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  • Writer's pictureGreg Stewart

The White Lady of Corstorphine

Although is it now a suburb of Edinburgh, Corstorphine was a separate village until around 1920, when the growth of the city absorbed it. Within the village stood a grand castle, which was home to the Forresters. Originally built in the late 14th century as a defensive towerhouse, the castle was adapted over the years, but demolished in 1797. Small parts of it remained until 1852, when all trace of the castle was lost, other than a doocot which stands where the former access road once was. A huge Sycamore tree also stood by the former access route, significant not only for its age with it being estimated to be up to 600 years old, but also because it was the first known Sycamore tree to grow in Corstorphine. Sadly, the tree was blown down in a storm in 1998.

The Sycamore is however central in the tale of haunting connected to the former castle. James Baillie, 2nd Lord Forrester, inherited the title and estate from his father in 1654 and became actively involved in the local community. After the death of his 2nd wife in 1668, he began seeing a local lady named Christian Nimmo. It was bit of a difficult relationship, Christian was the niece of James Ballie's first wife, yet despite any local gossip, they were keen to try to make it work. On 26th August, 1679, Christian arrived at Corstorphine Castle for a pre-arranged meeting with James, yet she found he was instead drinking in a nearby public house. Furious, she sent a servant to collect him and bring him back to the castle.

When they returned it was clear that he was under the influence of alcohol, and so they decided to go for a walk through the gardens to help clear his head. The conversation was pleasant initially, but soon the couple broke into an argument. In a fit of rage, she grabbed James's sword from his side and stabbed him several times with it until he fell dead at the foot of the Sycamore tree. Horrified at what she had done, Christian fled the scene.

Unfortunately for her, the whole thing had been witnessed by a passer by, and the alarm was raised. Having verified that James was dead, a search party was sent to look for Christian. Her shoe was found close to one of the castle towers, apparently having come off as she ran, which gave the clue as to where she was. The tower was searched and she was found hiding in a cupboard.

She stood trial and despite arguing that James had attacked her in a drunken rage and she had only acted in self defence, the witness evidence refuted that and she was found guilty of murder. On 12th September, 1679, she was beheaded at the Market Cross.

Ever since her execution, there have been reports of her ghostly figure being seen wearing a blood stained dress and carrying a bloodied sword. She is said to be heard to sob loudly as she walks around both the doocot and the site of the tree, ever remorseful at her actions of that fateful night.

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