The Old Church B&B, a Ghost, and a Lonely Grave: Part II

A ram we passed on our way into Priesthill. Nothing ghostly about him.


Here’s today’s question: Do you believe in ghosts?

My childhood experience of growing up with a graveyard next to our house introduced me to ghosts. They were worrisome but mainly a product of my young imagination. My sister Nancy, on the other hand, believed in them one hundred percent. (See my blog “Mr. Fitzgerald Is Dead” under Misadventures.)

The visit Peggy and I made to Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania last fall looking for information on the two Mekemson boys who died there during the Revolutionary War provided another experience. Scary! Did something really blow out the hurricane lantern leaving us alone in the dark? (Check out “The Mekemson Ghosts of Fort Mifflin” in Looking for Dead People.)

My first actual sighting of a ghost would wait for Priesthill, however. Maybe. Ghosts tend to be, um, Ghostly.

Priesthill is an old Scottish sheep ranch, dating back to at least the 1600s. This was the time when Scottish Covenanters had gone ‘off the grid’ with their Presbyterian Church and held services out in the open fields hidden away from the prying eyes of the English King and his henchmen. Armed men were posted around the perimeter in case the soldiers came.

Getting caught wasn’t much fun. You could lose your sheep, your cattle, your land and your life. You might find your body quartered and hung up in various communities to provide an example of why you should be a good Anglican.

Priesthill was one of the remote sites where the hidden services were held. To get there we drove north on the road in front of our B&B (the Old Church B&B in Muirkirk, Scotland) for a couple of miles and picked up a dirt road snaking off to the right through a sheep farm.

The road seemed to go on and on; recent rains had turned it into a muddy mess. Our brand new Mercedes rental car bounced along dodging sheep and accumulating glue-like mud mixed with sheep dung. It was still on the car when we returned it to Edinburgh.

Finally the old farmhouse came into sight. A woman was standing on a porch enclosed by a three-foot high rock wall. Since we would be walking through her property in search of John Brown’s grave, I got out to talk with her.

But she did something strange. She disappeared. Now this was strange in two ways. Obviously she didn’t want to talk with us. She turned her back and walked rapidly toward the door.  OK, I could live with that even though we had found most Scots to be friendly and helpful. Possibly she was shy.

What bothered me more was she sank.

It was like she was traveling down an escalator or open elevator. Her head disappeared beneath the stonewall before she reached the door. I did not see her go inside.

“Maybe there are steps down to an underground cellar,” I thought. Or maybe she merely bent over to work on a flower garden. Curiosity got the better of me. I walked over. There was no woman; there were no flowers; there were no stairs. As far as I could see the floor of the porch was solid stone.

I asked Peggy, “Did you see that woman disappear?”

“She went inside,” my logical wife explained.

“Ah,” I said and put the matter out of my mind. Or tried to, it kept nibbling away at me. A couple of days later I asked Peggy if she had seen the woman appear to sink into the porch.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Did you actually see her go in the house?”

“No,” was the answer.

So I rest my case for a possible ghost… or optical illusion. The owners of Old Church B&B know the owners of the the property. Maybe they can find an answer.

Saturday: Part III, A Lonely Grave

10 thoughts on “The Old Church B&B, a Ghost, and a Lonely Grave: Part II

  1. What can I say, your blog is super and both David and I will sign you up to be our marketing manager, our job is made very easy by guests like yourself, who were a pleasure to look after. David says it is good to know that all good men of Scottish blood return to the motherland from the Commonwealth and that he is thouroghly grateful for your aid and assistance in the fight for her freedom.
    As for your ghost, I dont know, there are many hopefully many from the English Garrison at Ayr, we have a spook in the Church but we have never been lucky enough or do I mean unlucky enough to see it, only hear it !
    Well done, we both agree you have the gift of the gab, an old Scottish saying.

  2. I just came across your blog. I too am descended from John Brown. My grandmother was Edna Meckemson–youngest daughter of William M and Jennette Thomson. And I too stayed at the Old Church B&B on my pilgrimage to John Brown’s grave/memorial. I often think of the wonderful accommodations and Lesley’s outstanding Scottish breakfast. I was blessed to be there during the Muirkirk Walking Festival and I was the only yank in the group–so I was a bit of rock star ;-). I even made the local paper! You can find pictures of my visit at my flickr site. My family and I have talked about returning … my daughter (9) is especially keen on going.

    • Thanks for sharing Steve. I am excited to meet another cousin. I keep up with Lesley on Facebook. I also went down to the Thomson ancestral area when I was in Scotland this last summer which I suspect you did as well. I blog occasionally on family genealogy and will continue to this year. My focus now is the role the Meckemsons, Mekemsons, Makemsons etc. played in the Revolutionary War. There is a Mekemson/Makemson family site on Facebook which I will be glad to share if you are interested.I am going to jump on your Flickr site. William and Jeanette’s son Andrew is my Grandfather.

      • I have not been to the Thomson ancestral site. Is that Stranraer? Or in Wigtonshire? I believe that John Paul Jones is somewhere in there … from Kirkubright. I would love to sign onto the Mekemson facebook page…so, yes, please pass that along. I’ll look through my genealogy records on Revolutionary War folks. I know–off top of my head–that James Brown (son of John of PH) was a delegate to the Penn Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1776.

  3. Hi, i came across this page googling “priesthill, scotland”, my ancestor alexander ross was from here. his parents, donald ross and sarah mcleod, are both buried in the logie easter burial ground and they lived, i believe, at meddat. i was wondering if you saw anything with the ross name on it while you were there? i’d love to visit sometime, sounds like a great trip!

    • Hi Melissa,

      I don’t recall seeing any Ross tombstones. I was focused on Browns, Mekemsons, McClellands and other ancestors so I could have easily passed them by. The graveyards and tombstones are fascinating, however. The country is beautiful and the people are welcoming. It is definitely worth the journey…

  4. Pingback: A Whale of a Tale– or has Nessie Migrated… Gone fishing in Puerto Vallarta | Wandering through Time and Place

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