Evelick Castle

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The tower was entered at the base of the stair turret, above and to one side of which there is a moulded frame for an armorial tablet. Above the basement, the vaults of which have collapsed, there were two principal storeys and a garret in the main block. From the scale of the flues in the south gable of the wing it appears the kitchen was in the basement of that part. As might be expected, the hall was on the first floor of the main block, while the provision of paired stool closets in the north wall indicates that the second floor was divided into two chambers. The garret was lit by windows in the gable walls, and presumably also by dormers, evidence for the design of which may survive in either in the collapsed masonry or in the fragments that have been re-used around the modern steading.

Evelick was the residence of a branch of the Lindsay family. The designation 'of Evelick'; was evidently first used in 1497 by the David Lindsay who then held the estates; before then the family is said to have been designated as 'of Leroquhy'. The existing tower house probably dates from the later decades of the sixteenth century.

Andrew Lindsay of Evelick was created a baronet in 1666, and his 2nd son Thomas was the victim of a particularly brutal murder here at the hands of his step-brother James Douglas(1) in 1682. Thomas and James were both about eighteen years old and were apparently quite good friends. They had been out together one June day in and around the Den of Pitroddie but that evening only one of them returned to Everlick. James came back to the castle dishevelled and blood-stained to say that Thomas was lying murdered in the Pitroddie burn but that he, James was innocent of the crime. He would say no more and was locked in his room.

Meanwhile, Sir Alexander and some of his servants made their way to Pitroddie Den and found Thomas lying in the water. He had been stabbed in several places, his face had been trampled upon and was barely recognisable and finally his head had been crushed by a large stone which lay beside the body. From the blood and the footprints near to the body it was evident that Thomas had fought bravely for his life. The body was brought back to the castle and James was once again visited by his mother and step-father. He maintained his story that he was innocent, the bloodstains on his clothes, he said, had been cause when he tried to lift the body from the burn.

For two days James protested his innocence but on the third morning he made a full confession which was written down. “I was never yet firmly convinced that there was a God or a Devil, a heaven or a hell, till now. To tell how I did the deed my heart doth quake and head rives, As I was playing and kittling at the head of the brae, I stabbed him with the only knife which I had, and I tumbled down the brae with him to the burn and there he uttered one or two pitiful words. The Lord Omnipotent and all- seeing God learn my heart to repent.” The next day James was taken to Perth and charged, “that he did conceive a deadly hatred and evil will against Thomas Lindsay, son of Sir Alexander Lindsay of Everlick, with a settled resolution to bereave him of life……did fall upon the said Thomas and with his knife did give him five several stabs and wounds in his body, and thereafter dragged him down the brae of the Den to the burn, and there with his feet did trample upon the said Thomas lying in the water, and as yet not being satisfied with all that cruelty, he did with a stone dash him upon the head so that immediately the said Thomas died.” The charge was then read back to James and he promptly repudiated the whole story.

The affair remained in this unsatisfactory state for almost two more weeks. James insisted his confession had been false, and had been given when his mind was disordered with grief and terror. He returned to his original story that he had found his step-brother lying murdered in the burn. His mother, his family, the Laird of Balhaivie cousin to Thomas, and others all tried to persuade him to confess. But it was to no avail. Then one day while in the presence of his mother he suddenly rose from his seat and with tears and sobs he proclaimed the error of his ways and declared that by the grace of God he would re-affirm every particular of his confession.

This time it was for real. James was taken to Edinburgh and there he pled guilty to the murder and was sentenced to be beheaded. With his new-found determination to be at one with God he confessed to a new crime. While in Edinburgh earlier in the year he had tried to set fire to “Harry Graham’s writing chamber.” This caused something of a sensation, for wilful fire raising was considered in many ways to be worse than murder. It was considered to be treason and as such resulted in the forfeiture of the party’s estate. Were James to be convicted of the crime, his estate of £2,000 would go to the crown rather than to his two sisters.

The unhappy boy was persuaded, this time, to retract his confession and the Crown reluctantly accepted his revised plea of not guilty. However, the truth of the original statement is given credence by an agreement made later by his mother to pay Patrick Cunnimgham, apothecary, 200 merks “for the skaith the said Patrick suffered when her son, James Douglas, put fire in Harry Graham’s chamber.”

James Douglas himself was executed by the Scottish Maiden, a form of guillotine, at Edinburgh Cross on August 4th 1682.

1.  Some sources say William Douglas.  James was described as the son of the late William Douglas, Advocate. His mother, Rachel (Kirkwood) had married the widower, Alexander Lindsay of Evelick in about 1680.
2.  In 1752 Margaret, the daughter of Sir Alexander and Lady Amelia Lindsay, eloped with the painter Allan Ramsay to become his second wife. The last of the line died through drowning in 1799.
3.  Everlick castle was once the property of Archibald Douglas, Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, under James V. and a character in Scott's " Lady of the Lake." (Slater's Royal National Commercial Directory of Scotland; 1903)



Sources for this article include:
  • Historic Environment Scotland
  • The Perthshire Diary

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    Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022