Country tales… The haunting of Buckholm Tower

A murderous laird haunts this crumbling ruin in the Scottish Borders. By Rebecca Jeffrey

One cloudy afternoon in the 1680s, just as the first shadows were starting to creep across the sky, a grim figure descended upon Ladhope Moor, intent on hunting down some covenanters – Protestant, anti-royalist rebels – who were known to be holding an assembly meeting.
Laird Pringle of Buckholm Tower was an ardent royalist with a penchant for bloodletting and, accompanied by his ferocious pair of faithful hounds and an army captain, he set off for the spot where the suspected the group were.
His hunch proved to be correct and although the dissenters had been forewarned and had already dispersed, Pringle found well-known covenanter Geordie Elliot, who had been injured after being thrown from his horse, with his son William, who had stayed to look after his father.
The merciless laird was set to slaughter the Elliots on the spot but was persuaded by the army captain to keep them captive overnight so they could be interrogated the next day. The pair were locked in the cellar of Buckholm.
Seething with drunken rage later that night, Pringle decided to take matters into his own hands and rushed down to the cellar. It was so dark that nothing could be seen by the servants clustered above, but soon they could hear a frenzy of scuffling and screaming, followed by silence.
A vengeful curse
Shortly afterwards, Isobel Elliot arrived at Buckholm after fearing her husband and son had been captured by Pringle. The laird, eager that Isobel witness the aftermath of his savagery, forced her down to the cellar. There, hanging from meat hooks, were the lifeless bodies of Geordie and William, their flesh torn and beaten to a bloody pulp.
Distraught and furious, Isobel cursed Pringle for killing her family, and from that night until the day he died one June, Pringle was adamant that he was being chased by hounds that were invisible to other people.
Then, in the nights before the first anniversary of his death, the laird’s ghost was seen running towards the tower, with the baying cries of the hounds reverberating behind him. And on the night that he died and every June thereafter, cries and running footsteps were reported to be heard, not outside the tower, but from the depths of the cellar.
Unravelling the truth
To this day, there are no official records to confirm the murders or to determine the identity of the laird. Some sources cite his first name as George, but others state it was James. In nearby Melrose Abbey graveyard, there is a stone bearing the name George Pringle, aged 78 years.
The date of death on the headstone reads 5 March 1693, making it possible that this is the laird in question’s grave.
Although there is little written about Buckholm Tower in surveyors’ records and history books, we do know that the tower, still owned by the Pringle family, was built in the 16th century. Today it is largely ruined, though the best preserved room is the cellar, where the iron hooks featured in the story can still be seen.
In 2005, paranormal research team Spectre carried out three investigations at Buckholm Tower. The team reported temperature changes, the sound of footsteps and recorded video footage of the iron hooks moving. They also claim to have taken an audio recording of an indistinct voice, and when they asked whether laird Pringle was present, the voice is believed to have said: “I had to” or “I hate you”.
Avid ghost hunters remain convinced that something lurks in the remains of the tower’s cellar, claiming that if you look closely you may see faint blood stains on the wall. Could this be the spilled blood of Geordie and William?