Carruthers history, Scotland History, Uncategorized

Lady Devorgilla in Stone

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At Whitesands along the River Night which runs through Dumfries.


Walking on from the kinetic hangings and the curved railings beyond the Devorgilla Bridge, we come to Matt Baker’s granite sculpture of Lady Devorgilla. Many people must walk past without realizing a sculpture is on the river side of the wall beside a flight of steps. She is set into the sandstone wall, looking across the river. The figure was inspired by Lady Devorgilla Baillol who reputedly had the first wooden bridge across the bridge built in the thirteenth century.


She was the daughter of Alan, Lord of Galloway and married John Balliol when she was only 13. In her own right she was a wealthy and powerful woman. Although her husband founded Balliol College, Oxford (for poor scholars) she made a permanent endowment to the college to secure its future. She also founded Greyfriars Monastery in Dumfries. On the death of her husband she established a Cistercian Monastery at New Abbey, a few miles from Dumfries. She had his heart embalmed and carried it with her in an ivory casket. When she died she was buried at the abbey church she had founded, with her husband’s heart beside her. Is this a romantic tale, or is carrying your dead husband’s heart around a bit weird? The monks clearly decided on romantic, calling the abbey Dulce Cor, meaning sweet heart.


Now, carved in granite from salvaged harbour kerbs, Devorgilla stands gazing serenely across the caul. When the River Nith floods, which it does frequently, the sculpture is partially submerged and becomes part of the river in a powerful way.


Originally, a second part of Matt Baker’s installation was situated on the other side of the river. It was a translucent etching of a woman about to cross the river, laminated in glass with an oak frame. She was there for nine years before being destroyed, in 2007, by spring floods.


The Picts, Uncategorized
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“The Mystical Picts of Ancient Scotland”



Of all the mysteries in Ancient Scotland none are more mystical than the Pictish Runes and Engravings on the countless Standing Stones in the North East of Scotland. Did the Picts in prehistoric times for-tell the passing of Planet Nibiru every 3600 years by using the mythical “Black Mirror?”

blackmirrorsMadame Blavatsky describes how, whilst attempting to retrieve their stolen goods, the ‘Koodian’ (sorcerer) produced, from its case, a mirror of the kind known as ‘Persian Mirrors’.

It is on the Pictish engravings you see the ‘Black Mirror’, and the case in which it was kept.

These ‘Magic Mirrors’ which were generally black in colour were prepared in the Province of Agra in India, but also came from China and Tibet. They are also found in Ancient Egypt and it is said the ancestors of the Quichés brought them to Mexico.

The last mention we have is the Inca – when Pizarro demanded a room full of gold for the release of his captive, the Queen consulted the ‘Oracles’. During the consultation the Chief-Priest showed her, in the consecrated ‘Black Mirror’, the unavoidable murder of her husband.

thentheyvanishedThen they vanished, never to be seen or used again – what happened to these mystical artifacts from the Ancient World?

The Picts obviously had the use of these ‘Mirrors’ precisely why they portrayed them on their ‘Sacred Standing Stones’ – but what about the ‘Tuning Fork’ – (the name academics give to what looks like a ‘tuning fork’)

This object would have been quite large and struck on a hard surface giving off a loud sound. The accompanying vibrations would have raised the vibrations of the ‘Seer’ – the one who was using the ‘Mirror’ – similar to the Tibetan gongs and bells, or alternatively the repeating of a ‘mantra’.

onmanyengravingsOn many engravings is a large globe with two small circles, one on each side. This could well be a simple ‘Quaig’ (a bowl) — but why would this be so important as to be recorded for future generations to see on so many different stones?

Is the large globe the Sun with the Earth on one side and Nibiru on the other?

onthisstoneOn this stone in the center are 12 globes, these are the twelve planets in our solar system, including Nibiru – the 12th Planet.

On the bottom left corner panel is the Sun with Planet Earth and Nibiru on it’s journey through our Solar System.

And on the right side?

Lost City

This is a Lost City discovered off the coast of Cuba.


The city plan looking very similar to the to the lay-out on the Pictish Standing Stone.

The Picts had direct contact with the Atlantean Civilisation precisley why they came to possess these “Magic Mirrors”. Atlantis was not just a city — it was civilisation encompassing the entire planet — they were the Fourth Root Race — the Legendary “Super-Race”.

The mystery of the Pictish engravings has never been solved and it is only when our minds are opened to an alternative way of thinking will we be able to understand “Why” the Ancients took so much time and energy to leave us with such mysteries?


Thank you Jim Davidson

Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC

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Northern Ireland, Uncategorized

Vanishing Lake Loughareema


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Unusual Lake Loughareema That Vanishes And Re-Appears In Northern Ireland


Located a few miles from the town of Ballycastle in Northern Ireland, Lake Loughareema (Loch an Rith Amach) is unusual because it sometimes vanishes and then later re-appears.

