Sunday, 26 April 2015

Waters of Death and Tales of Bridges

An earlier entry in this blog mentioned the unsavoury reputation of the Water of Dean, a waterway which demanded (according to one version of the legend) a human life every seven years.  The burn was not the only stream in the region with a bad reputation.  Both North and South Esks had resident kelpies, as we have seen, and these were perhaps viewed as the supernatural personifications of more ancient, nameless protective entities which resided at one time within the coursing rivers.
    If we venture west along Strathmore, into Perthshire, we might have to cross the River Ericht at or near Blairgowrie.  A rhyme I remember gives this warning about the river:

                                     The River Ericht, bright and clear,
                                     taks a body every year.

    Of course, life seeking rivers are not unique to our area.  In Aberdeenshire, the Dee had an unhealthy appetite for humans, while its neighbour was more benevolent:

                                     Bloodthirsty Dee
                                     each year needs three;
                                     but bonny Don
                                     she needs none.

    Sir Walter Scott wrote about the murderous proclivities of the River Tweed, and the same tale is even told of certain rivers in England.  The legend, or the suspicion that some rivers, burns, streams are inherently bad may well be very ancient.  It is always tempting, though mostly misleading, to believe that certain bits of folklore have devolved from ancient Celtic and even pre-Celtic times, but in this case it might well be true.

    Sometimes certain rivers actively attempted to prevent mere humans from attempting to thwart their natural appetites by the means of building bridges.  The old North Water Bridge over the North Esk was built, allegedly, as the result of a supernatural visitation.  The person who had the vision was someone who should perhaps have been immune to such superstitious encounters.  He was John Erskine, 5th Laird of Dun (1509-1591), a 16th century reformer and a friend of the redoubtable John Knox.  In later life he was Moderator of the General Assembly, and he was also (as Religious Superintendent of Angus and the Mearns) zealous in rooting out witches in the area.  But Erskine also had a violent side.  He had to flee to exile in Europe after murdering a Catholic priest named Froster in the old steeple of Montrose church. 
    One day Erskine was walking in a troubled state along the banks of the North Esk (according to a story in the Old Statistical Account).  The previous night he had experienced an awful dream in which some being announced he would find no peace after death unless he constructed a bridge across the river at a place called Stormy Grain, where three waters run into one. (Places where two or more living waters combined were seen as dangerous.) The reformer woke up from his solemn day dream and realised he had no idea exactly where he was.  He asked a passer by and was informed that this spot was called Stormy Grain.  Impressed, Erskine soon started planning and building the bridge.  But the river spirits were against it and the foundations were washed away by a spate in the river.  When a second attempt was well advanced, the jealous river again destroyed the work.  The laird became melancholic and took to his bed in despair.  One day he saw a spider trying to make its web above his bed.  Twice it failed, but on the third attempt its web was completed.  This example gave Erskine heart (as it had done to Robert Bruce before him) and he ordered work on the bridge to be started again.  This time the bridge was built.

    The Gannochy Bridge, near Edzell, was built in 1732 at the expense of James Black, tenant farmer of Wood of Edzell.  Local farmers had long been troubled by the round about roads and decided they needed a bridge, though most of them could not afford to contribute.  Black, however, was wealthy and without wife or family.  The locals knew that Black was also very superstitious, so they decided to manipulate him.  During the winter of 1731, several people had been drowned in the North Esk.  For three successive nights, Black was visited by a drowned 'ghost', actually a farmer in disguise, who told the appalled Black that unless he personally funded a bridge, more people would surely perish.  Black built the bridge to supernatural order, exactly where the wraith ordered it to be placed.

