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The Bride of Baldoon

22 August 2019 6 Comments

One of a series of very naiive illustrations for a cycle of song lyrics I wrote some years ago now. They are deliberately Ingoldsby-like. Here’s the whole cycle:

Fingers Pale
a compendium of ghostly songs

The Ghostly Witness

Annie Walker and her cousin
Shared the self-same bed,
She bore a child within her womb
But he would not be wed.
So William Walker took a pick
And cleaved her pretty head,
And in a mineshaft dank and cold
He let her grisly body mould
And swore that she was dead.

A Miller worked, a-grinding corn,
An honest man but poor,
When all at once dead Annie Walker
Stepped in through his door.
Her head was fairly cleaved in twain
And dripped with brains and gore.
Her hair was wet and hanging down
And blood-bespattered was her gown,
A-dripping on the floor.

Her blue lips parted and she spoke,
Her tongue was black with grime,
“Oh Walker did away with me,
Murdered in my prime!
His boots, besmeared with clotted blood
He left outside the mine.
He dragged me down into the hole,
My corpse decays amid the coal,
My bones leach into lime!”

The Miller quaked with mortal fear,
“Why hast thou come to me?”
His feet were frozen to the floor
Though he was wont to flee.
The corpse said, “Justice I require,
And leave it up to thee!
I’ll haunt thee, Miller, taunt thee nightly
Until they bind up Walker tightly
And hang him from a tree!”

He knelt to wash away the clots
Congealing on the floor,
But as he scrubbed, the dead girl’s blood
Returned in gouts of cruor,
And fast the Miller ran away
Across the misty moor.
She followed hard upon his trail
And clutched him with her fingers pale
And harrassed him the more.

He went unto the magistrate
And made the matter plain;
He told how Walker used his pick
And left poor Annie slain.
They found the body in the mine
The skull pierced to the brain,
Limbs akimbo, neck awry,
And Walker’s boots were stashed nearby
Besmirched with bloody stains.

There is a gibbet on a tree,
And Walker’s hanging there.
His eyes are fixed on Annie’s grave
With dull and sightless stare;
The ravens watch his twitching corpse
And pluck his lanky hair.
In tufts they pull it from the roots,
And all because he left his boots
Beside his cousin fair.

Source Material: Legend, with some basis in fact, associated with the coal mining communities of Framwellgate Moor and Chester-le-Street, County Durham. J.W. Dickenson’s Further Tales of Old Durham, 1988.

The Sprightly Tailor

The great MacDonald of Saddell
He loved his Sprightly Tailor well
No phantom coming up from hell
Could scare the Sprightly Tailor.

MacDonald wanted for to use
A pair of fringed and tartan trews
But he despaired until the news
Came to the Sprightly Tailor.

The Tailor leapt up with a grin,
“Oh Master, when can I begin
To work with thimble, thread and pin?”
Cried the Sprightly Tailor.

MacDonald said, “Ye’ll start tonight:
Make my trews and stitch them right
And have them ready by daylight,
You boastful Sprightly Tailor.

But you shall stitch them in the church
That lies in yonder grove of birch,
And you must fly not from your perch!
Be stalwart, Sprightly Tailor!”

The Sprightly Tailor’s noble host
Did raise his arm in silent toast
For in the church there dwelt a ghost
To scare the Sprightly Tailor.

“I fear it not,” the Tailor taunted,
“Though the church be ruined and haunted.
Through the land the name be vaunted
Of the Sprightly Tailor!”

He sat upon a granite tomb
And all about him crept the gloom;
It curled around the ruined room
And round the Sprightly Tailor.

Upon his thumb he put his thimble,
Fast then worked his fingers nimble
‘Til the ground began to tremble
‘Neath the Sprightly Tailor.

A tombstone lifted up nearby;
A head rose up with gleaming eye,
But neither groan nor fearful cry
Escaped the Sprightly Tailor.

The head let out an awful low;
It said, “I’m coming out, you know!”
“I see your head but this I’ll sew,”
Replied the Sprightly Tailor.

The spectre rose up to the chest
But still the Tailor did not rest,
“MacDonald’s trews must be the best
Made by the Sprightly Tailor!”

The spectre comes out to his britches;
The altar quakes; the pavement pitches
And slightly longer grow the stitches
Of the Sprightly Tailor.

The spectre steps out on the floor,
The Tailor stitches more and more
With not one glance towards the door
From the Sprightly Tailor.

The spectre’s voice foretells abuse,
The Tailor finishes the trews,
And not one moment does he lose,
That nimble Sprightly Tailor.

He blows his candle and he flees;
The spectre’s rasping wrathful wheeze
Shakes the rocks and hills and trees
Around the Sprightly Tailor.

The spectre chased him through the glen;
The Tailor hid at Saddell, then
The spectre went back to his den
And cursed the Sprightly Tailor.

Back to hell then went the lich;
No other Tailor was so rich
Thanks to the somewhat longer stitch
Of the Sprightly Tailor.

Source Material: Scottish fairy tale. Joseph Jacobs, Celtic Fairy Tales, Twickenham, 1994, pp. 61-64. He derived the tale from Notes and Queries, December 21, 1861.

Andrew Coffey

The rain came down on Andrew Coffey
Drenched upon his mare,
A mad March wind blew through the trees
‘Til Andrew did not dare
To ride his horse another ell
Lest she stumbled, lurched or fell,
And where he was, he could not tell
And did not seem to care.

“I see a light,” said Andrew Coffey,
“Burning by the pond,”
He led his mare with sinking step
Through fern and bracken frond,
Until they came unto a hut
But the door was bolted shut,
“There may be other houses but
I dare not ride beyond.”

