Midwinter Magic

As the light fades outside, gather round for some tales of Midwinter Magic.

Listen on spotify, amazon music, apple podcasts, google podcasts or via our website https://bordersbletherings.uk/

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Borders Bletherings – Walter Scott

Walter Scott, lawyer, poet, novelist and the inventor of Scottish History?

Listen on spotify, amazon music, apple podcasts, google podcasts or via our website https://bordersbletherings.uk/

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Borders Bletherings – The Border Mills

From sheep on the hills to looms in the Mills; how the Borders clothed the world.

Listen on spotify, amazon music, apple podcasts, google podcasts or via our website https://bordersbletherings.uk/

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Borders Bletherings – Navvy riots

1848 saw the coming of the railway in the Scottish Borders. This opened up the region and helped the mills to flourish. The railway company shareholders made fortunes while the Irish Navvies faced prejudice with every mile of track they laid. This is their story.

Listen on spotify, amazon music, apple podcasts, google podcasts or via our website https://bordersbletherings.uk/

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Borders Bletherings – Halloween special

The latest instalment of my podcast Borders Bletherings is now out.

Listen on spotify, amazon music, apple podcasts, google podcasts or via our website as Doug and I and our young friend Rhiannon blether about the roots of Halloween.

 https://bordersbletherings.uk/

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Borders Bletherings – all things witchy in the Borders

The latest instalment of my podcast Borders Bletherings is now out. Listen on spotify, amazon music, apple podcasts, google podcasts or via our website as Doug and I blether about all things witchy in the Borders. https://bordersbletherings.uk/

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Borders Bletherings

My new podcast Borders Bletherings starts today. Catch it via the website https://bordersbletherings.uk or via Spotify/Googlepodcasts/Amazonmusic/Applepodcats For many people Scottish history starts and ends with the highlands. Join me and my mate Doug every fortnight as we blether about the magical, curious and often shadowy world of Borders history.

https://bordersbletherings.uk/
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Agnes Fynnie

On the 11 July 1644 Agnes Fynnie was arrested and sent to the Tolbooth in Edinburgh. There were twenty charges of witchcraft and sorcery on the court dittay.

That whereas by the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomyand the twentieth of Leviticus, and the seventy third act of the ninth parliament of Queen Marie, all sorcerie is prohibit; yet the said Agnes has committed the crymes following:

First: having Threatened Mr Willian Fairlie’s son to send him halting home, , he within twenty-four languished in so incurable a disease, that he died.

Second: that she laid upon Beatrix Nisbet a fearfull disease, so that she lost the power of her tongue!

Third: that she laid a grievous sickness upon  Jonet Grinton, whom ye threatened that she should never eat more in this world  and of which she died.

Fourth: that ye came in to visit John Buchannan’s bairne, being sick of a palsie, and that by your devilrie he died within eight days.

Fifth: following a scolding with Bessie Currie, the said bairne’s mother, ye, in great rage threattned that ye gar the devill tack a bite of hir.

Sixth: that ye laid a grievous sickness on hir husband, John Buchannan, that he brant a whole night as if he had been in a fure, for taking his wife Bessie Currie’s part against you.

Seventh: that the said John being offended at you he streight contracted a long and grievous sicknesse, whereof he was lyke to melt away in sweiting.

Eighth: that in your scolding with Euphame Kincaid a gret just fell on the said Euphame’s daughter’s leg, being playing near your house, and crushed the same.

Ninth: ye ended a compt with Isobell Atchesone, andwhereupon the nixt day she brak hir leg by ane fall from a horse.

Tenth: Robert Wat, deacon of the cordiners, having fyned  your sone-in-law, ye cursed him most outrageously, since which tyme he fell away in his worldly means.

Eleventh: the laying on of a grievous sickness on Christian Harlaw.

Twelfth: that Christian Sympson being owing you some money ye threatened, in great rage, ‘that she should have a sore heart or that day eight days:’ according whereto, the said Christian’s husband broke his leg within the said eight days.

