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The Jardine Ghost

On the southwest banks of the River Annan, in the Parish of Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire, stands Spedlins Tower, a restored ruin and the scene of one of the most remarkable hauntings ever recorded in Scotland. At the same time few cases of the supernatural have been so well authenticated, the ghost of Spedlins Tower being frequently mentioned by Grose, the antiquary, and the truth of events to be related being vouched for by many people of respectability and credit.

Spedlins Tower is a tall massive fortress built in the old Scottish baronial style, and for hundreds of years was in the possession of the old border family of Jardine. When the events took place which led to the appearance of the ghost, the owner was Sir Alexander Jardine, first baronet and brother-in-law to the first Duke of Queensberry, William Douglas, and the period was in the reign of Charles the Second (at the end of the seventeenth century).

Detailed particulars are lacking, but it appears that Sir Alexander Jardine was not a very pleasant or popular man. He had a very fiery temper, and the true intolerance and contempt for his neighbors which marked the Border Lairds of his day. These last traits in his character were the cause of the tragedy which was to oppress the Jardine Family for many years.

In the neighborhood of the tower stood a mill, tenanted by one Dunty Porteus. Sir Alexander and the miller appeared to be on the worst of terms, for when the mill was burned to the ground one day (whether by accident or design it is impossible to say), the fiery baronet promptly accused Porteus of incendiarism, and without delay exercised his right of pit and gallows and seized and imprisoned him in the Little Ease of the Tower–a dark and dismal cellar secured by a massive door which rendered it practically soundproof and almost airtight.

For some days the miller languished in his prison, his captor personally acting the part of jailer, coming at infrequent intervals to feed his prisoner and no doubt gloat over his plight at the same time.
What Sir Alexander had in store for the miller it is impossible to say, but the Border Lairds of that period were a fierce and powerful lot, and probably he intended to take the law into his own hands and hang his prisoner on a convenient tree when the mood suited him.

One day, however, came an urgent message from Edinburgh calling Sir Alexander away post haste. Without a thought for his prisoner, the baronet mounted his horse and galloped off with the keys of the dungeons in his pocket.

Some days later when he was riding through the West Port of the city, the sight of the warder's keys reminded Sir Alexander of his own dungeons, and the troublesome thought occurred to him that his prisoner, the miller had not had any food for many days, and here was he (the Baronet) in Edinburgh with the keys of the cell in his pocket.

Some qualms of conscience seemed to affect Sir Alexander then–for even he did not like the idea of his victim starving to death–and without delay he procured a courier and sent him with the keys to liberate the unfortunate miller with all speed. When the messenger arrived at Spedlins Tower, however, he was too late. Porteus had died of starvation–it is said that in the agonies of his dreadful hunger, the poor prisoner had chewed away at his own arms and hands.

It was then that the ghost began to have its revenge on the household, and from that day no rest was to be had within Spedlins Tower, either by day or by night.

Dunty's ghost was persistent and troublesome, running through Spedlins Tower screaming out in pain and hunger, crying for mercy and food. Shouts and groans filled the building continually, the favorite cry being, "Let me oot, let me oot, for I'm deein' o' hunger." Occasionally the turbulent spirit would sally out of the dungeon at night and haul the Baronet and his wife from their beds.

At last things reached such a pass that Sir Alexander had to seek the usual remedy for such cases as these, and call in a whole legion of parish ministers to deal with the matter. These confidently asserted that they would confine the ghost in the Red Sea; but this seems to have been too much for them, as the best they could do was to compel the spirit to remain in the place of it's mortal sufferings.

Even this was only accomplished by the aid of a huge black-letter Bible which the exorcists placed in a recess in the wall just outside the door of the dungeon, and the ghost still continued to make it's voice heard in complaint.

After some years the Baronet and his family seemed to tire of the tower and it's tragic memories, and a new mansion, Jardine Hall, was built on the other side of the river. When the family forsook their old home, great care was taken to leave the Bible in position to guard the restless spirit in the dungeon. It is probable that the new house was built on the other side of the river with the idea that running water would baffle the spirit should it ever attempt to cross over and renew it's activities, but this seems to have failed; for it is related that on one occasion, as the binding of the guardian Bible had become worn and needed to be repaired, the Bible was sent to Edinburgh to be rebound and the ghost broke out and, crossing over to the new house, made such a disturbance that the Bible had to be brought back with utmost speed.

The haunting took place over four centuries ago, and the gulf of years seems to have swallowed up the vengeful spirit of Porteus, the miller. The black-letter Bible which did such yeoman service has long since been removed from it's niche outside the dungeon, and is now in the possession of the Jardine Clan Chief at Denbie. It is well-preserved and kept in a heavy carved wooden box made from a Thorn tree which grew on the lawn at Jardine Hall. In 1844, Dr. Johnston reported of his visit to Jardine Hall that he was "shown the ghost-laying bible, and a very beautiful volume it is, kept in a box formed from a rafter of [Spedlins] Tower. It is in its original binding repaired; and is printed in a beautiful old English letter." The new box must have come from the hawthorn tree he also described during his visit.

In August 1998, some of Porteus' direct descendants visited the Jardine Clan Society tent at the highland games in Pleasanton, California. They were well received by the Jardine Clan members and together contributed to the effort to soothe and bring to rest the miller's spirit by passing a very enjoyable day together. A book Healing Your Family Patterns, even suggested a blood relationship between Jardine and Porteus ancestors.

Source Information:
The above article is a combination of an original written by John H. Copeland at the end of the nineteenth century and a telling published in Scottish Ghosts, p.84-85 in 1999 by Children's Leisure Products Limited, of New Lanark Scotland and written by Lily Seafield with the kind assistance of Jerry Jardine of the Jardine Clan Society in California.