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particularly the continued trouble of Bargarran's daughter, which is a great evidence of the Lord's displeasure so to let Satan loose among us,” the Presbytery therefore judge it necessary to set apart a day of solemn humiliation and fasting to "wrestle with God in prayer, that he may restrain Satan's rage, and relieve that poor afflicted damsel.” The new Commission, made up of the best known gentlemen in the West Country, with the accomplished Sir James Stuart as King's Advocate, commenced their sittings at Paisley in April, when business was preceded with a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Hutcheson from the suggestive text, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." An illegal deputation from the Presbytery was also associated with the Commissioners for “dealing with the conscience of those on whom the insensible marks are found, in order to their being brought to confession, as they shall with the Commissioners concert the method of the same.” Following the course usually observed on such occasions, the Commission would send a report of the evidence taken to the Privy Council, but no trace of the document has been found in recent years. Some help as to the nature of its contents may be found in an informal “ Abbreviate of the Precognition and Report,” made by the first or preliminary Commission for taking evidence. The occurrences there spoken to were of the usual marvellous and impossible description. The deluded inaid Anderson affirmed that she had seen Satan speak to her grandmother in the likeness of "a black, grim man,” with a very cold hand; that she had been repeatedly at witch-gatherings on Kilmalcolm Moor, above the village of Kilpatrick, and in the manse garden at Dumbarton, Satan being always present, and engaging freely in conversation. In particular, Anderson confessed to being present in Bargarran orchard when the destruction of Christian Shaw was contrived. Some, she said, were for stabbing, others for choking, and a third for hanging her; but fearing they might be taken before next morning, their lord, as they called him—“the black, grim man"-gave them a piece of unchristened child's heart to eat, telling them that though they were apprehended they should never confess. So far fession was concerned, witness was threatened with being torn to pieces, especially
by Maggy Lang, or “Pinched Maggy,” as she was called. After two hours, or thereby (the witness gravely concluded) the whole party disappeared in a flight, but she herself went home on foot. The testimony of the two Lindsay lads was so similar in detail as to afford strong presumption that the monstrous story was concocted by some person equally credulous but more experienced than themselves. From the want of any official record of the court's proceedings it is impossible to say how many were indicted, or “deleted,” as it was called, for these imaginary and impossible crimes. Even the victims who suffered can only be indicated in a doubtful way. The number, according to all accounts, would appear to have been seven, and from a note appended to the reprint by Mr. D. Semple their names would seem to have been-John Lindsay, cottar, Barloch; James Lindsay, cottar, Bilboe; John Reid, smith, Hapland; Margaret Lang, Cartympen; Margaret Fulton, Dumbarton; Catherine Campbell, servant, Bargarran; and Agnes Naismith, probably of Old Kilpatrick. On what strict principle of law these seven could be found either more or less guilty than the other panels on charges so preposterous as to be incapable of proof by evidence of any kind is never likely to be ascertained. If the slightest reliance could be placed on the incoherent ramblings of the girl Anderson, some of the women at least may be presumed to have been well up in years-possibly old and wrinkled, poor and friendless--in all these respects, unlike the witches of modern days, who cast their spells over poor humanity under quite different conditions. There is not only a want in the way of documents concerning the proceedings of the Commissioners, but it would appear as if even the municipal records of Paisley failed to furnish any reference to this extraordinary series of executions which may be presumed to have been carried out under authority of the burgh magistrates. As the Kirk introduces us to the case, so is it from the Presbytery records we get the last glimpse of the victims. The burning was fixed for the roth June. On May 19, three ministers of the Presbytery were appointed to converse as frequently as they could with the seven persons condemned to die for witchcraft, and two were appointed to preach special sermons on the day preceding the execution.
A few days after this date, the prospect of the horrid end at the Gallowgreen induced one of the prisoners to commit suicide in the Tolbooth of Paisley. The final note in the tragedy is sounded in a minute of date June 9, when the Presbytery "did appoint the whole members to spend some time this night with the condemned persons who are to die to-morrow, and did allot to each one or two of the brethren one of the sentenced persons to be dealt with by them, AND WAITED UPON TO THE FIRE." The threatened sacrifice of six victims would not appear to have rid the country as yet of the Evil One.