    There are snippets of other 'bridge lore' in the region (but sadly, no other full blown tales).  The bridge across the River Isla at Ruthven was said to have been built by Lady Crighton as a punishment for killing her coachman.  Nearby, the bridge over the 'dowie' Dean at Cardean was locally believed to have been built by the Roman army.  When a hapless improver named Admiral Popham took it upon himself to build a new an improved edifice, the locals still used the old bridge, so the spiteful Admiral had the ancient monument blown up, an act which would now have rightfully landed him in prison.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Graveyard Ghost and The Lochee Bloke

For this latest post, we stray ever so slightly over the western border of Angus into Perthshire.  But hopefully this little gem of a story is sufficiently worthwhile for the transgression to be forgivable.

     The anecdote comes from 'The Courier' on 17th November 1873 and is headed 'A Lochee Ghost Story'. According to the report, a young man from Lochee (in the west of Dundee) had been attending a ball in the village of Liff, several miles away.  When it was over, he was accompanying his sweetheart home and she decided to visit her parents, who stayed nearby, despite the fact that it was very late at night.  The parents' house was near the kirkyard and the couple unwisely crossed this place on their journey.  Soon they encountered a ghostly spectacle, a looming figure described as resembling one of the 'sheeted dead'.  It blocked their way on the road, holding a lighted candle in one hand and a long pole in the other hand.
    The girl screamed and clung onto her boyfriend.  The young lad was at first lost for words, but at last managed to summon up the strength to address the apparition, and he spoke to it (in primeVictorian fashion):
    'This is a fine night, sir.'
    But the bogle was immune to such a mannerly comment.  (I suspect that the boyfriend's words might have been a bit more fruity if the incident had happened in the present day.)  The only noise the un-dead creature made was a mere squeak.  As the couple were rooted to the spot in fear, the ghost grew larger and then levitated to the menacing height of twelve feet.  Then it crashed down to the ground with a terrific force and disappeared in a twinkling light.  The young maiden promptly fainted into the arms of her swain, who carried her to her mother's house nearby.

    And, that being the end of the report, we will never know who the ghost was or what it hoped to achieve by scaring the wits out of the poor young courting couple.

    But the antics of the unreal being bears some passing similarity to a ghost which appeared not many miles away at Invergowrie, according to a correspondent who contacted 'The Courier'.  The paper printed the tale on 31st January 1891:

                          A ghost has made its appearance at Invergowrie, and is causing
                          much perturbation by the antics it is carrying on.  This is not a
                          sham but a real ghost.  It can salaam to its victim, almost
                          touching the ground, and then raise itself up ten or twelve feet.
                          It has a bare skull, and burns a blue light in its mouth, emitting
                          a sulphurous smell, and rattles its bones in such a way as to strike
                          terror to the heart of its victim.  But retribution is at hand. 
                          Fathers and mothers are vowing vengeance.  Traps are being laid,
                          and the ghost's heid is to be split. Disappear, Mr Ghost, while
                          there is yet time!

Ghost stories, like everything else, has their cycles of different fashions in different ages.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Witchcraft in Brechin

While the records of 17th century witchcraft in Forfar have become the most famous records of a dark period in local history (and have been successfully marketed as such), other less known records are also fascinating.
    Brechin Prebytery conducted a number of trials in 1649 and 1650.  On 2nd January 1649, it heard that David Crystie had sworn on his deathbed to the minister and others 'that he thought he had gotten wrang be Marat Merchant'.  Trouble between neighbours seems to have swiftly led to accusations of supernatural threats and slander, as in many other cases.  Here the matter began when Marat and her husband James Clark, who lived at Balfield of Clochie, decided to leave their home at the end of their feeing time.  They moved next door and the first house was given to David Crystie.  Bad feeling began when they changed their min and wanted to move back to their original house, but were unable to do so.  Marat allegedly made David ill by blowing in his face, and when he apologised for occupying their house, the couple shouted curses at him.
    The dispute possibly led to more widespread unpopularity for the couple, fuel for their future downfall.  When the local miller refused to grind the couple's corn he found that suddenly he could not lift up the millstone, not even when he enlisted the help of four others.  When a man named David Bellie saw Marat grazing her sheep on his hillside, the grass dramatically caught fire and he rushed towards her.  His brother, who was standing nearer Marat (and who had possibly first seen her), was frozen to the spot until David arrived.
    Other accusations accumulated.  Marat caused the death of cattle and sheep, sometimes by employing a magic cloth, and she caused ewe's milk to turn bloody.  John Webster of Barnyards said that he saw his cows transfixed all day outside the woman's house.  When David Mudie's wife left the house one day, she reminded him to let out the cows.  But soon afterwards Marat came to the door and said she had come to put out the cattle.  David called her a common thief, but he was struck with paralysis and unable to rise out of bed.  Eight days later he died 'in a high rage'.
    John Mertain, who was a herdsman in Craigendowie, Glen Lethnot, unwisely struck Marat's daughter.  The witch informed him, 'Because ye have struck my daughter, I shall keep thee.  You shall not thrive this year, nor win your fie.'  John subsequently became careless in his work, letting the cattle feed in the cornfield, and he began striking the animals.  His master beat him up and sent him away between terms, without his fee.