“May I come in?” called Andrew Coffey;
The door swung open wide,
And clinging cobwebs thick with dust
Hung in the room inside.
A lantern glowed upon a chair
But its owner was not there,
And Andrew Coffey did not dare
To put the lamp aside.

Upon the floor sat Andrew Coffey,
His breath a cloud of mist,
When from a cupboard came a voice,
And the sound of rapping fist.
“ANDREW COFFEY!” cried it then,
And “ANDREW COFFEY!” once again,
“Tell me a tale of ghostly men,”
The voice hoarsely hissed.

“Oh no indeed!” said Andrew Coffey,
“I dare not tell a tale,
For I’m afraid,” said Andrew Coffey,
His face was grim and pale.
“ANDREW COFFEY!” cried it then,
And “ANDREW COFFEY!” once again,
“Tell me a tale of ghostly men!
You’ll be sorry if you fail!”

“Oh no indeed!” said Andrew Coffey,
“I know not what to say!”
And from the cupboard lurched a corpse
With beard grizzled grey.
“Patrick Rooney!” cried he then,
And “Patrick Rooney!” once again,
“Lost overboard with all his men
A year ago today!”

From the hut fled Andrew Coffey
But his horse he could not see.
He ran away with frenzied fear
Straight into a tree.
His head was reeling, blind his eyes,
Spreadeagled ‘neath the whirling skies,
His ears rung with Rooney’s cries
Clamouring to be free.

When sight came back to Andrew Coffey,
He heard two men behind,
A-carrying dead Patrick Rooney
Trussed up like a hind.
Beyond the tree then did they sit
And soon they had a fire lit,
With Patrick Rooney on a spit –
But Rooney did not mind.

“Oh who will turn dead Patrick Rooney?”
Said one man to the other.
“There’s just the man!” said Patrick Rooney
Amid the smoke and pother.
“ANDREW COFFEY!” cried he then,
And “ANDREW COFFEY!” once again,
“Turn my spit to help these men,
If it’s not too much bother!”

So Andrew turned dead Patrick Rooney,
Slung o’er the spitting fire,
When all at once dead Patrick Rooney,
Indignantly cried, “Sire!
You’re burning me, you fiend, you cad!
Now that makes me really mad!
Never was a cook so bad!”
Cried Rooney red with ire.

Then Andrew saw dead Patrick Rooney
Climb down from the spit.
“Look at my scorch marks, Andrew Coffey,
You really are a twit!”
Then all at once the corpse was gone
And Andrew Coffey wandered on
Until a hut he came upon
By lonely lantern lit.

“May I come in?” called Andrew Coffey;
The door swung open wide,
And there was half-cooked Patrick Rooney
Upon the chair inside.
“ANDREW COFFEY!” cried he then,
And “ANDREW COFFEY!” once again,
“Tell me a tale of ghostly men!
I will not be denied!”

Then such a tale told Andrew Coffey,
To make mere mortals quake.
He told the tale of Patrick Rooney,
The walls around did shake.
“PATRICK ROONEY!” Andrew said,
And “PATRICK ROONEY! Living dead!”,
‘Til Andrew Coffey fell out of bed
And sat up wide awake.

Source Material: Irish fairy tale. Joseph Jacobs, Celtic Fairy Tales, Twickenham, 1994, pp. 200-205. He derived the tale from D.W. Logie and Alfred Nutt.

Croglin Grange

Two brothers and a sister rented Croglin Grange,
A house with little character, not untoward nor strange,
And soon the sister set about, the decor to arrange
In Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

The sister’s bedroom window had a splendid view
Overlooking field and hedgerow, and the churchyard too,
And nobody expected too much bother or ado
In Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

The night was somewhat sultry; no wind was in the air.
The sister sat a-knitting upon her bedroom chair,
When in through the window she saw two black eyes stare
Into Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

It scratched upon the window, it picked apart the lead,
And in through the casement it thrust its shrivelled head,
And she began to doubt what the advertisements had said
About Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

It grabbed her by her slender, pale and gentle wrist;
It touched her pretty chin with its yellow, bony fist,
And her tender throat was by blackened lips a-kissed
In Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

She let out a scream before she swayed and swooned,
And her two stalwart brothers burst into the room,
She lay beneath the curtains, swaying in the gloom
In Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

All that they could find was two welts upon her throat,
While outside the window the fiend did gasp and gloat,
The blood in there is plentiful, it made a mental note
About Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

Then one of the brothers looked down below,
And saw the creature’s teeth in a pearly, shining row;
He took a careful aim and he shot it with his bow
From Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

It gave a fearful cry as they rushed into the night;
They followed its footsteps by flickering lantern light
Until they came upon a tomb, a dark and dreary sight
Nearby Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

They hauled away the tombstone, and horribly they cried,
For half-eaten human bodies were strewn about inside,
It was sitting in its casket, its grin was red and wide,
Laughing, Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

One brother threw the lantern, it burst and spattered fire,
The creature waved its arms with wrath and rage and ire,
And as it was consumed it pronounced its curses dire
Upon Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

There’s a lovely house to let, the furnishings are nice,
It comes with guarantees against silverfish or mice,
And the landlords aren’t disposed to haggle o’er the price
Of Croglin Grange, Croglin Grange,
There’s nothing strange about Croglin Grange.

Source material: English folk-tale. Augustus Hare’s more complex version, which, for the sister at least, has a happier ending, may be read in Kevin Crossley-Holland (Ed.) Folk Tales of the British Isles, London, 1985, pp. 203-207. There are comparatively few English vampire tales, and the notion that vampires are killed by fire, rather than by means of a stake through the heart, appears to be unique to this one.

The Milk-White Doo

There once was a farmer who had a little lad,
And his name was Curly Locks; he looked just like his Dad;
He had a little sister; Golden Tresses, pretty miss,
At night he tucked them up in bed, gave each of them a kiss.