He was now at large-indeed, under form of law, more jubilant than ever, and in appearance not unlike the Bargarran invention—"a black, grim man." And yet the Kirk must not be made to bear all the blame. Belief in witchcraft was a feature of the age, and that too in highly accomplished circles, legal and medical, as well as clerical. Even in enlightened England, and fifty years after this Paisley case, Ruth Osborne, aged seventy, was drowned in Herefordshire by a disorderly mob for the imputed offence of bewitching her neighbours. One of the ringleaders was certainly hanged for his share in the riot, but the occurrence at Tring is sufficient to show how widely and recently the delusion prevailed. So far as the Renfrewshire case was concerned, the King's advocate would appear to have spoken as if he sincerely judged the stories in his brief to be capable of verification, and were in point of fact verified by the witnesses produced. Nor can it be said that, in comparison with other trials of the kind, he pressed unduly for a conviction. The law recognised the imputed offence, and it must therefore be held as capable of proof. Judging from such “ Accounts” and “Abbreviates” as have been preserved, the Court may be said to have looked with clear enough eyes on the case, but unhappily with lesser light to guide them than shines in our better days. The most that may be inferred from the case is that no profession of faith, however orthodox, nor any form of belief, however sincerely entertained, can secure either just judgment or merciful conduct. From a case raised in the local courts soon after the trial, it would appear that Neil Snodgrass, writer, was subjected to some abuse for the part he had taken
in defending the witches. Trials for witchcraft, or at least a belief in the superstition, still exist in the Highlands. The last execution for witchcraft in Scotland took place at Dornock, Sutherlandshire, in 1727. Although the month was June, it has been handed down by tradition that the weather was very severe, and the poor old woman victim, after being brought out to get tied to a tar barrel, sat composedly warming herself by the fire prepared to consume her, while the other instruments of death were being made ready. The Acts of Queen Mary and King James authorising such executions were formally repealed by the Parliament of Great Britain, in June, 1736. It became from that time incompetent to institute any suit for “witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjurations," and only a crime to pretend to exercise such acts, liable to be punished by imprisonment and pillory. So far as the Bargarran family is concerned, it is pleasant to know that they came to distinguish themselves more honourably in what is now one of the most extensive industries of the district, the Lady Bargarran and her daughters being the first to engage in the spinning of a fine linen thread, “cheap and white, and known by experience to be much stronger than the Dutch," and the reputation of which they sought to protect by a trade-mark made up from the family armorial bearing of three covered cups.
In noticing the “Judicial Records of Renfrewshire," occasion was taken to point out how few of those gathered together by Mr. Hector bore in even an indirect way on the history of the grand old Clugniac Abbey so intimately associated with the ecclesiastical renown of the county. Soon after, a neat quarto volume was issued from the Paisley press (Parlane, 1876), dealing exclusively with the Abbey, and illustrating many noteworthy occurrences which took place within or around the monastic fabric reared and endowed by the piety of the early Stewarts in the cradle of their race. While nothing but fair words need to be set down regarding either the design or execution of the work, it still leaves large spaces in the historic canvas to be filled in by some patient antiquary less intent on what records suggest than on what they describe. The author is mentioned as gathering some scanty lichens-antique, yellow, or gray, as they may happen, encrusted through seven centuries in the Gothic mouldings of the Abbey. To preserve some fragmentary leaves, too obscure it may be for the general historian, yet precious, because history is a mosaic, and composed in its finest pictures of infinitesimal details which are apt to be overlooked—to diverge where divergence is useful, to linger where delay is sweet; this, and no more, do these pages propose; no more do they offer to the reader; and, to avoid disappointment, for no more should the reader look. With the delicious ease of a practised writer, a hand at once firm and delicate, and an eye careless a little of things near or common, but fond of setting forth affinities or relations, dim at first, apt to be overlooked, but never quite inappropriate—the writer passes down through century after century of the Abbey annals, reflecting a very large portion of the country's ecclesiastical history. The rise of the first Stewards and the arrival on the White Cart of the monks from Wenlock are illustrated by the foundation and other charters of the Abbey. Of the founder himself much interesting information is given in a series of chapters relating to Walter the Steward and his wife Marjory, daughter of King Robert Bruce. In the early days of the Abbey,
. when the Cart stole softly among lilies and reeds, when the outer land waved with corn-fields, and the near land was white and red with orchard blooms, nothing, says the writer, could have been fairer or more sweet to see than the rich and low land set in its upland frame. But it is a picture of the past. Orchard and corn-fields are historical. “In the black and slow winding water a cress, or a lily, or a reed would now be as great an anachronism as if the Crusading Steward who gave gifts to the Abbey long ago were to appear with cross upon his armour in the dull, modern streets.” Of Marjory it is remarked the people will have her a Queen-a monument of unknown origin must be “Queen