Drawing by Abbie Short, James Young High School


The Calder witch hunt started in December 1643 and lasted about 18 months. At Calder all of the people who were accused of witchcraft were women. At least five of them were executed: Helen Stewart, Jonet Bruce, Agnes Bischope, Agnes Vassie and Marion Gibsone. 

Margret Thomsone was accused too and suffered horribly but was eventually ordered to be freed. Others including Isobel Ewart and Bessie Stevenson also suffered. 

Records are incomplete and more people from Calder were probably accused and executed for witchcraft but we may never know their names or what happened to them. 

Women accused of witchcraft were often tortured to make them confess. We know that people at Calder were kept in stocks, made to wear sackcloth, were sleep deprived (Margret Thomsone was kept awake for 26 days), and beaten. They were also forced to name other people as witches.

In 1644 the minister, Hew Kennedie, wrote to the minister at Carnwath to say that a woman from Calder had named women from Carnwath as witches. This led to the execution of at least four women: Katherin Shaw, Margaret Reid, Jeane Lachlane and Margaret Watson. The Calder kirk session also aided South Leith parish in trying to track down women who had escaped custody there and fled to Calder. 

Here are the stories of some of the women who were affected.