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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of Charles II.: 1660 - 1673 Part B

A caustic wit of our age has remarked, ‘Whatever satisfaction the return of King Charles II. might afford to the younger females in his dominions, it certainly brought nothing save torture to the unfortunate old women, or witches of Scotland, against whom, immediately on the Restoration, innumerable warrants were issued forth." It is quite true that an extraordinary number of witch prosecutions followed the Restoration; and the cause is plain. For some years before, the English judicatories had discountenanced such proceedings. The consequence was, there was a vast accumulation of old women liable to the charge throughout all parts of the country. So soon as the native judicatories were restored, the public voice called for these cases being taken up; and taken up they were accordingly, the new authorities being either inclined that way themselves, or unable to resist a demand so intimately connected with the religious feelings of the people.

On the day noted, (July 25) the Council issued a commission for the trial a of Isabel Johnston of Gullan, in the parish of Dirleton, who had confessed herself guilty, in entering in paction with the devil, renouncing her baptism, and otherwise, as her depositions under the hands of several of the heritors and other honest men bears,’ and likewise to proceed to the trial of others in that district who might be delated of the same crime; for it was always seen that one apprehended witch produced several others. They at the same time commissioned three justice-deputes - the learned counsel Sir George Mackenzie being one of the number—to try a number of male and female wizards in the parishes of Musselburgh, Duddingston, Newton, Libberton, and Dalkeith. In this case, the judges were to have an allowance for their trouble ‘aft the first end of the fines and escheats of such persons as shall happen to be convict.’ Throughout the remainder of the year, and for some time after, the number of commissions issued for the trial of witches was extremely great. On one day, January 23, 1662, no fewer than thirteen were issued, being the sole public business of the council for that day, besides the issue of a commission for the trial of a thief in Sanquhar prison. Ray, the naturalist, who was in Scotland in August 1661, tells us it was reported that a hundred and twenty witches suffered about that time, and certainly much more than that number of individuals are indicated in the commissions as to be subjected to trial.

As a specimen of the facts elicited on the trials for the condemnation of these poor people—Margaret Bryson, ‘having fallen out with her husband for selling her cow, went in a passion to the door of the house in the night-time, and there did imprecate that God or the devil might take her from her husband; after which the devil immediately appeared to her, and threatened to take her body and soul, if she entered not into his service; whereupon, immediately she covenanted with him, and entered into his service.’ Another example—Isabel Ramsay ‘conversed with the devil, and received a sixpence from him; the devil saying that God bade him give her that; and he asked how the minister did,’ &c. Marion Scott, a girl of eighteen, serving a family in Innerkip parish, Renfrewshire, would go out in the morning with a hair-tether, by pulling which, and calling out, ‘God send us milk and mickle of it!’ she would supply herself with abundance of the produce of her neighbours’ cows. She had a great deal of intercourse with the devil, who passed under the name of Serpent, and by whose aid she used to raise windy weather for the destruction of shipping. One day, being out at sea near the island of Arran, she caused Colin Campbell’s sails to be riven, but was herself overset with the storm, so as to be thrown into a fever. After a night-meeting with Satan, he ‘convoyed her home in the dawing, and when she was come near the house where she was a servant, her master saw a waif of him as he went away from her,’ &c.

The whole proceedings were usually of the most cruel description; and often the worst sufferings of the accused took place before trial, when dragged from their homes by an infuriated mob, tortured to extort confession, and half starved in jail. A wretch called John Kincaid acted as a pricker of witches—that is, he professed to ascertain, by inserting of pins in their flesh, whether they were truly witches or not, the affirmative being given when he pricked a place insensible to pain. Often they were hung up by the two thumbs till, nature being exhausted, they were fain to make acknowledgment of the most impossible facts. The presumed offence being of a religious character, the clergy naturally came to have much to say and do in these proceedings. For example, as to Margaret Nisbet, imprisoned at Spott, in Haddingtonshire, the person ordered by the Privy Council to take trial of her case and report is Mr Andrew Wood, the minister of the parish. There are many instances in the Privy Council Record of witches being cleared on trial, but detained at the demand of magistrates, or clergymen, in the hope that further and conclusive evidence would yet be obtained against them. Such was the case of Janet Cook of Dalkeith, who had predicted of a man who beat her, that he would be hanged—which came to pass; who bewitched William Scott’s horse and turned him furious; and occasionally healed sick people by the application of some piece of an animal killed under certain necromantic circumstances. Janet had been tried, and acquitted; yet she was kept in durance at the urgency of the kirk-session, as they were getting fresh grounds of accusation against her.

Occasionally relenting measures were taken by the Council, though it is to be feared not always with the approval of the local powers. On the 30th of January 1662, they considered a petition from Marion Grinlaw and Jean Howison, the survivors of ten women and a man who had been imprisoned at Musselburgh on this charge. Some of the rest had died of cold and hunger. They themselves had lain in durance forty weeks, and were now in a condition of extreme misery, although nothing could be brought against them. Margaret Carvie and Barbara Honiman of Falkland had in like manner been imprisoned at the instance of the magistrates and parish minister, had lain six weeks in jail, subjected to ‘a great deal of torture by one who takes upon him the trial of witches by pricking,’ and so great were their sufferings that life was become a burden to them, notwithstanding that they declared their innocence, and nothing to the contrary had been shewn. The Council ordered all these women to be Iiberated.—P. C. B.