Their mother died in childbirth, their father struggled on,
But in the day he had to work; for hours he was gone,
And soon he was tired of a widower’s hard life;
He said “I think I’ll have to go and get another wife!”

Now this woman was a termagant, she beat him black and blue,
And when he went into the fields, she thrashed the children too.
She thrashed them with her distaff, she thrashed them with her whip,
She said, “I’ll thrash you harder still,” and curled her wicked lip.

Their father went a-hunting and shot a hare for stew,
The woman put it on to boil and threw the boy in too,
And when the father ate the stew, he got an awful shock,
For he found himself a-chewing on the foot of Curly Locks.

Chorus:
Oh Mammy put me in the stew,
Daddy had my bones to chew,
And I am coming after you
I’th’ form o’th’ Milk White Doo!

“Oh it is Curly Locks’s foot!” distraught the father cried,
“Nay! ‘Tis but a piece of hare,” the wicked woman lied,
And soon the stew was finished off, they licked the cauldron clean,
And after that poor Curly Locks was never ever seen.

But Golden Tresses took the bones and buried them outside,
Then she knelt upon her knees, and mournfully she cried,
And from the grave the Doo arose, and opened pinions white;
It kissed her cheek and then it flew away into the night.

It came upon a washerwoman, and unto her did sing,
She quickly handed o’er the clothes, it tucked them ‘neath its wing;
It found a man a-counting money, and unto him did coo,
The fellow said, “This bag of silver I give unto you.”

It came upon a miller-boy, a-grinding yellow corn,
And flew with millstone in its beak, through the misty morn,
Till it alighted on the house, and rapped on window sill,
And all the family came outside, looking pale and ill.

Chorus

First there came wee Golden Tresses, the Doo lifted its wing,
It gave her all the pretty clothes, and unto her did sing:
“My sister buried all my bones, she wept that I should die!”
It kissed her once more on the cheek; the stepmother said, “Fie!”

Then there came the father grieving, the Doo lifted its wing,
It gave him all the silver bright, and unto him did sing:
“You ate me up unknowingly, you knew not it was I!”
The father wept and wrung his hands; the stepmother said, “Fie!”

And then at last the woman came, the Doo lifted its wing,
It held the great millstone aloft, and unto her did sing:
“You put my body in the stew, and made my sister cry,
And for this, you evil witch, I swear that you shall die!”

It dropped the millstone on her head, it crushed her every bone,
And all the clearing echoed with her awful dying groan,
The Milk-White Doo, it gave a coo, flapped it wings and then,
I have heard tell the Milk-White Doo was never seen again.

Chorus

Source material: Scottish folk-tale, origin unknown, from Scottish Fairy Tales, Senate, 1994, pp. 166-172.

The Bride of Baldoon

Janet Dalrymple loved Archibald Rutherford,
The penniless nobleman gave her his heart,
But both of her parents scorned Archibald Rutherford;
They each disapproved of the match from the start.
Dalrymple said, “Daughter, soon you’ll be married, child,
To brave David Dunbar, the heir to Baldoon.”
Poor Janet trembled, she blanched and her eyes were wild,
And then she fell at his feet in a swoon.

Janet Dalrymple will haunt the ruins evermore;
Janet Dalrymple, the bride of Baldoon.

She wept and she pleaded for Archibald Rutherford,
Her mother sat silent, and stony her stare.
Her father said, “Plagues upon Archibald Rutherford!
Should he step o’er this threshold, I’d have him beware!”
So they wed her to Dunbar upon a bright summer’s day,
And she pledged her troth to the lord of Baldoon.
The priest told him, “Kiss the bride”; she turned her face away,
Her pouting lips quivered, “My death shall come soon.”

Janet Dalrymple will haunt the ruins evermore;
Janet Dalrymple, the bride of Baldoon.

To the nuptial chamber they dragged the unwilling bride;
They bolted the door and they wished them sweet dreams,
And late in the night fearful noises were heard inside;
The servants awoke to hear Lord Dunbar’s screams.
They rushed to the chamber, the maids’ slippers on the floor,
Their feet clattered on the stone stairs of Baldoon,
And there lay Lord Dunbar all covered with gouts of gore,
His wife pale and wan in the light of the moon.

Janet Dalrymple will haunt the ruins evermore;
Janet Dalrymple, the bride of Baldoon.

Her face was contorted, maniacal was her smile;
She muttered in syllables strange to their ears –
They say Janet Dalrymple died ‘ere a little while,
Her dress stained with blood and her cheeks streaked with tears.
Wisteria and ivy festoon all the crumbling walls,
Ground-elder takes over the road to Baldoon,
And wailing, her ghost wanders through its deserted halls
And Lord Dunbar’s lifeblood still drips on her shoon.

Janet Dalrymple will haunt the ruins evermore;
Janet Dalrymple, the bride of Baldoon.

Source material: Based on events surrounding a wedding which occurred on 24 August 1669, also recorded by Sir Walter Scott in his novel, The Bride of Lammermoor. See also Simon Marsden, Phantoms of the Isles: Further Tales from the Haunted Realm, Exeter, 1990, p.11. Baldoon Castle is in Wigtownshire, Scotland.

Plas Teg

Distraught was John Trevor, his dead wife turned cold,
He sat in his carriage and whipped at his steed,
The poor creature shied and she slipped on the mould:
John Trevor went back to Plas Teg for to bleed.

In the Regency Bedroom, John Trevor died;
His skull had been fractured, and bleeding his brain,
And still his pale ghost calls out for his bride,
Wringing white hands and groaning with pain.

