A tale of three Fife witches

Martin Boyle will reveal that local witnches in the 17th century were not the steretypical witches we picture today with black cloaks and broomsticks.
Martin Boyle will reveal that local witnches in the 17th century were not the steretypical witches we picture today with black cloaks and broomsticks.

The story of two 17th century witches from Kirkcaldy who made predictions and put curses on townsfolk is just one of the tales featuring in a talk at Kirkcaldy Galleries this week.

Martin Boyle, collections support assistant at the Galleries, is giving a talk on Fife Witches on Thursday (October 25) at 5.30pm.

Martin Boyle, collections support assistant at Kirkcaldy Galleries, is giving a talk on Fife Witches at the galleries on Ocober 25, 2018.

Martin Boyle, collections support assistant at Kirkcaldy Galleries, is giving a talk on Fife Witches at the galleries on Ocober 25, 2018.

Martin has researched the story of witches in the Kingdom and he is concentrating on telling the story of three cases from the 17th century.

The first tale is that of married couple William and Alison Coke who lived in Kirkcaldy in 1621.

Martin said: “This was a very early case of witches in Fife and they were just a nuisance. They went around town making predictions and their predictions came true.

“But they begged on the streets and threatened people with curses. They were also blamed for a lot of ships sinking.”

He continued: “They confessed before the witch-finder could bring them before a commission and they were burned to death in tar barrels.”

The second case he examines is that of Margaret Henderson from Fordell near Inverkeithing – one of 17 witches discovered in the area at around 1647.

She was accused of witchcraft and convicted and committed suicide in jail. Her body is buried in the kirkyard at Inverkeithing.

The third is that of Beatrice Laing.

Martin said: “She asked a guy in Pittenweem for a bucket of nails and he refused to sell them to her. As she walked away he saw her mumbling. He started to feel ill over the next couple of days and believed she had put a curse on him. She got away with a fine in the end.”

At this time there were accusations of witchcraft everywhere, with another woman Janet Cornfoot, being imprisoned in Pittenweem Tolbooth. She was eventually tortured to death.

Martin added: “These were not witches as most people would think of today (with broomsticks and green make up) they were ordinary people. These are just some of the many cases of witches in Fife that can be found in Fife’s archives.”

Tickets priced £3 from onFife.com