Earl Beardie studied his opponent before taking a deep swig of whisky from his glass. Earl Beardie was only one of the names given to Alexander Lindsay, the 4th Earl of Crawford. He had earned the epitaph, ‘The Tiger’ on account of his terrifying brutality. He was a man of excesses, given too much drinking and gambling.
This particular New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as we call it in Scotland, had fallen on a Saturday. Earl Beardie was spending the evening at his castle at Lordscairnie, Moonzie pursuing his favourite pastimes. (There are some variations to the tale with the venue being cited as Glamis Castle or the card player being Alexander Lindsay, the 7th Earl.)
A Warning for Earl Beardie
The night was getting late and outside a storm was raging, rattling the windows, and whistling beneath the gaps in the doors. None of that mattered. Earl Beardie was on a winning streak.
As midnight approached, there was a tentative knock on the door. His manservant entered, shuffling his feet and clearing his throat.
“Aye, what ails ye, man?” The Earl snapped.
“S…sir, it is close to midnight, and games are forbidden on the Sabbath.”
Earl Beardie slammed down his glass and growled, “Get out. I’ll play until doomsday…Wi’ the de’il himself if necessary!”
The servant beat a hasty retreat, unwilling to incur more of his master’s wrath.
A New Visitor arrives
Meanwhile, Earl Beardie’s drinking companion knocked back the last of his whisky and rose to his feet.
“I must take my leave, Alexander. I’ll nae stay and risk the attention o’ Auld Nick.”
“Coward!” hissed the Earl under his breath but despite his protestations, his friend left.
Fuming, he poured himself another drink.
As the midnight bell pealed, there came another knock on his door. A stranger dressed in dark clothing appeared and asked to be dealt a hand.
Earl Beardie’s luck runs out
Admittedly, the Earl was confused by the stranger’s arrival, but he was never one to pass up an opportunity at the gaming table. He threw himself wholeheartedly into the next few rounds.
Then, in the wee small hours, Earl Beardie’s luck ran out. The stranger revealed his identity. He was the devil himself, come in his human form. Like so many other villains from Scottish history, he had made a deal with the Deil. Auld Nick demanded his winnings in the form of Earl Beardie’s soul.
But old habits die hard, and the Earl was ever the gambler. Thus, it is said today, that both are locked in battle, with Earl Beardie trying to win back his soul at the gaming table.
Earl Beardie Haunts Lordcarnie Castle
Should you visit Lordcairnie Castle at the stroke of midnight of New Year’s Eve you might see the ghost of Earl Beardie playing cards with the Devil. But beware, for those witnessing the end of the game will find their soul dragged down to Hell along with the Earl!
However, if you visit the castle at other times of the year, you might stumble upon some buried treasure for it is said that Earl Beardie hid his ill-gotten gains on the site.
Spooky Scotland wishes you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year. Lang may yer lum reek! And just to be on the safe side, since Hogmanay falls on a Saturday this year, you might want to refrain from playing cards after the bells!