Read chapter one here.
And so they found themselves at the castle entrance, paying their sixpences to the woman inside the wooden hut. Julian insisted on handing over a shilling for himself and Sally, and Anatoly then insisted on paying for Darrell too. David’s face brightened. “At least being alone has saved me sixpence!”
Julian roared with laughter and banged David on the back. “That’s the spirit. Every cloud has a silver lining!”
“Does that mean you weren’t planning to buy me a guide book?” Sally asked teasingly, indicating the neat pile of little booklets decorated with a line drawing of the castle resting on the window-ledge of the hut.
“No, not at all,” Julian said quickly, picking one up.
“That’ll be tuppence, then,” the woman said and Julian handed over the money.
“What about the rest of us?” David asked.
“You lot can buy your own!” Julian snorted.
“I am sure that Sally will enlighten us with the highlights,” Anatoly said. “Unless… dorogoy? Do you want one of your own?”
“No, it’s fine,” Darrell assured him. “As you say, Sally will tell us everything we need to know.”
“And probably a lot more besides,” David joked, leading the way across the wooden bridge that crossed the dry moat.
“Did you know, this wasn’t the original entrance,” Sally said, nose already buried in her guide book. “It used to be through the foretower, to our right. It was moved here in the late 1500s.”
“She’s started already,” Darrell said with a fond smile.
“What are these rooms?” Julian asked, indicating the open arches to their left and right.
“Well, if you weren’t standing in my light…” Sally pointed out teasingly. It was dim in the short corridor they had entered, and even darker in the rooms on either side.
Julian stepped to the side, taking his shadow with him and Sally squinted at the guide-book again. “Guard chambers,” she said, running a finger down the page.
“What is this deep hole?” Anatoly called from the room to her left.
“There’s one in here, too!” David shouted from the right hand room.
“Can’t you read the signs?” Sally asked with a sigh, though she couldn’t keep up the false irritation and ended up laughing.
“They’re boys. They don’t do reading the signs,” Darrell laughed. She joined Anatoly and pointed to the hand-lettered sign which told them that the deep hole was a failed start to a counter-mine.
“I thought Sally would like to be our guide,” Anatoly said with great dignity before peering down the hole again. The lighting in the room was poor and so he drew a slender pen torch from his pocket and shone it down. It showed him a hole, only a few feet wide, roughly circular and extending down six or so feet.
“You brought a torch?” Darrell asked as Julian and Sally joined them in the small space.
“I thought it might come in handy. I hear there is a not-so-secret secret passage.”
“Did anyone bring rope?” David asked from the doorway.
“Not today,” Julian laughed. “But maybe I should have, what with our propensity to get into trouble.”
They all trooped across the hall and into the other guard chamber which had an almost identical hole dug in the floor. Anatoly shone his torch down it for good measure.
“So what is the deal with these failed counter-mines?” he asked Sally as the torch-light glinted on a few pennies and foreign coins dropped by visitors.
“Well,” Sally held her guide-book close to the wall lamp. “In 1546 and 1547 the castle was under siege.” She skimmed the information as best she could, and summarised it, knowing none of them wanted to know the entire history. “Cardinal Beaton had been murdered and his assassins had taken over the castle. Regent Arran led his troops to recapture the castle and they began digging a mine to get in under the foretower. Those in the castle could see the entrance less than a hundred feet away but they didn’t know where exactly it was going to come out. So they started digging a counter-mine… well, counter-mines of course. Obviously they realised these two weren’t going to work and so they dug a third, round the other side of the foretower and that one was successful.”
“So they dug a mine to meet up with the other mine?” Darrell queried. “Why? Why not just wait for them to pop up and capture them then?”
“I am not sure they would have been able to ‘pop up’,” Anatoly said. “It would all have been flagstones and cobbles inside, even the courtyard. But they could have used gunpowder and caused a great deal of damage, possibly killing many people inside the castle, then entered during the chaos.”