Chorus:
The grounds are all overgrown, weathered the stone,
The house is as gaunt and as grey as a tomb,
And evil stalks everywhere, nought will atone,
For spectres and wraiths wander through every room.

Two lovers were courting, he asked for her hand,
She loved the man dearly, but evil befell:
He died in a duel for an acre of land,
She went to Plas Teg, drowned herself in the well.

She wanders the grounds, her drowned lips turned blue;
She lurks in the well, and her hands claw the stone,
And on moonlit nights she arises anew,
The cold garden echoes her agonised moan.

Chorus

The gatekeeper stood his watch, one stormy night
When something approached him, rustling leaves,
They say that his face was contorted with fright;
He flew to Plas Teg, hung himself from the eaves.

Yet still his ghost watches and waits at the gate
His grey hair unruffled by cool evening breeze,
You can still hear him weeping, bemoaning his fate,
As dark spectral riders approach through the trees.

Chorus

The Indian Bedroom, once used as a court:
Now it lies empty, for none can abide
The place were the felons for mercy besought,
For here they were sentenced and here they died:

The rafters bear marks where the gibbet-rope hung;
Here is the lever that sprung the trap-door;
Into that corner their bodies were slung;
Here are the marks where their boots dragged the floor.

Chorus

Source material: Plas Teg is a Jacobean mansion in Clwyd, Wales, and is the scene of an extraordinary number of violent deaths and ghostly manifestations. It is pictured and described in Simon Marsden, Phantoms of the Isles: Further Tales from the Haunted Realm, Exeter, 1990, p. 20.

Johnny One-Arm

John Chiesly lived in Dalry town,
He was unhappily married:
He was enslaved by his termagant wife;
She nagged and bitched and harried.
He took his case to a court of law,
Alimony was enforced,
The yearly settlements left John Chiesly
Unhappily divorced.

Unhappily divorced was he
And still unhappier yet to be:
He cursed the day that he was wed
And he shot her lawyer in the head;

He shot him dead in Old Bank Close,
It was a terrible deed:
A capital crime of the grimmest sort
As all the town agreed.
And so, the arm which held the gun
They chopped off at All Hallows,
They dragged him down the Royal Mile
And hung him on the gallows.

And on the gallows then hung he
A gruesome sight for all to see,
And at his mouldering corpse they jeered
Until one night it disappeared.

It disappeared one stormy night,
‘Twas nowhere to be found,
And ghostly laughter, screams and wails
Were heard from all around,
From all around the screeching came,
John Chiesley went a-walking
And all Edinburgh quaked with fear
When his ghost was stalking.

His ghost went stalking every night,
He gave the ladies such a fright;
They fainted in the streets for fear
Of Johnny One-Arm drawing near.

Johnny One-Arm drawing near,
His right side smeared with gore
Johnny with the menacing leer,
For mercy they implore.
He terrorises rich and poor,
Thin lads and maidens bonny,
And streams of blood gush on the floor
From the stump of One-Armed Johnny.

One-Armed Johnny, unhappily wed,
Should not have tried divorce instead:
Unhappy marriage may be daunting,
But ‘tis better than unhappy haunting.

Source material: John Chiesly sought divorce in 1688, and murdered Sir George Lockhart out of anger at the terms of the divorce settlement. In 1965, builders uncovered a skeleton in Dalry, lacking one arm. The remains were re-interred, and the hauntings ceased. Reported in Lily Seafield, Scottish Ghosts, New Lanark, 1999, pp. 42-43.

Sister Grizel

In the West Bow of Edinburgh
Lived Major Thomas Weir,
Along with charming Grizel,
She was his sister dear.
A pillar of society,
Well known for his propriety,
But he soon gained notoriety
And filled the town with fear.

He seemed to be a holy man,
And when the people met for prayer,
Major Thomas Weir
Was invariably there,
His standing was prestigious,
They all thought him religious,
And of his sins prodigious
They all were unaware,

Except for idle gossipers,
Who revelled in their scorn:
They noticed how he bore a staff
Of gnarled and dark blackthorn,
“He is a warlock, this we say!”
And all the citizens said “Nay!”
But pretty soon they’d rue the day
That Major Weir was born.

He stood up in the meeting house
When others knelt to pray,
And all assumed that he would have
Some holy words to say,
But out came his confessions vile,
All uttered with contorted smile,
And he was laughing all the while
Describing his foul play:

“Incestuous are my desires
For Grizel shares my bed,
We court the devil, conjouring
With all the living dead!
We’re indecently familiar,
With occult memorabilia,
And we indulge in necrophilia
By Satan are we wed!”

Priests and doctors questioned him
And found that he was sane,
And he retold his awful tale
Again and again.
He could not, would not be ignored,
He waved his black staff like a sword,
And like a devil gouged and clawed
And writhed as if in pain.

For crimes of witchcraft strangled,
His body burnt with fire,
His blackthorn staff was also
Thrown upon the pyre.
His sinews jerking as they burned,
The dead eyes in their sockets turned,
And in the flames the black staff squirmed,
The scene was grim and dire.

And then they dragged out Grizel too
To hang upon the scaffold,
She stripped her clothes off on the spot,
Stood trembling in the cold.
About her neck they tied a rope,
And up the ladder she did grope,
And as she dropped, screamed, “How I hope
For hellish fires untold!”

For fifty years their house stood empty,
Dark and dismal sight,
And from its halls came laughter grim,
And groanings in the night.
You may yet hear a strangled squeal,
Or the sound of Grizel’s spinning wheel –
Sounds fit to make the blood congeal
With pure unholy fright.

In the West Bow of Edinburgh
Lived Major Thomas Weir,
Along with charming Grizel,
She was his sister dear.
And though their dwelling stands no more
Still devils come with unsheathed claw
And pound upon its spectral door
To fill the town with fear.

