Thomas Weir was born in Carluke in 1599. He was a signatory to the Solemn League and Covenant. He served in the Covenanter army and in 1650, became commander of the Edinburgh Town Guard. While commander, he began each day by leading the town guard in prayer. A powerful orator, his fame quickly spread and locals soon started to come to his house at the top of the West Bow in Edinburgh to hear him. Before long, Weir was preaching every morning and he was given the title of the Bowhead Saint by the crowds who came to hear him. He was the epitome of God’s Elect and Kirk elders across Scotland held him up as an example of such. Young ministers would travel to Edinburgh just to hear him preach.
In 1670, Weir fell ill and while in the grip of a wild fever confessed to several crimes. He was arrested along with his spinster sister Jean, known as Grizel. The pair were taken to the Edinburgh tolbooth. Under questioning, Grizel confirmed Weir’s confession admitting to several acts of witchcraft and sorcery. According to Grizel, her brother had been taken to Dalkeith by a stranger in a ‘fiery’ coach who had given Weir a special walking stick. The walking stick had special powers contained in the carved human head that sat atop the shaft. Weir would stroke the carved head when deep in thought. When the authorities confronted Weir with Grizel’s confession he not only confirmed most of what she had said but then added more crimes he had committed aided by evil powers. Most of the crimes involved causing illness on other members of God’s Elect. He also informed his interrogators that he and his sister had been having an incestuous relationship since he had taken up his post as city commander and begun his preaching. He was not, however, ashamed in any way about the relationship.
The Weirs were both found guilty of witchcraft and consorting with the Devil and sentenced to death. Weir was sentenced to be worriet and burned and the minister presiding over his execution urged him at the end to pray for forgiveness. Weir replied, saying, ‘Let me alone, I will not, I have lived as a beast, and I must die as a beast.’ The court had ordered that Weir’s walking stick was also to be burnt. Several onlookers noted that it made ‘rare turnings’ in the flames as it burned and the mouth of the carved head appeared to gape open, as if attempting to utter some final diabolical words.
Fascinating stuff, Mary! Weir sounds a bit like some of the American televangelists exposed in the media as corrupt and scandalously immoral. One of the worst in the US is so-called faith healer Peter Popoff, who was revealed on TV in 1986 as a charlatan, whose “messages from God” came from radio signals to his earpiece, sent by his wife outside in a van. He’s still in action today, taking money from naive Yanks. At least 17th century justice would have ensured Popoff popped off.
Glad you liked the blog, George. Justice in the 17th century would certainly have sorted out Popov!
This story confirms that humans are anything but the crown of creation.
Sadly so, Tanja.
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