    Marat Merchant made her confession at Menmuir on the 19th March:

                               1st.  She confessed...that at a certyn tym, when shee was going to...
                               Brechin  with chopins of milk, she met with the Divell in the
                               common the LucifersLogh, and that he lay with her their.
                               2nd.  Confessed that the Divell bade her meet him there agan.
                               3rd...that he caused her renounce her baptisme, and called her by
                               name Jonat Archbald.
                               4th...that the Divell promised that at the naming of Peter and Paul
                               milk should come from other Kye to her Kowe's Edder.
                               5th...that shee practised the same by taking away John Archbald
                               and Thomas Trotter's kye's milk, both in the muir of Balrounie;
                               nixt, John Mertin and John Brand's key's milk, both in Dykehead.
                               6th...that shee was David Crystie's death by spitting in his face;
                               and when shee was askd what evil that would doe, shee answerd
                               much ill if ye knew it.
    The seven witnesses against Elspit Gray, a suspect from Balwyllo, came before the Presbytery in September 1650.  It was said that Elspit lit four fires in her barn and 'did cast sum great salt' in them as part of a magic ritual.  A man who argued with her became ill and died, as did a miller who accused her of stealing.  A man whom she had employed went off to work for the Laird of Dun.  He afterwards suffered hot and cold flushes and someone assured him that his illness was caused by the witch roasting his image.  The Prebytery was told that Elspit Gray had been under a 'reigneing brute', or demon, for twelve years.
    A witch called Finlayson lived at Auchmull in Glen Esk.  A Mearns man, named Robert Bruce, suspected that fatalities in his cattle were caused by her.  He threatened that he would have her burnt as a witch.  There were no more deaths in his herd.
    Isobel Reany, of Magdalen Chapell, confessed that she had brought 'South-running watter' to Marat Forbes, but denied seeking  any 'secret thing' from her in return.  She was referred back to the session of Brechin.  On 11th April 1649, Thomas Humball, Navar, was cited for consulting the witch Marat Gold  in order to charm his animals.  He was ordained to appear in the kirks of Navar and Lethnot.  Isobel Fordell also consulted the same witch.
    Some victims fought back.  Janet Coupar complained to the Presbytery on 25th November 1649, that some people were calling her a witch.  This complaint led to her destruction.  She was asked if she objected to any witnesses saying anything they knew to be true:  she said she did not.  Isobel Kidd claimed that Janet had come to her house three years ago on Holy Rood Day (the old Celtic Beltane) and made her ill through a ritual which involved stroking her thigh.  When Isobel Murison had her side stroked by the accused, her new born infant lived only a further eight days.  Catherine Davidson's ale went sour, and Bessie Stiel's milk turned bloody.  One witness saw 'a branded dog meet Jonat Coupar whill shee was going alongst the bridge of Brechin, and that he lap upon her, but culd not tell  if shee kissed the Dog or not'.  Helen Kerr also saw Janet with the dog in the same place, and heard Janet ask the beast, 'What now, gossop?'  When Janet was asked who owned the dog, she replied cryptically, 'He would get a maister after noone.'