Source material: Major Weir, formerly a Covenanter, made his confession in Edinburgh in1670, and was executed in April of that year. The story, along with accounts of the spectral apparitions associated with him and his sister Grizel are recorded in Lily Seafield’s Scottish Ghosts, New Lanark, 1999, pp. 50-52. The staffs carried by witches were often of blackthorn, and the blackthorn itself was thought to be an unlucky tree.

The Passenger

Puddles reflect a crescent moon,
The cartwheels creak and lurch,
The horses, blinkered, breathing fog
Pass ghostly trunks of birch.
Atop the trap, the coachman sits,
He lightly flicks the whip,
Mist creeps in tendrils all around;
He feels their clammy grip.

He drives on through a sunken lane,
And darkness closes round;
But for hooves and turning wheels
There is no other sound.
Empty is the seat behind,
And yet he feels a breath
Upon the bare nape of his neck,
As cold as musty death.

He shudders, flicks the whip again,
“’Twas only in my mind,”
He grits his teeth, resists the urge
To turn and look behind.
But icy chills run down his spine;
He drives the horses more.
White fingers clutch about his throat,
Each nail a blackened claw.

And as he writhes and chokes to death
Within their stony grip,
His glazing eyes look at its face;
It curls its shrivelled lip.
The horses bolt, the cart careers
Down the sunken lane;
It overturns, the wheels revolve,
Glistening in the rain.

And from the creaking, splintered cart
Shall the strangled coachman rise;
Like blackened claws his fingernails;
Like shrivelled grapes, his eyes.
His passenger has disappeared,
His steeds lie side by side;
He goes to seek another coach,
The back seat for to ride.

Source material: An overactive imagination, perhaps. The “sunken lane” is now the A436.

The Bridge of the White Spirit

In Kidwelly castle lived Sir Elidir,
A crusader, and a valiant knight.
Nest was his daughter; she brought him good cheer,
When she laughed, he was filled with delight.
She lived with two brothers, Gruffydd and Rhys,
She was gentle in manner, and matchless in grace,
But jealous young Gladys, Sir Elidir’s niece
Hoped to entwine her in darkest disgrace,
For Nest loved a Norman, Sir Walter by name,
Though she could have married the best man in Wales.
Said Gladys, “I’ll bring those lovers to shame
The next time her father sets his red sails –
Whilst he is far gone, on some holy crusade,
Sir Walter and Nest shall be sorely betrayed!”

The Tomb of our Lord was besieged by the Turks,
And Sir Elidir took up the Cross,
Gladys began with her treacherous works,
She brought nothing but dolour and loss.
She made love to Gruffydd, but cared for him nought,
And told him of Nest and her forbidden love.
Favours exchanged, he was easily bought;
He said, “What’s a sister, when push comes to shove?”
He called his retainer, Meurig the sly,
“Thou knowest Sir Walter, the young Norman lord?
Thou wouldst grow rich, should he happen to die –
Here – take this gold; you may borrow this sword.”
And Meurig, he nodded and took up his pay;
He took sword and scabbard, and sidled away.

On the wide river Gwendraeth, a bridge lay in mist,
Where Nest met Sir Walter, for dalliance sweet,
But the dismal day came, and a third kept the tryst,
Stealthily creeping on noiseless feet.
She saw the dark shadow draw close to her love,
The glint of the sword, and she heard his death-cry.
He fell from the bridge, and she wailed above,
Then she leapt o’er the edge with a heartbroken sigh.
The wide, raging water washed both out to sea;
At Cefn Sidan, they washed up on the sands.
A gaping wound punctured his heart, plain to see,
And clutching his waist, her cold, lifeless hands.
But when evil Gladys heard news of their fate,
She rubbed her hands gladly, afire with hate.

Far off in the Holy Land, Elidyr heard
Of the death of his daughter, and died of the grief,
And Meurig looked pale, uttered never a word,
And no earthly counsel could bring him relief,
For the ghost of poor Nest, all shrouded in white,
Followed him everywhere, haunted his home,
A-weeping by day, and a-moaning by night;
He fled, as a pilgrim, and wandered to Rome.
He went to the Holy Land, Cross on his chest;
The white spirit followed with pitiful wails.
She wrung her white hands, she beat her fair breast;
She followed him back to Kidwelly in Wales,
And taken with fever, priest by his bed-side,
He grimly told all, then he lay back and died.

Source material: Eirwen Jones, Folk-Tales of Wales, London, 1947, pp. 88-94.

King Henry’s Knowe

King Henry lived for lust and war,
For brazen rape and plunder;
He left a wake of grisly gore,
And white skulls cleaved asunder.
He lived by blood and died by sword,
Beheaded by a Norman lord,
His body fell like thunder.

They buried him within a barrow,
His head they buried too;
No farmer came near with his harrow,
For fear he’d come to rue
That ‘ere he stepped upon that mound;
The shadows crept across the ground,
And only nightshades grew.

Time marched on and men forgot
What horror lay within;
Death-watch beetles, worms and rot
Devoured his flesh of sin.
Roots twined round his severed head,
And on the chamber of the dead
The barrow roof caved in.

A ploughboy and a comely maid
Came to the sunken hill;
There among the nightshades laid
They thought to have their will.
Threads of gossamer in the air,
And something gently tugged her hair;
The air grew thick and still.

Then fingers wrapped around her jaw;
She gave a half-choked cry,
The fingers tightened more and more,
Her neck twisted awry,
The ploughboy vainly clutched her wrist,
But, strangled by the bony fist,
There came her dying sigh.

