Castle Kennedy has been in this ruinous state for almost 300 years. It was built in 1607 but a fire in 1716 gutted the castle and although the Earls of Stair built a replacement in 1864 further to the west in the form of Lochinch Castle, the original has never been rebuilt.
The story goes that the laundry maid was airing bedding in preparation for the return home of the second Earl of Stair, when the bedding caught fire, and the castle was destroyed. Scott Brill has written a little story that hopefully will set history aright…
“The Gardener’s Son.”
“There is a new lock on my door again. It is my door, yes, as I’m the one inside and the one who keeps removing the locks every third day or so, whenever a new one appears. I hide them, tuck them away, attach them to a chain, actually, that is hanging from the rafters in the hidden recesses of the loft, back where the roots from the ancient roof-top garden have pushed through the wood and seek the ground that isn’t there, back where the water from the soaking rain drips in blackened drops of soot and earth and anguished souls. Light hits them sometimes, the locks…at certain hours of the day and in the middle of the night, too, as the full moon shines through the crumbling mortar cracks in the wall. Their absence causes minds to wonder and worry, quickens steps from my doorposts and into the hedges and beyond, out into the gardens beneath the palms and evergreens, among the rolling hills and moss-covered stone-work walls where I used to play with…where I used to play.
I don’t receive many visitors here, just the feeble-minded grandmother of the Earl who claims to hear footsteps in the straw. It must be my rasping breath or the whispering echoes of my fading heartbeat that she hears, for I dare not move when she’s near. Years ago, I rattled a can to scare her away, but that only brought more visitors in the form of the Earl and his wife…and the magistrate, too. They conferred, as wise ones will, and sought the company of the parish priest. He sat and wondered and mumbled against the aging bricks beneath the post…and he thought he heard a nothing that was really something as it brushed against his shin. It’s nothing, said the friar to the Earl, nothing but the wind and a…maybe…. Yes…like that, it’s nothing. The Earl and his wife remained distressed and the grandmother remained convinced that it was footsteps in the straw. They sought those above, as those above will do, they sought those above the parish priest and then the bishop after that. I touched the friar’s robe, when they visited, and scoffed at the bishop’s crown as they offered their hollow words to the Miasma that faded into the ether at Galileo’s waking.
Children know I’m here, of course, as children will know such things…as children will know such things and remain away, and remain away or seek me out on the darkest nights with torches out against the shadows and webs of fright that hang in the corners, they know without knowing sometimes and feel my breath upon their cheeks as I whisper and tell them to go, to leave, and to leave me alone. I don’t want to hurt or scare them, but I want them gone. I don’t want their light tread upon the straw to remind me of other little ones who used to do so before the blazing night…I want them to be away and away.
It was a frosted night and achingly cold with a withering moon when red flames licked the slow moving clouds. I stood there shivering, only steps away from the oven of my misdeeds, away from the murderer’s weapon that it became within quick seconds of rage and regret in the spilled and boiling blood of those hidden away unknown. Nigh unto three centuries hence, I still hear their short and tiny cries, the hairs on my neck and arms rise with only a thought. So I hide here and away, a stone’s throw from the still standing crematory of an ancient and vine-covered castle. It is a crypt and a memorial, a living nightmare of anguish that still smolders on an icy night as little bones crumble into the dust of time and away, forgotten and missed in grief, they are embers in my eyes and scalding irons on my heart…for I never confessed what I knew. It wasn’t the laundress who caused the blaze…it was me, the gardener’s son.”