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A Witch's Execution

This is about Elspeth McEwen from Dalry, who was found guilty of being a witch. As a punishment she was burned to death. She was the last witch to be killed in Scotland. This happened only 300 years ago.

A Witch's Execution
  • A witch's execution
  • 1698
  • Kirkcudbright, Kirkcudbrightshire
  • The Kirkcudbright Burgh Treasurer's accounts for the burning of Elspeth McEwen from Dalry, condemned as a witch in 1698. She was one of the last witches to be executed in Scotland.

These accounts of the Kirkcudbright Burgh Treasurer record the expenses involved in the execution of Elspeth McEwen, who was executed at Silvercraigs, a hillside overlooking Kirkcudbright, on August 24th 1698.

Elspeth McEwen lived alone at Bogha in Balmaclellan parish, Kirkcudbrightshire. She was accused of drawing off milk from her neighbour's cows with a magical wooden pin, and interfering with the hens' egg laying.

Examined at Dalry Kirk session, she was sent to Kirkcudbright for civil trial, charged with witchcraft. Found guilty, by her own confession and the evidence of witnesses, this poor, almost certainly innocent, old woman was sentenced to death by burning.

The accounts record in meticulous detail the costs involved in the execution, from the "peits to burn Elspet with" to the "ane pint of aill to William Kirk qn [when] she was burning". [William Kirk was the executioner].

In the collection of The Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright.

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The Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright

The Stewartry Museum
St Mary Street

Tel: 01557 331643
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Contact Dumfries and Galloway Council T: 030 33 33 3000

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