“Yes, it says here they hoped to undermine the foretower,” Sally added.
“Come on, let’s get out into the daylight before you strain your eyes,” Julian said.
The water at the bottom of the well in the centre of the courtyard shimmered as Anatoly shone his torch down it, and five heads peered down.
“Pity there’s a barrier,” David said to Julian. “You like a journey down a well, don’t you, Ju?”
“Only if I think there’s something worth going down for,” Julian replied. “I know there’s lots of coins down there but I doubt they’ll add up to much. Not worth my time.”
“Plus you didn’t bring your rope,” David added.
“That as well,” Julian laughed. “It ruins the line of my winter coat.”
Darrell headed to the steps leading to a platform above the entrance, while David and Anatoly wandered to the back left of the castle. Sally ambled slowly after them, eyes flicking back and forth over the detailed history in the guide-book.
“The castle was originally built at the turn of the 13th century, by Bishop Roger,” Sally read out, “though not much of that early castle still stands. It suffered significant damage during the Wars of Independence with England. It had to be substantially rebuilt by Bishop Walter Trail between 1385 and 1401. More building works were carried out in the early 16th century due to a rise in religious tensions. Archbishop James Beaton built new gun towers to strengthen the castle’s defences…” Sally looked around.
The boys wandered as she talked, politely staying within earshot, however so that Sally didn’t feel like she was talking to herself.
“I think that used to be a gun tower,” she pointed to the right side of the entrance. “The other’s long gone.” She carried on through Cardinal Beaton’s time at the castle, ending in his assassination, and the siege that was responsible for the mine and counter-mine. She paused and bit her lip. “I’m not boring you all, am I?” she asked.
“No, not at all,” they chorused.
“It should be a rule, I think, that if you come to an old place like this then you have to learn something,” Julian said. “And what better way to learn than to listen to an expert on the subject.”
Sally flushed. “I could hardly call myself an expert. I just did a little bit of reading about the castle, that’s all.” She cleared her throat as she gazed into his eyes. “So, er, after that, Archbishop John Hamilton repaired the badly damaged castle in the late 1500s, giving it a new entrance front, but his tenure was brought to an early end, because he opposed the Reformation. He was eventually hanged, for his involvement in the murder of Lord Darnley, Mary Queen of Scot’s second husband.” Sally pulled a face. She did enjoy history but she wished there hadn’t always been so much violence and death. So many lives had been wasted, it seemed, many of them due to religious disagreements.
“This bit will interest you, Ju,” she said more brightly. “Archbishop Hamilton was an active partisan of Mary Queen of Scots, and she was rumoured to have sent some documents to him for safe keeping, as well as a casket of treasures.”
“Treasures?” Julian said, his ears certainly perking up.
“I thought that would get your attention,” Sally said fondly. “Yes, but we don’t know what kind because it went missing. That’s if it was even sent in the first place. There are so many rumours and theories about Mary. Her son James, who became James the Sixth of Scotland and the First of England, was rumoured to really have been fathered by her private secretary David Rizzio, a rumour which was only made more believable by the fact that Darnley murdered Rizzio before James was born.”
Anatoly peered over Sally’s shoulder. “None of that is in this book, is it?” he asked.
Sally flushed. “Just the rumour of a missing treasure. The rest I just happened to read recently.”
“Anyway, St Andrews Castle was left without a resident or a purpose when bishops were abolished in 1592. It fell rapidly into ruin,” she finished. “It’s sad, really. Some of the stone was used to repair the harbour and pier, and the rest was just left.”
“Yes, it’s a shame,” Julian said distractedly as he looked around. “Imagine if it had been looked after, and was still standing today to explore.”
“It would probably be owned by some rich person who would never let anyone in,” Anatoly, always the realist, said.
“And then we wouldn’t be able to visit,” David added. “Oi, Ju. What are you looking for?”
