ACCUSED witch Margaret Duchill listened as her confession was read out to the Presbytery of Alloa on 11th May 1658, although she died before her confession was heard by the Presbytery Session on June 23.

She was one of several women accused of witchcraft with the Alloa trials taking place between 1658 and 1659.

On 19th May 1658, two ministers, George Bennet and Mathias Sympson, went to Alloa to hear the confessions of the alleged witches, a month before the presbytery meeting.

Margaret had been interrogated before the 11th May when she told William Moreson that should she be burnt, there were other women in Alloa who were also witches.

Margaret died sometime between the time the ministers had spoken to her and before the presbytery meeting, but it is not known if she was dead at the time the other four women were interrogated on June 3.

Three of these women were tortured and burned with hot stones. One was married with children and was known to Margaret but she had denounced all of them, and the case against them was completed on June 23.

One of the women, Margaret Tailyeor confessed to witchcraft and claimed to have made a pact with the Devil and there was a presumption by those trying the women that the others were also guilty of witchcraft.

None of the women confirmed their previous statements and confessions. However, a year later, after languishing in jail, they confirmed their original confessions.

In the Duchall case, Hendrie Towart declared that she had said Elisabeth Blak was responsible for her brother Thomas’s death and was a witch like her.

She said she had laid sickness on her own son and had come to Margaret to make him better.

When it worked, she said she was a witch. Another accused Bessie Paton, who was burned as a witch, said in prison that Blak had asked her for help but had refused, so had gone to Duchill for help instead.

Margaret was also asked about the death of 12-year-old girl Joan Demperstoune, a niece of Elisabeth Blak. The girl had taunted her for being a sorcerer and witch and had tugged her arm as she ran across a bridge at Alloa.

Margaret went to the Devil, and he told her the first time she saw the girl again to tug her arm and make it bleed, which she did. The girl died from loss of blood.

MARGARET DUCHALL was asked about the other women who went to the supposed meetings.

She also confessed to being in the Devil’s service for 20 years, having met him at Issobell Jamesone’s house when he had arrived there wearing a bronze coat and a black hat, and asked her what troubled her.

She replied she was poor, and he said that if she did his bidding, she would no longer be poor, and gave her five shillings.

With the money, she bought meal and made bannocks. The Devil joined her at the table, and they ate and drank together.

She then described how she went to bed, and he joined her.

She then claimed he asked if she would be his servant. She said yes and he marked her eyebrow.

Another part of her confession was to do with money. Jonet Houston, a neighbour, refused to pay her money she owed her and after complaining to the Devil, she got her cash, but Jonet died soon after.

Once, Jonet Black had asked to get snuff from William Moreson, who refused as she had no money, so along with Margaret, Bessie Paton, Margaret Tailyor, and Katherine Rainy, or Remy, concocted a plan to teach him a lesson.

They dragged him through snow until they reached William Murrayes barn, and tried to drown him in a hole. They failed and the women scarpered.

Later, Margaret claimed to have followed him home in the shape of a black dog, which she said he never saw but believed he was always frightened after the event.

On March 14, 1659, Barbara Erskine said that around three years before, Tailyor, Blak, Paton and Margaret had gone to Blackgrange and had managed to sink a boat with five people on board.

John Craigengelt who had heard Margaret’s confession declared she had died a confessed witch.

He had asked her if she would be content to be burnt and if Elisabeth Blak should be burned with her, to which she replied yes.

She also stated that it was Blak who had taught her witchcraft.

Other witnesses told of how Margaret had said to them that Elisabeth Blak had been at their meetings, ‘at the destroying of bairnes, horses...’ and on one occasion, Blak had gone to Margaret’s home and dragged her out at midnight to the crofts of Alloa where the Devil had met them.

Blak went on to be banished from Scotland, England and Ireland and what became of her is unknown.