Getting to know your new neighbourhood as a photographer can throw up mysteries. Just five miles from our cottage on the Forteviot to Dunning Road is this memorial to a woman by the name of Maggie Wall. It was on this spot that she was burnt alive after being accused of witchcraft.
Who Maggie Wall was is unknown. Who built it nobody seems to be clear about either. Here are a couple of articles if you wish to go deeper into this mystery.
What is definitely the case is that hundreds of Scottish women were burnt as witches in the seventeenth century. It seems to have been only women and only poor women. Reading up on it I consulted the History of the Working Classes in Scotland by Thomas Johnston. There is only one mention of a ‘noble lady’ being accused by a professional witch pricker and the accuser ended up in prison. A witch pricker by the way was a professional of the day who inserted a 3 to 5 inch needle into a mole on the skin of an accused witch and if it didn’t bleed provided cast iron evidence of it being placed there by the devil.
There is no accurate number that can be given about witch burning but Johnston speaks of the thousands of poor old scotswomen being subject to revolting tortures and killing as a result of the great witchcraft superstition. The burning was often the end of a lengthy period of torture to get the women to name others involved who would then surely face the same fate. “At every mercat cross throughout the length and breadth of the land the innocent victims of clerical delusion and magisterial greed were burnt to death.”