Grahame Church Blair Castle

Kinclaven Castle sits where the Rivers Isla and Tay converge about 12 miles north of Perth between the Fair City and Blairgowrie.  Now a ruin, forgotten, tired and silent its stories lost in the midst of time.   But if the crumbling stonework could speak then what a story it would tell for the castle’s tales and legends give us an indication of its lost importance.

Malcolm Canmore is thought to have built the castle in the 11th century and his queen, Margaret later Saint Margaret received the homage of the Celtic magnates at Kinclaven Castle. The citadel was a favourite of Alexander III  and while he was staying there in 1264 a carriage of wine was taken to supply the royal guest and his escort.

In 1297 Scotland was at war with the might of England, things did not start well with the Scots army being defeated at the Battle of Dunbar and the capture and forced exile of John I King of Scots in 1296.  William Wallace and Andrew de Moray were fighting back and would shatter an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 11th September 1297.

Before Wallace’s success at Stirling, he was hiding in Methven woods a vast wooded area to the west of Perth.  Wallace had heard that 90 mounted troops were to be sent from Perth to reinforce Kinclaven Castle, which was being held by the English. Wallace decided to ambush the English cavalry detachment.  Wallace and his men lay in wait as the horsemen travelled north from Perth as they passed the Scots pounced, in a running battle around 60 of the riders were slain.  The other 30 managed to get to the castle with the Scottish attackers hot in pursuit.   Wallace’s men gained entry into Kinclaven Castle, and in the fighting, all the English were massacred including the women.  Whether this act of slaughter happened is open to question, it might be English propaganda, or perhaps it was done as a response to Edward I of England ordering the inhabitants of Scotland’s busiest port Berwick upon Tweed killed after he captured the town in 1296. In the fighting, Wallace slew the castle commander Sir James Butler and then destroyed the castle.  The English rebuilt the Kinclaven, and it changed hands several times during the war, Edward II of England visited the castle and stayed for a few nights while on campaigning in the area.

A legend from before Wallace ’s attack states that the man who killed the rebel leader Simon de Montford at the Battle of Evesham in 1265 was a member of the castle garrison.  This Knight was playing around with some of the young maidens in the castle retinue.  He then went down to the river to wash mud from his hands, one of the young women crept up behind him and playfully pushed him into the river, he took this in good humour and laughingly splashed his prankster with water.   Perhaps he was struck by cramp in the cold river or was caught in an undercurrent he soon got into difficulties.  His young son standing on the riverbank dived into the river to save his struggling father.  Tragically both father and son were swept to their deaths.

A legend from before Wallace ’s attack states that the man who killed the rebel leader Simon de Montford at the Battle of Evesham in 1265 was a member of the castle garrison.  This Knight was playing around with some of the young maidens in the castle retinue.  He then went down to the river to wash mud from his hands, one of the young women crept up behind him and playfully pushed him into the river, he took this in good humour and laughingly splashed his prankster with water.   Perhaps he was struck by cramp in the cold river or was caught in an undercurrent he soon got into difficulties.  His young son standing on the riverbank dived into the river to save his struggling father.  Tragically both father and son were swept to their deaths.

The Scotsman newspaper on the 2nd of August 1933 tells of a local song sung by the woman gathering the cattle that remembers this sad drowning.

I’ll be drooned in Isla water,

I’ll be found in Isla stream,

Bonnie Babbie me forsaken,

Oh hoo will I win hame?

 

The weary dree came in ma mou,

I’ll drink it a’ or I gang hame,

Bonnie Babbie me forsaken,

Oh hoo will I win hame?

Another legend that took place downstream at Cargill and it involves a local lass, called Jeanie Low.

David Drummond was a butler and page nearby at Stobhall Castle, he and Jeanie who lived across the river were courting, and talk of marriage was in the air.  Then to Jeanie’s dismay, David ended the relationship, for he had met another fair young maiden.   He would row his boat across the river in the evening to meet his new paramour, and return at dawn.  Jeanie understandably was heartbroken, and unable to move on with her life.  Seeing her former lover with someone new must have ripped at Jeanie’s heart and slowly corrupted her thoughts.  She knew what time David left to cross the Tay and when he returned.  She waited until David was visiting his new sweetheart, Jeanie made her way to where the boat was moored, and she jumped into the small vessel.  She had brought a brace and bit (an old hand drill for our younger readers), and she drilled seven holes into the bottom of the boat.  Jeanie then hid in some nearby bushes.

John Graham Memorial

Before long David returned to the boat, he jumped into it and without a care in the world used one of the oars to push himself out into the river.   It was dark, and he was out in the middle of the river before he realised that the boat was taking in water.  Frantically he tried to bail out the continues flow of water assailing the bottom of the vessel.  But Jeanie had drilled all the holes as far apart as possible making David’s task futile.  Jeanie watched the desperate struggle on the river and saw her former fiancé sink to his doom into the fast flowing and merciless River Tay.

Jeanie was never to recover from this act of murderous desperation, as it never brought any release to her heartache, quite the opposite, as the dark shadow of madness replaced David as her lifelong companion.

A note of caution, if you visit Kinclaven Castle.  There is nowhere to park on the narrow road, I had to park about half a mile up the road and walk the perilous verge down to the castle site

If you like this story and others that I publish here, you might want to read my stories on my blog at historyandhorrorofscotland or take one of our ghost tours running every Wednesday night at Cultybraggan Camp in Comrie. Info on our Facebook page at Haunted POW Camp Tour Cultybraggan.