Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Dalzell of the Binns Bt

Thomas Dalzell (or Dalyell) was born around 1615, in Linlithgowshire, the son of Thomas Dalzell of the Binns, a branch of the family of the Earls of Carnwarth. He was a soldier all his adult life and a staunch royalist. He accompanied Charles I on the expedition to La Rochelle and later when he heard of the King's execution he refused to shave his beard as a protest. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London having been captured at the Battle of Worcester. After escaping and fleeing to the Highlands he decided to go abroad, and joined the army of the Tzar of Russia. He fought against the Turks and Tartars and took part in the war against Poland. After 10 years in Russia, on the Restoration of Charles II, he was able to return to Britain, and was appointed commander-in-chief in Scotland with orders to suppress the Covenanters. He hated Presbyterians and treated prisoners very harshly, earning the nicknames 'Bloody Tam' and 'The Muscovite Devil'. He was given the commission to raise the Scots Greys on 25 Nov 1681 by Charles II, confirmed by James II, but he died in 1685. There was a legend that he played cards with the devil and that the devil lost and threw the marble-topped table out of the window at the Binns. The table was found in the garden pond in 1930 but there is no evidence that the devil threw it there. The well-known anti-war Labour politician Tam Dalzell (also of the Binns) is a descendant of Bloody Tam.

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by Stephen Luscombe