    Janet Coupar was imprisoned in Brechin Gaol.  When she was there, an unexplained fire broke out in her cell, which had neither hearth nor candle.  A fight erupted in the town, during which some local men were injured and a soldier killed.  In her confession, Janet claimed that she had known the Devil for around four years.  Her first meeting with him happened when she was on her way to the mill.  Catherine Skair and Catherine Walker told her to go down a certain lane, where she saw Satan and lay with him.  She then went on to the mill, and on her return journey had sex with the Devil again in the same place.  She affirmed that the greyhound on Brechin Bridge was actually Satan in disguise. On one occasion it followed her home and slept with her, in the guise of a man.  The Devil caused her to renounce her baptism and call herself Nikkie Clerk.
    Catherine Skair was brought to trial because of the confession.  It was heard that, after an argument with William Young, his son died.  She had cast some water from a well on a field at Careston for some, presumably magical purpose.  When David Daikens shot his gun over the hear of one of Catherine's sons, she informed him that it would be a 'dair stroke to him'.  He soon became ill.  A woman she also bewitched became sick on the eve of the Holy Rood.
   Catherine said that her familiar spirit appeared to her as a big, round-headed cat.  At first she 'boasted it away'.  But the creature told her, 'Let me be, ye shall not be the worse of me.'  Afterwards this spirits was sometime a cat and sometimes a dog.  One night as she was making her bed it appeared, 'and bade her mak that bed weill, and I and ye must lye in it this night'.  But a soldier came to the house and the spirit disappeared for three or four nights.  When she eventually slept with the demon she found it very cold.  She stated that she fed it in her kitchen with bread and drops of milk.
    When an ex-soldier, John Tullo, stayed in the house and lent Catherine and her husband £100, they refused to pay it back when Tullo asked for it.  The familiar spirit appeared and instructed her to kill the man with 'plumb Damouses' and sugar.  Tullo died and the couple kept his money, less the £10 it cost to bury him.  The obliging demon also provided Catherine with money.  In her confession, Catherine named several 'wyse folk' in her area. 
    Another accused woman was Catherine Lyall, whose supposed crimes generally follow the pattern of the others:  she caused the death of a woman and a horse; a cow produced bad milk at her bidding; the Mill of Dun burned down through her supernatural ill-will.  But the most remarkable thing about her case was the sinking of Thomas Scott's ship.  A woman named Isobel Simpson saw Catherine on the winter day when the vessel left port.  She was sitting within the tidemark - a notorious supernatural border region, being neither land nor sea - and she was staring hard at the waves.  When Isobel and her companion enquired what she was doing, Catherine said that she was keeping sheep.  This bizarre statement takes a while to comprehend, and is not otherwise explained in the testimony.  What could Catherine have meant?  To my knowledge, there is no recorded Scottish supernatural tradition explaining why sheep should be living in the sea.  But there is a tantalising connection, further down the coast past Dundee, where the famous and prophetic Goors of Gowrie, standing stones which somehow ended up in the River Tay at Invergowrie, had the alternative name of the Yowes - Ewes - of Gowrie.  Tradition said that these stones got nearer to land each year.
    Catherine was seen again on the shore when a crowd had gathered to watch Alexander Reid bring back Thomas Scott's new ship.  Asked what she was doing, Catherine commented, to their confusion, that she was keeping sheep.  Shortly afterwards, the ship foundered, drowning everyone on board.  Catherine confessed that she had sunk the ship, and said that Satan, the 'Foull Thief', visited her.  Her gripped her body unkindly, causing her to pull away from his embrace.  When she was asked by officials how a human and a spirit could co-join, she answered that she was strong in nature.  In her confession, Catherine also implicated other witches.

