hands, crying that never again would she use them to embrace the young Mackintosh!

 

Rait Castle tower www.saveraitcastle.org
Rait Castle tower
saveraitcastle.org

 

From that dreadful bloody night the castle has been untenanted, but for the ghost of the young handless maiden who wanders mournfully still through the ruins looking for her lost love…

 

Rait Castle by jeaniblog http://www.pxleyes.com/profile/jeaniblog/
Rait Castle by jeaniblog
pxleyes.com/profile/jeaniblog/

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This story is based on true events – namely, the feud and the massacre really happened, and the legend of the handless maiden is a real one, though the story seems to be told differently depending on the source. I’ve mingled a couple of versions – from wikipedia and from saveraitcastle.org – plus little bits from other sources around the ‘net.

Who knows whether it really happened? But still people claim to see the ghost…

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(This lament has nothing to do with the story but frankly, I couldn’t find a good recording of the appropriate one, The Lament of the Little Supper.)
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Happy Hallowe'en!

30 thoughts on “Highland Horror!

  1. Oh, what a story, FictionFan! Perfect for the day, too. And what I think makes this story especially effective is that enough of it is true that you wonder about the rest. Even those who don’t believe in hauntings can imagine the story – all of it – being true.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Margot! Yes, indeed, putting the ghostly element to one side, the rest is all too believable, and it seems to be a legend that goes way back, rather than a modern addition to the story…

  2. It’s a wonder there are any Scots existing. Though I’m married to a man with Scot blood and he can go on if you know what I mean. And on. And just about I think he is over it he starts around all over again from a different corner. Thanks for the shivers.

    • No, happily the child-free zone still seems to be working around here. I thought the wee one from next door might be round – she must be about four by now, but no sign…

  3. And now I know what Clan Mackintosh’s motto is and what it means – thanks to Google and you for introducing it to me. From what I read too (finding out about guisers), Scotland has had a tradition of Halloween visiting? We haven’t here in NZ until more recent years and I’ve always thought is was an adopted American practice because as a child, I used to read about in American books….

    • Aha! You have links to the Mackintoshes then? They sound like the good guys in this particular story – good in terms of Scottish clans, that is, which isn’t really saying much! 😉

      Yes, guising goes way, way back, and it’s different from the Trick or Treat thing that it’s become in America (though it’s going that way here too now). When we were kids, the idea was that you dressed up and went round the neighbours’ houses, where you were expected to perform your ‘party piece’ before being given a few monkey nuts or a tangerine. My party piece was ‘There is a green hill far away…’ – poor neighbours! I was a dreadful singer even back then! Then there would be all kinds of games – dooking for apples (trying to bite an apple floating in a basin of water while blindfolded; treacle scones (trying to bite a scone hanging from a rope while blindfolded – the scone hanging from the rope that is – not the child! 😉 All these old traditions are dying out now though… sadly!

  4. Great piece, and love your comment about ‘There is a green hill far away…’. My mum doesn’t like kid’s birthday parties as she thinks it’s more attention than is healthy, or one child deserves singly, so we had a Halloween party instead (plus it’s cheaper, one party a year for everyone). My sort-of guising torture was being made to (poorly) play the ‘The Entertainer’ on the piano.

    • Thanks, Lucy! 🙂 Haha! The torture they put us kids through! Still, at least I had the fun of watching my brother trying to sing The Piper o’ Dundee! The idea of one party a year is a good one, I think – your mother has a good point about too much focus on one child. And Hallowe’en is one of the more fun holidays…

      Thanks for popping in and commenting! 😀

  5. Oh that was good! I feel bad for her. I suppose she fell when her hands were lopped off? She could’ve at least tried to glue them back on.

    So, which clan do you favor? I like Cumming since the other one’s motto just doesn’t make sense, see.

    • No, she hooked onto the ledge with her nose, and did an amazing backflip to get back into the tower. Then she karate-chopped her father, and stole his hands!

      Does too! I’m thinking of adopting it as my motto, in fact – I often think one shouldn’t approach Tuppence without gauntlets. As far as I know I have no Cumming or Mackintosh blood, but the Cummings were a particularly wicked lot, I think. So I’ll be one of them…

        • Her mother was an elephant…

          Clan Galbraith, whose Clan seat was Culcreuch Castle, which coincidentally is only a few miles from where I live. It’s a boring castle though, and is now a hotel, I think. But I also have a tiny bit of Cameron blood and they’re a great clan, proper Jacobites they were (the Galbraiths would have been on the same side as the English *spits*) – I’d rather be part of them. Their castle is Achnacarry in Lochaber, much better!!

          • Oh no wonder he cut off her hands!

            Wait…did you just call a castle boring? I bet it’s not boring at all!! (No! *laughs* that is so hilarious. See, you might’ve been the Galbraith that wasn’t with the English.) Whoa…those are two big words right there.

            • Do elephants have hands? Perhaps American ones do…

              Oh, we have so many *smug face* Some are more interesting than others. (I was horrifed when I discovered the Galbraiths were on the wrong side! I blame my father! But you’d have been on the English side too, you know, you know…) You’ll need to master that ‘ch’ sound if you want to get your Scottish accent right!

            • *laughing lots* Of course. Or something like them.

              So many! So jealous. I love castles, I think. Now, why would I have been on the English side? Yeah, I can’t even begin to pronounce those!

            • That idea kinda creeps me out a bit…

              I love them too, but some aren’t really more than big houses – the older ones tend to be the best ones. Because the Jacobites were pretty much fighting to bring Catholicism back – you and my paternal ancestors would have been fighting to keep the Protestant King on the throne. My maternal ancestors, on the other hand, might have been Jacobites. Oh, it’s easy! Just imagine you’re a cat. Then imagine you’ve got a hairball stuck in your throat. Then try to cough it up… see? Easy!

            • It’s your fault, really!!

              Ohhhh…you’re right, then. Well, which side would you have been on? Probably neither! We could’ve formed our own thingy, you know. To put you own the thrown, see. Your family was split, that’s funny. *laughs and then is shocked* You’re making fun of it!

            • Uhh?! I refuse to accept the blame. sir!

              I’ve often wondered. Romantically I’d like to have been a Jacobite, but really I suspect I’d have been on the ohter side too. Being a Protestant atheist… *chuckles wickedly* But I think your idea is better – I’d have made a great Queen! I’d have let them all worship in whichever way they preferred, so long as they paid me a tribute of chocolate each year! My family still is! You should try organising a wedding or funeral when you have Catholics, Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses to contend with… not to mention the atheists!!!

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