'By an act of the parliament, an order is issued out to slight and demolish the  citadels of the kingdom which were built by the English. This of Inverness had not stood ten years. The first part they seized upon was the sentinel-houses, neat turrets of hewn stone, curiously wrought and set up on every corner of the rampart wall, these now all broken down by the soldiers themselves. The next thing was the Commonwealth’s arms pulled down and broken, and the king’s arms set up in their place; the blue bridge slighted, the sally-port broken, the magazine-house steeple broken, and the great bell taken down—all this done with demonstrations of joy and gladness, the soldiers shouting "God save the king," as men weary of the yoke and slavery of usurpation which lay so long about their necks. I was an eye-witness of the first stone that was broken of this famous citadel, as I was also witness of the foundation-stone laid, anno 1652, in May. This Sconce and Citadel is the king’s gift to the Earl of Moray, to dispose of at his pleasure. A rare thing fell out here that was notarly known to a thousand spectators, that the Commonwealth’s arms set up above the most conspicuous gate of the citadel, a great thistle growing out above it covered the whole carved work and arms, so as not a bit of it could be seen, to the admiration of all beholders! This was a presage that the Scots therefore should eclipse [triumph]
‘—Fraser of Wardlaw’s MS. 1666.

The Privy Council Record, for a long time after July 1661, is half filled with the cases of ministers who had been deposed during the troubles, and who, having for years suffered under extreme poverty, now petition for some compensation. Sometimes it was a minister who gave offence by his dislike to the movement of 1638, sometimes one who had incurred the wrath of the more zealous party by his adherence to the Engagement of 1648 ‘for procuring the liberation of his late majesty of blessed memory;’ sometimes the cause of deposition was of later occurrence. For example: ‘Mr John M’Kenzie, sometime minister of the kirk of Urray [Ross-shire], because he would not subscrive the Covenant and comply with the sinful courses of the time, [was] banished and forced to fly to England anno 1639, and thereafter was sent to Ireland, and though provided there with a competency, was by the rebellion forced to retire to Scotland. After his majesty’s pacification closed at the Birks, and by the moyen of his friends, [he] re-entered to the ministry; yet, still retaining his principle of loyalty and integrity, he was therefore persecuted by the implacable malice of the violent humours of those times, and again suspended and thereafter deposed, only for refusing to preach men’s humours and passions as a trumpet of sedition and rebellion.’ Mr Andrew Drummond had been deposed from Muthill parish, ‘for no other cause but his accession to ane supplication to the General Assembly, where he with divers others, out of the sense of their duty, did declare their affection to the Engagement, anno 1648,’ and had suffered under this sentence for five or six years. Mr Robert Tran, minister of Eglesham, had been deposed in 1645 for no other cause than loyalty to his late majesty. In some cases, the petitioner tells of the wife and six or seven children whom his deposition had thrown destitute, and who had gone through years of penury and hardship. The Council generally ordered £100 sterling, or, in such a case as that of M’Kenzie, £150, out of the stipends of the vacant churches of their bounds.

The popular writers of this period of Scottish history do not advert sufficiently to those hard measures of the time of the Solemn League which may be said, in the way of reaction or retaliation, to have led to the severities now in the course of being practised upon the more uncompromising Presbyterians. The many petitions of the persecuted men of 1638—60 for redress are only slightly alluded to in a few sentences by Wodrow, while he fills long chapters with those sufferings of proscribed Remonstrators which would never probably have had existence but for their own harsh doings in their days of power. He dwells with much feeling on the banishment passed upon Mr John Livingstone, a preacher high in the esteem of the more serious people, and deservedly so. All must sympathise with such a case, and admire the heroic constancy of the sufferer; but it is striking, only a few months after his sentence to exile (February 2, 1664), to find a Mr Robert Aird coming before the Privy Council with a piteous recital of the distresses to which he and his family had been subjected since 1638, in consequence of his being then thrust out of his charge at Stranraer, merely for his affection to the then constituted Episcopal government, the clergyman put into his place being this same John Livingstone! Aird tells us that, being then ‘redacted to great straits, he was at last necessitat to settle himself in Comray, in the diocese of the Isles, where his provision [patrimony] was,’ that being ‘so little that he was not able to maintain his family.’ During the usurpation, ‘by reason of his affection to his majesty, he was quartered upon and otherwise cruelly abused, to his almost utter ruin.’ The Lords recommended that Mr Aird should have some allowance out of vacant stipends in the diocese of the Isles. Another of the zealous clergy whose resistance to the new rule and consequent troubles and denunciation are brought conspicuously forward by Wodrow, was Mr James Hamilton, minister of Blantyre. He was compelled to leave his parish, and not even allowed to officiate peaceably in his own house at Glasgow. Much to be deplored truly; but Wodrow does not tell us of a petition which was about the same time addressed to the Council by the widow of Mr John Heriot, the former minister of Blantyre, upon whom, in 1653, ‘the prevailing party of Remonstrators in the presbytery of Hamilton had intruded one Mr James Hamilton,’ by whom the whole stipend had been appropriated, so that Heriot, after a few years of penury, had left his widow and children in absolute destitution. So impressed were the Council by the petitioner’s case, that they ordered her to receive the whole stipend of the current year. To any candid person who would study the history of this period, it appears necessary that these circumstances should be told, not in justification of the cruel and most unwise measures of the government and the heads of the new church, but as a needful explanation of what it was in the minds of these parties which made them act as they did.