To get a good view of the vanishing lake you have to be there at just the right moment. Lake Loughareema’s sudden disappearance has resulted in a number of legends trying to explain its odd behavior, but there is a scientific explanation why the lake is sometimes visible and not.

The reason why the lake sporadically appears and disappears has to do with the area’s rock structure.

The vanishing lake sits on a leaky chalk-bed, a topographical feature called the ‘chalk ‘plug hole’. Occasionally, the  hole gets jammed with peat, causing the depression to fill with water, which is when the lake is visible to all.


When the plug clears, all the water in the lake drains underground at a rapid rate, and when someone passes the place he or she could not even suspect there is a lake at the site because the lake is almost completely devoid of water. All that is left is a small stream and lots of mud.

Many years ago this place was dangerous. The road to Ballycastle runs right through the lake, and at one point it used to be extremely unsafe to cross, flooded for weeks on end.

To deal with the problem, a modern road was built but at an elevation as high as maximum water level, to avoid flooding. A stone wall has also been erected on either side of the road.


This is what it looks like when the lake is gone.

In 1898, Colonel John Magee McNeille, was rushing to catch a train from Ballycastle. He was in such a hurry that he misjudged the depth of the lake’s waters and he along with his coachman and horses drowned.

Today there is still a local legend alive. It warns visitors that on nights when the lake is full, a phantom coach and its passengers haunt the lake shores to this very day.


We are Border Reveilers!



Clan Carruthers

Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC


The History of the Border Reivers


If your surname is Armstrong ,Beattie, Carruthers, Maxwell, Johnston, Graham, Bell, Scott, Nixon, Kerr, Crozier or Robson then your family history, just like the astronaut Neil Armstrong’s, may very well be intertwined with the Border Reivers. And, if you do share one of these surnames, you may be advised not to read on…


The story of the Reivers dates from the 14th century and continued through into the late 17th century. It concerns the border between the two sovereign countries of England and Scotland. In those days, this Border displayed all of the characteristics of a frontier, lacking law and order. Cattle rustling, feuding, murder, arson and pillaging were all common occurrences.


It was a time when people owed their tribal or clan loyalty to their blood relatives or families. And it was common for these families to straddle the Border.


The Reivers were the product of the constant English-Scottish wars that would often reduce the Border area to a wasteland. The continuing threat of renewed conflict offered little incentive to arable farming. Why bother planting crops if they may be burned before they could be harvested?


The reiving (raiding or plundering) of livestock was however a totally different matter, and so it became the principal business of the Border families.


The Reiver came from every social class from laborer to peer of the realm. He was a skilled horseman and fine guerrilla soldier, practiced in the fine arts of arson, kidnapping and extortion. There was no social stigma attached to reiving, it was simply an accepted way of life.


It is said that the wife of one famous Border Reiver demonstrated that her larder was empty by serving her husband his spurs on a plate instead of his dinner. The message was clear either mount up and go reiving, or go hungry.


Reiving was simply a way of earning a living. Scottish Reivers were just as likely to raid other Scots as to raid across the English Border. Scots and English would even join forces to raid on either side of the Border. The victims of reiving could be anyone from outside the immediate family.


Raids were planned like military operations and could involve gangs of armed men and last for days. More modest raids might involve no more than a short moonlit ride, a quick plunder from a small farm followed by a dash home for breakfast.


“Few fought fiercer than family hands. When fathers and sons, brothers and cousins rode side by side, none turned aside and many found courage when the names of their blood needed them at their back. Astute commanders understood these bonds, and in battles or skirmishes they always set the older and more experienced men in front, believing that honour and valour flowed down through the generations to the younger men behind. (Fm The Reivers)


The Reiver rode a small sturdy pony known as a hobbler, which was noted for its ability to cover great distances over difficult ground at high speed. On his head the Reiver would typically wear a steel bonnet and a quilted jacket of stout leather sewn with plates of metal or horn to protect his body, called a Jack of Plate. Although the Reiver carried a variety of weapons including sword, dagger and axe, his preferred weapon was the ‘lang spear’ or Border lance.


The central governments of both England and Scotland attempted in vain to establish law and order across the Border, however a borderer would owe allegiance to England or Scotland only when it suited him or his family.


When England and Scotland were at war, it could become very much a Border affair with Reivers providing large numbers of cavalry. The battles of Otterburn (1388), Flodden Field (1513) and Solway Moss (1542) are all linked with the Reivers.


With the exception of the Scottish Highlands, the Borders were the last part of Britain to be brought under the rule of law.


It was only following the Union between England and Scotland in 1603 that a concerted effort was made by James I (VI of Scotland) to rid the Border of Reivers. However, between the death of Elizabeth I and the crowning of James I in March, several Scottish families launched massive raids into Cumbria, claiming to believe that when a monarch died the laws of the land were automatically suspended until the new king was proclaimed!


