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Dog's ghostly tale proves a corpse's bark is always worse than its bite

As it will be Hallowe'en on Wednesday I thought it appropriate to relate the ghoulish tale of Lagminnan's wake.

In the bleak upland district between Sanquhar and Muirkirk there stood, about 270 years ago, the sheiling of Lagminnan.

The man of the house was 83-years-old and referred to as Lagminnan after the name of his sheiling. Both he and his father before him had been born there. He had spent his whole life among his native hills and had never wandered more than 20 miles from his home.

His only companion was his housekeeper Marjory, who was nearly as old as himself, and his two collie dogs that helped him to take care of his livestock.

At length he went the way of all flesh and died, much to the grief of his faithful old housekeeper. As all his friends were dead, Marjory was the only one left to mourn his loss.

On hearing of his death, a number of young men and women from the neighbouring cottages went to Lagminnan to keep the old woman company and "wake" the corpse. That was done by sitting in the room where the body lay, day and night until the funeral.

On the night before the funeral old Marjory went to the house of a neighbour, leaving the body of her master in the charge of six or eight young women.

She hadn't been long gone when an equal number of young men put in an appearance. They brought with them a plentiful supply of whisky and other good things with which to pleasantly pass the long hours of night.

Soon the glass and song went merrily round, until the mirth and fun grew fast and furious. A dance was proposed, and as readily agreed to. They managed to play some sort of music and were soon dancing merrily.

When their fun and frolic was at its height, a dreadful thing happened – the dead man, dressed in his grave clothes, sprang out of the bed, and with his glassy eyes staring at the revellers, stood leaning against the end of the bed.

Had a thunderbolt or a bombshell fallen in their midst it could not have caused greater panic. Every man and woman present was seized by terror and it became a case of "de'il tak the hindmost" as they all made a mad rush for outside.

The bed in which the corpse had lain was close to the door, and as each individual made his or her exit, it was with a bound and a yell, as they were all terrified in case the dead man should clutch and devour them. When they did get outside, most of them ran without stopping till they reached their own homes, where they told of the awful thing that had happened at Lagminnan.

Soon the whole countryside was made aware of the startling occurrence, and by break of day a large number of folk gathered at a short distance from the house, although none had enough courage to enter it. Broad daylight, however, often dispels many a strange thing observed in the dark.

When the sun was well up in the east several of the more courageous ventured forward to the house and looked in at the window. There they saw the corpse standing with its feet on the floor, leaning against the end of the bed, in the exact position it had occupied when the revellers beat their hasty retreat.

Long they looked and watched but the dead man still kept his ground, never moving a muscle. At last two or three of the boldest ventured inside, and on making an inspection saw how the whole thing had happened.

The bed where the corpse was laid was low and supported by rungs. A large dog which accompanied one of the young men had crawled under it and fallen asleep. When it was suddenly awakened by the noise of the dancers it had risen to its full height. Being a powerful animal, it had lifted the bed on its back, the corpse had slid over the end, the feet had come to the floor and the body being stiff it had stood there.

Things were soon put to rights and old Lagminnan was decently "kisted" and as decently buried beside his fathers in the old Kirkyard of Kirkconnel in Glen Aylmer.

l This and many other intriguing stories can be found in Rog Wood's latest book, Upper Nithsdale Folklore, available from Dumfries Ewart Library for £9.99 +P&P. Telephone 01387 253820.

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