//The Deadly Duel of Balmuto Castle, Fife

The Deadly Duel of Balmuto Castle, Fife

Built in the early fifteenth century on behalf of Sir John Boswell, Balmuto Castle was initially as a defensive three-storey tower house, with two-meter thick stone walls and an entrance on the first floor. Over the coming centuries, the castle was extensively extended and remodelled to create more comfortable living accommodation and it remained in the Boswell family until 1951 when, with no direct heirs, it was sold as a roofless ruin. Some nine years later, in 1960, ownership of the castle however returned to the Boswell family when Harry Boswell, a respected American lawyer and descendent of Sir John Boswell, bought the castle and restored it to its former glory.

The haunting relates to an incident that took place in March, 1822, involving Sir Alexander Boswell of Balmuto and a local man named James Stuart. The 2 men had differing political opinions, and a newspaper article quickly spiralled out of control, ending with them standing opposite each other in a duel. With Boswell having had a distinguished military career, and Stuart probably having never fired a gun before, the outcome seemed inevitable. Boswell however gave a signal that he was aiming to miss, which was common as if both men missed, the duel was over with neither losing their dignity (or life). With Stuart’s lack of knowledge of such things, he did not realise the meaning of the signal, and while Boswell’s shot missed, Stuart’s shot hit the military man in the shoulder. The resulting impact shattered Boswell’s shoulder bone, and fragments travelled into his spine. A door was brought from nearby Boswell Castle as a makeshift stretcher, and he was carried back there but, despite the best efforts of the surgeons, he died the following day.

The ghost of Alexander Boswell is reported to walk throughout the castle, and is most often seen on the main staircase and in the library. It is believed the door to the library is the very one used to carry him back to the castle.