The Last Witch to be Burnt in Perthshire

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Along the A822 road past Crieff and then Gilmerton, shortly past here is a small road to Monzie and the Glenturret Distillery or Famous Grouse Experience. Go on this road and after a just a coupla hundred yards you’ll see the large old gatehouse for Monzie Castle on the left. Ask at the gatehouse and they’ll point you to the stone—in the field about 300 yards past the Monzie stone circle, 200 yards past the gatehouse itself.  You can’t really miss it!

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Pity poor Kate McNiven, for her fate was a terrible one.

Kate was a nurse at nearby Monzie Castle, and was a well known healer, who – amongst other things – could turn herself into a bee.

She must have fallen out with someone at the castle, as before long she was being accused as a witch. Kate was seized, taken up a very steep hill known as the Knock of Crieff to the north of the town, forced into a barrel and rolled down the side. The slope down which she was pushed is now called Kate McNiven’s Craig.

If that wasn’t enough, she was then dragged out of the barrel and set alight (just to make sure, presumably)…

The Witches Stone – on the site of Kates burning. In reality it is a prehistoric standing stone and thousands of years older than the legend of Kate McNiven

One of the Grahams of Inchbrackie (which is a neighbouring property) tried to save Kate, but to no avail. In gratitude she spat out of her mouth a bead into Graham’s hand – which on closer examination turned out to be a sapphire from a ring. Kate told Graham that as long as his family kept the bead they would prosper (in truth, they may have but Inchbrackie Castle has gone and the lands were sold in 1882).

Before McNiven was burnt she cursed the Laird of Monzie and the Village of Monzie itself.

From father to son, Monzie shall never pass; no heir of line should ever hold the lands now held by him

She then proceeded to curse the Kirktoun of Monzie;

In future years, its size and population should decrease, it should hold no share in all the growing prosperity of the surrounding towns, and ever by some hearth amidst its cottage homes there should crawl an idiot with lolling tongue and rolling eyes.

There is a modern-day rhyme in the village of Monzie that regards Nevin;

As long as the Shaggie rins crookit and bent
there’ll be a Witch o Mon-ie
And she’ll ne’er be kent

I don’t know why she didn’t just turn herself into a bee and buzz off!

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17 thoughts on “The Last Witch to be Burnt in Perthshire

  1. The first image is so atmospheric. We must have passed close by here a couple of years ago after visiting Drummond Castle gardens. Sounds as though she got quite cross about it all 🙂

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  2. Well, poor Kate! but neat photos and a good tale! I would’ve felt a little jumpy, visiting on a foggy morning. And the surrounding fields are green, but the grass around the rock appears to be dead, hmm.
    When I was a kid, we used to roll each other down the slope in front of my grandmother’s house, in cardboard boxes, though, not barrels, so we didn’t get going too fast. And we weren’t allowed matches! But there were always bees, come to think of it! 🙂

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    • Amazing how many witches were executed just in Britain… 2000 I read somewhere and the vast majority are forgotten. Then there are the other countries – you had Salem and others. I am guessing if you fell out with someone 400 years ago beware! The hill poor Kate was rolled down is about 1000 ft high, and steep. I am surprised she was alive when she was pulled from the barrel…

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      • Who would ever dream up such a bizarre punishment. Hard to believe all those people were tortured and executed, One person at the Salem trials refused to plead, guilty or innocent, so they piled rocks on him, over the course of three days, until he was crushed.

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      • There were several witches in the next village to us, Timble. They were sent to trial twice and remarkably, on both occasions were found innocent – very, very lucky I would say. I don’t think it happened very often. I am writing a piece for a magazine about them and will do a blog post shortly too.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: The Last Witch to be Burnt in Perthshire ~ James Elkington | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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