James I, who now ruled over a new kingdom called Great Britain, was furious with his Scottish subjects for relieving his new English subjects in Cumbria of some 1,280 cattle and 3,840 sheep and goats. James issued a proclamation against ‘all rebels and disorderly persons’.


James decreed that the Borders should be renamed ‘the Middle Shires’ and in 1605 he established a commission to bring law and order to the region. In the first year of the commission’s existence it executed 79 individuals and in the years which followed, scores more were hanged.


Other Reivers were encouraged to leave and serve as mercenaries in the armies of continental Europe. The Armstrongs, Beatties, Carruthers and the Grahams were singled out for special treatment and were taken to Fermanagh Ireland, by Lord Atchison and his brother. Some continued as outlaws and became known as ‘Mosstroopers’.


By the early 1620’s peace had arrived in the Borders, possibly for the first time ever.


Some view the Border Reivers as loveable rogues, while others have compared them to the Mafia. Whatever your opinion their legacy remains in the fortified dwellings called pele towers, their ballads and their words now common in the English language such as “bereave” and “blackmail”: greenmail was the proper rent you paid, blackmail was “protection money”!


The rescue of Kinmont Willie Armstrong


Three of the most celebrated Reivers of all time were Kinmont Willie Armstrong, Wat Scott of Harden and Geordie Burn. The night before he was hanged in 1596, Geordie Burn admitted that ‘he had lain with above forty men’s wives… and that he had killed seven Englishmen with his own hand, cruelly murdering them; that he had spent his whole time in whoring, drinking, stealing and taking deep revenge for slight offences’.’


Kinmont Willie prided himself on his large-scale raids, targeting whole areas rather than individual farms or villages. He would ride at the head of some 300 Reivers, known as ‘Kinmont’s bairns’. One of the most famous incidents in Border history involves the rescue of Kinmont Willie from Carlisle Castle on 13 April 1596.


On 17 March 1596, a truce-day was held in the Borders, so that Scots and English could meet to negotiate deals and treaties. On the Scottish side was one William Armstrong of Kinmont or ‘Kinmont Willie’ – perhaps the most notorious of all the Border Reivers.


As Willie was riding home to his tower at Morton Rigg, just north of Carlisle, a band of Englishmen broke the truce and apprehended him. Kinmont Willie was escorted to Carlisle in chains.


Willie had been a prisoner of the English for almost a month when the Keeper of Liddesdale, Scott of Buccleuch, decided to launch a rescue attempt. ‘Bold Buccleugh’ and his party of about eighty men entered the castle on Sunday 13 April and rescued Willie from the English, who were under the command of Sir Thomas Scrope, 10th Lord Scrope of Bolton Knight of the Garter (pictured left). Buccleugh had bribed a member of the garrison to leave a door unbarred.


Together Buccleugh and Willie made good their escape with Scrope in hot pursuit. Scrope was so angered by the audacity of the rescue that he vented his anger by burning the towns of Annan and Dumfries to the ground, capturing two hundred prisoners whom he marched home ‘naked, chained together on leashes’. This caused a major diplomatic incident, Queen Elizabeth was furious with Scrope.


It was also said that north of the Border, James VI of Scotland was so terrified that Buccleugh had ruined his chances of succeeding Elizabeth on the throne of England that he ordered Buccleugh to hand himself over to the English.


And as for wiley Willie, he was never apprehended again and is said to have died of old age in his bed. The tale of his escape recorded forever in the Ballad of Kinmont Willie:


Ballad of Kinmont Willie


O hae ye no heard o’ the fause Sakelde?

O hae ye no heard o’ the keen Lord Scroope?

How they hae ta’en bauld Kinmont Willie,

On Haribee to hang him up?


Had Willie had but twenty men,

But twenty men as stout as he,

Fause Sakelde would never the Kinmont ta’en,

Wi’ eight score in his company.


They band his legs beneath the steed,

They tied his hands behind his back.

They guarded him, fivesome on either side,

And they led him through the Liddel-rack.


They led him through the Liddel-rack,

And also through the Carlisle sands;

They took him tae Carlisle Castle,

To be at my Lord Scroope’s commands.


“My hands are tied, but my tongue is free,

And whae will dare this deed avow?

Or answer by the Border law?

Or answer tae the bauld Buccleuch?”


“Now haud thy tongue, thou rank reiver.

There’s never a Scot shall set thee free:

Before ye cross my castle gate,

I trow ye shall take farewell of me.”


Now word has gane tae the bauld keeper,

In Branksome Ha’, where that he lay,

That Lord Scroope has ta’en the Kinmont Willie,

Between the hours of night and day.


And here detained him, Kinmont Willie,

Against the truce of Border tide.

And forgotten that the bauld Buccleuch

Is keeper on the Scottish side?


