The Apparition In A Dornoch Kirkyard
Dating from the13th century, the parish church in Dornoch is a Cathedral in name only and was historically the seat for the Bishop of Caithness until the 17th century.
In his book The Peat-fire Flame, Alasdair Alpin MacGregor (1937) recounts the following story, similar versions of which or like traditions can be found associated to other churches. The story refers to some restoration work, but this does not really help to date the tale too narrowly as the church was destroyed by fire in 1570 and not fully repaired until 1837.
This tailor, so as to demonstrate his disbelief, boasted that he would sit alone in the Cathedral throughout the night, and knit a pair of hose. Accordingly, one day he took up his position in cross-legged fashion before the altar as dusk was falling. While he sat plying his knitting-needles with great earnestness in the small hours, behold! a human skull rose to his sight, and commenced to roll toward him.
When it arrived within arm’s reach of the tailor, it spoke to him —
“My fleshless and bloodless head rises to greet you!”
“Wait a minute till I’ve finished my hose!” responded the tailor, and he meanwhile plying his needles with greater concentration and assiduity than ever.
“My great head and my fleshless and bloodless body rise to greet you!” continued the apparition.
“Wait, I tell you, till I’ve finished the hose!”
As the tailor was saying this, the skeleton began to rise higher and higher, until at last its full stature was visible, from crown of head to tip of toe. But not until the tailor had completed his undertaking did he dare set eyes on the skeleton. As he fled from the Cathedral with the ghostly form in pursuit of him, he slammed the door behind him. Suddenly held up in his endeavour to overtake the fleeing tailor, the skeleton seized the doorposts; and it is said in Sutherland that, up till the time when the Cathedral was restored, the imprint of his long, lean finger-bones were to be seen on those door-posts.