House of the Binns: Bluidy Tam’s Deal With The Devil

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House of the Binns, in West Lothian, Scotland, is famous for its former resident, Thomas ‘Bluidy Tam’ Dalyell, known for his cruelty and alleged supernatural encounters, writes TACE DORRIS

General Thomas Dalyell and the House of the Binns in West Lothian, Scotland.
General Thomas Dalyell and the House of the Binns in West Lothian, Scotland.

Thomas Dalyell and House of the Binns

Linlithgow’s House of the Binns has been home to the Dalyell family for centuries. Set on beautiful grounds upon two hills with peacocks roaming the grass, the House of the Binns is a 17th Century home full of history, mystery and intrigue. General Thomas Dalyell was the only one to invite the Devil through their door.

Its most famous son, Thomas Dalyell (1615–85) had many names all related to his reputation of violence and suppression. He was drawn to war at a young age entering military service as a young teen in France supporting the Huguenot cause. 

On his return to Scotland, he then became involved in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (Scotland, England & Ireland) supporting King Charles I right to rule. As a Scottish Royalist, he served in Ulster, becoming Colonel and solidified his reputation with his cruel and bloody actions. 

Bluidy Tam and The Muscovite Devil

After Charles I’s execution in 1649, Dalyell fled to Russia where he served the Tsar Alexis I in the Russo-Polish wars, leading dragoons in battles. His actions in the wars earned him the nickname ‘Muscovite Devil’.

He fought at The Battle of Worcester with King Charles I troops and was imprisoned in the Tower of London after the defeat. He is said to have escaped and a heavy fee was placed on his head by Oliver Cromwell. 

Returning to Scotland upon the restoration of Charles II, The General was appointed Commander-in-chief of Scotland with orders to subdue the Covenanter rising. Having defeated the Covenanters at Pentland his cruel treatment of his prisoners earned him the nickname that would stick, ‘Bluidy Tam’. 

Dealing With The Devil

The legends surrounding ‘Bluidy Tam’ began not long after his death in 1685. 

His most famous spooky story concerns a marble-topped card table.

Dalyell allegedly used this table when he regularly played cards with the Devil. During a game, he tried to trick Auld Nick by placing a mirror behind the table so that he could read his opponents cards. This angered The Devil who kicked the table at the General, narrowly missing him. The table landed outside in the pond. 

Almost two centuries later, during a drought in the summer of 1878, the table was rediscovered at the bottom of the dried-up pond and restored to its rightful place inside the house.

Curiously, the table emerged with a mark on one of the corners — a large hoof mark! To this day no-one can explain how that mark was left on the table. 

Spooky sightings of the General and his horse

The ghostly grey apparition of the General on his stallion has been seen many times on horseback, galloping down the road to The House of the Binns.

Interestingly, The General was said to have been the founder of the ‘Royal Scots Greys’ Dragoons known for wearing grey cloth and riding grey horses. I can attest that the road there is rather creepy at night especially when you know this story. 

Another legend tells that following Tam’s death, his son took his fathe’rs calvary boots back home with him to Fife. He soon returned them stating every night the household had been woken as the boots marched around the house by themselves. They also appeared to boil cold water that was on them. 

His Cruel Legend continued

History dictates that General Tam was the man who brought the dreadful thumbscrews to Britain from Russia.

His bloody legacy continued in the torture of many innocent people accused and convicted of witchcraft.

The use of the thumbscrews was prevalent in the Scottish witch hunts where torture for false confession was common place.

You can visit the House of The Binns today. I’d highly recommend you go and check out the table, the grounds — and pond — and the place that gave birth to ‘Bluidy Tam’. 

Have you been to House of the Binns? Tells us your thoughts on this article in the comments section below!

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