While men tore each other to pieces on account of religion in Scotland, and all material progress in the country was consequently at a stand, one sagacious Scotch clergyman visited Holland, and found a very different state of things there. ‘I saw much peace and quiet,’ he says, ‘in Holland, notwithstanding the diversity of opinions among them; which was occasioned by the gentleness of the government, and the toleration that made all people easy and happy. A universal industry was spread through the whole country.’—Burnet’s History of his Own Times.

Aug 17
This day, John Ray, the eminent naturalist, entered Scotland for a short excursion. In the Itineraries which he has left, he gives, besides zoological observations, some notes on general matters. ‘The Scots, generally (that is, the poorer sort), wear, the men blue bonnets on their heads, and some russet; the women only white linen, which hangs down their backs as if a napkin were pinned about them. When they go abroad, none of them wear hats, but a party-coloured blanket which they call a plaid, over their heads and shoulders. The women, generally, to us seemed none of the handsomest. They are not very cleanly in their houses, and but sluttish in dressing their meat. Their way of washing linen is to tuck up their coats, and tread them with their feet in a tub. They have a custom to make up the fronts of their houses, even in their principal towns, with fir-boards nailed one over another, in which are often made many round holes or windows to put out their heads [called shots or
shot windows]. In the best Scottish houses, even the king’s palaces, the windows are not glazed throughout, but the upper part only, the lower have two wooden shuts or folds to open at pleasure and admit the fresh air. The Scots cannot endure to hear their country or countrymen spoken against. They have neither good bread, cheese, or drink. They cannot make them, nor will they learn. Their butter is very indifferent, and one would wonder how they could contrive to make it so bad. They use much pottage, made of coal-wort, which they call keal, sometimes broth of decorticated barley. The ordinary country houses are pitiful cots, built of stone, and covered with turves, having in them but one room, many of them no chimneys, the windows very small holes, and not glazed. In the most stately and fashionable houses in great towns, instead of ceiling they cover the chambers with fir-boards, nailed on the roof within side. They have rarely any bellows or warming-pans. It is the manner in some places there to lay on but one sheet as large as two, turned up from the feet upwards. The ground in the valleys and plains bears good corn, but especially beer-barley, or bigge, and oath, but rarely wheat and rye. We observed little or no fallow-grounds in Scotland; some layed ground we saw which they manured with sea-wreck (sea-weeds). The people seem to be very lazy, at least the men, and may be frequently observed to plough in their cloaks. It is the fashion of them to wear cloaks, when they go abroad, especially on Sundays. They lay out most they are worth in clothes, and a fellow that hath scarce ten groats besides to help himself with, you shall see him come out of his smoky cottage clad like a gentleman.’

Oct 3
Mr James Chalmers, commissioner for the presbytery of Aberdeen, came before the Privy Council with a representation that, in conformity with sundry acts of parliament, the synod had lately made diligent search within their bounds for papists and seminary priests. A list of the individuals, which the reverend gentleman handed in, is remarkable as containing many of the same names as those which we had under notice upwards of thirty years before for the same scandal. An age of the most rigorous treatment had failed to convince these people of their errors. There were the Lady Marquise of Huntly and her children, Viscount Prendraught with his brethren and children, the Laird of Gight and his children, the Lairds of Craig, Balgownie, and Pitfoddels, with many others whose names were not formerly noted, as the Lairds of Drum, Auchindoir, Monaltrie, Tubs, and Murefield. Altogether, it is a sad exhibition of pertinacity in unparliamentary opinions. Against these and many others, including several priests, the synod had proceeded with censure and excommunication; ‘notwithstanding whereof they continue in their accustomed course of disobedience and will onnaways conform to the laws of the church and kingdom, but on the contrair, in a most insolent manner avow their heretical seditious principles and practices, to the overthrow of religion, disturbance of church and state, and the seducing of many poor souls.’ It was suggested that the Council should issue letters of horning against the delinquents. The lords promised to give the subject their consideration.

Very soon after this date, the Privy Council are found dealing with the case of ‘John Inglis and William Brown, apprehended and imprisoned in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh for being trafficking papists.’ Inglis had also been guilty of distributing popish books. Brown readily gave his promise, if liberated, ‘to take banishment upon him, and never to be seen within the kingdom hereafter;’ but Inglis was more obstinate. He ‘refused to give notice of such popish priests as of his knowledge were come within this kingdom,’ and would not on any account relinquish his own profession. He was told that he must leave the kingdom within twenty days, and that if ever again found within its bounds, he would be punished according to law—that is, hanged.—P. C. B.