“Had there been war between the lands,

As well I wot that there is nane,

I would slight Carlisle Castle high,

Though it were built of marble stane.”


“I would set that castle in a lowe,

And sloken it wi’ English blood.

There’s never a man in Cumberland,

What kent where Carlisle castle stood.”


“But since nae war’s between the lands,

And here is peace, and peace should be;

I will neither harm English lad or lass,

And yet the Kinmont shall be free.”


And as we crossed the Debatable land,

And tae the English side we held,

The first of men that we met wi’,

Whae should it be but fause Sakelde?


“Where ye be gaun, ye broken men?”

Quo’ fause Sakelde; “Come tell to me?”

Now Dickie o’ Dryhope led that band,

And there never a word of lear has he.


And as we left the Staneshaw-bank,

The wind began full loud tae blaw;

But ’twas wind and weet, and fire and sleet,

When we came beneath the castle wa’.


They thought King James and a’ his men

Had won the house wi’ bow and spear;

It was but twenty Scots and ten,

That put a thousand in sic a steir!


And as we reached the lower prison,

Where Kinmont Willie he did lie,

“O sleep ye, wake ye, Kinmont Willie,

Upon the morn that thou’s to die?”


Then shoulder high, with shout and cry,

We bore him doon the ladder lang;

At every stride Red Rowan made,

I wot the Kinmont’s airns play’d clang!


He turn’d him on the other side,

And at Lord Scroope his glove flung he.

“If ye na like my visit in merry England,

In fair Scotland come and visit me!”


All sair astonished stood Lord Scroope,

He stood as still as rock of stane;

He scarcely dared tae trew his eyes,

When through the water they had gane.


“He is either himsel’ a devil frae hell,

Or else his mother a witch maun be;

I wadna hae ridden that wan water,

For a’ the gowd in Christendie.”

Clan Carruthers

Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC



Rock of the Saint

Clan Carruthers LLC


The little Scottish island of Eileach-an-Naoimh (Rock of the Saint) is one of the Garvellach Islands, in the Firth of Lorne, and is the reputed burial place of St Eithne, mother of St Columba, making it a ‘holy island’. On this very remote, windswept island are the scant remains of a Celtic monastery with beehive huts, two chapels and a graveyard with three crosses, and 80 metres to the south-west is the traditional site of St Eithne’s grave, which is marked by a grave-slab bearing an incised cross. In old texts the island was called Hinba. And to this little island St Columba and other ‘saintly’ figures came from time to time for a deeper solitude and contemplation – this fact being borne-out because the island was, and still is, largerly inaccessible. There are no ferries or steamers alighting in Port Cholumcille, but some pilgrims do visit the island and pay their respects at St Eithne’s grave, though they have to hire their own boats! The island of Mull is 6 miles to the north and Scarba 4 miles to the south-west, while the mainland of Argyll is 6 miles away.

Author Reginald B. Hale in his work ‘The Magnificent Gael’, tells us that: “Eithne came of the royal line of Leinster kings. Her husband Felim macFergus was a chieftain of the dynastic family of Ui Neill, heirs of the mighty Niall-of-the-Nine Hostages, High king of Ireland. So their little son was born a prince of the Blood Royal and would inevitably live his life in the glare of the political limelight. His parents had every reason to hope that someday he might hold the scepter of the High King and reign at Tara.

    “But the child also had another heritage. His great-great-grandfather Niall had been a heathen and an unabashed slave raider. However several of his sons had been converted by St Patrick, the ex-slave who brought Christianity to the Irish. One of these sons was Conall Gulben, king of Donegal. St Patrick with his staff marked a cross on King Conall’s shield and from then on his descendants took as their symbol a Hand grasping a Cross. From the time of his conversion his clan had been staunch for the faith. So it was that Felim macFergus, grandson of Conall, was himself a deacon of the Church and his son was born into a devout Christian family.”

Hale goes on to say that: “Felim and Eithne took their child six miles to Kilmacrenan to be baptized by the priest Cruithnechan which is pronounced “Crenan”. He was christened Colum, which in Latin is Columba. He also received the traditional family name of Crimthann that means a fox, an animal admired by the Gaels.”

But we know that Columba was born beside Lough Gartan in Co Donegal (521 AD) where there are the Medieval ruins of what is locally called St Eithne’s Convent. And there is a St Eithne’s Well at Termon. The site of St Columba’s birth, near the southern shore of the lough, is marked by the so-called ‘Natal Stone’, and nearby are the saint’s holy well, the Stone of Lonliness, and the saint’s ruined church. His birth was miraculous we are told. St Eithne had a dream in which she was given a beautiful robe with colours similar to the wild flowers, but the wind blew the robe away. However, the wind-blown robe grew in size and spread out to cover the land, mountains and islands – this being a sort of divine portent regarding her son who would eventually take Christianity to the northern Pictish High King, Brude, and his people sometime after 565 AD – at a time that was “dark” in many respects, but for St Columba it was a time of ‘great joyfulness’.

