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The Evil Spirit of Tam Dalyell - The Scottish Legend of the Ghost Bluidy Tam

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

by Samuel Medaci

There is a Ghost in Scotland who was once as a General referred to in life as Bluidy Tam.

A successful General in several different wars, in his home country he was responsible for the killing and mistreatment of over a thousand fellow citizens. Now his Ghost haunts two different locations in Scotland.

Tam Dalyell was born in 1615 in Linlithgowshire and was the son of Thomas Dalyell of the Binns. His father, head of a cadet branch of the family of the Earls of Carnwath. Tam Dalyell’s mother was Janet, daughter of the 1st Lord Bruce of Kinloss, Master of Rolls in England. Tam Dalyell passed over in 1685.

At the age of 13, he had to grow up very quickly and fought in the expedition to La Rochelle with King Charles to aid the Huguenots. Later he served as Colonel under General Robert Munro and General Alexander Lesli in Ulster. He was also known as "Bluidy Tam" (Bloody Tam) and "The Muscovite De’il” (Muscovite Devil) due to the bloody and cruel history of his actions in the Wars of Three Kingdoms.

Tam Dalyell was banished from Scotland following the execution of King Charles I for refusing to shave his beard in penance of his fellow countrymen. King Charles I of England, Scotland, and Ireland fought the New Model Army of England, led by Oliver Comwell, during the British Civil War opposing the successful attempts to instal a Republic and end the monarch. Tam Dalyell fought with the King and later Charles II his son and heir. Later, he fought in the Battle of Worcester and was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London until he escaped and took part in one of the Highland rebellions, which was also known as The Glencairns Rebellion (1653 to 1654).

Thereafter, a bounty or reward was put on his head for 200 guineas. A guinea was a coin minted in Great Britain between 1663 and 1814 which had one quarter of an ounce of gold basically a pound and a sovereign in value, to be captured dead or alive. He successfully evaded capture and fled to Russia where he was in service to Tsar Alexis I, fighting in the wars against the Turks and Tatars. He was so successfully in that he rose to the rank of general.

As General he returned to Britain and was appointed the Commander-In-Chief in Scotland and ordered to subdue the Covenanters. With great brutality he defeated them at the Battle of Rullion Greens, earning him the nickname Bluidy (Bloody) Tam. His nickname stuck with him throughout his career and legend grew out of his cruelty.

The Covenanters were a 17th century Scottish religious and political movement group who fought to protect Presbyterianism from the Catholic Crown and from the Church of England, establishing and protecting the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The Covenants opposed Charles I’s changes to church structure and doctrine. They were successful in defeating him and controlled Scotland from 1643 - 1649. Ultimately the Covenanters lost power due to internal divisions and signed a treaty with Charles II and then supporting him against the English Parliament.

The cruelty of Bluidy Tam was on full display in his treatment of the Covenanters

Bluidy Tam
Tam Dalyell was born in 1615

after he defeated them at the Battle of Rullion Greens and subsequently imprisoned them in the infamous and terrible Greyfriar Kirk Yard, commonly known as the Covenanter’s Prison. This place was the cornerstone of the terrible reputation of Bluidy Tam and now one of the most ironic tourist points in Scotland as most people go there for the memories of a cuddly dog.

After the battle, the majority of surrendered prisoners (1200 men) were held in Edinburgh. Of these a smaller group of 400 men were held in Greyfriars. The Greyfriar Kirkyard was easily patrolled as there was one way out through a narrow space, the other three sides were bounded by high walls.

According to the Scottish Covenanter Memorial Association, each man was kept in captivity and denied food and water for over four months. The Covenanters were given only one ounce of bread a day to survive on. It is recorded by the Scottish Covenanter Memorial Association that some were killed for treason, some managed to escape and some freed.

The remaining prisoners were sent in exile on a ship to the American colonies. However, in further tragedy the ship never made it to the there. Instead of arriving at the colonies, the ship crashed and sunk around the Orkney Islands. All the Covenanters on the ship were killed as the ship sunk into the ocean.

In the 20th Century Walt Disney made a movie about Greyfriars called the Adventures of Greyfriars's Bobby which is a light hearted tale based on true events was about a Skye Terrier who refuses to leave the gravestone of his owner, Auld Jack who dies in poverty and is buried in the Greyfriars. Visitors to the Greyfriars Yards may not be aware of the bloody and sinister history when they visit. However, tales have grown over the years from these visitors hearing sinister noises around the Yards. So terrible was the treatment at the Greyfriars Yards, otherwise known as Covenanter’s Prison that a legend grew around it and the legend of Bluidy Tam.

A New Moon

There is tales of visitors hearing a low groaning sound that is dark and menacing. And on some nights, when the fog is thick and the moon is new, there is a darkness, a thick heavy and evil darkness that seeps into a person’s soul. It is there the

gateway between Hell and the human’s world of the living is thin and the evil can seep through. It is during these nights that some can feel the cold icey hands of the evil Bluidy Tam gripping, reaching, a visitor’s arm or shoulder. But just as quickly as one feels that menacing grip it fades away like the fog in the Yards. For the evil must go back to Hell where Bluidy Tam resides for all of eternity to pay for his misdeeds as the General of Charles II’s army.

Such an outcome may also be regarded as natural when you consider that the devil was no stranger to Bluidy Tam even as he lived his evil life as the General of King Charles II. As well as his skills in warfare, grew a legend that he held card games with the Devil in which he frequently bested the beast himself! At the House of Binns where the Bluidy Tam was born, raised, and lived his life when he was not in exile or in service to the King, Bluidy Tam played card games with the devil.

The Bins House
Bins House

Legend has it that so frustrated was the Devil that during one card game in which he was losing particularly badly, he picked up the card table and threw it out the window into a pond not the grounds of the House of Binns. The table went straight through a glass window and out at least 50 yards past the house into a pond nearby. It sunk straight away as the card table was marble topped and therefore very heavy. It weighed at least 50 stone. But the devil was enraged and furious at the Bluidy Tam for beating him at cards, which was the devil’s specialty of course. Legend has it Bluidy Tam still roams the grounds laughing at the Devil himself.

The Spiritual Devil
The Devil

This legend has some truth to it as in 1930, the mother of the 20th century Tam Dalyell had had a marble topped card table retrieved from the very pond in which it was told the devil threw it. One morning after a drought of rain, the mother of the 20th century Tam Dalyell looked out the window, which may have been the very window frame the Devil had originally thrown the card table, and say poking through the surface of the pond, a marble card table.

The exact card table that legend had told was thrown by the devil himself out the window while playing cards at the House of Binns. The mother of the 20th century Tam Dalyell, had it retrieved and had the legs repaired so that it could again be used at the House of Binns, though probably not for playing cards with the devil.

This raises several questions that I am not able to answer myself. Was Tam in contact with the Devil when he was alive? Now that he is a Spirit does he haunt two locations? These locations are very close being only forty-five minutes’ drive apart, and as a Spirit does he choose where to haunt? Is he being made to haunt as a punishment or is it his choice to haunt?

Marc Stuart Medium is often in Edinburgh at Greyfriars Kirk and lives fives minutes from the Binns estate. He does not claim to either have met Tam or communicated with him, at least not yet …


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