In 1948 William Park of Blantyre recorded his ghostly experience at ‘The Lady Nancy’, (the upper South Western slopes of Blantyre). Recorded in the Gazette on 17th July 1948, the ghostly tale is narrated here in his own words and as published.
A good many years ago, aye more than I care to remember, a very strange thing happened to myself and three pals one evening when taking a quiet walk along what was then the most delightful road within the radius of some thirty miles, namely, the Kilbride Road form High Blantyre Station right up to the famous General’s Brig that spanned the Calder River.
The evening I speak of was in late Autumn and the fallen leaves from the majestic trees that formed a perfect arch, lay thick underfoot, so much so, that the sound of footsteps was soft, as if one were walking over Persian carpets. It was 10.30pm, a late walk and the stillness could almost be felt whilst the silver rays of the moon flung tall and wavery shadows of the beech trees that bordered the field side of the roadway. On the footpath side a small stone wall about three feet high ran along quite a good distance bordering a fine strip of timber, through which you could get a splendid view of the beautiful lawn that fronted the noble mansion called “Crossbasket House.”
This wall was broad on top and was a favourite seat for lovers or any who wished a restful spell after a long walk on a warm afternoon. It was on this wall that the group mentioned were seated on this particular evening I speak of.
There were four of us. Jamie Jardine, my brother, Willie Gibson and myself. Willie Gibson was a delightful musician and had few equals with the English concertina, in fact his teacher told me he had no equal in Scotland. Yet, Willie had no ambition and his greatest pleasure was to play for his friends and companions. His genius was for friends and not for the public.
We had many such walks and Bill, as we called him used to bring his concertina and play to us as we rested on the way. It was a sheer delight to lie back and listen to Bill running through his favourites, such as Rossini’s Dream, William Tell etc. But Willie was too finely strung and he passed away in Smellie’s land, High Blantyre at a comparatively early age. He was a great loss and i often thought Jamie Livingstone, one time school board officer could have written some nice memories of his bosom friend and companion.
However, to my story. As we sat on the wall that evening, enjoying to the full the charm and beauty of our surroundings, we all seemed to think Bill was, if possible really excelling himself, so caressing and smooth the rhythm floated through the stillness of the night. Suddenly the music ceased and we were brought to earth by Bill saying to me “Here Willie, I would like to hear how this old box sounded at a distance, I seem to miss something when i play it myself. Here you take it up to the Lady Nancy (the hill above) and play one of yon tunes you learned from big David, when we went to him for lessons.”
I laughed and said “Oh Bill. Have a heart, you know i had only a quarter and didn’t get much further that the “Last Rose of Summer.” Well that will be fine he replied, on you go.
“No, No Bill, i couldn’t remember a note now, but that just gives me an idea, away you go yourself up the Lady Nancy and allow US to have the pleasure of hearing the music from a distance. The other pals said “Here, here, that’s an idea Bill.”
Bill laughed and accepted the suggestion and away he went along the hedge, in the moonlight, up the fields to the bing.
“The Skaters Waltz” came floating to our ears, to be followed by many more of Bill’s favourites. We sat entranced and silent and remained so for some 12 or 15 minutes, when suddenly the flow of classic gems ceased! And so sudden! We all gave a start as if awakening from a pleasant dream, and wondered if anything had gone wrong.
The just as suddenly, the air vibrated with the harmonies of melody again, but not the melodies we have been listening to for the last half hour. We looked at each other and wondered what had put it into Bill’s head to stop so sudden in the midst of one of his favourites and was now treating us to that haunting Scottish lament, “The Land of the Leal.” He was playing it divinely and the sad, plaintive rhythm of one of Scotland’s most beautiful melodies impressed us all very visibly.
Then once again, snap, the music abruptly stopped as suddenly as it had started, and we then saw Bill coming down from the mound and soon he was beside us (at the bridge). Of course, we all had something to say about the quick change in the choice of tune at the finish of his performance and Bill wanted to know what we were talking about. “Surely the change wasn’t noticeable” he said, “it certainly changed a little and no wonder, i had just got started into “Stabit mater” when a cold mist came down and covered me like a shroud, and by jove, it was cold. My fingers became quite numb and i seemed to feel clammy all over. I can tell you, i could scarcely finish the piece and was mighty glad to get back down here.”
I looked into Bill’s face, a face that was as pale as death and said, “What tune was that you said you were playing before you came down and at the time the mist came down?”. Bill replied “Great scot! Surely you mean to tell me you didn’t recognise Stabit Mater? I have played it often to you.
“And did you play it to the finish?”, i asked him.
“Sure, i played it right through and it was some job i can tell you. I’m still shivering. “
Bill was stooped putting his concertina into the box, so he didn’t notice the queer looks of my companions faces in the moonlight. I was afraid they were going to say something , so i held my finger up to my mouth for silence, for I realised something strange had happened that we couldn’t understand. I can tell you we were rather a silent company that quietly walked back down the hill to Blantyre.
We left Bill at his home, rather early as he seemed a little less worse off of his experience on the mound, and then we could all have a little talk amongst ourselves on the strange event that had happened to Bill. We all agreed Bill had taken a little shock and had a lapse of memory for the time during the last song and we definitely agreed that his recollection of Stabit Mater was actually the Land o the Leal, at the exact moment of the mist incident. We also agreed never to discuss the incident with Bill , or anyone else for that matter.
We are positive there was no such thing as a mist or fog on that evening, it was a beautiful night, full moon and the atmosphere as clear as crystal, and yet Bill seemed to have gone through something strange and inexplicable. The pals were as good as their word and the incident was completely forgotten by them and myself until now.”
Blantyre Project adds: I’ve heard often that the Lady Nancy Bing is haunted. That myth was stated even when i was a child and i feel that perhaps this story was retold by some of the friends and of course was reprinted to all of Blantyre in 1948. The bing can be prone to mist rolling down into the valley that is now the EK Expressway, captured by this modern photo. Finally, i leave you co-incidentally with an Autumn scene of the Lady Nancy, from the vantage point that Bill would have had playing that concertina. Photos courtesy of Jim Brown.