Burns Night Special Report - Tam o' Shanter

Police officers in the South Ayrshire area command are appealing to the public for information following a bizarre unsubstantiated report of a public disorder incident in the vicinity of the Alloway Auld Kirk on January 25th.

According to Ayr resident Mr Thomas o’ Shanter, who supposedly witnessed and later reported the incident, in the early hours of the morning while returning home from an evening spent with a friend in a local hostelry, Mr o’ Shanter, admittedly incautious due to alcohol consumption, was drawn to lights coming from the Auld Alloway Kirk, and witnessed what he described as “an unco sight”.

He claims to have seen a large group of “wither’d bedlams, auld and droll” cavorting in a state of undress among the church ruins, while a “towzie tyke, black, grim and large” provided music by playing the bagpipes. Mr o’ Shanter asserts that this sizeable dark-coloured dog was in fact “Auld Nick”, but otherwise could not explain how an animal lacking opposable digits could possibly play a musical instrument.

Tam o' Shanter

An artist’s impression of the incident

In his dubious statement to the police, Mr o’ Shanter claims that these semi-naked individuals, whom he insists were “warlocks and witches in a dance”, had desecrated graves and were displaying exhumed corpses in open coffins, and were also in possession of several items connected to violent crimes that were recently reported missing from a police evidence room. According to the witness’s sworn testimony, these items include:

  • Five tomahawks, wi’ blude red-rusted
  • Five scymitars, wi’ murder crusted
  • A garter, which a babe had strangled
  • A knife a father’s throat had mangled

Mr o’ Shanter went on to say that the unidentified persons were in possession of other items, but refused to give further details, saying only they “Wi mair o’ horrible and awfu’, which even to name wid be unlawfu’.” He did however state that he saw various body parts in the vicinity, namely “three lawyers’ tongues, turn’d inside out” and “three priests’ hearts, rotten, black as muck."

Mr o’ Shanter then claimed that upon discovering his presence, he was pursued by the “hellish legion”, but narrowly escaped by riding across a bridge on his horse, explaining, “a running stream they dare na cross”. When detectives inspected the animal in question for evidence, it was discovered that its tail had been forcibly removed. Officers from the SSPCA were subsequently called and the horse, a grey mare named Maggie, was taken into their care.

When interviewing Kate o’ Shanter, Mr o’ Shanter’s spouse, she could shed no light on her husband’s outlandish story, saying only, “I tauld him weel thous was a skellum! A bletherin’ blusterin’ drunken blellum that frae November till October ae market day thous was nae sober.”

Other known associates of the witness - Souter Johnny, plus the local blacksmith and miller - also proved to be of little assistance in uncovering the truth of the matter, each of them being heavily intoxicated when interviewed. Detectives were again frustrated when speaking to another friend of the witness, hostelry owner Kirkton Jean, who admitted to week-long drinking binges in the company of Mr o’ Shanter, and would only add, “Ah prophesised that late or soon, Tam would be found deep drown’d in Doon, or cath’d wi’ warlocks in the mirk, by Alloway’s auld haunted kirk.”

Kirkton Jean's

CCTV footage showing (right to left) local cobbler Souter Johnny, the witness Thomas o’ Shanter and landlady Kirkton Jean.

Despite the difficulties obtaining reliable information, enquiries are ongoing at this stage, and Police are eager to speak to a young woman from the Carrick area going by the name of ‘Nannie’. She is described by Mr o’ Shanter as, “ae windome wench and waulie”, dressed in a “cutty sark o’ Paisley harn.” The witness claims this individual is responsible for the pulling out of his horse’s tail, and also accused her of other animal cruelty and maritime offences, alleging, “For mony a beast to death she shot, and perish’d mony a bonie boat.”

Mr o’ Shanter was subsequently charged with public drunkenness and being intoxicated in charge of a horse. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, he may also be found guilty of animal cruelty and wasting police time.

Safer Communities officer PC Jamie Dunlop stated, "This incident highlights the dangers of consuming too much alcohol and travelling home unaccompanied.

"We encourage anyone going out and attending licensed premises to plan their night and ensure that they have arranged transport home and not be tempted to drink and drive (be it by car or mare). Stay with friends where possible and avoid joining groups of unknown persons as they may not have the same idea of a good night out as you.

"If anyone is aware of this incident we would encourage them to come forward to assist officers with ongoing enquiries. We can be contacted on 101 or if they wish to report anonymously they can do so via Crimestoppers on 0800 111 555."

While enquiries continue, Police Scotland would like to take this opportunity to issue the following advice to the public.