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Huntly Castle
Myths and Legends


Castle Huntly, like many other noble buildings has its share of tales to tell, some of which are founded in fact, some of which have become so distorted through time as to be barely recognisable, all are enjoyable to hear and to recount.

The White Lady

The most commonly known legend is that of the White Lady. One version is of a dowager Countess of Strathmore who entered into a second ill fated marriage. The account of her bitter experience impelled Thackery to write his romance of sordid life entitled Barry Lyndown. In some editions of that romance, a note by the author explains its foundation in history. The unhappy woman wrote about her wretched experience, the letter being described as the most damning indictment of a husband ever written by a wife. As well as being reported to having been seen in one of the rooms of the castle, her ghost, it is said, has been known to haunt the grounds. Long before Queen Victoria ascended the throne, many in Longforgan village expressed their confident belief in the apparition that was said to haunt the chamber in the tower of Castle Huntly and the parks. Even in the last decade of Queen Victoria’s reign many Carse folk did not care to pass the Bogle Brig at night.

An alternative version of this enthralling tale, is that a daughter of the Lyon family committed a folly which her people regarded as heinous. A man servant was involved. The fair culprit was banished to a bed-chamber in the tower, at least one hundred feet high above ground. No doubt the poor prisoner suffered agony of mind and she found relief by leaping — or being pushed — from a window. Such is the story passed from one generation to another with such exactitude of detail that the particular window from which the unhappy girl leapt, or was thrown has remained identified. The spacious chamber has since been known as the Waterloo Room, for the reason that it was occupied by a Colonel Paterson who brought despatches announcing Wellington’s victory.

When Lady Armistead was tenant of Castle Huntly two young local ladies determined to sleep in the haunted room; but after midnight for reasons not recorded but can be imagined, they were compelled to seek other quarters. The maid at Castle Huntly had always been nervous about going near the Waterloo room after dark, and it was known that English maids had been scared out of their wits.

The legend of the White Lady of Castle Huntly has no connection whatever with the fate of the foolish Dowager Countess of Strathmore, who married a degenerate Irishman. She died long after Castle Huntly had become a Paterson possession. While she was still alive, the eerie story of Castle Huntly’s ghost terrified Carse folk.

TreesThe Glamis Tree

There was said to be a most remarkable tree called the Glamis Tree, an ash, which grew to a height of over 50 feet high and 27 feet in circumference. The tale is that an Earl of Kinghorne, or perhaps Patrick, first Earl of Kinghorne and Strathmore who made Glamis Castle splendid as it is now, ordered the family fool to take a message to Castle Lyon, as Castle Huntly was then called. The luckless jester, dressed in the uniform preserved at Glamis, remarked that he had no horse for the long journey to the Carse; and as the legend asserts, the Earl took a sapling and told him to ride thither on it. The fool arrived at Castle Lyon affecting to ride the sapling as a horse and either himself or someone in authority planted the sapling so as to commemorate the strange means of travel. Like all legends, this one of the ash at Castle Huntly must have originated in some practical happening. Longforgan folk believed the story associated with the splendid ash tree at Castle Huntly gateway and when the noble feature was lowered to the ground much concern was expressed.

Associations

Castle Huntly is a place around which cluster interesting historical associations. In 1650 Charles II paid a visit though not a willing one. He escaped from the Covenanters at Perth on Friday the 4th of October 1650, and being overtaken in Glen Clova he was taken back. He was conducted on Saturday to Castle Huntly where he stayed over night and from there on Sunday he was escorted to Perth.

A tradition is told that when General Monk besieged Dundee, his soldiers occupied Castle Huntly as a Cavalry station and the church of Fowlis as a stable.

During the short lived insurrection of the Earl of Glencairn against the Commonwealth a party of the Athol men it is said "came to Huntly to jointure house of Lady Glamis in February 1654 and fired a stack or two but promptly repenting of the mischief staid and extinguished them".

During the possession of Charles, fourth Earl of Kinghorne the Castle, then Castle Lyon was visited by the Pretender. On the way from Peterhead to the camp at Perth the Chevalier halted at Glamis on 4th January 1716 and on his way from Dundee on Saturday the 7th January, he honoured Castle Lyon by staying to dine within its walls and in the evening passed on to Fingask.

Castle Lyon too saw the retreat of the Chevalier and his forces and their pursuit by the army of Argyll. The table at which both Charles II and James the Pretender were served remained in the castle for some years but is now sadly unaccounted for.

Castle Huntly

Tradition would have it that Lord Grey named the castle after his wife, a daughter of the Earl of Huntly, but since the lineage can be traced back to Browfield or the estates at Broxmouth on the east coast not far from Dunbar, it is more likely that the name was taken from the village of Huntly in the parish of Gordon, which formed part of the Broxmouth estate. Another theory is that before the castle was built there was a field known as Huntly, and a burn which ran through the lands was of the same name.

The Tunnel

The tunnel

For many years there has been speculation about a tunnel between Castle Huntly and Glamis, a distance of about 15 miles. In 1939 press speculation revived this legend, when some old plans were found by Colonel A. G. Paterson on his rediscovering the dungeon. To date there has been no evidence to support this legend, and indeed even a modest understanding of the topography makes the practicalities of such an endeavour questionable. Another tale of the links between Glamis and Castle Huntly surrounds the first Earl of Strathmore. It was said that it was his intention to build an avenue of trees between the two castles despite the 15 mile distance.

Wallace’s Stone

The tale of Wallace’s stone is somewhat more plausible. The Statistical Account of 1795 describes this stone as the bear stone, relating the tale that this stone was the property of a Longforgan weaver named Smith. When not in use as a quern or hand mill for removing the husk from the barley or bear, he kept the stone at the side of his cottage door as a seat. It was on this stone that Wallace rested on his way to Dundee, when he fled after killing the Governor’s son. The last descendant of the Smith family presented the stone to George Paterson for safe keeping. The stone lay for many years unremarked in Castle Huntly but is now in the Steeple Museum in Dundee.

Construction

Tradition has it that the stone for Castle Huntly was brought from Kingoodie by boat. There is certainly large deposits of river sand to the south-west of the rock which shows signs of exposure to water erosion. This may have been the reason for the curtain wall which by the Statistical Account was built between 1660 and 1670 and the massive buttressing at the base of the south-west elevation.


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