Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Curse of Lady Anne Speirs



Two photographs of Lady Anne Speirs' crypt - www.linwoodsucks.com

scotsman - She was a member of one of the biggest landowning families in Scotland – but more than a century after her death her name is said with fear, not reverence.

Talk of Lady Anne Speirs still sends shivers down the spines of the people of Linwood, who blame her "curse" for 30 years of economic misfortune.

And now superstitious locals are warning that soon-to-be-approved plans to move the remains of five people from a mausoleum and reunite them with their descendents in North Berwick will bring tragedy to the Renfrewshire town.

Linwood legend maintains that Lady Anne Speirs pledged a curse on anyone who disturbs the crypt.

That is unlikely to stop supermarket giant Tesco however, which is planning to move the remains to the East Lothian town to make way for a new supermarket and community facilities which it believes could regenerate the area.

The origin of the curse is shrouded in mystery, but the "wrath" of Lady Anne was first said to have been incurred in the early 1980s with the closure of the nearby Rootes Car Plant, Linwood's main employer. The plant ceased operations in 1981.

The crypt was recently rediscovered by contractors working for Tesco.

It immediately moved to have the bodies disinterred, but a court order stalled the development after a judge ruled that the supermarket chain must wait 42 days for representations to be received from the local community.

Some locals said it is further evidence the remains should not be removed.

Iain Wilson, secretary of Linwood Community Council, said of the curse:
"It's a bit of a joke for most people but there are those that do believe it, and are keen to ascribe all sorts of misfortune to it."

However, historians have now debunked the "curse" as the product of mistaken identity.

Renfrewshire historian Derek Parker said: "The remains are definitely not of Lady Anne Speirs, who is buried in Houston Cemetery.

"Either way, the Speirs family were God-fearing people, devout Presbyterians who also gave a lot of support to the Houston and Killellan Church of Scotland, and probably wouldn't have been inclined to put a curse on anyone."

The genealogist discovered that the mausoleum contains the remains of the Speir family of Burnbrae House, no apparent relation to Lady Anne Speirs, whose stately home was situated in the grounds.

The Speir family later moved out of Linwood and their descendents are now scattered around the world.

However, the family now regard North Berwick as their main ancestral home. Eight members of the family are buried in Whitekirk churchyard.

A Tesco spokesman said: "We are concluding a lengthy and sensitive legal process and have no further comment at this stage."

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paisley.org - Workmen found 4 lead lined coffins underneath the shopping centre dating back to 1850 and Tesco had hired a geneologist to trace the surviving family, to which they have. A church once stood where Linwood shopping centre stands now and the family vault has lain untouched all this time the living relations stated "our family moved away from Linwood generations ago so this was certianly unexpected".

Tesco shall now apply to the courts for permission to remove the coffins to a more suitable place and they are working with the surviving family treating this with the uttermost of respect and with the wishes of the family.

Linwood Parish Church 1880

Updated...now there is news that the vault belongs to Lady Anne Speirs who lay in the family vault below where a church once stood, however there was a curse placed on the village saying a great disaster would befall it if she of the church were ever to be disturbed. The first part of Lady Anne Speirs curse came true less that five years after the church was demolished as the car factory closed with the loss of thousands of jobs.

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Grim Discovery Halts Town's Regeneration

gazette - There is fury after the grim discovery of four coffins at the site of a new Tesco store halted work.

The supermarket giant has angered residents by its delay in regenerating the former Linwood Shopping Centre and has now announced a further delay as a result of the 'long forgotten' vault being uncovered.

Chair of Linwood Community Council, Iain Wilson, said: "I thought everyone in Linwood knew about the crypt.

"There was a chapel of rest knocked down in the 70s to make way for Linwood Parish Church manse and hall.

The crypt is part of Linwood folklore. The remains are meant to be of Lady Speirs."

Legend has it that Lady Speirs placed a curse on the village, saying that if the church or the vault was ever disturbed, a great curse would fall on the village.

One blogger said: "When the church was demolished in the late 70s, the local car plant closed with the loss of thousands of jobs, so the first curse came - just wonder what the second shall be."

Local resident Tom Burke added: "The crypt of the Speirs family will be of no surprise to any locals. It was common knowledge even when I was 11 years old.

"In an ideal world the original church would not have been demolished, the remaining church hall and Speirs family crypt would remain as they are. The close association of the Speirs family shows that Linwood was once a thriving community.

"Perhaps the announcement of the family crypt will result in a fresh and positive look at the state of Linwood rather than the unleashing of some curse."

Local MSP Wendy Alexander blasted: "All the community have been saying for ages that there are graves on this site.

"Lady Speirs would be turning in her grave.

"Tesco should not be using an anonymous family to explain away why the town centre regeneration project has not had the green light.

"It is more than three years since Tesco promised to rebuild Linwood town centre. We are still waiting. Tesco are trying to gloss over the fact that this project has never had sign off by the Tesco board. The foot-dragging must stop.

"I have written to Tesco's chief executive in the strongest possible terms about the damage his company's delay, inaction, and broken promises are causing to my Linwood constituents."

Tesco Corporate Affairs manager, Jennifer Duncan, said: "I can only re-iterate that Tesco is fully committed to progressing with the regeneration of Linwood town centre once the issue of the remains buried there has been respectfully resolved.

"Given this situation it would be extremely insensitive for us to carry out any kind of demolition or building work."

Local Councillor Audrey Doig said: "We are looking forward to the development at Linwood, but would expect the recent crypt find to be handled with care and dignity.

"Now is not the time to indulge in attacks and blame, but find the way forward for Linwood. I am confident we can do that together."

The Curse of Lady Anne Speirs

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