Thirteenth: that John Robieson having called you a witch, you in malice, laid a flux on him by your sorcerie.

Fourteenth: for appearing to John Cockburn in the night, when bothe doors and windows were fact closed, and terrifying him in his sleep, because he had discorded with your daughter the day before.

Fifteenth: for causing all William Smith’s means evanish, to the intent he might never be able to relieve some cloaths he had panded besude you.

Sixteenth: for onlaying a grievous sickness on Janet Walker, lying in childbed; and then ye being sent for ye assented, and she recovered of hir sicknesse presently by your sorcerie.

Seventeenth: that ye being disappointed of not having Alexander Johnstoune’s bairne’s name, whereon he tooke a strange sickness and languished long.

Eighteenth: having fallin in a controversie with Margaret Williamsone after which, she, by your sorcerie, took a grievous sicknesse, whereof she went blind.

Nineteenth: for laying a madness on Andrew Wilson, conforme to your threatening, wishing the devil to ryve the saul out of him and that because he had fallen in a brauling with your daughter.

Twentieth: for beiring companie with the devil these twenty-eight years bypast/

Agnes denied all charges

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Kelso, 1662

On 12 June 1662, Sir Archibald Douglas of Kelso obtained a Commission from the Privy Council to try four accused witches: Bessie Thomson, Malie Jonstoun, Agnes Quarie and Malie Turnbull. Douglas was a fervent Covenanter and was extremely outspoken in his condemnation of, as he saw it, any form of religious belief that was not strictly Calvinist. Being a child was no protection from Douglas. Arrested by Douglas, all four accused were imprisoned and immediately interrogated under torture.

  Several court records list the methods used to extract confessions:[i]

‘bound her armes with towes and so threw the same about that they disjoynted and mutilat both her armes’

‘tying their thumbs behind them and then hanging them up by them… set lighted candles to their feet and between their toes and in their mouths and burned their heads.’

‘the women were tortured by hanging them up by the thombes and burning the soles of their feet at the fyre.’

During all of these practices the suspects would be being constantly berated by the local Kirk minister and elders. Harangued and bullied, they would be told that they were evil and wicked and would go straight to hell for all eternity for their crimes; told how they were a disgrace and a source of shame and loathing to their families; how everybody hated and feared them, their filthy practices were known, their heresies had been exposed. Castigated as the Devil’s whores and followers, they were ridiculed and humiliated. This psychological abuse was heaped on them continuously in a tirade of anger and disgust. Those who refused to co-operate could also be threatened that their families would be arrested and also tortured. This was often used where a suspect had a teenage daughter or son.

Torture was not allowed to be used against children under 14. Because of this the case against Bessie Thomson, Malie Jonstoun, Agnes Quarie and Malie Turnbull collapsed as Bessie and Malie Jonstoun were underage. Their exact ages are not recorded but both Bessie and Malie were probably as young as eight or nine. In other words, Douglas was torturing children. All four were released but not until after they had suffered imprisonment, interrogation and torture. They would have suffered, at the very least, sleep deprivation, psychological bullying and having been walked for hours on end. They might have been burnt with hot stones, had their skin rasped off with ropes or their fingers broken and crushed. They may well have been beaten by their guards, partly for fun or boredom, or from a genuine hatred of witches. All of this as well as being imprisoned for weeks away from their families and friends. They would have eaten little or poor-quality food, slept on filthy flea-infested straw with only a corner of their cell to relieve themselves. Even on release, they bore the stigma of having been investigated for witchcraft. Douglas may have been thwarted in this particular case but no records exist of any charges brought against him for his illegal ill treatment of Bessie, Malie, Agnes and Malie. In addition, his name appears as a prosecuting Commissioner in several cases over the following ten years.


[i] Register of the Privy Council, 2nd series, vol.3, pp. 41-42

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Tell me more – Midlothian Witches

A short podcast with Lea Taylor and me chatting about witches in Midlothian.

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