    The last witch to appear at this time in Brechin Presbytery records was Catherine Walker.  It was recorded that she had kicked a man named Beattie in the groin and he afterwards died.  Another man received similar treatment, then a child and some cattle also perished.  While she was held in prison, a guard stated that she had stared into a corner of her cell and muttered a spell:  'Here I cast a compass, there I cast a compass.'  The Devil appeared to her there and lulled her gently to sleep.
    Catherine knew that a confession meant her death and she vowed to her friends that she would never give one.  She swore that, if she was executed, some people in Brechin would suffer greatly two days later.  She remarked, reasonably, that some townsfolk were like swine and should be locked up in prison with her.  Several witnesses swore that her prayers brought an infection to the town.  One man spoke vaguely that he had seen Satan with her, shaped either like a cat or a dog. 
    It is highly likely that most, if not all of these women were tortured and killed, though several others examined sometimes survived. One woman, named Janet Sym, had her case examined by a committee who reported that the evidence against her was insufficient.  None of the Glen Esk charmers seem to have suffered the ultimate penalty.

Monday, 6 April 2015


The most famous Kelpies - or Water Horses - in the county of Angus lived in the sister rivers, the North and South Esk.  The favourite haunt of the North Esk Kelpie was the Ponnage (Pontage or Ferry) Pool, a fortunate spot where it could take advantage of human traffic  and drown those unfortunate people who fell into the water when the ferry boat overturned.  Once the Laird of Morphie captured this supernatural beast by throwing a pair of branks over its neck.  He then used the creature to carry stones for his new house and power his mill on the Mearns side of the river.  When the work was completed, Graham of Morphie freed his slave.  As the Kelpie dived back into its watery abode, it pronounced a curse upon its tormentor:

                                              Sair back and sair banes,
                                              drivin' the Laird o' Morphie's stanes:
                                              the Laird o' Morphie'll never thrive
                                              as lang's the Kelpie is alive!

    Another Kelpie haunted the River Isla and also the 'dowie' Dean Water, terrifying people by rushing up and down both waterways, roaring like thunder.  He once overturned the Isla ferry at Crathies, but was captured by the farmer at Balmyle, who made him clear his field of stones.  Capture and enforced manual labour was obviously an occupational hazard for Kelpies.  Upon his liberation this Kelpie uttered the familiar refrain:

                                               Sair back and sair banes,
                                               carryin' auld Bawmyle's stanes.

    The North Esk Kelpie was sometimes seen in Glen Lethnot's West Water, near Craigendowie.  The North Esk was apparently also haunted by an Urisk, an odd being sometimes described as halfway between a goat and a human being, or else likened to a kind of wild man of the woods.
    The South Esk Kelpie favoured a spot at the confluence of the Esk, Posen Water and Quharity Burn:

                                                The Water o' Prosen, Esk, an' Carity
                                                meet a' at the birken buss o' Inverquharity.

    This Kelpie is said to have built the old Shielhill Bridge, and he was so proud of it that he set up a carved image of his own head on the structure.
    The Noran Water, a tributary of the South Esk, had a particularly nasty Kelpie.  When a person fell into the river the Water-Horse lured away any rescuers by calling out from a distance, 'A' the men of Waterstone!  Come here!  Come here!', causing enough of a diversion to ensure that the endangered person drowned.  There is a place in the Noran Water called Tammy's Pot commemorating a drowned child, who was possibly one of this Kelpie's victims.  Close by this pool is a flat rock with a strange hollow in it, known as the Kelpie's Footmark.  It was formed when the river was raging in full spate and the Kelpie leapt around the rocks, lustily calling out for human blood.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

William Wallace Was A Dundee Schoolboy

    Or was he?

