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Huntingtower Castle

Huntingtower Castle is situated by the side of the main
Perth to Crieff on the outskirts of Perth. It was originally known as the House of Ruthven, until 1600 when the name was changed to Huntingtower by Royal Proclamation. The family of Ruthven had occupied the castle for about three hundred years and were involved in the episode known as ‘The Raid of Ruthven’ which took place in the summer of 1582, when the fourth Lord Ruthven, who had been created first Earl of Gowrie, and other Protestant nobles persuaded the young fifteen-year-old King James VI to accompany them to the House of Ruthven.

In fact, the young King was kidnapped and held by the Earl of Gowrie and his confederates for about ten months before he gained his freedom. Gowrie was forgiven by the young King for his part in the kidnap but in 1585 the Earl was ordered to leave the country. Before he managed to flee he was arrested in Dundee and charged with being party to a plot to seize Stirling Castle. He was beheaded at Stirling and his property forfeited to the Crown.

The estates and honours were restored in 1586 to his
son James, who died when he was fourteen years of
age. James was succeeded by his brother John, the
third and last Earl of Gowrie. He and his brother
Alexander were killed on 6 August 1600 in ‘The House of Gowrie’ in Perth for an alleged attempt on the life of the King. The incident, known as ‘The Gowrie Conspiracy’, is still shrouded in mystery. The third Earl, like his father and grandfather, was suspected of indulging in witchcraft and was said to have had the art of invoking the dead to foretell the future. The bodies were taken from Perth to Edinburgh, where they were hanged, quartered and drawn in the presence of the people, on the charge of high treason. The name of Ruthven was then abolished and remaining members pronounced incapable of succeeding or holding any honours or possessions.

Huntingtower, as it was then named, remained in
Crown possession until 1643, when it passed into the
hands of the Murray family and later into the family of
Atholl. The original Huntingtower, now the eastern tower, was a stone-built free-standing building with three
storeys and a garret. Towards the end of the fifteenth
century another independent tower of L-shaped structure was built, much the same in appearance as the
first. A wooden bridge below the battlements connected
the two towers. The eastern tower was then occupied
mostly by servants and, if besieged and overrun, one
tower could be defended by withdrawing the bridge.
When the country became more settled, the space
between the two towers was built up, creating the
castle as it stands today.

The ghost of a tall young lady known as ‘Greensleeves’ is said to have been the daughter of the 1st Earl of Gowrie who was in love with a young man of inferior rank. By arrangement, the young man was in the habit of being lodged for the night in the servants’ quarters at the top of the eastern tower while the family lived in the western tower. Unknown to her parents, the young lady visited her lover by way of the bridge connecting the two towers, but one of the servants reported the clandestine meeting to the old Countess. After receiving the information the Countess made her way over the bridge and so cut off any escape. The young lady heard the footsteps on the bridge and with all haste she made her way to the roof and battlements as the Countess entered the tower. Unable to return over the bridge,
the young lady made a desperate leap of nine feet four
inches over the chasm of sixty feet to land on the battle-ments of the main tower and return to her own bed, where she was found by her mother, the Countess, after the unsuccessful search of the eastern tower.
It is said that the following night the couple eloped
and were married. No further record can be found of
what happened to the young couple but they certainly
would not escape from the wrath of the cruel Earl and
his wife.

The girl who made ‘The Maiden’s Leap’ was said to
be tall in stature with corn-yellow hair, wearing a
mutch or head-coif and a dress with green silk-puff
sleeves. Since the disappearance of ‘The Lady Green-
sleeves’ with her lover, the tall figure of a young woman
dressed as described has been seen in the gloaming and sometimes in the full blaze of a noonday sun. The face
of this woman is also alleged to have been seen at a
window or windows of the castle. Some present-day
visitors to the old tower claim that they can detect the
smell of cooking.

Generally the appearance of ‘Lady Greensleeves’ foretold a calamity or death but she was also known to play the part of a benign guardian spirit. One incident recounted was that of a country girl who was waiting by the side of the nearby river Almond to meet her young farmer boyfriend. The young man was late and the girl sat down near a small clump of trees between the castle and the river. She had just sat down on that summer evening when she heard a voice saying, ‘Look to the strand where the elms wave for there the lover may find his grave.’

The girl then saw the figure of ‘Lady Greensleeves’ in the shadow of the trees and immediately ran home to her parents. It was then found that the young man who had left on horseback to meet the girl was missing and his horse had returned to the farm without the rider. Next morning the young man was found dead at the side of the river among some rocks with his head in a pool of congealed blood. It appeared that the horse had taken fright arid thrown his rider.

In the early 1930's it is said that a commercial traveller who had stayed overnight with the then custodian at
Huntingtower reported to his host of having seen ‘Lady
Greensleeves’ in a passageway of the dwelling house
attached to the castle and occupied by the custodian.
The man was warned to stay clear of any danger during
his journey the day following his sighting. After leaving
Perth he travelled to Dundee in the course of business, and joined the ferry at Dundee to take him across to the
Fife shore. During the journey he accidentally fdl from
the ferry boat and was drowned.

Another superstition surrounds the well to be found
at the roadside beside Huntingtower Castle. The water
from the well is said to have healing properties but the
person who goes to collect the water must do so in com-
plete silence and return with the water in the same
manner. A small coin or charm must also be left at the
well. A word spoken while on the journey to or from the well would break the charm and the water would be useless. The belief was so popular that on 21 April 1617 the Kirk Session at Perth made a rule prohibiting any of their congregation to go to the well at Huntingtower.

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