The Heart of Midlothian

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The heart marks the location of the entrance to Edinburgh's Old Tolbooth ...

A monument to accused  witches burned at the stake in EdinburghScotland, and is the only one of its kind in the city

The Witches Well

This mosaic heart marks the spot of a place where the public once paid taxes, a formidable prison, administration center, and brutal execution site.  The Old Tolbooth and accompanying acts of evil will forever be immortalized through the stone-shaped heart and in The Heart of Midlothian, a novel published in 1818 by famous Scots writer Sit Walter Scott.

This infamous prison, known as the Old Tolbooth, dates back to the 14th century and earned quite a reputation as a place to avoid at all costs.  Not only were the conditions treacherous, vile, damp, and dark but horrendous torture of countless prisoners who were then publicly executed. Some were tortured and left for dead. Forms of torture included castor oil, castration, crushing, denailing, genital modification, and mutilation, rape,  kneecapping, thumb screws, etc.  Others were publicly ridiculed wearing iron collars clenched around their necks. 

From 1661 - 62 Scotland experienced one of the largest and deadliest witch hunts in history.  The hunt began in Midlothian and East Lothian just east of Edinburgh, where 206 people were accused of witchcraft between April and December 1661.  Some 664 named witches in four counties.

Scotland's Tortured and Executed Witches

A Memorial For the
28 Women, 4 Men Accused of Witchcraft 
Brutally tortured, strangled & Burned By


MAJOR JOHN BIGGAR of WOOLMET

Jean Hunter
Sep 06 1661

Helen Casse
Aug 23 1661
Strangled & Burnd

Christine Bell
Jul 16 1661
Burned

Robert Crafford
May 03 1661

Agnes Bowie
Jun 28 1661
Burned

Katherine Cruikshank
May 22 1661

Janet Dail
Jul 29 1661
Strangled & Burned

Bessie Fouler
May 25 1661

Elspeth Haliburtonn
Sep 06 1661

Bessie Wilson
Aug 07 1661
Strangle & Burn

William Hog
Sep 06 1661

Beatrix Leslie
Aug 03 1661
Strangles &Burned

Jean Howison
Jan 30 1661

Margaret Reid
Jun 28 1661
Burned

Besse Doughtie
May 03 1661

Jean Getgood
Sep 06 1661

Besse Moffat
Sep 18 1661

Besse Turnbull
Sep 06 1661

Jon Harlaw
Sep 06 1661

Katherine Johnstoun
Sep 06 1661
Burned

Jean Knox
Sep 06 1661

Gilbert Wynd
Jul 16 1661
Burned

Jonet Watson
Sep 18 1661

Jonnet Douglas
May 22 1661

Marian Greenlaw
Jan 30 1662
Released

Jonnet Nidrie
Jun 28 1661

Margaret Hawie
Sep 06 1661

Christiane Wilson
Aug 03 1661
Strangled & Burned

Katherine Huntar
Sep 18 1661

Jonet Matheson
Jul 16 1661

Agnes Patersone
May 22 1661

Margaret Watson
Jun 28 1661

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The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707, K.M. Brown et al eds (St Andrews, 2007-2021), date accessed: 28 May 2021

  • Charles II: Translation

  •  

  •  >  1661, 1 January, Edinburgh, Parliament

  •  

  •  >  Parliamentary Register

  •  

  •  >  At Edinburgh 3 May 1661

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  [1661/1/248]1

Procedure: commissions for judging witchcraft
Commissions anent witches

For as much as Helen Gibson and Christian Blaikie have confessed the abominable crime of witchcraft in entering into paction with the devil, renouncing their baptism and many other ways, as their depositions under the hands of Mr Patrick Cook, minister, William Roberton, bailie, John Hamilton, bailie, John Clerk, Robert Drummond and Hector Wood, elders of the parish of Salt Preston, bears and it being necessary that the kingdom be purged of such vile sin and justice administered upon the offenders; therefore, the king's majesty, with advice and consent of the estates of parliament, gives full power and commission to Robert Cockburn of Butterdean, John Hamilton of Fa'side, John MacMorran in Preston, George Hepburn of Addiston, Ninian Henderson in Preston, Ninian Reid, there, William Roberton, bailie there, John Hamilton, bailie there, Mr Andrew Rutherford, schoolmaster in the Pans, Mr James Oswald, there, Thomas Home and Alexander Henderson, bailies there, or any five of them, to meet at such times and places as they shall think fit and there to fix and hold courts, call suits, fine absentees and uplift unlaws and fines, to create clerks, serjeants, dempsters and all other officers and members of court needful, and in the said courts to call the said Helen Gibson and Christian Blaikie and to put them to the trial and knowledge of an assize and, if they shall be found guilty, to cause justice to be administered and executed upon them conforming to the laws of the kingdom, and to do all other things which to the execution of this commission by the law and consuetude of the kingdom does appertain, and whereas Margaret Butler, Margaret Auchmuty and Margaret Hall are suspected and accused of being guilty of witchcraft, with power to the said commissioners or quorum thereof, as said is, to secure them and such others as are or shall be accused of being guilty and to examine them and use all fair means for their trial and bringing of them to a confession of their sins, and that with all conveniency they make report to the parliament, and in case of their not sitting to his majesty's privy council, of their proceedings and trial foresaid.

The like commission given against Janet Mason and Margaret Barclay (the depositions being attested by Mr. Robert Kerr, minister at Haddington) to Patrick Brown of Colstoun, Mr Alexander Hay of Baro, Mr John Butler of Kirkland, Mr. John Dougall of Nunland, Mr. Richard Cairnes of Pilmuir, Patrick Young, late bailie of Haddington, Alexander Swinton, late bailie there, and David Kyle, bailie there, or any five of them, and also for securing and taking a trial of Elizabeth Crawford, Agnes Cuthbertson, Janet Home, Christine Waderston, Janet Wilson, Catherine Copland, and Isobel Kerr.

The like commission against Robert Crawford in Fisherrow, Helen Cass and Bessie Doughty, there, to Sir William Murray of Newton, Sir James Richardson of Smeaton, Robert Dobie of Stoneyhill, Mr John Preston, Major John Biggar, William Rigg of Carberry, John Jossie of Westpans, Thomas Smyth, Robert Ramage, and the bailies of Musselburgh, or any five of them, the bailies being always two of the number, the depositions attested by Mr Oliver Colt, minister, Robert Strachan and Robert Douglas, bailies of Musselburgh.

Procedure: continuation

The lord commissioner continues the parliament until Monday at 11 o'clock, and all summons as above.

  1. NAS. PA2/26, 291-292.