Dec 5
On the 5th of December, the Privy Council granted a warrant to Robert Mean, ‘keeper of the Letter-office in Edinburgh, to put to print and publish ane diurnal weekly for preventing false news which may be invented by evil and disaffected persons.’
—P. C. B.

1602, Mar 13
‘In the night-season, at Edinburgh, one Thomas Hepburn, a writer, being a young man, was strangled in his bed privately, and, fearing he should [have] recovered, a knife was stopped in[to] his throat. He was carried out naked by three or four persons, and laid down on a midden-head in the High Street. A young maid coming by at the time, being afraid, cried and went into the Court of Guard, and told the business; upon this, some of the guard went out and apprehended five men, drinking with a woman, in the lodging where he lay, and carried them to the Tolbooth. They all denied they knew any such thing.’

Apr 1
The late storm of popular rage against witches would now appear to have spent the worst, though not the whole of its fury. The Privy Council was become sensible of great inhumanity having been practised by John Kincaid, the pricker—who, as has been stated, took upon him to ascertain whether a woman was a witch or not by inserting a pin into various parts of her body, with the view of finding if in any part she was insensible to pain! They ordered this man to be put in prison.’ A few days afterwards, they issued a proclamation, proceeding on the assurance they had received, that many persons had been seized and tortured as witches, by persons having no warrant for doing so, and who only acted out of envy or covetousness. All such unauthorised proceedings were now forbidden. Nevertheless, proceedings of a more legal and less barbarous character went on. Twelve commissions for the trial of witches in different districts were issued on the 7th of May; three on the 9th; three on the 2d of June; one upon the 19th; and three upon the 26th. In these instances, however, a caution was given that there must be no torture for the purpose of extorting confession. The judges must act only upon voluntary confessions; and even where these were given, they must see that the accused appeared fully in their right mind.

At Auldearn, in Nairnshire, the notable witch-case of Isobel Gowdie came before a tribunal composed of the sheriff of the county, the parish minister, seven country gentlemen, and two of the town’s men. She was a married woman; her age does not appear, but, fifteen years before, she had given herself over to the devil, and been baptised by him in the parish church. She was now extremely penitent, and made an unusually ample confession, taking on herself the guilt of every known form of witchcraft. She belonged to a witch-covin or company, consisting, as was customary, of thirteen females like herself, who had frequent meetings with the Evil One, to whom they formed a kind of seraglio. Each had a nickname—as Pickle nearest the Wind, Over the Dike with it, Able and Stout, &c., and had a spirit to attend her, all of which had names also—as the Red Riever, the Roaring Lion, and so forth. The devil himself she described as ‘a very mickle, black, rough man.’

Meeting at night, they would proceed to a house, and sit down to meat, the Maiden of the Covin always being placed close beside the devil and above the rest, as he had a preference for young women. One would say a grace, as follows:

‘We eat this meat in the devil’s name,
With sorrow and sick [sighs] and mickle shame;
We shall destroy house and hald,
Both sheep and nolt intill the fauld:
Little good shall come to the fore
Of all the rest of the little store.'

And when supper was done, the company looked steadily at their grisly president, and bowing to him, said: ‘We thank thee, our Lord, for this.’

Occasionally he was very cruel to them. ‘Sometimes, among ourselves,’ says Isobel, ‘we would be calling him Black John, or the like, and he would ken it, and hear us weel eneuch, and he even then come to us and say: "I ken wed eneuch what ye are saying of me!" And then he would beat and buffet us very sore. We would be beaten if we were absent any time, or neglect anything that would be appointed to be done. Alexander Elder in Earl-seat would be beaten very often. He is but soft, and could never defend himself in the least, but would greet and cry when he would be scourging him. But Margaret Wilson would defend herself finely, and cast up her hands to keep the strokes off her; and Bessie Wilson would speak crusty, and be being again to him stoutly. He would be beating us all up and down with cords and other sharp scourges, like naked ghaists, and we would still be crying: "Pity, pity, mercy, mercy, our Lord!" But he would have neither pity nor mercy. When angry at us, he would girn at us like a dog, as if he would swallow us up. Sometimes he would be like a stirk, a bull, a deer, a rae,’ &c.

Isobel stated that when the married witches went out to these nocturnal conventions, they put a besom into their place in bed, which prevented their husbands from missing them. When they had feasted in a house and wished to depart, a corn-straw put between their legs served them as a horse and on their crying, ‘Hone and hattock in the devil’s name!’ they would fly away, ‘even as straws would fly upon a highway.’ She once feasted in Darnaway Castle, and left it in this manner. On another occasion, the party went to the Downy Hills, where the hill opened, and they went into a well-lighted room, where they were entertained by the queen of Faery. This personage was ‘brawly clothed in white linens and in white and brown clothes;’ while her husband, the king of Faery, was ‘a braw man, weel-favoured, and broad-faced.’ ‘On that occasion,’ says Isobel, ‘there were elf-bulls routing up and down, and affrighted me ‘—a trait which bears so much the character of a dream, as to be highly useful in deciding that the whole was mere hallucination.

