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Strange Tales from Scotland
The Tale of the Scottish Ghost who outwitted an English Barrister
Michael Colmer

SIR GEORGE MACKENZIE of Rosehaugh has been described as one of the most distinguished historical figures of the Scottish Bar. Appointed Lord Advocate for Scotland in the reign of Charles II many of his judgements still form the backbone of this nation's legal system.

Such a man of sterling quality he , like his contemporaries, had little time for such things as apparitions - or witchcraft. Indeed as late as 1678 he wrote ; "That there are witches, divines cannot doubt, since the word of God hath ordained that no witch shall live; nor lawyers in Scotland, seeing our law ordains it to be punished with death".

A man of both high principle and ingrained habits he always ensured he took a constitutional walk through the streets of Edinburgh before his evening meal. His favoured route was to stroll deep in thought along Leith Walk - then a quiet thoroughfare.

One evening his meditations were unexpectedly broken when he was confronted by an elderly man who , without any prior explanation, suddenly launched into an impassioned speech;

"There is a very important case to come off in London fourteen days hence, at which your prescence will be required. It is a case of heirship to a very extensive estate in London, and a pretended claimant is doing his utmost to disinherit the true heir on the grounds of his inability to produce proper titles thereto.

"It is necessary that you be there on the day mentioned, and in one of the attics of the mansion house on that estate there is an old oak chest with two bottoms. Between these you will find the necessary titles, written on parchment."

Having delivered his speech this venerable grey-haired and well dressed man abruptly turned and left, leaving Sir George somewhat bewildered .

But the following night the great advocate's private peramulations along Leith Walk were once more interrupted. The same mysterious man appeared and earnestly urged him not to delay in repairing to London and assured him that he would be well paid for all his troubles.

Sir George dismissed the stranger from his mind but the next night he was accosted for the third time . The same persistent stranger once more broke into his thoughts and urgently pleaded with the lawyer not to waste another day else the case would be lost.

Such was the man's deportment and such his anxiety that the advocate decided to explore this highly unorthodox approach to a legal briefing and duly set out by horseback for London the following morning, eventually arriving in the English capital with a day in hand.

Within hours he found himself pacing in front of the mansion house that had been described to him . Here he met two men heavily engaged in conversation, one of these being the true claimant to the disputed property .

Sir George promptly introduced himself as the principle law-officer of the Crown for Scotland. The barrister, assuming Sir George had come to England to deprive him of his case, became both surly and disparaging of Scotland and its legal system.

It was at this point that the second man, the claimants, invited Sir George to inspect the property. It was it the drawing room that one particular painting caught the advocate's eye. After a minute examination of the portrait he asked his host if he knew who this man was. "That was my great-great-grandfather ", came the reply.

"But this man spoke to me on no less than three successive nights in Edinburgh last week", declared the baffled lawyer.

His curiosity now fully aroused Sir George asked to be shown the attics where he found a mass of old papers scattered around - which prompted a search for documents. Just as the two men were about to abandon their hunt Sir George noticed an old trunk lying in a corner.

Still angered by the anti-Scottish remarks made earlier by the English barrister
Sir George gave the old trunk a hefty clout with his boot. At this the bottom fell out of the trunk and the missing deeds were suddenly revealed.

The following morning found Sir George entering the English court just as the case had been called. He spoke to the opposing claimant's counsel inviting him to drop his case. "No sum, or consideration whatever, would induce me to give it up", the Englishman replied.

Sir George pleaded an eloquent case and then produced the appropriate title with a flourish. Such was their authenticity that the case was immediately declared found in favour of Sir George's client. The distinguished advocate then took his clent's arm, bowed to the opposing counsel, and declared; "You see now what a Scotsman has done, and let me tell you that I wish a countryman of mine anything
but a London barrister ! "

He returned to Edinburgh still musing over this remarkable case and resumed his habitual perambulations but never again met up with the elderly man.


* This story is just one of hundreds of similar psychic tales that originate from or in Scotland. I offer it here as further provenance that all true Scots possess a special Celtic inheritance of genetic gift of the Second Sight - an they should choose to use it.

As my previous articles have suggested whether it be reverently described as "St Columba's Blessing" or the Gaelic "Taibhsearchd", this psychic gift is the inherent birthright of every true Scot but, if it is to be kept pure, calls for a much wider understanding and appreciation.

One field where Scotland's contributions have been noted lies within the historical records of the Spiritualist movement which reveal an impressive list of Scots men and women who have lent their names, reputations and their enthusiams to their firm conviction in the survival of the human spirit after 'death'.

Undoubtedly the most recognised is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who embraced Spiritualism wholeheartedly in his later life . As did Sir James Herries, a leading Scottish psychic researcher , a friend of Sir Arthur and the Chief Reporter of that prestigious broadsheet "The Scotsman". Sir James thoroughly investigated the materialisation claims of the medium Helen Duncan and was only convinced she was genuine when Sir Arthur himself suddenly 'appeared' complete with moustache and spoke at length to Sir James during one of their many experimental seances. True to his discoveries Sir James reported both trials at which Mrs Duncan was charged and spoke on her behalf from the witness box of the Old Bailey.

An equally renowned name is that of John Brown the ghillie who served Queen Victoria so faithfully. However outside of the Spiritualist movement few folk realise that John Brown was another natural Scottish psychic and that his true appeal to the Queen was his mediumistic ability to re-unite her with her beloved Prince Albert almost on a daily basis.

A particularly remarkable Scottish Medium was David Dunglas Home the Victorian sensitive who astounded many with his ability to levitate out of one Kensington bay window and back in another in full daylight and in full view of many distinguished observers. His explanation was that it was achieved by his unseen friends in the spirit world.

One worldly wise Scot with a yen for psychic matters was the ultra-successful businessman and philanthropist Arthur Findlay OBE. Born into an ultra-strict Presbyterian family he rapidly rose to material fame in his grandfather's shipbroking concern. His lifelong passion lay in making a profound study of comparitive religions. After many years of this he eventually found himself in a Spiritualist church in his native Glasgow where a medium successfully re-united this highly sceptical businessman with his 'dead' father. This set Findlay on a lifelong quest during which he wrote books about his discoveries and later donated his Essex home for use as a Spiritualist college.

Then there was the unique Ulsterman adopted by Glasgow, Albert Best, now also logged in this Celtic hall of fame. He gave discreet sittings to the Royal family and other international celebrities but always maintained strict observance of that seance room rule of confidentiality. And today the young medium tipped to don his mantle is one of his protogees and a fellow Glaswegian, Gordon Smith.

There have been ( and doubtless will be ) many more Scottish names beyond the ken of this Sassenach to boost this list for, to this day, Celtic mediums are considered to be among the best in the world - curiously enough it would seem by everyone save the Scots themselves.

What is they say about Prophets in their own country ?

NB The author's email address is;

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