The Silver Lady of Garynahine

From the Stornoway Gazette, 2 August 1960 and subsequent editions.

White Lady Startles Drivers:  a Garynahine Ghost Story

The “Garynahine Ghost,” which promised to be Lewis’s best authenticated spectre to date, has turned out to be a false alarm.  Several motorists had reported startling encounters near Garynahine Bridge with a tall woman, dressed in white to her toes, and carrying a staff, who suddenly loomed up in the light of their headlamps.  Drivers who braked and stopped said that the “white lady” peered in at them before vanishing into the night.

Among the first witnesses was SAC Keith Hodges, of RAF Uig, who saw the lady while driving back to camp from Stornoway on a Saturday night.  He said later – “It was a strange sight to see a woman, all in white, walking the road after 11pm.  I braked hard and she stared in at us.  Her face was white and expressionless.  I think she was wearing a black belt.”

One of his passengers, Cpl A Cox, said he and his friends has got “quite a fright”.  “This thing loomed up in front of us and then stopped at the side of the Landrover, peering in at us.  I don’t might telling you I got a scare.  We didn’t wait to see anything else, but drove off as fast as we could.  Our only idea at the time was to get out of it smartly.”

With them was SAC A Galbraith, who said – “Of course we got a fright.  She was dressed all in shining white and it looked very queer.”

Just ahead of the RAF Landrover was the RAF bus, most of the occupants of which were more than half convinced that they had seen a ghost.  The lady, whom they later christened “The Silver Lady”, stood motionless as the bus sped past.  Some of the airmen declared that she was surrounded by an eerie glow.

Mr Angus Macleod, Perceval Road, Stornoway, was the next to report an encounter with the strange lady.  “I was coming down from Uig about 11.10pm,” he said, “when I saw this woman coming towards me in the middle of the road.  She was dressed in a long gown, but it wasn’t white.  It had a kind of floral design.  She was carrying a stick, and she seemed to hold it up in front of the car, though I didn’t feel it touching the vehicle.  When I slowed down she stared in at me, and although it looked as if her lips were smiling, the rest of her face wasn’t.  I felt a cold shiver down my spine, and I still feel it every time I think about it.”

Mr Macleod said he had reported the incident to the police, because he thought the “apparition” could have a very serious effect on a nervous woman driver passing there late at night [as it would never bother any brave airmen, of course – Ed.].

News of these incidents spread rapidly throughout the district and people in Uig began to recall strange stories about Garynahine Lodge.  It is said that a drover was robbed and murdered there once by a housekeeper and her daughter when the place was a hostelry.

There is also a version that the drover and the daughter murdered the mother.  These tales have given rise to ghost stories in the vicinity for many years.

But the true identity of the “Silver Lady of Garynahine” was revealed on Wednesday when the “Gazette” asked Mrs Perrins, wife of Captain ADM Perrins, the new owner of Garynahine, whether she had heard anything of the activities of the ghost.

Mrs Perrins laughed heartily before she replied – “It’s not a ghost there at all;  it’s me.”  Mrs Perrins explained that she often goes for a walk down to the Garynahine Bridge at night “for the heck of it, and sometimes to watch other people’s nocturnal activities.”

“One has heard stories about ghosts, of course, but it’s not ghosts I’m looking for, but poachers.”  Asked about her dress on these occasions, Mrs Perrins replied, “If it’s a fine night I wear an evening dress, and if it rains, I wear a white drip-dry raincoat with a closed hood.  I also carry a stick.  I am sorry to spoil the ghost story but it really is terribly funny.”

The story prompted two letters:

Sir, – I read with interest the story of the Garynahine ghost but in the interests of accuracy I think it should be put on record that the stories of the old pedlar and the murder (whether true or false) have nothing to do with the Inn at Garynahine but with a very much older Inn on the moor between Garynahine and Lochganvich, of which some small traces can still be seen.

Garynahine in its days as a hostelry had a much pleasanter association than that.  It was best known as one of the favourite haunts of William Black the novelist – best-seller in his day although few people know of him now.

One of his most successful novels was A Princess of Thule of which the action was set in Lewis, mainly in Bernera, and I believe there are some people in Bernera today who claim to be descended or related to the original “Princess”. [She was Isabella Macdonald of Thule House.]

Yours etc,
Another Ghost, Lewis

And later:

Sir, – In your last edition of the “Gazette” I read about the Princess and the Pedlar from “Another Ghost.” The other ghost says the old pedlar and the murder had nothing to do with the Garynahine Inn.

For its information, I may recount that this murder was done in the Inn at Garynahine, and the drover (not pedlar) after being murdered was buried in a peat bank a short distance from the Inn. In later years his remains were discovered by two women who were cutting peats; this peat bank was never cut again.

The Ghost also refers to an older inn, being on the moor between Lochganvich and Garynahine, where traces are still to be found; to my knowledge, and that of older people who spent their lifetime at and near the place, there has never been such an Inn.

Maybe Garynahine Inn had been the haunt of William Black the novelist, but that didn’t account for it having a pleasant association as a hostelry – far from it.

May this other ghost give us more history of the “Unknown Moorland Inn.” Carry on Ghost.

Yours etc,
A Third Ghost, Garynahine