The covin were empowered to take the shapes of hares, cats, and crows. On assuming the first of these forms, it was necessary to say:

‘I sail go intill a hare,
With sorrow, sich, and mickle care;
And I sall go in the devil’s name,
Aye while I come home again.’

‘I was one morning,’ says Isobel, ‘about the break of day, going to Auldearn in the shape of ane hare, and Patrick Papley’s servants, going to their labour, his hounds being with them, ran after me. I ran very long, but was forced, being weary, at last to take my own house. The door being left open, I ran in behind a chest, and the hounds followed in; but they went to the other side of the chest, and I was forced to run forth again, and wan into ane other house, and there took leisure to say:

"Hare, hare, God send thee care!
I am in a hare’s likeness now,
But I sail be a woman even now!
Hare, hare, God send thee care!"

And so I returned to my own shape again. The dogs,’ she added, ‘will sometimes get bits of us, but will not get us killed. When we turn to our own shape, we will have the bits, and rives, and scarts in our bodies.’

Sometimes they would engage in cures, using of course the power derived from their infernal master. For a sore or a broken limb there was a charm in verse, which they said thrice over, stroking the sore, and it was sure to heal. They had a similar charm for the bean-shaw or sciatica:

‘We are three maidens charming for the bean-shaw.
The man of the middle earth,
Blue bearer, land fever,
Manners of stoors,
The Lord flogged the Fiend with his holy candles and yird-fast stone;
There she sits and here she is gone:
Let her never come here again!’

Another was for cases of fever:

‘I forbid the quaking-fevers, the sea-fevers, the land-fevers, and all the fevers that ever God ordained,
Out of the head, out of the heart, out of the back, out of the sides, out of the knees, out of the thies,
Frae the points of the fingers to the nebs of the taes:
Out sall the fevers go, some to the hill, some to the hope,
Some to the stone, some to the stock,
In St Peter’s name, St Paul’s name, and all the saints of heaven,
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Haly Ghaist!’

More generally, however, they were employed in planting or prolonging diseases. Isobel Gowdie told the minister that, in the preceding winter, when he was sick, they made a bagful of horrible broth of the entrails of toads, parings of nails, the liver of a hare, pickles of beir and bits of rag, and, at the dictation of the devil, pronounced over it this charm:

‘He is lying in his bed, he is lying sick and sair,
Let him lie intill his bed two months and three days mair,’ &c.

‘Then we fell down upon our knees, with our hair down over our shoulders and eyes, and our hands lifted up, and our eyes steadfastly fixed upon the devil, and said the foresaid words thrice over In the night-time, we came into Mr Harry Forbes’s chalmer, with our hands all smeared, to swing [the bag] upon Mr Harry, where he was sick in his bed; and in the daytime [there came ane of our number] to swing the bag [upon the said Mr Harry, as we could] not prevail in the night-time against him.’

Isobel stated the charm for taking away a cow’s milk. ‘We pull the tow [rope] and twine it, and plait it the wrong way in the devil’s name; and we draw the tether, sae made, in betwixt the cow’s hinder feet, and out betwixt the cow’s forward feet, in the devil’s name; and thereby takes with us the cow’s milk....The way to give back the milk again is to cut the tether. When we take away the strength of any person’s ale, and gives it to another, we take a little quantity out of each barrel or stand of ale, and puts it in a stoup, in the devil’s name; and, in his name, with our awn hands, puts it amang another’s ale, and gives her the strength and substance of her neighbour’s ale. [The way] to keep the ale from us, that we have no power of it, is to sanctify it weel.’

One of their evil doings was to take away the strength of the manure of such as they wished ill to, or to make their lands unproductive. ‘Before Candlemas, we went be-east Kinloss, and there we yoked a pleuch of paddocks. The devil held the pleuch, and John Young in Mebestown, our officer, did drive the pleuch. Paddocks did draw the pleuch as oxen. Quickens [dog-grass] were soams [traces]; a riglen’s [ram’s] horn was a coulter; and a piece of a riglen’s horn was a sock. We went several times about, and all we of the covin went still up and down with the pleuch, praying to the devil for the fruit of that land, and that thistles and briers might grow there.’ When they wished to have fish, they had only to go to the shore just before the boats came home and say three several times:

‘The fishers are gone to the sea,
And they will bring home fish to me;
They will bring them home intill the boat,
But they sall get of them but the smaller sort.’

Accordingly, they obtained all the fishes in the boats, leaving the fishermen nothing but slime behind.

