The Douglas Archives

A collection of historical and genalogical records

Witch Stories , Peter Drysdale , Jennet Douglas



On the 14th of October, Sir George Maxwell, of Pollok, and his household
were much agitated and disturbed. He had been taken suddenly and
dangerously ill, with pains which read like the pains of pleurisy; and
though he got partially well, had still some awkward symptoms remaining. A
young deaf and dumb girl, of unknown origin, signified that "there is a
woman whose son has broke his fruit yeard that did prick him in the side."
This was found to mean that Jennet Mathie, relict of John Stewart,
under-miller in Schaw Mill, had formed a wax picture with pins in its
side, which "Dumby" said was to be found in her house in a hole behind the
fire, and which she further offered to bring to them at Pollok, provided
certain two of the men servants might accompany her to protect her. The
young daughters of Sir George did not believe the story, but the two
servants, Laurence Pollok and Andrew Martine, professed themselves
converts, and insisted on seeing the thing to an end. So they went to
Jennet's house, and into the kitchen, all standing on the floor near the
fire; "when little Dumby comes quickly by, slips her hand into a hole
behind the fire, and puts into Andrew Martine's hand, beneath his cloak, a
wax picture with two pins in it," that in the right side very long, and
that in the left shorter: which corresponded with the severity of the
laird's pains. The picture was brought to Sir George; so was Jennet
Mathie, who was apprehended on the spot and whom Sir George then sent to
prison. When questioned, she denied all knowledge of the picture or the
pins, and said it was the work of the dumb girl; but on its being shown
that her son Hugh had once robbed Sir George's orchard--which was what
Dumby meant by "broke his fruit yeard"--and that Sir George, when told
that he was no longer in Pollokland, but had gone to Darnlie, had said, "I
hope my fingers may be long enough to reach him in Darnlie"--these
circumstances were held quite sufficient evidence that the Stewart family
would do the laird all the mischief they could. The prosecution wanted no
stronger proof, and the affair went on.

Jennet was obstinate, and would confess nothing; upon which they searched
her and found the devil's mark. After this, Sir George got better for a
short space, but soon the pains returned, and then the dumb girl said that
John Stewart, Jennet's eldest son, had made another clay image, four days
since, and that it was now in his house beneath the bolster among the bed
straw. So she and the servants went there again, and sure enough they
found it; but as it was only lately made, it was soft and broke in their
hands. John said simply he did not know who had put it there; but he and
his young sister Annabel were apprehended: and the next day Annabel

She said, that on the 4th of January last past, while the clay picture was
being formed, a black gentleman had come into her mother's house,
accompanied by Bessie Weir, Marjorie Craig, Margaret Jackson, and her own
brother John. When confronted with John she wavered, but John was no
nearer release for that. He was searched, and many marks were found on
him; and when found the spell of silence was broken, and he confessed his
paction with the devil as openly as his sister, giving up as their
accomplices the same women as those she had named. Of these, Margaret
Jackson, aged fourscore or so, was the only one to confess; but as she
had many witch marks she could not hope for mercy, so might as well make a
clean breast of it at once. On the 17th of January a portion of clay was
found under Jennet Mathie's bolster, in her prison at Paisley. This time
it was a woman's portrait, for Sir George had recovered by now, and the
witches were against the whole family equally. On the 27th Annabel made a
fuller deposition. She said that last harvest the devil, as a black man,
had come to her mother's house, and required her, the deponent, to give
herself to him; promising that she should want for nothing good if she
did. She, being enticed by her mother and Bessie Weir, did as was
desired--putting one hand on the crown of her head, and another on the
soles of her feet, and giving over to him all that lay between; whereupon
her mother promised her a new coat, and the devil made her officer at
their several meetings. He gave her, too, such a nip on the arm that she
was sore for half an hour after, and gave her a new name--Annippy, or an
Ape according to Law. Her mother's devil-name was Lands-lady; Bessie Weir
was called Sopha; Marjorie Craig was Rigeru; Margaret Jackson Locas; John
Stewart, Jonas; and they were all present at the making of the clay image
which was to doom Sir George to death. They made it of clay, then bound it
on a spit and turned it before the fire, "Sopha" crying "Sir George
Maxwell! Sir George Maxwell!" which was repeated by them all. Another
time, she said, there was a meeting, when the devil was dressed in "black
cloathes and a blew band, and white hand cuffs, with hoggers on his feet,
and that his feet were cloven." The black man stuck the pins into the
picture, and his name was Ejoall, or J. Jewell. For the devil delighted in
giving himself various names, as when he caused himself to be called
Peter Drysdale, by Catherine Sands and Laurie Moir, and Peter Saleway by

