The ghostly drummer of Cortachy Castle

The sound was enough to turn the residents and guests of Cortachy Castle in Angus a whiter shade of pale.
Cortachy Castle near Kirrimuir, Angus. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr/Lesley-Brew.Cortachy Castle near Kirrimuir, Angus. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr/Lesley-Brew.
Cortachy Castle near Kirrimuir, Angus. PIC: Creative Commons/Flickr/Lesley-Brew.

Legend of the castle has it that the ghost of a drummer would bang his instrument to predict death in the family.

It is hard to imagine something more frightening that the sound of the beats growing closer at this ancient Scottish seat.

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Cortachy Castle, near Kirrimuir, has been in the Ogilvy family for at least 500 years.

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It is said the drumbeats could be heard shortly before the death of the Countess of Airlie, with the drummer earlier killed by her jealous husband after an affair between the pair was exposed.

Catherine Crowe, an English writer who became obsessed with the supernatural, wrote in 1848 of a visit to Cortachy Castle by an associate, Miss Margaret Dalrymple, three years earlier.

According to Crowe, Ms Dalrymple heard a loud drumbeat below her window as she dressed for dinner.

During the meal she asked her host ‘My lord, who is your drummer?’

Her question turned the Earl pale with his Countess taking on an air of distress, according to the account.

“The drummer boy is a very unpleasant subject in the family, I assure you,” Ms Dalrymple was later told by an employee.

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The two women left Cortachy the next morning after inquiring with staff why the question had caused so much alarm.

Crowe wrote that the Countess died five or six months after Miss Dalrymple’s visit.

“This melancholy death of the Countess...sadly verified the prognostications.

“I have heard that a paper was found in her desk after he death declaring the drum was for her.”

In Paul Abraham’s book In Search of Britain’s Haunted Castles, the writer noted three theories as to the identity of the drummer.

The most popular explanation was that he was the former “good looking” lover of the lady of Cortachy who met a violent death.

Abraham said: “The cuckolded husband ordered his guards to squeeze the reckless lover into his drum and roll it out the window of the highest turret.

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“The drummer did not die instantly...the victim managed to grant a curse before he expired declaring his ghost would haunt the earl’s descendants as long as they held the castle,” he added.

In an alternative telling, the drummer, who was described as a boy, died in a fire at Airlie Castle, the former seat of Clan Ogilvie, after it was burnt down by Covenanters in 1640 with the ghost following Lord Ogilvie to his new home at Cortachy.

Another version of the ghost story claims the drummer was a messenger with the rival Clan Lindsay and was thrown off the top of Cortachy as an inter-clan punishment