Friday, April 20, 2012

Ghost Piper of Duntrune Castle

In the late 1640s, several Scottish clans were pitted against each other. This story is about two of these clans--the Campbells and the MacDonalds. 

The MacDonalds or Donald Clan as they are known supported King Charles the 1st who was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland at the time while the Campbell Clan fought for the Parliament of England. * 

These two clans clashed in a bloody siege when the Donald Clan hearing that most of the Campbells were away from Duntrune Castle took the opportunity to attack and take the castle.

Duntrune Castle was built over 800 years ago. It is located in the West coast region of Scotland on the north side of Loch Crinan in Argyll, Scotland—today it is Kilmartin Parish. 

It was used as a fortress to guard the surrounding countryside against raiders from across the sea.  ** 

The MacDonalds descended upon this fortress owned by the Campbells in 1645, as part of their campaign that swept across most of Scotland during the civil war.

Once the castle was taken the MacDonald chief “Colkitto”  *** left a small garrison of men at Duntrune along with his personal piper to guard the castle so he could continue his campaign assault. 

In Colkitto’s absent, the Campbell Clan, determined to regain the castle, launched a counter-attack and eventually recaptured Duntrune. Every MacDonald was killed with one exception the Piper.

Pipers held an important role within Scottish clans—they were well educated, and they ranked high in the chief's household. When going into battle, they stood alone piping the men onward. It is said they were the “focus of loyalty.” 

Because of this MacDonald’s Piper—being a privileged and protected individual was spared. He found himself imprisoned and surrounded by his enemies, but he was about to perform a very courageous act that would save the lives of hundreds of his comrades.

Spotting his chief’s boat approaching on the loch he played a welcoming tune on his bagpipes but as the boat drew nearer the castle he changed tunes to a Scottish aire the Pibroch—“The Pipers Warning.” Colkitto heard this warning and turned his boat about, and the MacDonalds sailed to safety. 

But for the piper, there was no escape, the Campbells realizing what he had done chopped off his hands as a punishment. He bled out and died. ****

Ever since the piper was killed people have heard bagpipes play the Pibroch at Duntrune Castle. This eerie haunting music is even heard across the loch. 

For over two hundred years, many people felt this was just a “romanticized myth” connected to the castle, but in the 1880s while the castle was being renovated two workmen removing some flagstones in an inner courtyard of the castle found a shallow grave with a skeleton that had both hands cleanly chopped off at the wrists. 

Astonished the owner of the castle at that time felt this must be the remains of the ghostly piper who was heard. He arranged for a proper burial with an Episcopalian service.

The Campbell’s sold Duntrune in 1792 to the Malcolm’s of Poltalloch. 

Robin Malcolm the current clan chief of Clan Malcolm owns the castle today. Robin Malcolm has a letter written by his father to a friend about the supernatural activity at the castle, he writes, “things happen that couldn’t be explained in the normal way.” 

Besides the bagpipe music, furniture has been seen moving of it’s own accord, and objects hurl themselves at walls breaking into pieces.

Robin Malcolm states he feels the castle is still haunted by the piper. His present-day sitting room was once the main entrance to the castle, he feels this room has a lot of activity. 

His dog often warns him and his wife when something is passing. The Malcolm family is comfortable with the ghost. They feel the piper still haunts the castle because he was probably Catholic and not Episcopalian—therefore he was not properly laid to rest.

* The English Parliament wanted a “constitutional monarchy” Charles the 1st disagreed. His attempt to forge an alliance with Scotland started the Second English Civil War. He was ultimately defeated, convicted, and executed for high treason.

** Duntrune castle is unique in that, it is the oldest continuously occupied castle in Scotland today.

*** Some accounts refer to Colkitto as Alasdair Mac Colla others as Coll Clotach.

**** In another version of this story the MacDonald Piper was sent into the castle to spy but was found out. He was imprisoned and then played his pipes to warn the MacDonalds that their surprise attack was no longer a surprise. Colkitto duly warned retreated, and the Campbell’s cut off the piper’s hands.

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