Saturday, 28 November 2015

Lost Houses of Angus - Red Castle

Red Castle, overlooking Lunan Bay, is not lost in the sense that there is no trace whatever of the ancient building.  But it is certainly ruined, even if its lifeless shell remains as a distinctive landmark near the shore.  In the 1570s the castle was home to a Catholic branch of the Stewart family and their religion allegedly aroused the enmity of Dunninald Castle (also known as Black Jack), just along the coast.  In the year 1579 Andrew Gray, son of Lord Gray, attacked Red Castle.  The occupant Elizabeth Beaton, widow of Sir Robert Stewart of Innermeath, was forced to flee with her entire household, including her pregnant daughter who miscarried because of the trauma.  When the Stewarts complained, King James IV commissioned his 'richt traist freend' John Erskine of oust Gray from the castle.  Dun did get rid of Gray, but is said to have occupied the building himself for a period.  The following year, while the Stewarts were absent, Gray returned to attack Redcastle again. He was indicted for his actions but refused to stand trial, so he was declared a traitor.  The last inhabitant of the building is said to have been the ousted Episopalian minister, James Rait.  Rait had been the priest of the parish of Inverkeilor from 1685-1703, but was thrown out for being a non-jurist, i.e. refusing to swear allegiance to the Hanoverian government.  He was active in the area during the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, preaching at Montrose and Lunan, but he was deposed again a few years later.



   The site of Red Castle was a favourite hunting estate of King William the Lion in the late 12th century, very close to his famous foundation of Arbroath Abbey.  This king gave the site to  Sir Walter de Berkeley (or Barclay), in 1194.  Berkeley had been Chamberlain of Scotland from 1171 to 1191.  A fairly implausible folk legend set down in Victorian times states that Sir Walter wanted to acquire a giant to be his servant, but he could not find anyone large enough in Scotland.  Someone told him that there were many men of enormous height in Sweden, so he set sail for that country immediately.  On his way to Stockholm the Scottish knight slaughtered a gang of pirates who tried to board his ship.  But Sweden was a disappointment to him, full of men no bigger than they were back home.  Just before he departed he attended a tournament and there he happily encountered a ten-foot man named Daniel Cajanus who was entertaining the crowd by wrestling with two normal sized men. The Scot swiftly acquired the giant's services and also employed his friend, Linicus Calvus, a three-foot Danish dwarf whose father had been a Greek orator.
   The Swedish giant made an immediate impact in Scotland and won his master a prize of £1000 by beating a Norman knight in a joust at Leith.  At home at Red Castle, Daniel always stood guard behind Sir Walter's chair.  One evening there was a banquet and the knight noticed that his little servant was missing.  He was distracted from asking about the dwarf when his cook brought in a great pie.  After Berkeley cut open the crust, Linicus jumped out and made a graceful bow, much to his master's delight.
   The following November, Vikings made a surprise attack on the coast.  They tried to storm Red Castle many times, but the giant Daniel always repulsed them.  But finally the huge man was overpowered and killed.  The broken hearted dwarf died the next day.

   The 15th century Red Castle later passed back into the hands of the crown before being passed on to the non-royal Stewarts. Despite the best efforts of Andrew Grey, Red Castle remained largely intact until 1748, at which times the slates and joists were carried to Panmure.  This was followed by a free-for-all, when the locals felt able to plunder the remains for building material.  Around this time a statue of King William the Lion, which was said to have stood at the top of the building, tumbled down and was smashed to pieces.  It only seems like a matter of time before coastal erosion does the same for the crumbling remains.