“Oh, nothing… Just wondering. If the treasure had made it to St Andrews, what happened to it after that?”
“I doubt we will ever know,” David laughed. “I mean, it was four hundred years ago. I don’t think we’re going to suddenly find it under a loose brick.”
“You never know,” Julian said. “I’ve found supposedly lost treasures before just like that! Are there any cellars, or dungeons, Sally?”
“Well, there are some prison rooms back there,” Sally pointed out. “The upper floors were destroyed during the siege when French gunners…” she paused, and then haltingly read out “schote doune all the battelyne and caiphouse of the seytoure, and the hoyle ruffe of the chalmeris upone the partis of the sey.”
“They what?” Julian laughed, taking the booklet. He and David looked at it, Anatoly peering between their heads. “Shot down all the battlements?” Julian started.
“All the battlements,” David agreed. “And the… not sure what a caiphouse is, of the sea-tower.”
They looked at Anatoly who looked back blankly. “I have no idea. This is like a whole other language.”
“I suppose it is,” Sally said. “Fifteenth century Scots. At least it’s not in Gaelic!”
“And the whole roof of the… chalermis upon the parting of the sea,” Julian finished.
“Sounds almost biblical,” David laughed, and gratefully took the opportunity to duck through a doorway at the back of the castle towards the prison rooms, he hadn’t like to do so while Sally was talking.
“Another well?” he asked the others as he peered down another opening, this one inside what had clearly once been a tower.
“Bottle dungeon,” Julian corrected him, reading the sign.
They all looked down, the light of Anatoly’s torch barely reaching the bottom of the dank space.
David shuddered. “How absolutely grim.”
“It looks pretty deep,” Anatoly commented. “I should imagine that many prisoners died from being thrown in.”
“I think I’d rather die than be stuck down there,” Julian muttered.
“It’s twenty-four feet deep,” Sally said helpfully, consulting her guidebook again. “And fifteen feet across the bottom. No, Ju,” she shook her head vigorously. “I don’t really want to look. There’s a picture here, that’s enough.”
Darrell, when she joined them, also chose not to look. “You missed a lot of the history of the castle,” Anatoly informed her quietly.
“Oh, what a shame,” she whispered back, a teasing glint in her eye. She wouldn’t have minded listening to Sally, but as she had climbed the uneven, twisting stairs she had gotten distracted imagining high walls around her, flickering torchlight and tapestries on the wall. She had even entertained the idea of writing a story about the castle inhabitants while she had been up there, gazing out to sea.
They had a look at what was left of the kitchens, and the cellars below, and looked out the sea-gate where boats would have brought in supplies.
“There was originally a lot more to the castle,” Sally told them as they looked out to sea, the cathedral and pier visible around the coast to their right. The tide was high, and the waves sent up so much spray that they felt some of it reach them, high above the water as they were.
“This would have been part of the great hall,” she indicated where they stood. “The East Range was much larger and there was a huge circular south east blockhouse too.” She waved her free arm as if sketching in the missing buildings.
Julian smiled at her enthusiasm, her eyes positively shone as she put together the information she knew with what she could see around her.
The others looked around, trying to imagine the castle extending out across what was now the castle sands beach. “What happened? Did it fall into the sea?” Julian queried.
Sally nodded, the wind catching the few strands of hair that escaped her woollen hat and tossing them around. “In 1801. A bad storm eroded the cliff and a lot of the castle was lost. More and more was lost, actually, until they built a sea wall in 1886.”
They all stared at the beach below them, trying to imagine what that would have been like, and Darrell took a half-step back from the edge as a particularly large wave hit the beach. Anatoly reached out and rested a comforting hand on the small of her back.
“Shall we move on?” he asked.
“What’s next?” David consulted Sally.
“Well, there’s the old chapel, but not much of that stands.” She paused as she took in their faces. “Then there’s the mine and counter-mine.” Her friends’ expressions told her which they would rather do. “The mine it is, then!”
To be continued…