‘Tomb of the Red Lady’

This film is about a mausoleum in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh. The mausoleum no longer survives as it was heavily vandalised and had to be demolished in the late 1980s [the film is narrated by Charles Gray Roberston].

Near the modern part of the cemetery, closest to the main gate, sat the Robertson mortuary chapel, erected in 1865 for Mary Ann Manson (1826–58), daughter of Brigadier-General Manson of the Bombay Artillery [the Manson family originally came from Watten, Caithness].

The tomb/mausoleum/chapel was raised by Mary’s husband, General Alexander Cunningham Robertson (1816–1884) who was a 19th British general and amateur poet.

Mary died in Kussowlee, in the Indian Himalayas, on the 29th April 1858. Her only child, Charles Gray Robertson, was then only 4 years old.

This white marble shrine contained a sculpture of a reclining female figure, visible from the outside, the whole being topped with a ruby glass roof with glass sides which led to locals christening this the ‘Tomb of the Red Lady’ because of the rosy light cast on the figure within.

All that’s left now are the foundations and the recumbent sculpture, fittingly set in a bed of red flowers.

Music credit:
Exit music – by Steven Lindsay.

Closing words: adapted from ‘Grief is the thing with feathers’ by Max Porter

Image credits: CANMORE archive and EdinPhoto:


In May of 2021 Ashwani Kumar contacted me. I was delighted to receive his message from Chandigarh in India. Ashwani kindly shared these local details in relation the ‘Red Lady’:

“She died in Kussowlie and it is still a well known story that She died by falling from Horse. And there was a grave of that Horse and Mrs. Robertson. Her husband also erected the monument there, which was  engulfed by the Airforce Station in the 1970s.

Some years ago I tried to find the grave, and was able to find some grave looking structure, but I was not sure.

In the local church records I found an amazing handwritten piece about the account of Lady Grave written in 1894 by J. Taylor who was believed to be known to Mrs Robertson, in which she described the incident in great detail how her husband burnt her instead of burying and took her ashes to England.”

“And subsequent questions if she was murdered by her master. To Answer this I can say in the written account its is mentioned that she died of Consumption in the house called “Padri View” situated at Upper Mall road.”


Fri, May 14, 

Dear Ashwani,
What a wonderful message to recieve from Chandigarh. Thank you! I was so delighted to learn more about the Red Lady. I guess there will always be some mystery surrounding her.

I would love to hear more from you Ashwani and would be delighted if you might be able to share some of the material on the Red Lady that you mention.

Kindest regards Peter.

If you are ever in Scotland you would be a welcome guest at our house. I do hope the pandemic has not badly effected you or your family.


In reply, Ashwani told me that his connection with Kasauli started with the casual inquiry about the dysfunctional clock tower of the church how he  accidentally took  on the restoration work himself:

IN KASAULI, THE CHURCH CLOCK IS TICKING AGAIN!

Aswani went on to explain: “During this restoration work I came across the old Baptism & Burial Registers and other documents, which looked fascinating. I started reading those. Found handwritten 1857 Mutiny Account as felt in Kasauli those days and the Lady Grave Story. In government records the story is:

“Before the Indian Air Force installations were put up, Kasauli was known for its two beautiful spots, namely the Ladies Grave and the Monkey Point. The Ladies Grave was a remnant of two dare-devil Irish ladies who dared to traverse Monkey Point on horses and died. The sundial shaped gravestone, which was surrounded by a grove of Cypress trees, is no more. It was replaced by staff quarters of the Indian Air Force.”

“There is another article of Khushwant Singh says about the graves:

“A grosser case of land grab in which the Ministry of Defence, then under George Fernandes, and the Himachal Government were partners, was the destruction of Kasauli’s two most valued possessions — its highest mountain peak, popularly known as Monkey Point and its base, a grove of cypress trees surrounding a small column, said to be the grave of two English girls who killed themselves trying to climb the hill on horseback. It was known as Ladies Grave. They were the two most sought after picnic spots for residents and visitors.”

Another article also mentioned this:

“The post dinner strolls with my gang of friends still stand out clearly in my mind. That was the time to discuss the ghost stories which did the rounds. There was the story of the Lady’s Grave. Both the lady and the horse were visible on full Moon’s night. All houses which looked abandoned ( not lived in) were considered ghost infested by us kids and we would let our imagination run wild while the young mind drew all kinds of conjectures from them. The ghastlier the merrier!”


Sat, May 15

Dear Ashwani,
What wonderful details you have shared about the Red Lady. What a mystery!

I reckon Ashwani that we are quite alike in terms of becoming fascinated by all sorts of stuff.

The Kasauli clock is wonderful! Well done you and all involved for restoring it.

Keep sending such fascinating stuff . . . I am eager to hear more.

aye Peter

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