In 563 AD Columba set sail for Iona and was accompanied by members of his family including his mother and also disciples and servants. Later, he founded a great monastery on the island which became a college of learning; he took the message of Christ to the Picts and established many other monasteries and churches in Scotland. His mother retired to the Island of Hinba (Eileach-an-Naoimh) where she was cared for by Ernan, who was St Columba’s uncle and also prior of the monastery of Hinba, founded by St Brendan. Women were not allowed in the monastery. St Eithne died and was buried on the island in the mid to late 6th century. Her ‘reputed’ grave is located on the Peak of Hinba, 80 metres south-west of the monastery, where a circular enclosure (11 feet in diameter) with three standing stones marks the site, one of these being a grave-marker (2½ feet high) bearing a thin equal-armed Greek cross with terminals, beneath which is a thinner spike. And there are a number of recumbent stones and a kerb running around the site. The grave seems to be positioned so as to look out over the Firth of Lorne.

But some historians question the grave-site. A few think that it may in fact date from the Iron-Age, or earlier, and others think it may be the burial site of more than one person? But I think it should be pointed out here that the type of burial that was around in prehistoric times was more than likely to have existed well into the early Christian period – the so-called Dark Ages of the 5th-7th centuries AD.

The Monastery Chapel, Eileach an Naoimh by Gordon Brown, Wikipedia.

The monastery on Eileach-an-Naoimh often ascribed to St Brendan, rather than St Columba, is a ruin consisting of low drystone walls with a number of bee-hive huts (hermits cells) around it, one of which is a double construction. There are two small ruined chapels that are said to date from the 9th-12th centuries and a graveyard with three stones bearing incised crosses, and also a circular feature that is probably an early Christian grave, maybe that of Ernan the first prior? The monastery was probably burned c 800 AD and thereafter it suffered from a number of attacks by invaders from overseas, including the Vikings. The monastic site on Eileach an Naoimh is probably the oldest religious ruin in Scotland.

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North Berwick Witch Trials

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The witches’ gathering of Halloween 1590 in North Berwick was one of the most infamous gatherings, especially because of the ensuing trials, which sentenced many innocent people to their death, purely for political gain.


Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. The Witches’ Fountain was designed by John Duncan for Sir Patrick Geddes in 1894 and erected in 1912, created to commemorate the more than 300 witches that had been tied at the stake, strangled and then burnt between 1492 and 1722 on Castlehill, the rocky outcrop that rises above Edinburgh’s city centre. In all, it is thought that over 4500 “witches” were burnt in Scotland.


North Berwick Harbour. Currently a haven for tourists and boats bringing them to the Bass Rock, this once tidal peninsula formed an important crossing for pilgrims to St Andrews. But on Halloween of 1590, the remains of St Andrew’s Auld Kirk, now situated in front of the Scottish Seabird Centre, provided the backdrop for one of the most notorious witches’ covens.


In short, the story of the witches’ gathering in North Berwick is this: a group of East Lothian men and women, some of them well-respected members of society, had been gathering at various locations in the county. Many of them were interested in herbal medicine, most of them likely gathered purely for social reasons. But after their gathering in North Berwick, on Halloween 1590, they were accused of conspiring to do damage to King James VI during his voyage from Denmark with his new bride, Queen Anne. Indeed, their ship was caught in a terrible tempest and although the royal couple escaped, the storm was blamed on the group of witches that had met in North Berwick.

The key figure in the tragedy was a maidservant from Tranent, Gelie Duncan. She was employed in the house of a wealthy local man, Chamberlain David Seaton. Duncan had an exceptional gift for healing and comforting the sick. In an atmosphere of fear and misgiving, it was not long before her skills aroused suspicion. Some feared that she possessed supernatural powers. Religious zealotry is nothing new and then, as now, some ascribed such powers to the devil. Seaton therefore confronted her and as she could give no satisfactory explanation for her methods of healing, she was tortured.

Duncan stood accused of performing medical wonders with the help of the devil. Seaton used thumbscrews, which were designed to extract quick confessions. When Duncan kept her silence, Seaton had her body examined for marks of the devil, whose signs were identified on the front of her throat. Though a more likely scenario was that Duncan might have had a boyfriend, and that their togetherness left certain traces on her throat, it was instead concluded that she was “bedevilled”.

