Spooky stories and ghostly goings-on: haunted sites in and around Cambeltown
Has Hallowe’en put you in the mood for some spooky stories or ghostly goings on? Ghost hunters among you could head to Saddell Abbey and take a wander around the ruins to see if you can spot the ghostly black hand said to appear there. Or for two types of spirit in one go, why not tour Glen Scotia distillery? It is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of an old distillery manager who drowned himself in Crosshill Loch.
Here are some other spooky stories from in and around Campbeltown;
The Piper’s Cave
Legend has it that a piper, spurned in love and resolving to shun the light, disappeared inside the cave, on the slopes of Beinn Ghuilean, playing until his music echoed into nothingness. He was never seen again but his dog emerged days later, lean and hairless, from one of the caves at Keil. Listen carefully and maybe you’ll still be able to hear the ghostly lament of his pipes echoing through the cave!
The Carskiey Brownie
A brownie was a kind of familiar spirit, attached to a particular family or place. Once such brownie, Baigwell, looked after the interests of the Macneills at Carskiey. Baigwell was the constant companion of the last Macneill and was held in fear and respect by all around the place.
One manservant though, a bit the worse for wear, had declared, on leaving Campbeltown for Carskiey, that he feared neither his master nor Baigwell. When he reached the crossroads at Carskiey, an arm, bearing a stick appeared and thrashed him all the way home.
When the old Laird died, the horses in the funeral cortege refused to move until a little pony, harnessed to the cart which the old man used to drive, appeared from the servant-less stable. With reins held high in unseen hands, the cart moved to the front of the hearse and led the whole cortege to the cemetery. Baigwell was paying his last respects to his master.
In the old part of the cemetery there is a grave entirely surrounded by iron railings and covered with an iron gated roof, effectively forming an iron cage around the whole grave. The story when we were youngsters was that this grave belonged to a vampire/monster/werewolf (take your pick!) and the cage had been built been the townsfolk to stop his ghost/zombie form coming back and terrorising the town again. I have no idea whether we just made this up or whether it was a common story but I would suspect the former.
Anyway, I have since discovered that this particular grave was the burial place of the Lambs, a family of lawyers and distillers who had apparently built the cage around it as protection from grave robbers. You wouldn’t think graverobbing would be a huge problem in such a rural area but it would seem that it was fairly common and on a fairly large scale. One Campbeltown-born doctor, when he was a medical student in Glasgow, was confronted by the body of a well known farmer’s wife on his anatomy table!
The full story of Baigwell the Brownie can be found in issue 3 of the Kintyre Magazine (published by the Kintyre Antiquarian and Natural History Society).
The issue of Grave-robbing in Kintyre is discussed in Kintyre: The Hidden Past by Angus Martin.
These books, and many more besides, can be found in the local history section in Campbeltown Library.