Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Original Source: Strange Pages from Family Papers

The extract below is from Strange Pages from Family Papers, written by T. F. Thistleton-Dyer and published in London in 1895 (pp. 98-103).  It brings together some of the most common elements in the Glamis legends as they stood in the late Victorian age: a hereditary secret, a hidden room, the starvation of the fleeing Ogilvys, plus the grim sounds which foretold a certain doom - all very much to the Gothic tastes of the time, but a fine summary of tales which however fails to cite specific witnesses:

T F Thistleton Dyer

 In certain cases it would appear that, for some reason or other, the hiding place has been specially kept a secret among members of the family. In the north of England there is Netherall, near Maryport, Cumberland, the seat of the old family of Senhouse. In this old mansion there is said to be a veritable secret room, its exact position in the house being known but to two persons—the heir-at-law and the family solicitor. It is affirmed that never has the secret of this hidden room been revealed to more than two living persons at a time. This mysterious room has no window, and, despite every endeavour to discover it, has successfully defied the ingenuity of even visitors staying in the house. This Netherall tradition is very similar to the celebrated one connected with Glamis Castle, the seat of Lord Strathmore, only in the latter case the secret room possesses a window, which, nevertheless, has not led to its identification. It is known as the "secret room" of the castle, and, although every other part of the castle has been satisfactorily explored, the search for this famous room has been in vain. None are supposed to be acquainted with its locality save Lord Strathmore, his heir, and the factor of the estate, who are bound not to reveal it unless to their successors in the secret. Many weird stories have clustered round this remarkable room; one legend connected with which has been thus described:
The castle now again behold,Then mark yon lofty turret bold,Which frowns above the western wing,Its grim walls darkly shadowing.There is a room within that towerNo mortal dare approach; the powerOf an avenging God is there.Dread—awfully display'd—beware!And enter not that dreadful room,Else yours may be a fearful doom.
According to one legendary romance—founded on an incident which is said to have occurred during one of the carousals of the Earl of Crawford, otherwise styled "Earl Beardie" or the "Tiger Earl"—there was many years ago a grand "meet" at Glamis, as the result of which many a noble deer lay dead upon the hill, and many a grizzly boar dyed with his heart's blood the rivers of the plain. As the day drew to its close, "the wearied huntsmen, with their fair attendants, returned, 'midst the sounds of martial music and the low whispered roundelays of the ladies, victorious to the castle." In the old baronial dining hall was spread a sumptuous and savoury feast, at which "venison and reeking game, rich smoked ham and savoury roe, flanked by the wild boar's head, and viands and pasties without name, blent profusely on the hospitable board, while jewelled and capacious goblets, filled with ruby wine, were lavishly handed round to the admiring guests."
At the completion of the banquet, the minstrel strung his ancient harp, and soon the company tripped lightly on the oaken floor, till the rafters rang with the merry sounds of their midnight revelry. For three days and nights the hunt and the feast continued, and as, at last, the revelries drew to a close, still four dark chieftains remained in the inner chamber of the castle, "and sang, and drank, and shouted, right merrilie. The day broke, yet louder rang the wassail roar; the goblets were over and over again replenished, and the terrible oaths and ribald songs continued, and the dice rattled, and the revelry became louder still, till the many walls of the old castle shook and reverberated with the awful sounds of debauchery, blasphemy, and crime."
"At length their wild, ungovernable frenzy reached its climax. They had drunk until their eyes had grown dim, and their hands could scarcely hold the hellish dice, when, driven by expiring fury, with fiendish glee, they defiantly gnashed their teeth and cursed the God of heaven! Then, with returning strength, and exhausting its last and fitful energies in still louder imprecations and more fearful yells, they deliberately and with unanimous voice consigned their guilty souls to the nethermost hell! Fatal words! In a bright, broad sheet of lurid and sulphurous flame the Prince of Darkness appeared in their midst, and struck—not the shaft of death, but the vitality of eternal life—and there to this day in that dreaded room they sit, transfixed in all their hideous expression of ghastly terror and dismay—doomed to drink the wine cup and throw the dice till the dawning of the Great Judgment Day." [Scenes and Legends of the Vales of Strathmore, Cargill (1875)]

Another explanation of the mystery is that during one of the feuds between the Lindsays and the Ogilvys, a number of the latter Clan, flying from their enemies, came to Glamis Castle, and begged hospitality of the owner. He admitted them, and on the plea of hiding them, he secured them all in this room, and then left them to starve. Their bones, it is averred, lie there to this day, the sight of which, it has been stated, so appalled the late Lord Strathmore on entering the room, that he had it walled up. Some assert that, owing to some hereditary curse, like those described in a previous chapter, at certain intervals a kind of vampire is born into the family of the Strathmore Lyons, and that as no one would like to destroy this monstrosity, it is kept concealed till its term of life is run. But, whatever the mystery may be, such rooms, like the locked chamber of Blue Beard, are not open to vulgar gaze, a circumstance which has naturally perpetuated the curiosity attached to them. The reputation, too, which Glamis Castle has long had for possessing so strange a room has led to a host of the most gruesome stories being circulated in connection with it, many of which from time to time have appeared in print. According to one account, [All The Year Round (1880)] "a lady, very well known in London society, an artistic and social celebrity, went to stay at Glamis Castle for the first time. She was allotted very handsome apartments just on the point of junction between the new buildings—perhaps a hundred or two hundred years old—and the very ancient part of the castle. The rooms were handsomely furnished; no grim tapestry swung to and fro, all was smooth, easy, and modern, and the guest retired to bed without a thought of the mysteries of Glamis. In the morning she appeared at the breakfast table cheerful and self-possessed, and, to the inquiry how she had slept, replied, "Well, thanks, very well, up to four o'clock in the morning. But your Scottish carpenters seem to come to work very early. I suppose they are putting up their scaffolding quickly, though, for they are quiet now."
Her remarks were followed by a dead silence, and, to her surprise, she noticed that the faces of the family party were very pale. But, she was asked, as she valued the friendship of all there, never to speak on that subject again, there had been no carpenters at Glamis for months past. The lady, it seems, had not the remotest idea that the hammering she had heard was connected with any story, and had no notion of there being some mystery connected with the noise until enlightened on the matter at the breakfast table.

The Drawing Room at Glamis.

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