Having conceived a design of destroying all the Laird of Park’s male children, they made a small effigy of a child in clay, and having learned the proper charm from their master, fell down before him on their knees, with their hair hanging over their eyes, and looking steadily at him, said:

‘In the devil’s name
We pour this water amang the meal,
For lang dwining and ill heal;
We put it intill the fire,
That it may be burned baith stick and stour.
It sall be brunt with our will,
As any stickle’ upon a kiln.’

‘Then, in the devil’s name,’ says the culprit, ‘we did put it in, in the midst of the fire. After it was red like a coal, we took it out in the devil’s name. Till it be broken, it will be the death of all the male children that the Laird of Park will ever get.... It was roasten each other day at the fire; sometimes one part of it, sometimes another part of it, would be wet with water, and then roasten. The bairn would be burnt and roasten, even as it was by us.’ One child having died, the hags hid up the image till the next baby was born, and ‘within half a year after that bairn was born, we took it out again, and would dip it now and then in water, and beek and roast it at the fire, each other day once, untill that bairn died also.’

The devil made elf-arrows for them, and, learning to shoot these by an adroit use of the thumb, they killed several persons with them, also some cattle. ‘I shot at the Laird of Park,’ says Isobel, ‘as he was crossing the Burn of Boath; but, thanks be to God that he preserved him. Bessie Hay gave me a great cuff because I missed him.’ She spoke of having herself shot a man engaged in ploughing, and also a woman,

Not satisfied with what they had done against the Lad of Park, they held a diabolic convention at Elspet Nisbet’s house, to take measures for the entire destruction of his family and that of the Laird of Lochloy. Taking some dog’s flesh and some sheep’s flesh, they chopped it small and seethed it for a whole forenoon in a pot. Then the devil put in a sheep’s bag, which he stirred about for some time with his hands. ‘We were upon our knees, our hair about our eyes, and our hands lifted up, and we looking steadfastly upon the devil, praying to him, repeating the words which he learned us, that it should kill and destroy the Lairds of Park and Lochloy, and their male children and posterity. And then we came to the Inshoch in the night-time, and scattered it about the gate, and other places where the lairds and their sons would most haunt, and then we, in the likeness of craws and rooks, stood about the gate and in the trees opposite. It was appointed so that if any of them should touch or tramp on any of it, it should strike them with boils, &c., and kill them. Whilk it did, and they shortly died. We did it to make that house heirless. It would wrong none else but they.’

We are not informed of the fate of Isobel Gowdie, or her associate, Janet Braidhead, from whose confession the last particulars are extracted; but there can be no doubt that they perished at the stake. Theirs are clearly cases of hallucination, mistakes of dreams and passing thoughts for real events, the whole being prompted in the first place by the current tales of witchcraft, and then made to assume in their own eyes a character of guilt because the witches themselves believed in witchcraft and all its turpitude, as well as their neighbours.

Apr 15
The new-made Archbishop of St Andrews (Sharpe) commenced a sort of progress from Edinburgh, to take possession of his see. Dining with Sir Andrew Ramsay at Abbotshall, he came to lodge at Leslie, attended by several of the nobility and gentry. The anxiety of the upper classes to do honour to the new system is shewn in the cortege which accompanied the prelate next day to St Andrews. He had an earl on each hand, and various other nobles and lairds, and at one time between seven and eight hundred mounted gentlemen, in his train. Next Sunday, he preached in the town-church of St Andrews, on the text, ‘I am determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’ ‘His sermon did not run much on the words, but in a discourse vindicating himself, and pressing Episcopacy and the utility of it.’—Lam,

May 29
By an act of parliament, this day was henceforth to be held as a holiday, both as the king’s birthday and as the anniversary of his majesty’s restoration. All over Scotland, the ordinance seems to have been heartily complied with. Everywhere there were religious services and abstinence from labour, and in most places active demonstrations of rejoicing, as beating of drums, shooting of cannon, sounding of trumpets, setting up of bonfires, and ceremonial drinkings of royal healths in public places.

Through a peculiar loyal zeal, there was an extraordinary demonstration at Linlithgow. Not merely was the fine public fountain of that ancient burgh set flowing with divers coloured wines of France and Spain; not merely did the magistrates, accompanied by the Earl of Linlithgow and the minister of the parish, come to the marketplace and there drink the king’s health at a collation in the open air, throwing sweetmeats and glasses among the people, but an arch had been constructed, with the genius of the Covenant (an old hag) on one side, a Whiggamore on the other, and the devil on the top—on the back, a picture of Rebellion ‘in a religious habit, with turned-up eyes and a fanatic gesture,’ while on the pillars were drawn ‘kirk-stools, rocks, and reels,’ ‘brochans, cogs, and spoons,’ with legends containing burlesque allusions to the doings of the zealous during the preceding twenty years: and at the drinking of the king’s health, this fabric was set fire to and consumed, together with copies of the Covenants, and all the acts of parliament passed during the Civil War, as well as many protestations, declarations, and other public documents of great celebrity in their day. When the fire was over, there appeared, in place of the late fabric, a tablet supported by two angels, and presenting the following inscription:

‘Great Britain’s monarch on this day was born,
And to his kingdom happily restored;
His queen ‘s arrived, the matter now is known,
Let us rejoice, this day is from the Lord!