Eventually, Duncan did confess and was thrown in prison. Her confession showed to everyone that evil forces were indeed afoot in Scotland. Duncan claimed that she was one of 200 witches, who at the behest of the Earl of Bothwell, one of James’s greatest enemies, had tried to overshadow the king. Some of their most extraordinary plotting she said took place in North Berwick. On Halloween, October 31, in 1590, the witches had allegedly sailed to North Berwick and gathered at the Kirk. Among those present were Agnes Sampson, Agnes Thompson, Dr. Fian (who was actually John Cuningham and was named the leader of the group), George Mott’s wife, Robert Gfierson, Janet Blandilands, Ewphame Mecalrean, and Barbara Naper. On a dark and stormy night, the devil appeared to them in the church. Surrounded by black candles dripping with wax, he preached a sermon from the pulpit. While in the churchyard, Duncan herself played a Jew’s harp and the throng danced wildly, singing all the while.


Several arrests now followed, each “witness” tortured and then placed on trial. What sets the North Berwick witch trials apart from many other such trials, is that the king took a personal interest in these trials. On November 28, 1590, it was reported that the king himself had questioned some of the witches. It was said that his investigation had led to confessions and betrayal of their “fellowes”, as well as their odious acts. Trials were announced to be held in the near future.

On the surface, the logical answer might be that because the allegations were directly to do with the king’s fate, he took a personal interest, but in retrospect, it is clear that the king wanted to copy social trends that he had witnessed on the continent, and use witchcraft and these trials as a means to a political end.

The king had everyone that Gelie had named brought before him. They were tried and many were convicted, some to death. Among the latter were Agnes Sampson from Humbie and John Fian, a Prestonpans schoolmaster. Euframe MacAlyane’s “real crimes” were that she had asked a midwife to relieve the pains of labour, but as analgesia were condemned, MacAlyane was put to death.

***  We know that 64 people, mostly women were tortured and put to death at the North Berwick Witch Trials.  You may recognize some of these names from your family history.

Elspet Carruthers, Masie Atchison, Margrett Atchinson, Elisabeth Atchison, Janet Campbell, Catherine Campbell, Katherine Carruthers, Nicola Murry    ******

Although not recorded it is generally accepted that many victims died of the injuries that were inflicted upon them during torture.

Some of the implements of torture that were used at the time included the breast ripper. A device that did exactly as it sounds. It consists of 4 pronged levers that would encase the breast of the accused ‘witch’ and then tear it from her chest with a considerable amount of trauma.


Another device that was used on witches either already tried or awaiting trial was the ‘Scold’s Bridle’. A metal device that fit around the head and had metal protrusions that would slide into the victim’s mouths making it impossible to talk. Sometimes men would use these devices on errant wives who nagged them too often. But they were often used on witches.

Several measures were used to detect witchcraft but you could be accused simply for having red hair, for having an unusual ‘devil’s mark’ or what we would call a birthmark, or for being left-handed. The word sinister actually comes from the Latin ‘sinistra’ which means left. Traditionally older women and those who worked with herbs and medicines or midwives would also be targeted.

Agnes Sampson was taken to Holyrood Palace, where she was interrogated and tortured. On December 7, Agnes Sampson confessed that on October 31, she was one of the witches that convened in North Berwick for a Sabbath. In contemporary correspondence, it reads that “The King ‘by his owne especiall travell’ has drawn Sampson, the great witch, to confess her wicked doings, and to discover sundry things touching his own life, and how the witches sought to have his shirt or other linen for the execution of their charmes. In this Lord Claud and other noblemen are evill spoken of. The witches known number over thirty, and many others accused.” And: “Their actes are filthy, lewde, and phantasticall.” The guilty verdict was based partly on the fact that, “[She] foreknew from Devil the queen would not come to this country unless the king fetched her”.

Duncan herself was burnt as a witch on Castle Hill, and she is therefore one of the 300 witches commemorated by the Witches’ Fountain. But the story of the North Berwick witches as it has come to be known relies primarily on the testimony of the schoolmaster of Prestonpans, who had been identified by all as the leader of the group. Fian was found guilty of being “approached by the devil (dressed in white) while in Thomas Trumbill’s room in Tranent.” Allegedly, the devil persuaded him to burn Trumbill’s house.

Fian’s confession read that the devil had first asked him to deny God and all true religion, secondly to give his faith to the devil and adore him, thirdly that he said to the devil that he should persuade as many as he could to join his society, fourthly that he dismembered the bodies of dead corpses and specially unbaptised children, fifthly that he destroyed men by land and sea with corn, cattle and goods, and raised tempest and stormy weather as the Devil himself, blowing in the air, etc.

No doubt the most impressive act was that while he was lying in his bed at Prestonpans, he let himself be carried to North Berwick church, “where Satan commanded him to make homage with the rest of his servants.” There, as attested by others, Satan spoke from the pulpit. During this sermon, John Fian sat on the left side of the pulpit, nearest to “the devil”. At the end of the sermon, the devil descended and took Fian by the hand and led him about and afterwards made him kiss his “ass”. After coming out of the kirk, Fian stood amongst the graves and allegedly opened three of them, while two dead bodies were dismembered by the women.