    The poet Blind Harry said that the young, future rebel Wallace went to grammar school in Dundee (probably around the year 1291) while he was living with his mother and uncle at Kilspindie in the Carse of Gowrie.  One day the foppish son of the town's English governor Selbie accosted young Wallace outside Dundee castle and mocked his suit of 'gemming green'.  When he then demanded that the young Scot hand over his knife, William refused.  Selbie grabbed his collar and shook him violently, whereupon Wallace stabbed him dead.  He fled west out of town on 'cleanly clever heels', hotly pursued by Selbie's associates.  He sat down to rest on a stone meal-kist at Longforgan and was taken in by the inhabitants of a cottage, a couple named Smith.  When some English troopers burst into the house they found an outlandish, apparently female, figure busy at the spinning wheel, all covered in fluff.  When they left William Wallace threw off his disguise and fled to his uncle's house at Kilspindie.
    This story was recorded in the 19th century by James Cox, Provost of Dundee, who heard it from Rachel Smith, a descendant of the Longforgan couple.  After her family left the village in 1862 the meal-kist was given to the owner of Castle Huntly and later ended up in Dundee Museum.

    Despite the original literary provenance of the association with Dundee, Wallace was a west coast boy, and it seems slightly doubtful that he would have relocated to Dundee.  But the story lingered in the area and was elaborated through the years.  The folk hero apparently left behind his name at Wallace's Trenches, on Clatto Hill, supposed site of the hero's encampment which he used before besieging Dundee Castle.
    A mile to the north is Fallow's Mill, where a local rhyme remembered him securing provisions:

                                     Wallace pitched his camp on Clatto Hill,
                                      and ground his corn at Philaw's Mill.

    A short distance away was Auchterhouse Castle, which was home in 1296 to Wallace's ally Sir John Ramsay.  Ramsay captured Perth from the English in the Wars of Independence and slaughtered two thousand of its English garrison.  Sir John met Wallace when he returned from exile in Europe.  Embaring at Montrose, Wallace accompanied Ramsay back to Auchterhouse, then they went on to capture Perth for a second time.  In the grounds of the present house at Auchterhouse is the ruin of an old building called Wallace's Tower.


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Dundee Ghosts In The 1920s

While I think you should always be doubly cautious when you come across newspaper stories of ghosts, whether they are vintage or contemporary, some reported tales are too good or too intriguing to be entirely ignored.  Such is the case of the ghost which appeared in  Dundee, near the Craigie Quarries in 1927.  The Evening Telegraph, on 27 September, reported that spectral white figures had been seen in the area, which led to women and children collapsing.  One 17 year old youth stated that he saw two figures jump into the quarry, issuing odd sounds.

    The Tele let rip with a tantalising headline the next evening:
    '5000 hunt Dundee "ghosts".  Evening search at Craigie Quarries.'
    According to the story:

                          What the Residents Think:  A "ghost" hunt on a large scale took place in
                           Dundee last night, when over 5000 people of all ages went in search of
                           the "spooks" which have been appearing near Craigie Quarries.  The
                           crowd gathered early in the evening, intent on laying the "ghost" or
                           "ghosts" which have been causing such terror in the district.  Nothing,
                           however, manifested itself, and although the crowd gradually dispersed,
                           it was steadily joined by fresh arrivals.

                           Throughout the evening and up to late hour the crowd scoured the
                           environs of Dalkeith Road and the quarries, but apparently the "game"
                           which they were after thought better of it than put in an appearance.
                            Further instances of what had taken place was given by several
                            persons who had been previously alarmed by the strange happenings.
                            When coming home from evening School one night, a youth  was
                            greatly disturbed the sight of a white pony in one of the fields, on which
                            was mounted a ghostly figure.  There are a number of ponies grazing in a
                            field nearby.
                            Residents in the district have been greatly troubled by these unusual
                            ongoings, but according to many they would rather have the "ghosts"
                            than the crowd which gathered last night.  A white sheet has been
                            observed by more than one person lying on the high ground near the
                            quarries.  It is possibly part of the equipment of the "ghosts".  The
                            sheet has been lying for several days.  Armed with lamps, torches,
                            and even a miniature searchlight, the crowd surged over all the
                            waste ground in the vicinity, but failed to unearth anything of an
                            unusual nature.