The ploughboy ran, all blenched with fear,
He dare not turn his head;
His path was paved with shadows drear,
It seemed the sunset bled.
And men returned with pick and spade
To seek the body of the maid,
Their faces white with dread.

Deep they dug the hardened ground,
Their moonlit faces wan;
The ploughboy trembled by the mound,
“Where has my darling gone?”
They tossed out clods of soil and rock,
And shreds of her soft, floral frock;
‘Twas grim to look upon.

The fingers still about her throat,
Earth filled her open eyes,
The crownèd skull did seem to gloat
O’er its unbreathing prize.
They crushed his jewels and burnt his bones,
And buried her with mournful moans,
‘Neath nightshades now she lies.

Source material: King Henry’s Knowe is a sunken barrow near to Glasgow. The story, we like to think, is imagined.

The Iron Door

The Ogilvies and Lindsays
Had feuded many a year;
The Ogilvies came to Glamis,
Driven there by fear.

Lord Glamis opened up the gate;
He ushered them within,
He led them to a secret chamber
And then he locked them in.

Lord Glamis left them there to starve,
And not one dying groan
Escaped the solid iron door
And walls of dripping stone.

They clawed the lock with fingernails;
They tore each other’s hair;
They tried to dig out through the floor
But met with flagstones bare.

And of their fate was nothing heard
For a hundred years or more;
‘Til the Earl of Strathmore found a key
And opened up the door,

And father, children, mother, babe,
He found them all within,
Reduced to scattered piles of bone
And strips of rotted skin.

Strathmore felt the rising gall;
He swooned upon the floor.
He woke up in the dripping dark,
And locked was the iron door.

Source material: Lily Seafield, Scottish Ghosts, New Lanark, 1999, p. 72. There are many legends concerning secret rooms in Glamis Castle; a fact which is not surprising when one considers that some of the walls are four metres thick. The final verse is a fictional embellishment.

The Ghost of Gourlay

Shepherd Gourlay of Dumfries
Was smitten by a girl.
She was a pretty sight to see,
Her hair in tousled curl,
But Mary Graham wasn’t quite
Sweetness, loveliness and light;
To court her wasn’t for the best,
As Gourlay’s ghost can well attest.

One night Gourlay went to call
At Mary Graham’s farm;
His palms were sweaty, heart a-flutter,
Deluded by her charm.
But when he got there, lo! he saw
Her thrashing someone on the floor;
Her brothers kicked the chap as well
As Gourlay’s ghost is bound to tell.

Their victim was a pedlar lad,
And when he limp was lying,
They picked him up and strangled him,
And Gourlay watched his dying.
Then poor Gourlay ran full sore,
Not stopping ‘til he reached his door,
But sealed already was his fate,
As Gourlay’s ghost will oft relate.

Gourlay avoided Mary Graham
For doing deeds so dire;
His ex-fiancé came to see him,
And lightly did enquire:
“Why, my love, do you not visit?
You’re looking pale! Pray tell, what is it?”
And Gourlay blurted out the truth,
As Gourlay’s ghost will say, forsooth:

“I saw you beat a man to death,
And I felt quite disgusted.
‘Now do you think,’ I asked myself,
‘That this woman can be trusted?
Oh no indeed – I think not,
Although I fancy you a lot.”
And Mary Graham walked away,
As Gourlay’s ghost is apt to say.

Gourlay kept away from girls;
He dare not court another;
He told nobody what he’d seen,
Except his loving mother.
One day the Grahams ambushed him;
Their fists were clenched, their faces grim,
And Gourlay ran into a river,
As Gourlay’s ghost tells, with a shiver.

He grabbed hold of a tuft of grass
Upon the river bank;
They pelted him with clods and rocks,
And from their blows he shrank;
The waters eddied all around,
And Shepherd Gourlay slowly drowned,
His lungs with icy water spluttering,
As Gourlay’s ghost is fond of uttering.

When Gourlay’s mother found him dead,
She notified the law,
But Mary Graham and her brothers
Were not seen ever more,
And by the river, late at night,
Passers-by receive a fright:
They hear his final, gasping breath,
As Gourlay re-enacts his death.

Source material: Lily Seafield, Scottish Ghosts, New Lanark, 1999, pp. 178-180. The events described occurred in Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire, at an unspecified date.

The Gloomèd Dory

Chorus:
Never go without a lantern
Upon the frosty moor;
For on the moor there dwells a phantom
Beast with taloned claw.
Don’t go out on a winter’s night,
When the ground is hoary:
You’re likely to be gobbled up
By the Gloomèd Dory.

Sir Melyagaunce the Mighty rode his steed one night
To see the stars atop the moor, far from hearth and light.
He felt its hot breath at his neck; the Dory then began
To open up his armour just like an old tin can.

Its baleful eyes were glowing, its jaw did drip with drool,
And Melyagaunce the mighty was devoured by the ghoul,
And all they found when morning came, as the snow did settle,
Was a grisly pool of blood and a pile of chewed-up metal.

Chorus

Whitewhisker the Magician went to make illusions
Out upon the windswept moor where there’d be no intrusions,
For mages value privacy when practising their magic,
But the venue was unsuitable; the end result was tragic.

The Gloomèd Dory ate him up; it even ate his cat;
The only thing it left behind was his silly pointy hat,
And that had tooth-marks plain to see, and lots of frothy spittle,
But of his body there was nought, and of his beard, but little.

Chorus

Pontificamus, pious priest went there one night to pray;
He took his prayer book from his cloak, his offices to say,
But as he knelt amid the waste, the Dory sidled by;
It ate all but his amulets, and no one heard his cry.

His prayer-book too it left behind, marked with bloody clot,
And a remnant of his scapular, smeared with Dory snot.
Its footprints could be clearly seen, imprinted in the mud,
And pools of mucus where it stopped awhile to chew its cud.

