'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

The White Lady

During the 1960s the ghost of the White Lady was reported to have been seen by school pupils closeby to the old school grounds near Comiston Farm and Comiston Farmhouse.

'Autumn Morning, Comiston Farm' Robert Napier West

At this time Hunters Tryst School had the most wonderful and extensive school grounds. 

At the far south-east there was a delightful little copse of woods where the more adventurous or wildest pupils played. 

The little woodland was relatively far from the school buildings - indeed if the school lunch bell rang out, no matter how fast a runner you were, if you were playing there it was just too far away to return to the classroom on time.

The copse sat on a small raised ridge on higher ground - really on a small hillock above the far away second school pitch which nestled down below. The former sports pitch is where the new Pentland Primary School is sited today. 

In this old wood were half a dozen large old trees, some bushes and brush and a path which extended to the school boundary. The first tree had a Tarzan swing on it. It was an excellent spot because children could swing out from the ridged hillock over the immediate drop, which curved away to the grassy valley below.

Comiston House Stables (Photograph by Alan Brown)

At the far end of the copse was a metal fence which formed the extensive boundary of the school. On the other side of the fence were the former Comiston Farm buildings and Comiston House. It was here that some girls had sworn they had seen and been terrified by the appearance of a ghostly white lady. 

The girls were in such a state of shock that the headmaster Mr McKenzie and schoolteachers became involved and also the local police too. The sighting went viral and many pupils were seriously spooked, upset and in tears. This happened deep into the autumn months when there were heavy mists around in late October 1965. 

Anonymous Comment: 'I remember this event well. Kids were screaming, running, but some of us were fascinated. All we knew was that kids were saying it was 'The Bogey Man'. I remember Mr McKenzie and his white hair wandering around the playing fields beyond where we had been playing in the small wooded copse, urging kids to go to their class. It was mass hysteria on a child's scale which can be very loud. It's one of those things that sticks in your mind even when you are an adult who should know better - but who knows?'

Sheer bravado on my part, I joined a few friends the following lunchtime and we headed up to the copse to see if we might catch sight of the ghostly figure. 

It was very quiet. 

The only sounds which could be caught on the autumn breeze were distant children’s voices playing in the far playgrounds. 

Of course, we didn't see the ghost. 

We weren't disappointed as it only added to the tension as to what might be out there.

Later that day after school and just as dusk was beginning to fall we ventured out to the old farm buildings. 

As we roamed around the gloaming and the mist enshrouded surroundings we were on red alert. 

Darkness was beginning to fall. 

Talk about a finger on the trigger - when we were very close to Comiston Farm, of a sudden someone screamed out that they had heard something and that was enough - well we all turned tail and took to our heels like Tam O'Shanter and ran toward Oxgangs Broadway, down Oxgangs Street and all the way home to the sanctuary of The Stair and Oxgangs Avenue without ever looking behind once, in case we might be turned into a pillar of salt!

The day after, a dictat went out from the school - until further notice, the copse and the immediate area of the old farm were firmly out of bounds to all pupils - rather similar to when we were banned from visiting the army's firing range at Dreghorn where we collected used ammunition.

Decades before the advent of social websites and the internet, knowledge and information came slowly. It's understandable how rumours could spread and create mass hysteria in the locality. So much so that many children didn't venture out after school and during playtime and lunch breaks we remained close to the sanctuary of the school. 

If someone had asked about this episode in later years I would have laughed it off as nonsense...and yet...and yet, how do you explain the following quote from Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes by Robert Louis Stevenson:

The district is dear to the superstitious. Hard by, at the back-gate of Comiston, a belated carter beheld a lady in white, 'with the most beautiful, clear shoes upon her feet,' who looked upon him in a very ghastly manner and then vanished.

White Lady Walk (Photo by Neil Black) 
The old stone pillars at the back gate to Comiston House: note the  sign 'White Lady Walk.' The City Fathers must have initiated this new name in recent years; it's part of a well established footpath (Cockmylane) which Stevenson often trod on his way up to Swanston Cottage as a teenager
Lee Drummond Fraser: My house was right in front of those gates.. 109 Oxgangs Bank! Used to be terrified of the White Lady! Looking out of the kitchen on a dark night used to freak me out.

I would be surprised if the girls were familiar with the works of RLS, particularly as this is one of his lesser known books. So, perhaps they really did see something. Clearly the City Fathers have recognised this by the new addition to the area's names: White Lady Walk.

Comiston (Photograph by Alan Brown)

Today some of the children at the new local Pentland School occasionally tell tales of The White Lady. Certainly, I'd be reluctant to venture there on a late autumn, misty day, toward dusk.

Anonymous Comment, 2 March, 2016: 'When I was around the age of 10 in the early 70s I used to go up to Bonaly, Oxgangs and the Pentlands Hills with my friend during the school holidays. One occasion we got such a scare that we didn't stop running until we reached home; we were both walking down a dirt footpath near an old rubber mill and for some reason we both turned around and witnessed a woman with a white dress hovering off the ground and you could see the grass underneath her feet. It spooked us and I have never run so fast in my life. On getting home I explained this to my mum who said, 'Oh that will be the White Lady'. As the days passed we just got on with our lives and tonight for some reason it popped into my head again so I did some checking on line and came across this Blog.;

Scot Ainslie: 'Shit - yes! I still get freaked when I think of her even today. This is how stories and folklore begin. My version is, I used to go wild camping up Bonaly with Mark Elliot and others; anyway, I was the youngest of the group and as we passed the old Gothic house just before we got there, they used to say: “the White Lady was in the top window” (still goosebumps as I write this!). I swear I saw her in the window. Freaked me out, but I didn’t want to tell them how scared I was, because I knew they’d take the piss and make it worse - bullies, huh?! That night, we camped by the burn and I couldn’t sleep. Luckily we all felt cold and we got my mum to pick us up and then slept on the balcony in Caerketton Court with a hot water bottle and a kettle and toast etc...

Fast forward almost 30 years and I draw on this memory as an actor in “The Woman In Black”- I was scared, so were the audience! The legend lives on....who the hell knows what the real story was or how it came about...don’t we just bloody well love stories!'

1 comment:

North Edinburgh Nightmares said...

Brilliant stuff. Do you know anything of the Hunters Tryst pub having a ghost?