    The next day the paper reported that a crowd of between 2000 and 3000 visited the area, but  the ghost again failed to appear.  By the third night the numbers were down to a few hundred, much to the relief of local residents.  Whether the ghost was actually a denizen of the nearby Eastern Cemetery is unknown.
    One of the more interesting factors here is that the same period saw an outcrop of similar hauntings (or instances of mass hysteria) the length and breadth of Great Britain, from Markinch to Warrington.
(For further details, consult The Magnolia Blog:

    Must have been something in the ether, or the water, that year.



Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Early Records of Witchcraft

One of the earliest records of witchcraft in Angus comes from Arbroath and gives an insight into the motivation of those who accused others of abusing supernatural powers.  On 26 November 1563 it was recorded that:

                            The qlk day it is found by the buileyeis and court that Richart Brown sall
                             pass to the chapel the morne, and ask Jonat Cary and Jhon Ramsay her
                             son forgyffnes for calling her ane shoe witch, and him ane he witch; and
                             the said Jhon Ramsay sall ask the said Richart forgyffnes for calling him
                             thief carll.

   Another case of probable neighbourly bickering and slander was noted here on 28 July 1564, when George Hallis appeared before the local authorities and  said 'gif there was ony sic thing as ane witch Jonat Lam was ane, and James Davis affirmit the samin'. The matter was passed to an assize due to convene fifteen days later, but there is no surviving record of that meeting.
   The Protestant Parliament of 1563 decided to take more severe action against witches and those who consulted them, so witches now faced the death penalty.  When the Regent of Scotland, the Earl of Moray, visited Dundee in July 1569 he 'causit burn ane company of witches'.  John Erskine of Dun, religious superintendent of Angus, led a witch hunt through the county and neighbouring Mearns  in 1568-9, leading to at least forty accusations.

   Witchcraft accusations increased dramatically in  the 17th century.  Around 1630 several Monifieth women were excommunicated and punished from the parish for 'charming and witchcrafte'.  During the next decade Auchterhouse kirk session noted 'the pregnant scandal of witches in this part of the land', and 'supplicat the Lord therefore that he would enlighten and enclyne ministers and people, and enflame their hearts with more zeal to God and love his truth...'  In Auchterhouse there was another case of domestic, dangerous slander when, on 27 September  1646, Isabel Gall of Leoch declared that a woman named Janet Thomson (who was a servant of Robert Turnbull) had slandered her by calling her a witch and a thief.
   In 1649 local ministers attended 'the committee appointed by the provisional assemblie for the trial of witches and charmers'.  The perceived problem of witchcraft was obviously gathering momentum again.  In this same year the Presbytery of Brechin dealt with a number of male diviners from Glen Esk.  One was the charmer John Donaldson, who had already been punished by Lochlee kirk session.  Called to give evidence he admitted 'charming in casting the Shemfur', which was possibly a form of divination employing shears and a sieve.  Donaldson named others who also used this method:  John Crystison, Thomas Bowman, Johns Shanks, Alexander Davidson.  The Presbytery was unhappy with the depth and quality of his confession, 'because it is not so ample as that given his minister'.
   On 6 June 1650 the 'Lochlie Charmers; Crystison, Shanks and Thomas Kyneir were sharply reprimanded for casting the Shemfur.  They were ordered to appear in sackcloth before the congregation of Lochlee until the minister was satisfied that they had repented.'
   Meanwhile, Auchterhouse continued to root out offenders.  On 2 July 1650:

                                Janet Fyffe  made her public repentance before the pulpit for
                                learning Mrs Robertson to charm her child, and whereas Mrs
                                Mrs Robertson to charm her child, and whereas Mrs Robertson
                                should have done the same, it pleased the Lord before that time to
                                call upon her by death.

   The above action may have been the result of the minister's previous plea, on 6 January 1650, when he asked members of his session 'to make a search everywhere in their own quarters if they know any witches or charmers...and delate them to the next session'.