THERE IS GREAT CONCERN here at the treatment of our fifteen naval personnel illegally detained by the Iranians, and anxiety about their ultimate fate. However I was reminded today, when researching the Griersons of Lag, that we have not always been models of decency ourselves. Lag Castle is in Dumfriesshire where people have traditionally subscribed to low church Christianity. This was a dangerous aberration in the reign of James VII, our only Catholic monarch since Mary Queen of Scots (also our last since a Catholic is prohibited by law from ascending the British throne).
Sir Robert Grierson of Lag was the king's man in Dumfriesshire and he took his duties seriously. When in 1685 he came upon an 'illegal' church service at Kirkconnell, he killed all those worshippers he could catch, some of them, reportedly, by rolling them down a hill in a spiked barrel. None was given a Christian burial. Small wonder that Dumfriesshire folk related that Sir Robert's spit scorched the earth where it fell, that he could turn wine into blood and that on the night he died a chariot surrounded by thunder clouds swept him away to hell! Makes President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seem quite cuddly.
Thankfully not all Griersons were of this mould. In 1898 Sir George Grierson produced the eight thousand page Linguistic Survey of India, and Dr John Grierson who died in 1972 was a film producer and Director of UNESCO.
Apart from Lag Castle, now a noble ruin, there are three Grierson castles in Dumfriesshire - Barjarg Tower, Capenoch House and Rockhall, all now private houses. Sir Robert Grierson used Rockhall as a base for persecuting his fellow Christians (of the 'wrong' sect). On his death his servants killed his pet monkey which still apparently haunts the castle, blowing a whistle. So far as I am aware this is the only castle in Scotland to be haunted by a monkey. Maybe someone out there knows different?