Cardoness Castle, a six storey, fortified tower, was built around 1470. As it's walls are 2.5 metres thick and its windows small, its main purpose must have been defensive. Its location is a mile south west of Gatehouse of Fleet. It was originally owned by the MacCulloch family of Galloway, or the MacCullochs of Myreton, as they were also known. The castle is still quite well preserved. The family abandoned it in the 17th century, after the beheading of Sir Godfrey McCullock (on the Maiden guillotine) for murdering a neighbour of the Clan Gordon. This seems to have been the culmination of many years of bitter feuds between the MacCullochs and the Gordons.
There was another Cardoness Castle built more than a hundred years earlier. Legend has it that this first castle was very costly to maintain. A succession of three lairds were ruined as a result. A fourth laird had to plunder with local border thieves to make ends meet. It's even said that he had to repair the roof with heather as he lacked the means to have the work done more adequately. He gathered the heather on the Glenquicken Moor four miles away, and made several weary journeys carrying large bundles of it on his back.
When the work was finally done, and proved to be sufficiently effective, even under the additional weight of snow, things began to improve for the laird. His flock of sheep and herd of cattle multiplied considerably, and he began to feel prosperous and even more important.
This laird however, was a tyrant. After twenty years of marriage to a wife who had born him nine daughters, he threatened that if their next child wasn't a boy, he would find another woman after drowning his wife as well as their nine daughters in the Black Loch.
During the following winter, to the joy and relief of the family, the laird's wife gave birth to a son. The laird was so proud and content that he decided to celebrate by giving a great feast that was to take place on the loch then completely frozen. For the celebration however, he chose the Sabbath day, which discouraged most of the guests who had been invited, from coming.
Undeterred, the laird arranged that the festivities proceed as planned for his new born son, family and servants.
Despite the biting cold there was much joy and revelry, all lit by candle-light with a large, yellow moon rising as if to add its own special blessing, or whatever.
But a small unnoticed fissure traced itself insidiously across the frozen ice, and this quickly became larger. The ice then suddenly seemed to explode, and the cold loch claimed almost the whole family, servants and all.
'Almost,' because one of the laird's daughters who had recently married a MacCulloch, had preferred to stay in the warmth of her parents' bedroom to nurse her mother, exhausted from giving birth.
The obvious moral to this legend would be that good fortune should never be taxed beyond reasonable limits, especially by tyrants. In this case the Black Loch can only mirror the inverse of good fortune.
It has even been said that somewhere deep in this tenebrous loch still lies the laird's treasure, as well as the newborn son's little, iron cradle.
Scottish myths 19
Scottish myths 19
Scottish myths 17
Text © Mirino. Sources include Scotland Myths and Legends, Beryl Beare. Top image The Black Loch, winter evening © David Baird, with many thanks. Lower image Cardoness Castle (photographer unknown) with thanks. August, 2012