Chorus

Stultissimus the King’s own fool was in need of a pee,
He went out on the darksome moor, the time was half-past three.
He opened up his trouser buttons, sighing with relief,
And that is why his willy was the first to come to grief,

And after that the Dory ate the jester, bone and skin,
Complaining as he crunched him up that he was far too thin,
And all he left behind was a bauble (badly mangled)
And the strings of his violin, though these were somewhat tangled.

Chorus

Haughty Lady Esmerelda, bedecked with shining stones,
Went on the moor to take the air, she heard its dismal groans;
It choked her with her string of pearls and had her guts for starters;
It even ate the little rubies stitched into her garters.

It crunched her diamonds with its teeth; it didn’t leave a thing;
It even swallowed Esmerelda’s gold eternity ring.
So heed, I prithee, my dear friend, the moral of this story:
If you travel on the moor, do watch out for the Dory!

Source material: An error made by the lyricist whilst hurriedly typing the words “doomed glory”, leading naturally to idle speculation.

The Laird of Littledean

In Littledean there stands a tower; ivy climbs the walls.
Toadflax grows upon the mortar; slate cascades and falls,
For Littledean has lost her Laird; the Hand wrung out his breath,
And though the bracken fills the grounds, the tower reeks of death.

The Laird was hated, loathed and feared by all in Littledean:
He kicked to death a stableboy; none dared to come between.
No crueller husband ever lived, and Margaret his wife
Passed all her long, imprisoned days in fear for her life.

He brought her out to serve his friends when they were drinking ale,
Though there were bruises on her face and on her wrists so pale.
He spat at her, he slapped her cheek, though she had served them well;
He said, “You slut, I’d get more warmth from a woman born in hell.”

At this, his poor wife turned to him; she fixed him with her eye,
“Oh, you’ll live to regret those words, then you shall surely die!”
And when his friends said their goodbyes, he went by lantern light
To saddle up his chestnut horse, and rode off through the night.

He came into a woodland glade, lit by moonshine wan,
And fronds of ferns covered up the ground he rode upon.
A cottage with an open door; light from a flickering fire,
And he rode on towards the door, driven by desire.

He bent his head and looked within, the horse’s breath a-steaming.
He saw a lass so beautiful he thought he must be dreaming.
She sat beside a spinning wheel, and drew a length of thread;
She looked at him and laughed aloud; it filled the Laird with dread.

Her finger snapped the woollen thread; the horse reared with fright;
They galloped back to Littledean; the hoofbeats rent the night.
But when the dawn glowed mute and pale, he strapped his spurs once more,
To seek the lovely woman behind the oaken door.

In vain he sought her all that day, then homeward did he ride,
But he came upon a woman standing by the riverside,
And on the banks, where iris grew, the pair of them made love.
Silhouetted by the dusk, his tower loomed above.

And every night his passion drove him to the river’s edge.
She drew his clothes off, pulled him down among the reed and sedge.
His wife hired men to follow him and catch them unaware:
Hard they searched, but all they found was a startled hare.

And when the Laird rode to his tryst, hares leapt at his horse;
She reared up, he drew his sword, and slashed with all his force.
He turned to see a red-eyed hare squeal and limp away;
The bright blood from its severed paw gleamed on his corselet grey.

As he rode back for Littledean, his face was drawn and white;
He put his hand into his pouch, then drew it out in fright.
“It grabbed me!” cried the unnerved Laird, and he could barely stand,
For firmly clenched about his thumb was a woman’s severed hand.

He ran the hand through with his sword; into the river deep
He hurled it, and as he looked up, he saw the woman creep
Through the rushes by its side, her dress was stained and muddy,
And leering, she held up her wrist; the stump was red and bloody.

“My hand you took!” the woman hissed, “And my hand you’ll retain!”
He climbed back to the gloomy tower, cursing in the rain.
He sat down by his fireside; a hand clenched ‘round his fist.
He hurled it from a turret window, through the rain and mist.

He lay down in his feather bed, and bade his heart be calm,
But something shot out from the sheets and clenched about his arm.
He threw it in the roaring fire, hysterical with fear,
And when his servants knocked next morn, no answer could they hear.

At last they battered down the door; he lay beside his bed.
They rolled him over, but the Laird was stiff and cold and dead,
And on the death certificate, the doctor left his note:
“Contusions, made by unknown Hand, about the victim’s throat.”

In Littledean there stands a tower;
Ivy climbs the walls.
Toadflax grows upon the mortar;
Slate cascades and falls,
For Littledean has lost her Laird;
The Hand wrung out his breath,
And though the bracken fills the grounds,
The tower reeks of death.

Source material: Lily Seafield, Scottish Ghosts, New Lanark, 1999, pp. 79-81. Littledean tower is near the village of Maxton, Roxburghshire.

The Marble Finger

My Laura was lost
On a warm moonlit night;
Now Laura is gone,
And nought make it right.
They were man-size in marble;
She lies cold and pale,
And clenched in her hand
Is the proof of my tale:

Amid jasmines and roses
Our little house stood,
And a path to the church
Passed two fields and a wood,
And oft-times we walked it
When moths took to air,
And I’d hold her white hand
As the moon caught her hair.

A low Norman doorway
Led into the nave;
With brasses and flagstones
The aisles were paved,
And knights in white marble
Lay in a pair,
Recumbent on tombstones,
Their hands held in prayer.

And oft-times we kissed
And long minutes would pass;
The moonlight cast colours
As it shone through the glass,
And all would be silent
But for our hearts’ beat,
And we’d walk arm in arm
Back home through the wheat.