John now followed suit. He confessed to his own baptism; to the hoggers on
the black man's legs, who had no shoes, and spoke in a voice hollow and
ghousty; to the making the clay image; and to his new name of Jonas. On
the 15th of February, 1677, John Stewart, Annabel Stewart, and Margaret
Jackson all adhered to these depositions, but Jennet and Bessie and
Margerie denied them. Jennet's feet were fixed in stocks, so that she
might not do violence to her own life: and one day her gaoler declared
that he had found her bolster, which the night before was laid at least
si Jennet Douglasx yards from the stocks, now placed beneath her; the stocks being so
heavy that two of the strongest men in the country could hardly have
carried them six yards. He asked her "how she had win to the bolster," and
she answered that she had crept along the floor of the room, dragging the
stocks with her. Before the court she said that she had got one foot out
of the hole, and had drawn the stocks with her, "a thing altogether
impossible." Then John and Annabel exhorted their mother to confess,
reminding her of all the meetings which she had had with the devil in her
own house, and that "a summer's day would not be sufficient to relate what
passages had been between the devil and her." But Jennet Mathie was a
stern, brave, high-hearted Scotch woman, and would not seal her sorrow
with a lie. "Nothing could prevail with her obdured and hardened heart,"
so she and all, save young Annabel, were burnt; and when she was bound to
the stake, the spectators saw after a while a black, pitchy ball foam out
of her mouth, which, after the fire was kindled, grew to the size of a
walnut, and flew out into sparks like squibs. This was the devil leaving
her. As for Bessie Weir, or Sopha, the devil left her when she was
executed, in the form of a raven; for so he owned and dishonoured his
chosen ones.

"The dumbe girl, Jennet Douglas, now speaks well, and knows Latine, which
she never learned, and discovers things past!" says Sinclair. But she
still followed her old trade. She had mesmeric visions, and was evidently
a "sensitive;" and some of the people believed in her, as inspired and
divine, and some came, perhaps mockingly, to test her. But they generally
got the worst off, and were glad to leave her alone again. One woman came
and asked her "'how she came to the knowledge of so many things,' but the
young wench shifted her, by asking the woman's name. She told her name.
Says the other, 'Are there any other in Glasgow of that name?' 'No!' sayes
the woman. 'Then,' said the girle, 'you are a witch!' Says the other,
'Then are you a devil!' The girl answers 'The devil doth not reveal
witches; but I know you to be one, and I know your practices too.' On
which the poor woman ran away in great confusion;" as, indeed, she
might--such an accusation as this being quite sufficient to sign her
death-warrant. To another woman who came to see and question her, she said
the same thing; taking her arm, and showing the landlord a secret mark
which she told him the woman had got from the devil. "The poor woman much
ashamed ran home, and a little while after she came out and told her
neighbours that what Jennet Douglas had said of her was true, and
earnestly entreated that they might show so much to the magistrates, that
she might be apprehended, otherwise the devil says she will make me kill
myself." The neighbours were wise enough to think her mad, as she was, and
took her home; but the next day she was found drowned in the Clyde; fear
and despair had killed her before the stake-wood had had time to root and
ripen. The dumb girl herself was afterwards carried before the great
council at Edinburgh, imprisoned, scourged through the town, and then
banished to "some forraigne Plantation," whence she reappears no more to
vex her generation. God forgive her! She has passed long years ago to her
account, and may her guilty soul be saved, and all its burning
blood-stains cleansed and assoilzed!

Add a Comment

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Comment by Russell Lynn Drysdale on March 30, 2019 at 0:29

Very Interesting .... Dirty deal in the end tho ....

Comment by William Douglas on March 27, 2019 at 19:22

Making conections

The more information you can give about the people you mention, the more chance there is of someone else connecting with your family.

Dates and places of births, deaths and marriages all help to place families.

Professions also help.

'My great-grandmother mother was a Douglas from Montrose' does not give many clues to follow up! But a bit of flesh on the bones makes further research possible. But if we are told who she married, what his profession was and where the children were baptised, then we can get to work.

Maybe it is time to update the information in your profile?

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