Monday, 31 October 2011

Memorials to Scotland's Last Witches

Over the last two years on Hallowe'en I have posted blogs about execution sites of Scottish witches.* This year I conclude with the memorials to the last two witches to be burnt in Scotland. One from the Lowlands and the other from the Highlands.

The Presbytery of Dunbar in East Lothian was responsible for burning 100+ witches including 6 women and 2 men from the Parish of Spott.In 1698 the trial of Marion Lillie,known as the Rigwoody Witch (old Scots for thin,bony) was recorded in the kirk session.The Session after long examination of witnesses,refer the case of  Marion Lillie for imprecations and supposed witchcraft to the presbytery who refer her for trial in the civil magistrates.The stone set back from the roadside in a hawthorn hedge marks the spot where she was consumed by the flames. On the day I visited coins had been deposited on the stone and there are reports of candle wax and incense also being left.Perhaps witchcraft has not died out in East Lothian after all.

The stone that marks the execution of the last witch in Scotland to be condemned to death is by the Highland Royal Burgh of Dornoch.More famous now for its golf courses and where Madonna and Guy Ritchie had son Rocco christened in 2000.

Janet Horne had been a lady's maid before she married,but by 1727 she was old and confused.Early that year her neighbours reported that she was using witchcraft to turn her daughter into 'the devil's pony.'
Janet and her daughter whose hand was deformed were imprisoned in Dornoch,where they were tried and found guilty of witchcraft.The daughter escaped before she could be punished,but her mother was sentenced to death.
The next day,Janet Horne was stripped,rolled in tar and placed in a barrel.A grim procession carried her from the High Street to this place,where she was burned alive.She was the last recorded person in Scotland to die in this terrible way.
The execution place is marked by this stone in a private garden overlooking the golf course and the Dornoch Firth.The date on the stone should be 1727 not 1722.
Nine years after her death the Witchcraft Acts were repealed in Scotland and England and it became unlawful to execute anyone for alleged witchcraft.
Larner,A et al (1977) Source Book of Scottish Witchcraft


  1. It's a great article!

  2. I wrote a song about the East Lothian witches a while back and posted a video on youtube -, though I have since been told that some of the written 'tales' may not be strictly accurate.

    Alastair Seagroatt

    1. Im going to look at this :0)

  3. Excellent article!


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