Fian pleaded guilty for the bewitching and possessing of Williame Hutsoune in Windiegoull “with an evil spirit”. The evil spirit remained with Hutsoune for 26 weeks, but left as soon as Fian was taken into custody. He confessed that the group went to sea in a boat, accompanied by Satan, with the intent to raise the winds when the king was on his way to Denmark. They also sent a letter to Marioun Linkup in Leith, to that effect, bidding her to meet him and the rest, on the sea, within five days. There, Satan “delivered a cat” out of his hand to Robert Griersoune, saying ‘Cast the same in the see hola!”

Finally, still according to Fian, upon the king’s return from Denmark, Satan promised to raise a mist and wreck the king in England; “he took “a thing like a football”, which to Fian appeared to be a wisp, and cast it in the sea, upon which a vapour and smell rose from it.


History tells us that though there was indeed a storm, both king and queen made it safely to Scottish soil. If it occurred, then it is clear that the devil was no match for the Scottish king. But historians dismiss the witchcraft at the Auld Kirk as a total myth: no devil worship ever occurred here and some even go as far as to argue that not even a meeting occurred there that Halloween, that the story was tortured out of the poor servant girl Gelie Duncan. They place the blame firmly with king James VI. As one specialist on James VI has observed: “It is impossible to study the details of this period without realising the extraordinary fear which James had of his cousin [Francis Bothwell]; it was fear with an underlying horror, totally different from his feeling towards his other turbulent subjects.”

The problem of the North Berwick witch trials, however, is that they were political expedient. And that innocent people were tortured and killed for a political, kingly agenda. Walter Ferrier in his history of North Berwick wrote: “King James VI had been spending the summer of 1590 in Denmark, wooing and winning his bride, Princess Anne of Denmark. […] While the king was absent from Scotland, Francis Stuart, Earl of Bothwell, had been leading a conspiracy against him and his bride. […] He had always been something of an enfant terrible and was a convinced believer in the witch’s art. Such as there is in the North Berwick “happening” suggests that Francis was motivated by a desire to get the King and his bride out of the way, believing that he could by witchcraft raise a storm in the estuary of the Forth, thus hopefully to wreck the king’s ship with both its royal occupants as they sailed into home waters.” Though I agree with Ferrier that there was a clear political rivalry, there is no historical information that Bothwell was interested in witchcraft or might have believed that he could raise a storm fierce enough to crash the king’s ship.


So who is right? When the trial transcripts and confessions are analysed, it is clear that these people indeed had gathered on a number of occasions that year, like one previous meeting that had been held at Prestonpans. But it is also clear that they did not gather to perform witchcraft. At most, these were the New Agers of their time, people with an interest in herbal medicine, convening to talk about interesting subjects, and like.

Into these gatherings, the trials injected Bothwell. It seems unlikely that Bothwell actually attended, but if he did, it is clear that on Halloween, he was not dressed up as the devil, prancing around the cemetery! Indeed, after the hearings, in which he had condemned all of these people to death, James VI next declared that they were “all extreame lyars”, for he did not get the material he wanted to hear, which was material that would inculpate Bothwell. Bothwell denied any part in the affair and without confessions, the king was powerless to act against Bothwell.

With the North Berwick witch trials, James VI copied behaviour that he had learned abroad. The summer of 1590 had seen a great witch hunt in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, the home of James VI’s wife. One of the first victims was Anna Koldings, who under pressure divulged the names of five other women. One of them was the wife of the mayor of Copenhagen. They all confessed that they had been guilty of sorcery in raising storms, which menaced Queen Anne’s voyage and that they had sent devils to climb up the keel of her ship. In September, a month before James VI left with his new wife, two women were burnt as witches at Kronborg.

By the end of July 1590, news of the arrests of witches in Denmark was reported in Scotland, and arrests were also held in Edinburgh. “It is advertised from Denmark, that the admirall there hathe caused five or six witches to be taken in Coupnahaven, upon suspicion that by their witche craft they had staied the Queen of Scottes voiage into Scotland, and sought to have staied likewise the King’s retorne.”

The available evidence therefore strongly suggests that the king had a predetermined agenda, in which there “had” to be witches in Scotland, witches that were trying to bring him and his new wife down.


But there was more. The trials were also at the origins of a book on witchcraft that James VI would publish in 1597, a book called “Daemonologie”. Walter Ferrier has also wondered whether there was a connection between the witch trial and James’ doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, about which the king also wrote. Ferrier wonders whether James VI wanted to chart the “occult powers” that were trying to get his throne. He even goes as far as to suggest that perhaps James VI believed that all the witches’ doings, all his enemies, could not get him from his throne, that he therefore believed that he was favoured by God, and as such was a Divine King, graced by god. In retrospect, it is clear that James VI used lies to boost his own importance, using the lives of innocent people to create the false impression that the Devil himself was out to get him, and that somehow, not even the Devil could oust him from his royal throne.


