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Annals of Auchterarder and Memorials of Srathearn
The Warlock of the Kirktoun of Auchterarder


THE Drummonds of the Kirktoun of Auchterarder appear to have been a troublesome family. One of them, John Drummond, came under the notice of the Privy Council of Scotland, and he and Duncan Neishe, Burgess of the Canongait, as his cautioner, had to grant bond for 500 not to harm David and Robert Grahrame, sons of the late John Grahame of Callender.

The fate of Alexander Drummond, probably the father of John, was a tragical one. Without being a practiser of witchcraft in the ordinary acceptation of the term, he used unlawful arts, which brought him within the reach of the Act of Parliament of Queen Mary, 1563. His crime appears to have been the using of charms for curing sickness both in men and cattle, which he did openly. The Kirk kept a careful eye over his proceedings, as we find the Kirk-Session of Perth, by injunctions, warned the brethren to watch the sayings and doings of "Alshander Drummond, suspected of unlawful airtes, charmes, and abuses of the people."

The attention of the Church having been fixed upon poor Alexander, his course of mitigating or curing the diseases of his fellow-men or their cattle was shortly thereafter brought to a close. He appears to have been apprehended, conveyed to Dunblane, thereafter to Tillicoultry and Stirling, probably to be confronted with the witnesses against him. After emitting declarations at these places, he was taken to Edinburgh, and brought to trial in the High Court of Justiciary on 12th January, 1629, where, on 3rd July thereafter, he was found guilty and sentenced to death, and suffered accordingly at the Market Cross of Edinburgh.

The following is a record of the trial, as it appears in the Books of Adjournal:—





It is a matter fur observation that the witnesses adduced against Alexander Drummond were mostly persons in the higher ranks of life, and who lived at a distance from him. One of the witnesses is Mr Freebairn, who was minister of Madderty from 1620 to 1657, and the father of Bishop Freebairn.

Although the trial was held in Edinburgh, the jurymen were selected from the neighbourhood of Auchterarder. Like those upon whom Drummond had practised his arts, they were also of the better class, and were probably chosen as possessing higher education and intelligence, so as to guard the accused against any rash dealing which the nature of his alleged crimes might produce in the common mind.

The famous Sir George Mackenzie in his "Pleadings in some Remarkable Cases before the Supreme Courts of Scotland," while defending a woman accused of witchcraft, refers to the case of Drummond as having incurred his punishment for cheating the people by his pretended cures, and not for witchcraft. He says:—"And though our Act of Parliament punishes such as seek help by unlawful means of sorcerers, or necromancers, yet they must first be proved to be sorcerers, or necromancers, who make a trade of abusing of people, as that statute says, which cannot be drawn at all to a dubious cure used in one case, and by the application of natural means; and, therefore, though Drummond was burnt as a witch, albeit he had never committed any malefice, but had only cured such as were diseased, yet, having, in a long habit and tract of time, abused the people, and used spells and incantations, which had no relation at all to devotion; and having continued that trade, albeit he was expressly discharged, his case was very far different from this, and deserved a far more severe punishment. The same may be likewise answered to the condemnatory sentence pronounced against John liurgh, who was convicted of witchcraft in anno 1643, for pretending to cure all diseases, by throwing into water an unequal number of pieces of money, and sprinkling the patients with the water; so that it may be justly said that these died rather for being public cheats, falsarii, than for being witches, venefici."


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