Cortachy Castle

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  1. Ian Topham says:

    Re: Cortachy Castle
    The following is how the case appears in The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain By John Ingram (1897)

    Of all the haunted castles in Great Britain, none, probably, has acquired a greater amount of notoriety than that of Cortachy Castle, the seat of the Earl of Airlie. This ancient stronghold is haunted by the spirit of a drummer, and whenever his drum is heard it may be accepted, according to the popular belief, as a token of the speedy death of a member of the Ogilvie family. The origin of this tradition is that either the drummer, or some officer whose emissary he was, had excited the jealousy of a former Lord Airlie, and that, in consequence, he was put to death by being thrust into his own drum, and flung from the window of the tower in which is situated the chamber where his music is, apparently, chiefly heard. It is said that he threatened to haunt the family if his life were taken; and he would appear to be as good, or rather as bad, as his word, the strain of his invisible drum having been heard several times even in the memory of living persons, and once, notoriously, quite recently.

    The authoress who gives the following account of a somewhat recent occasion when the drummer was heard performing upon his ill-omened instrument, introduces it by the remark that about Christmas, 1844, a letter just received from a member of a distinguished Perthshire family was sent to her for perusal. The sender, an eminent literary man, accompanied the communication with the remark, "Read the enclosed; and we shall now have an opportunity of observing if any event follow the prognostic."

    The information afforded by the letter was to the following effect:

    "Miss Dalrymple, a relative of the present Lady C , who had been staying some time with the Earl and Countess at their seat, near Dundee, was invited to spend a few days at Cortachy Castle, with the Earl and Countess of Airlie. She went, and whilst she was dressing for dinner, the first evening of her arrival, she heard a strain of music under her window, which finally resolved itself into a well-defined sound of a drum. When her maid came upstairs, she made some inquiries about the drummer that was playing near the house, but the maid knew nothing on the subject. For the moment the circumstance passed from Miss Dalrymple’s mind; but recurring to her again during the dinner, she said, addressing Lord Airlie, ‘My Lord, who is your drummer?’ upon which his lordship turned pale, Lady Airlie looked distressed, and several of the company, who all heard the question, embarrassed; whilst the lady, perceiving that she had made some unpleasant allusion, although she knew not to what their feelings referred, fore bore further inquiry till she reached the drawing-room, when, having mentioned the circumstance again to a member of the family, she was answered, ‘What! Have you never heard of the drummer-boy?’ ‘ No,’ replied Miss Dalrymple, ‘who in the world is he?’ ‘Why,’ replied the other, ‘he is a person who goes about the house playing his drum whenever there is a death impending in the family. The last time he was heard was shortly before the death of the last Countess (the Earl’s former wife); and that is why Lord Airlie became so pale when you mentioned it. The drummer is a very unpleasant subject in this family, I assure you!’

    "Miss Dalrymple was naturally much concerned, and indeed, not a little frightened at this explanation, and her alarm being augmented by hearing the sounds on the following day, she took her departure from Cortachy Castle, and returned to Lord C.’s, stopping on her way
    to call on some friends, where she related this strange circumstance to the family through whom the information reached me.

    "This affair was very generally known in the north, and we awaited the event with interest. The melancholy death of the Countess about five or six months afterwards, at Brighton, sadly verified the prognostic. I have heard that a paper was found on her desk after her death, declaring her conviction that the drum was for her; and it has been suggested, that probably the thing preyed upon her mind and caused the catastrophe; but in the first place, from the mode of her death, that does not appear to be the case; and, in the second, even if it were, the fact of the verification of the prognostic remains unaffected; besides which, those who insist upon taking refuge in this hypothesis, are bound to admit, that before people living in the world, like Lord and Lady Airlie, could attach so much importance to
    the prognostic as to entail such fatal effects, they must have had very good reasons for believing in it."

    The incidents just narrated took place, it will be recollected, in 1844. Five years later, or, to be more precise, on the evening of the 19th of August 1849, a young English gentleman was on his way to the Tulchan, a shooting-lodge belonging to the Earl of Airlie. He was mounted on a stout pony, having a stalwart Highlander for his guide across the wild Forfarshire moor.

    For about two hours darkness had fallen upon the sceDes, that is to say, it was about half-past eight in the evening, when the welcome lights, issuing from the windows of the Tulchan, met our traveller’s anxious gaze. At the same moment a swell of faint music smote suddenly upon his ear. The sound was as that of a distant band accompanied by the drum, and appeared to emanate from the low ridge of ground below the hunting-lodge in front of him. As it was wafted in louder accents across the moor, he could not forbear from feeling that it had something of an eerie and unearthly character about it. Astonished at such an unaccountable occurrence in a spot where the Tulchan was the only house within many miles, and where bracken, brown heath, and morass stretched far and wide upon every side of him, the young man called the attention of his guide to the strange burst of music which he had just heard. Muttering that such sounds were "no canny," and professing that to him they were inaudible, the Highlander urged on his pony to as great a speed as the weary beast could exert after a journey of twenty-five miles, and in a little while the two riders drew rein at the hospitable door of the lodge.

    Upon descending from his pony the Englishman learnt that his friend and host, Lord Ogilvie (afterwards tenth Earl of Airlie), had been summoned to London on account of his father’s dangerous illness. On the following day the ninth Earl of Airlie breathed his last in Regent Street, London, thus affording another testimony to the truth of the old tradition, that weird music and the sound of the drum haunt the dwellings of the Ogilvies prior to the death of a member of the family.