25 July 2013
We talk to Shirley Young, owner of the Original St Andrews Witches Tour, about what it's like to scare people for a living. ...
What makes St Andrews a good venue for your tours?
St Andrews is a great venue for the Original St Andrews Witches Tour because it's such a beautiful old town perched on clifftops, looking out over the Tay towards the Highlands.
Its cobbled streets and crow-stepped gables are so well-preserved that you almost expect a fishwife to step out of one of the cottages in Narrow Market Street and the clatter of golfers heading for the Old Course might as easily be the echo of Tom Morris's footsteps. Students still wear the traditional red gown of the university, and, all in all, at times it feels as if the thinnest of veils separates the present day from centuries past and history flows like a river through the town.
Which part of the town do you think is the spookiest?
Perhaps the Pends, which leads down to the harbour is spookiest at night, but the cathedral ruins can be distinctly creepy in daylight when a haar sweeps in from the sea to blur the shapes of the gravestones and wrap St Rule's Tower in mist. The cathedral certainly has the most ghost stories associated with it, and even has its own Haunted Tower, which is the only square tower in its walls.
What’s the most extreme reaction you’ve had to one of your tours?
We aim for a balance of screams and laughter on the tour, but I think the most puzzling reaction I've had was one winter's night a couple of years ago. I'd stopped on the Scores to tell the story of a brutal murder when the ladies on the tour started to scream really loudly. I hadn't got to the gory part of the story, and so I was a bit bewildered by this.
Puzzled, I turned around to see what was causing this reaction and, there behind me, running to and fro along the edge of a flower bed, was the smallest mouse I have ever seen. You couldn't script something like that!
How do you recruit your spooks?
Jumpers-oot are mostly students, and tend to stay with me for the entirety of their time at university. When they graduate and move on from the town they tell people they know who may be looking for a job, and those people get in touch with me. Essential qualities for the job are a pulse, a certain degree of fitness and a good sense of humour.
Visit the Original St Andrews Witches Tour website to find out more about the tours.
Read more about how to make the most of a trip to St Andrews in our travel special in the October 2013 issue of Scottish Memories magazine.