The Devil, the Cat and the Curious Story of the Skulls

On October 13th 1307 while the Templars were being arrested the Templar Fleet stationed at La Rochelle quietly slipped away. According to tradition and a lot of evidence it carried the records of the Order, and the treasure of the Templar Preceptory of Paris, taking them to the West and East coast of Scotland. Some of these ships must have come to Leith as Berwick was in English hands.

Let us leave the Templars for a moment to tell two strange stories concerning Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig. The first one concerns the discovery of the skull of Sir Robert Logan during the restoration of South Leith Church in 1848. A coffin was found at the West end of the North aisle, under a room used by the Kirk Session. The inspector of Works brought it to the attention of Dr David Robertson and they decided to open it. The coffin was covered with purple velvet. A few taps of a hammer knocked the lid into fragments. Within the coffin they saw a mass of human bones huddled together and in the middle, a human skull. The strange thing was that no lower jaw was found although the skeleton was otherwise complete. The conclusion they came to was these were the mortal remains of Sir Robert Logan. As according to history the skeleton of Sir Robert Logan was put on trial for his involvement in what was called the Gowrie conspiracy against James VI and disinherited. The remains being reburied at South Leith Church. However, would the remains of a man accused of high treason been buried at South Leith Church? Some historians don’t think so, and if they were, the question is why?

Could there be a darker reason? Near to Dunbar lies Fast Castle. By marriage the Logan’s held the castle between 1552-1606. In 1594 John Napier of Merchiston was asked by Sir Robert Logan to find treasure that was said to have been buried within the castle. The contract between them is found today at Trinity College, Cambridge. Not only did John Napier invent Logarithms as a method of calculation, he was also involved in the Black Arts. He hoped to find the treasure by supernatural means. The contract was to be destroyed once all the conditions were fulfilled, and as the contract was never destroyed and providing the search actually took place, it is assumed the treasure was never found. According to Napier in his memoirs the search did take place. He went to the dreary castle with Sir Robert Logan and the wild Earl of Bothwell both armed to the teeth. So what was the connection between the supposed treasure at Fast Castle and the remains of Sir Robert Logan at South Leith Church? How could someone accused of treason be buried in consecrated ground? The chances are he never was a traitor.

As Laing, a famous historian of the last century said: In regard to Logan himself, it was well known that according to a barbarous custom of the time when it was determined to implicate him by means of forged letters…in the Gowrie Conspiracy was disinterred and brought into court…”

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The connection is the fact that Sir Robert Logan and the de Lestalric’s before them were Templar Knights to a man, and what Sir Robert Logan was trying to find at Fast Castle was Templar treasure, the treasure from the Preceptory of Paris. This was the reason he was disinherited. So what was the significance of the skull with no jawbone, and why was he buried at South Leith Church? To answer this we must go back to 1309 and Trial of the Knight Templars at Holyrood Abbey.

When Elias II was Abbot of Holyrood an event took place, which is largely ignored in Scottish History. In 1309 while the south of Scotland was overrun by the troops of Edward II the trial of the Knight Templars took place. It is from this trial that some curious light is thrown upper the inner life of the Order. The details of the trial ordered by Clement V is given in a very rare book entitled “Concila”.

The inquisitors were perhaps a bit impatient to hear about the devil, the cat and the curious story of the Skulls.

There is a strange story told which is traditionally linked with the Templars: A great lady of Maraclea was loved by a Templar, a lord of Sidon, but she died in her youth and on the night of her burial this wicked lover crept to the grave, dug up her body and violated it. Then a voice from the void bade him to return in nine months time for he would find a son. He obeyed the injunction and at the appointed time he opened the grave again and found a head on the leg bones of the skeleton-a skull and crossbones. The same voice bade him to guard it well for it would be the giver of good things. And so he carried it away with him and it protected him from his enemies. It passed into the possession of the Order” (This version of the story is from War, freemasonry and the ancient Gods, p305)

This story became connected to the Order and is mentioned in the inquisitions records and in the versions held by the freemasons, which adopted the skull and crossbones and often employed it as a device on tombstones.

When Sir Logan’s skeleton was rediscovered at South Leith Church. During the restoration of the Church in 1847- 48. The Jaw bone was missing and an explanation of this can be found in the ceremony of installation in the Masonic cross degree of the Knight Templar of Jerusalem under the obligations of the Masonic Order. The obligation starts “In the name of the blessed trinity and in commemoration of St John of Jerusalem, the first faithful soldier of and martyr of Jesus Christ. I do solemnly promise and swear that I will never illegally reveal the secrets of a Knight Templar to a Royal Arch mason…if ever I willfully violate this, my solemn compact as a brother Knight Templar, may my skull be sown asunder with a rough saw, my brains be taken out and put on a charger to be consumed by the scorching sun and my skull in another charger in commemoration of St John of Jerusalem, that first faithful soldier and martyr of our Lord and Saviour…” The penal sign, which is to draw the forefinger or the thumb across the forehead, is indicative of the penalty of having the skull sawn asunder.

So who could have removed the jawbone and carried the sentence of the Order? Suspicion must be placed on David Lindsay (1560-1613), the first protestant minister of South Leith Parish Church. He was chaplain to James VI, and married him to Anne of Denmark in 1589 and baptised his children. Lindsay was the only one to believe that there had been an attempt made on the life of the King at the house of the Earl of Gowrie, Perth. In fact he conducted a service of thanksgiving at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh for the Kings safe return. However, none of David Lindsay’s fellow ministers believed a word of it and said so. If the Gowrie conspiracy was a hoax then the trial of the remains of Sir Robert Logan was also a farce and everyone knew it. The trial however did take place and that is a historic fact, but it wasn’t done for the reasons stated, it was for his actions at Fast Castle in trying to find Templar treasure and because of this he was condemned.

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David Lindsay had Masonic connections and was most likely a Mason himself. He also knew William Schew who set up the first Masonic lodges in Scotland. Not only this, David Lindsay might have been obeying the orders of the king: the monarch was and still is the head of the Masons in this country or, as today, a close relative of the Monarch and Royal Family. During the restoration of the church in 1848 many of the original gravestones within the Church were smashed. The bits used for the floors of the east porches of the church. I suspect this was done to cover up any connection with the freemasons, freemasons having an ambiguous position within the Christian church. Bearing in mind the disruption of 1843. They didn’t want any further problems. These gravestones can still be seen to this day.

As Logan’s sentence was carried out, and so his crime must have been against the Order. Whoever removed the jawbone must have been disturbed in their work. Only the marks of a rough saw were discovered on the skull of Sir Robert Logan- the jaw bone being removed must have been to prove that an attempt had been made to carry out the orders of the Masonic Templar

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by John Arthur