But one night my Laura
Looked haggard and white;
“I’ve forebodings of evil;
I’ll not walk tonight.”
So I strolled to the church;
Took the path on my own,
Yet I lived to regret
That I left her alone.

Through the low Norman doorway
I went into the nave;
With brasses and flagstones
The aisles were paved,
And two noble tombstones
Lay by the altar.
“There’s something amiss,”
I felt my heart falter.

Where were the knights
Recumbent and cold?
Could I hear their footsteps
As they trod on the mould?
I ran to the tombstones
But bare was each one.
Smooth was the marble;
The knights were both gone.

I ran from the church,
And fear gripped my mind.
I thought I heard footsteps,
Tramping behind.
I leapt o’er the style
And homeward I ran,
When I met with my neighbour
A kind Irish man.

“Now, why all this hurry?”
The Irishman said,
“Calm down and speak, man,
Don’t worry your head!”
“The figures in marble!
They’re walking abroad!”
The Irishman stared,
And with laughter he roared.

“Yer eyes are deceiving ye,
Lad, to be sure!”
He took hold of my arm;
Led me to the church door.
We looked down the nave,
And there lay each knight,
Cold on his tomb,
And I choked at the sight.

I ran to the knights;
They lay lifeless and bland.
One was missing a finger
From his right hand,
So we hurried for home,
And hark what we saw there:
My Laura lay dead
On the drawing-room chair.

I held my dead Laura;
Her hand slumped by her side,
And I wept for my darling,
My lover, my bride.
My friend knelt beside her
And held her limp wrist;
And a white marble finger
Was clenched in her fist.

My Laura was lost
On a warm moonlit night;
Now Laura is gone,
And nought make it right.
They were man-size in marble;
She lies cold and pale,
And clenched in her hand
Is the proof of my tale.

Source material: Edith Nesbit (1858-1924), ‘Man-Size in Marble’, in Rex Collings (Ed.), Classic Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories, Hertfordshire, 1996, pp. 185-194.

Rabbie Heckspeckle

Rabbie was a cobbler, in Selkirk plied his trade,
And all the gentry wore his shoes, so soft and finely made.
Nimble were his fingers, his fame was widely spread:
The shoes of Rabbie Heckspeckle – wanted by the dead.

Well before the dawn he was working at his last;
A stranger came into his shop, his countenance downcast;
Rabbie hammered home a nail for all that he was worth,
Then greeted his dark visitor, who smelled of fresh-turned earth.

Chorus:
Rabbie, Rabbie Heckspeckle, what a bloody mess!
It really isn’t pleasant when a dead man seeks redress.
Rabbie, Rabbie Heckspeckle, stealing from the dead,
You shouldn’t be surprised if he bashes in your head!

“Welcome to ye, Sir,” said he, with a happy croon,
“Mayhap I can furnish ye with a pair o’ shoon?”
He showed the gloomy stranger samples of his wares;
The stranger’s pasty finger pointed out a pair.

“Why, that pair’s too small, Sir; ye’ll want a looser fit;
I’ll whip ye up another pair if ye would care to sit.”
But, “No,” replied the customer, “I’ll come tomorrow morn –
Be sure to have them ready well before the dawn.”

Rabbie worked all day, and no finer shoes were made,
The stranger rang before next dawn; he knew he’d be well paid.
The shoes fit very snugly; said the stranger, “What’s the cost?”
A handful of silver coins upon the bed he tossed.

But when the stranger left, the cobbler did follow,
Through the darkened streets, into a misty hollow,
And there stood a graveyard, and with a thrill of fear,
He saw the man lie on a tomb and slowly disappear.

Since Rabbie was respected, the town believed his tale;
They dug up the grave, all in the morning pale.
The body lay there white and cold; its face bore not a freckle,
And on its upturned feet were the shoes made by Heckspeckle.

Heckspeckle stood a while, a-scratching his head,
“What use are shoes so fine on a body that is dead?”
He pulled the shoes off one by one, tucked beneath his arm –
No wonder Rabbie Heckspeckle came to grief and harm.

The body they re-buried, and homeward Rabbie went;
He whistled as he worked, and he was well content.
At night he lay within his bed, laughing ghosts to scorn,
But there came a ring upon his bell, an hour before the dawn.

They say that Rabbie Heckspeckle disappeared that night,
A trail of loamy footprints revealed by morning light.
To the cemetery they tracked them, dug up the grave once more,
And found the body wearing shoes, as it had done before.

And with its pallid fingers it clutched a cobbler’s last,
And when they stopped to pick it up, the fingers held it fast.
They hurried with a lantern, and shined the light within:
Behold! Upon the last, spattered blood and shreds of skin.

If cobbling is your trade then be proud of what you do,
And if you wish to serve a corpse, why, Sir, that’s up to you!
But if it comes to exhumations, I beg you, Sir, refrain!
And once he’s paid you for your shoes, don’t take them back again!

Source material: Lily Seafield, Scottish Ghosts, New Lanark, 1999, pp. 158-160.

6 Comments »

  • johnnyneo (off for a week) said:

    Wonderful Picture!! Fantastic Capture my friend…
    Wish you A Beautiful Day…

  • meg_nicol said:

    I really like the ivy, it’s a very striking illustration Giles 🙂

  • Giles Watson's poetry and prose said:

    It’s a bit grim, but then, that appeals to a warped facet of my mind… Perhaps that’s why the ghost scene in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ turned out quite scary…

  • cheerful seashore said:

    Annie Walker got pregnant from her COUSIN!?

  • Giles Watson's poetry and prose said:

    Yep, I’m fairly sure I got that detail right – unless it was her brother and I toned it down a bit!

  • productive side said:

    Hi, I’m an admin for a group called hades, and we’d love to have this added to the group!