Flee hence all traitors, that did mar our peace;
Flee, all schismatics who our church did rent;
Flee, Covenanting remonstrating race;
Let us rejoice that God this day hath sent,’

Then the magistrates accompanied the earl to the palace, where he, as keeper, had a grand bonfire, and here the loyal toasts were all drunk over again. Finally, the magistrates made a procession through the burgh, saluting every man of account.

Wodrow tells us that this ‘mean mock of the work of reformation,’ was chiefly managed by Robert Miln, then bailie of Linlithgow, and Mr James Ramsay, the minister of the parish, subsequently bishop of Dunblane; both of whom had a few years before ‘solemnly entered into, and renewed these covenants, with uplifted hands to the Lord.’ ‘The first in some time thereafter came to great riches and honour [as a farmer of revenues], but outlived them, and the exercise of his judgment too, and died bankrupt in miserable circumstances at Holyrood-house,’

1662, June 16
One Grieve, a maltman at Kirkcaldy, was deliberately murdered by his son, in consequence of family quarrels. The wretched youth took some cunning measures for concealing the murder, but in vain. ‘He is had to the corpse; but the corpse did not bleed upon him (for some affirm that the corpse will not bleed for the first twenty-four hours after the murder): however, he is keepit, and within some hours after, he is had to the corpse again, and, the son taking the father by the hand, the corpse bleeds at the nose; but he still denies. Also, the man’s wife is brought, and they cause her touch her husband; but he did not bleed.’ The lad afterwards confessed, and was hanged.—Lam.

This was a year of uncommon abundance, in both grain and fruit, ‘the like never seen heretofore.’ ‘The streets of Edinburgh were filled full of all sorts of fruits. . . . sold exceeding cheap.’—Nic.

July 3
Decision was given in the Court of Session of a singular case, in which several of the peers of the realm were concerned. ‘Lord Coupar, sitting in parliament, taking out his watch, handed it to Lord Pitsligo, who refusing to restore it, an action was brought for the value. Lord Pitsilgo said, that Lord Coupar having put his watch in his hand to see what hour it was, Lord Sinclair putting forth his hand for a sight of the watch, Lord Pitsligo put it into Lord Sinclair’s hand, in the presence of Lord Coupar, without contradiction, which must necessarily import his consent. Lord Coupar answered that, they being then sitting in parliament, his silence could not import his consent. The Lords repelled Lord Pitsligo’s defence, and found him liable in the value of the watch.’

The check lately imposed on the cruelty of proceedings in witch cases was not everywhere effectual; but in one instance of alleged wizardry m the Highlands, the tyranny of the usual process was controlled in a most characteristic manner. A group of poor people, tenants in the parish of Kilmorack and Kiltarnity, in Inverness-shire—namely, Hector M’Lean; Jonet M’Lean, his spouse; Margaret M’Lean, sister of Jonet; and ten or twelve other women of indescribable Highland names—had been apprehended and imprisoned for the alleged crime of witchcraft, at the instance of Alexander Chisholm, of Commer; Colin Chisholm, his brother; John Valentine, and Thomas Chisholm, cousins of Alexander. The women had been put into restraint in Alexander Chisholm’s house, while Hector M’Lean was confined in the Tolbooth of Inverness. Donald, a brother of John M’Lean, was searched for as being also a wizard, but he kept out of the way. The Chisholms then set to torturing the women, ‘by waking them, hanging them up by the thumbs, burning the soles of their feet in the fire,’ drawing some of them ‘at horses’ tails, and binding of them with widdies [withes] about the neck and feet.’ Under this treatment, one became distracted, another died; the rest confessed whatever was demanded of them. Upon the strength of confessions extorted by ‘tortures more bitter than death itself’—such is the language of the sufferers—the Chisholms had obtained a commission for trying the accused.

It was alleged in a petition from M’Lean and the other prisoners, that the whole of this prosecution arose from, inveterate hatred on the part of the Chisholms, because they could not get them in a legal way put out of their lands and possessions, where they had been for between two and three hundred years past— so early was the fashion of eviction in the Highlands. And here comes in the characteristic feature of the case. These M’Leans, though so long removed from the country of their chief and dwelling among strangers, were still M’Leans, owning a fealty to their chief in his remote Mull fastness, and looking for protection in return. Accordingly, we have this insular chief, Sir Rory M’Lean of Dowart, coming in with a petition to the Privy Council in behalf of these poor people, setting forth their case in its strongest light, and demanding justice for them. The Council ordered proceedings under their commission to be stopped, and sent to require the Chisholms to come before them along with the prisoners.

How this matter ended we do not learn; but it is evident that the clan feeling was effectual in saving the M’Leans from further proceedings of an arbitrary and cruel nature.—P. C. R.

