The eleven victims of the Crook of Devon witch trials in 1662

Other names: 
Agnes Pittendreich, Margaret Hoggin, Christian Grieve, Bessie Henderson, Isabella Rutherford, Robert Wilson, Bessie Neil, Margaret Litster, Janet Paton, Agnes Brugh, Margaret M'Nish, Margaret Young, Agnes Murie
Dates: 
d. 1661-1662

These 10 women and 1 man, Agnes Murrie, Bessie Henderson, Isabella Rutherford, Bessie Neil, Margaret Lister, Agnes Brugli, Janet Paton of Crook of Devon, Janet Paton of Kilduff, Janet Brugh, Christian Grieve and Robert Wilson, were tried and executed between April 1661 and October 1662, accused of Witchcraft. 5 men, including William Halliday of Tullibole Castle, Crook of Devon, Perth and Kinross, and his son John presided at the 5 trials and found the accused guilty. Those who survived the trials were strangled by the local hangman and burnt at a mound in the village (near the current village hall).

The current occupant of Tullibole Castle, Lord Moncrieff, planted a maze and commissioned a pillar, now at the centre of the maze, in their memory within the castle grounds.

"[O]f the whole thirteen persons accused, only one of them (Agnes Pittendreich) escaped the fatal doom, and her escape was entirely due to her being pregnant at the time of her trial, and from merciful motives she was respited under obligation to come up again for trial when required. As there is no record of any ulterior proceedings being taken against her, we are prone to hope that the temporary respite proved in reality to be a permanent acquittal in her favour. In the case of another of the reputed witches (Margaret Hoggin) no conviction or sentence is recorded, although the evidence against her was not less reliable than that which led to the conviction and execution of the other prisoners, but in the "dittay" against her she is described as a woman "of three score and nineteen years," and she may have been spared in
consequence of her extreme age, or, more probably still, she may have died from excitement and terror in the course of her trial. At all events,it is clear that she did not long survive her trial, for she is referred to as "deceased" at the next diet of Court, which took place only two months afterwards.

"Another of the accused (Christian Grieve) seems to have met with singularly questionable justice. She is put on her trial on the 21st of July 1662, and although the evidence against her is as strong or even stronger than that which was adduced against the other prisoners, the "haill assize in ane voice declare that they will not convict her in no point of witchcraft, nor cleanze her of no point," and yet on the 8th of October 1662, the same jury, under the same presiding judge, and apparently without any additional evidence of any kind, convicted her and she was " stranglit " on the fifth day thereafter.

"The dates of the different diets of Court are 3rd and 23rd April 1662, 5th May 1662, 21st July 1662, and 8th October 1662. On the first of these occasions (3rd April 1662) the persons brought up for trial were three in number, viz., "Agnes Murie, indweller at Kilduff; Bessie Henderson, indweller in Pitfar; and Isabella Rutherford, in Crook of Devon," all of whom were, after a lengthened and apparently minute investigation, convicted " by the hail assize in ane voice," and were sentenced by the presiding judge to be " all three taken away to the place called the Lamblaires, bewest the Cruick Miln, the place of their execution, to-morrow, being the fourth day of this instant month of April, betwixt the hours of one and two in the afternoon, and there to be stranglit to the death by the hands of the hangman, and thereafter their bodies to be burnt to ashes for their trespass, whereupon William Donaldson, 'doomster,'gave doom.

"On the second occasion, 23rd April 1662, the accused are five in number, consisting of persons who had been "delated" or accused by the prisoners at the former trial as having been present with them at the alleged meetings with "Sathan." These were Robert "Wilson, indweller in Crook of Devon; Bessie Neil, indweller in Gelvin; Margaret Litster, indweller in Kilduff; Janet Paton, indweller in Crook of Devon; and Agnes Brugh, indweller in Gooselands—all of whom met with a similar doom, the date-of their execution being also the day following their trial, and William Donaldson being again "doomster."

"In the course of the investigations at this trial the name of Agnes Pittendreich is incidentally introduced, she having been "delated "in the confession of Margaret Litster as having been with her and several other women at a meeting with "Sathan at Gibson's Craig in ... last, 1661," and she was at once brought before the Court, but owing to her being pregnant she was ordained by the Justice-General Depute "to be put to liberty for the present, and that she should answer whenever she was called upon, within fifteen days under pain of death." At the third diet of Court, on 5th May 1662, the accused are two in number, Margaret Hoggin, relict of Eobert Henderson, and Janet Paton, indweller in Kilduff, relict of David Kirk. As already explained, no conviction is recorded against Margaret Hoggin, apparently owing to her being on the verge of eighty years of age, but for her slightly younger companion, Janet Paton, there is no escape, and she is sentenced to be stranglit and burnt between four and five o'clock in the afternoon of the very day of her trial, Alexander Abernethie being her executioner.

"An interval of upwards of two months occurs between this trial and the next diet of Court, arising from the remaining members of the "covin" having fled from justice, in dismay at the fearful fate which had befallen their companionscompanions. On this occasion, 21st July 1662, two prisoners were brought to trial, Janet Brugh, spouse to James Moreis, at the Cruick of Devon, and Christian Grieve, spouse to Andrew Beveridge, and the first of these was convicted and sentenced to be stranglit and burnt by Thomas Gibson, "doomster," on the day following; while Christian Grieve was acquitted only to be retried and convicted by the same jury on the 8th of October following, and she also was "stranglit" and burnt by Thomas Gibson, "doomster," on the 13th day of that month, between two and three o'clock in the afternoon. ...

"The jury was apparently composed of men of recognised position and respectability, and fairly representative of the intelligence and enlightenment of the district. But a further and still stronger indication of the universality of this belief is afforded by the fact disclosed in the records of these trials, that there was, in addition to the formal court of justice, a self-constituted local tribunal of an irresponsible, and therefore of a much more formidable character, among whom there existed an equally unanimous belief in the guilt of the accused.

"This local conclave of self-constituted inquisitors consisted of the principal proprietor of the parish, the laird of Tulliebole, assisted by his baillie and the minister of the parish of Fossoway, assisted by his kirk-session, and aided also by his clerical brethren, the ministers of the adjoining parishes of Kinross, Cleish, and Muckart. There were also several other prominent residenters in the district, of whom not fewer than eighteen are, from first to last, indicated by name and designation, who all made themselves very active and zealous in bringing the reputed witches to trial. This local conclave seems to have spared neither time nor trouble in not only ferreting out all the available evidence against the accused, but also in extorting confessions of guilt from the poor ignorant deluded creatures themselves."

Sources
PROCEEDINGS OF THE SOCIETY OF ANTIQUITIES
R. Burns Begg, 'NOTICE OF TRIALS FOR WITCHCRAFT AT CROOK OF DEVON,KINROSS-SHIRE, in 1662', PROCEEDINGS OF THE SOCIETYOF ANTIQUITIES, APRIL 9, 1888, pps 211-241

ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/adsdata/arch-352-1/.../22_211_241.pdf

The Witches Maze
Tullibole Castle website