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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Pittenweem Tolbooth East Neuk of Fife Scotland

Pittenweem Tolbooth, East Neuk of Fife, Scotland. The Tolbooth was home to one of the last and most infamous witchcraft trials in Scotland. The dark events took place in the year 1704, at a time when the Church elders were the supreme arbiters of power in Scotland, with the country a theocracy in all but name. The tragedy began innocuously enough when a local woman, Beatrix Lang, asked the blacksmith's apprentice, Patrick Morton, to make her some nails. On being informed that he was busy and would make them later, Beatrix left, muttering under her breath, which the boy took to be the issuing of a curse on him. Obviously under the power of suggestion of this, Patrick Morton took ill after a few days and stopped eating, which obviously made him worse, but not before he had spoken to the local minister, Patrick Cowper, a man who obviously had his own agenda in this case. Cowper not only encouraged the boy in his claims of witchcraft against Beatrix Lang, but also gave him the names of other villagers encouraging him to denounce them in turn.

The accused were imprisoned in the tolbooth and tortured viciously, with one of their number, Thomas Brown, starving to death in his cell. Beatrix Lang was released with a fine, but chased out of the village by the locals to die in St Andrews soon after, most likely as a result of her ill-treatment. The zenith of the barbarity of the Pittenweem witch hunt was reached when Janet Cornfoot managed to escape from the tolbooth. She did not however escape from the village, and the locals, her neighbours, dragged her to the beach, where she was beaten, pelted with stones, covered with a door which then had boulders placed on top of it and finally, after death, had a horse and carriage driven back and forth over her body.

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