Early in the ensuing year, there occur a number of petitions to the Council from individuals who had been confined a long time on charges of witchcraft, either untried for want of evidence, or who had been tried and acquitted, but were further detained in hope of evidence being obtained. One of these was from a burgess of Lauder named Wilkison, in favour of his wife, who was kept in a miserable condition in prison, even after her accuser had expressed penitence for ‘delating’ her! The Council generally shewed a disposition to liberate such persons on petition; but there were cases which lay long neglected. We hear in January 1666 of a poor woman named, Jonet Howat, who had been a prisoner in Forfar jail on suspicion of witchcraft for several years, and was now ‘redacted to the extreme of misery,’ never having all the time been subjected to trial. Jonet was ordered to be liberated, if her trial could not be immediately proceeded with. It is rather remarkable to find in the ill-reputed government of this time traits of a certain considerateness and humanity towards women under charges of witchcraft—for example, taking care that they should not be tortured by unauthorised persons, and making sure that even their voluntary confessions should appear as proceeding from a sane mind; thus shewing a feeling which was to all appearance unknown during the late régime.

Jon Ponthus, a German, styling himself professor of physic, but who would now be called a quack-doctor, was in Scotland for the third time, having previously paid professional visits in 1633 and 1643. His proceedings afford a lively illustration of the state of medical science in our island, and of the views of the public mind regarding what is necessary to a good physician. Erecting a stage on the High Street of Edinburgh, he had one person to play the fool, and another to dance on a rope, in order to attract and amuse his audience. Then he commenced selling his drugs, which cost eighteenpence per packet, and Nicoll allows that they ‘proved very good and real.’ This honest chronicler seems to have been much pleased with the antics of the performers. Upon a great rope fixed from side to side of the street, a man ‘descended upon his breast, his hands loose and stretched out like the wings of a fowl, to the admiration of many.’ Most curious of all, ‘the chirurgeons of the country, and also the apothecaries, finding thir drugs and recipes good and cheap, came to Edinburgh from all parts of the kingdom and bought them,’ for the purpose of selling them again at a profit ‘Thir plays and dancings upon the rope continued the space of many days, whose agility and nimbleness was admirable to the beholders; ane of these dancers having danced sevenscore times at a time without intermission, lifting himself and vaulting six quarter heigh above his awn head, and lighting directly upon the tow, as punctually as gif be had been dancing upon the plain-stones.’—Nic. The quack subsequently exhibited in like manner at Glasgow, Stirling, Perth, Cupar, and St Andrews.

‘About the same time, another mountebank, a High German, had the like sports and commodities to gain money. He was at Edinburgh twice, as also at Aberdeen and Dundee. He likewise had the leaping and flying rope—viz., coming down ane high tow, and his head all the way downward, his arms and feet holden out all the time; and this he did divers times in one afternoon.’—Lam.

In December 1665, a doctor of physic, named Joanna Baptista, acting under his majesty’s warrant, ‘erected a stage [in Edinburgh] between Niddry’s and Blackfriars’ Wynd head, and there vended his drugs, powder, and medicaments, for the whilk he received a great abundance of money.’—Nic.

‘It pleased the king’s majesty at this time to raise [five] companies of foot-soldiers, weel provided in arms, able stout Scotsmen, by and attour those of the life-guard, wha attended his majesty’s service in and about Edinburgh, ever ready to attend the king’s pleasure and the parliament’s direction.’—Nic.

Oct 15
Died, the Earl of Balkarres, a boy. ‘The lady, his mother, caused open him, and in his heart was found a notched stone, the bigness of one’s five fingers, Dr Martin and John Gourlay [apothecary] being present at his embalming.’

The clergymen of Edinburgh, five in number, were all displaced for non-conformity to the new Episcopal rule, excepting one, Mr Robert Lowrie, who consequently obtained the name of the Nest Egg. He became Dean of Edinburgh. The inhabitants of the city, not relishing the new ministers, began to desert the churches and go to worship elsewhere. At the same time, the Monday’s sermon, which had for some years been in use, was discontinued.

In the new church establishment the chief object held in view was to get the church courts controlled by bishops and the royal supremacy. Matters of worship and discipline were left much as they had been. No ceremonies of any kind, nor any liturgy, were attempted. ‘The reading of Scriptures was brought in again, and the psalms sung with this addition: "Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to Holy Ghost," &c.’ That was all. While the famous Perth articles were left in oblivion, it was felt to be necessary that there should be some respect paid to the day of the Nativity. Accordingly, the next Christmas-day was solemnly kept in Edinburgh, the bishop preaching in the Easter Kirk (St Giles) to a large audience, in which were included the commissioner, chancellor, and all the nobles in town. ‘The sermon being ended, command was given by tuck of drum, that the remanent of the day should be spent as a holiday, that no work nor labour should be used, and no mercat nor trade on the streets, and that no merchant booth should be opened under pain of £20 in case of failyie.’—Nic.

There was also a kind of volunteer effort in certain classes to get up an observance of the day consecrated to the national saint. November 30, a Sunday, being St Andrew’s Day, ‘many of our nobles, barons, gentry, and others of this kingdom, put on ane livery or favour, for reverence thereof. This being a novelty, I thought good to record, because it was never of use heretofore since the Reformation.’—Nic.

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