Following the North Berwick witch trials, the records of the Scottish courts started to show increasing numbers of people being accused of witchcraft. In 1597, Janet Stewart of Canongate and Christian Livingston of Leith were accused of casting spells on Thomas Guthry. They were sentenced to be executed on the Castle Hill. The Kirk records of South Leith show many trials occurring in their parish. This included the search for the devil’s mark on bodies by a man from Musselburgh who had a reputation for finding these marks. The usual trial was to find blue or red birthmarks and to burn them with a hot iron or to insert a pin or needle. If the victim felt no pain then they were declared a witch. Suspected people were bled at between the eyes, which was supposed to make a witch powerless. If found guilty, the victim was burned alive. It is apparent that James VI had created a reign of terror, in which anyone could suddenly be accused of being a devil worshipper, based on no evidence whatsoever.


Though the North Berwick witch trials are primarily linked with James VI, others have argued that the Reformation had given those who practiced the old Celtic ways an impetus to gather more freely than before, in the mistaken belief that there was now more religious freedom. That turned out to be not the case. Before 1563, witchcraft had been dealt with by the Church, but in 1563, the witchcraft act was passed, and it is this act that would see its first full use in 1590. And history has shown that such a perverse act, whether used by the Church or by the king, will be abused.

King James VI wanted to be both a social example and a legislator. Furthermore, the trials became a method in which the king could dispose of his enemies and portray himself as a more important, powerful figure than he actually was. He became depicted as the “Man the devil had to the fear the most”. For this, however, witches had to suffer, as they had to be portrayed as being in alliance with the devil, against the king.

After their arrest, the “witches” were held in the Tolbooth, on Edinburgh’s lower High Street, where they were tortured and interrogated. At one point during his captivity, John Fian escaped by stealing a key. When he was captured, he was subjected to even more horrific torture. He was executed, after having withdrawn his earlier confession. And is remembered as one of 300 innocent people that were killed for purely political reasons.


From out of the dark and into the light
A circular mark, a candle burns bright.
I look towards the sky, my song I do sing
Spirits soar high and gifts do I bring.

I offer my all, my mind I then clear
Harken my call, I fell you are near.
Candle burns higher, my spirits set free
Hotter than fire, the magic will be.
 Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int. LLC
Clan Carruthers



Mystery of the Secret Message

Clan Carruthers LLC


Mystery of the Secret Message


Penny lives with her aunt and uncle because her mother is dead and her father travels on business much of the time, dealing in Asian art.  Thanks to his travels, Penny and her aunt and uncle have quite a collection of Asian art themselves.  However, Penny has just been told that her father’s airplane crashed in the Pacific Ocean.  No survivors have been found, although Penny still has hope that perhaps her father survived and might yet be found.


At the same time, Penny and her aunt and uncle are moving into a house from the apartment where they used to live. Penny is happy about the move because she knows that she won’t have to worry as much about being quiet and not disturbing the neighbors, like she had to do in their apartment. This means that Penny can bring her friends over to the house to play and have parties. Also, their new house has a very special feature: its own private elevator.


Penny loves the new house, and soon begins building a tree house with the help of Pete, a boy who lives nearby.  She tells Pete about her father and her hopes that he might still be alive.


However, events take a disturbing turn when Penny receives a package from Japan containing a beautiful wall scroll. The package appears to have been sent by her father, who meant it as a present for her new room in her new house. Was the package sent before his death, or did he somehow survive the crash?


There is also something odd about Penny’s new neighbors.  Penny’s new house is actually half of a duplex, and the new neighbors, the Carruthers, have also recently moved in after renting their half. When Penny accidentally gets stuck in the elevator and hears voices coming through the wall, she starts to suspect that her neighbors might not be what they seem to be.  They show an unusual interest in her family’s collection of Asian art, asking to see pieces and borrow pieces for an exhibition that Mr. Carruthers is holding at his gallery.  One of Penny’s friends even catches Mrs. Carruthers sneaking around, looking at things uninvited.


When Penny and her friends have a sleepover on an evening when her aunt and uncle are out, someone sneaks into the house, leaving muddy footprints on the floor.  Penny isn’t sure that her aunt and uncle will believe her because they seem to like the Carruthers, so at Pete’s suggestion, she continues to spy on them, using the elevator to listen in on their conversations through the walls.


When her uncle catches her one day, using the elevator without permission (something she is not supposed to do), she finally explains her suspicions and what’s she’s heard the Carruthers say.  Together, Penny and her uncle discover a hidden secret about the wall scroll Penny recently received, which points to a number of secrets that Penny’s father kept from her and the rest of his family for years.  A stranger from the government helps Penny to fill in some of the blanks, but he has a favor to ask in return that requires Penny to take a big risk.

Mystery2 Mystery3

Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int LLC