The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, Rosehearty

the hanging stone, Rosehearty
Mounthooly Doocot

A couple of years ago, I decided to search for the Hanging Stone near Rosehearty, here in Aberdeenshire. It’s another witch stone, a place of historical execution and, according to local folklore, ‘dooking’ as well.

I’ve reached the stage in my current malady of being able to sit at my desk for short times, but obviously I’m not able to run around the countryside visiting interesting places. But I can write about the ones already visited. So here we go.

I knew the stone was in the vicinity of the Mounthooly Doocot (pigeon house), pictured above and below, so headed there. *experiences mild jealousy of past self, so gung ho in the ability to just get up and go out*

Mounthooly Doocot

Turning 360 degrees, searching the skyline, the stone was finally spotted, embedded in a dry stane dyke. That’s a dry stone wall; there’s a great art and skill to building these traditional field boundaries.

The Hanging Stone on the horizon.

I walked from the Mounthooly car park, along narrow roads and then up the field.

The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire

And there it was. Quite tall, much taller than me, wrapped round with barbed wire, which seemed somehow fitting given the stones dark past.

The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire

The Hanging Stone is quite possibly an ancient standing stone which later came to be used in the way it’s named for now. It’s very square. Carved that way, I think.

Nearby is The Pit, which was used for lesser punishments than death. The dooking, I imagine, as it is said to have been ‘for witches’. Dooking involved testing someone in water to see if they would sink or float and thereby prove if they were a witch or not. I did not see The Pit, and, as I walked away, focused my attention on the great beauty of the ocean views.

Canmore details on stone.

The Hanging Stone on Gallows Hill, Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire

And back here, today, at my desk, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD has a blurb:

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD cover

When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land. 

What she does next constitutes a huge betrayal of her people, threatening her closest relationships and even her way of life itself.

As the conflict between the Caledonian tribes and the Roman Sons of Mars intensifies, can she use her high status in the community to lessen the coming death toll or even prevent outright war?

Set in 1st century Northern Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD is a story of chosen sisters, fierce warriors, divided loyalties and, ultimately, love.


Already published books:

the novels of Ailish Sinclair

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, a stone circle, and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society

Memorial: the History of Witchcraft in Aberdeen

leg fetters
The Steeple of St Nicholas Kirk

Aberdeen has quite a brutal history of witchcraft accusations (and other dark events such as mass kidnappings). This post details the start of my research into those areas.

Memorial

Cowdray Hall War Memorial and the history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

Aberdeen’s Cowdray Hall doubles as a war memorial and a venue for classical concerts, and it’s where I started my wee tour of the city on this day.

Gaol!

Leaving grand places behind, I journeyed on to the Tolbooth Museum, a 17th and 18th century gaol.  Unlike the pristine war memorial, the prison exhibits the dark nature of its origin for all to see. The small cells are stifling and scary. They smell stale. There are a few of those terrifying pretend people; some of them talk, regaling you with tales of their mistreatment.

leg fetters: history of witchcraft
bars in the 17th century gaol

The 18th century record of prisoners reveals many debtors, a murder spree and one intriguing entry of unspecified ‘outrages’.

outrages

History of Witchcraft Accusations

An interesting fact gleaned behind the bars and bolts and padlocks of the jail was that people accused of witchcraft were once imprisoned in the steeple of St. Nicholas Kirk. Out the door I went.

door to the cells: history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

The present day kirk is serene and beautiful and open to visitors in the afternoons. The steeple sits just above the part pictured below. It’s not the same one that was used as a prison in the 16th century, but it is situated in exactly the same place.

Those boards on the left display a detailed history of  the church,  but there was no mention of witchcraft.

church and history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

There was an excavation happening in the east part of the building. Lots of skeletons were uncovered along with a metal ring that ‘witches’ were once tied to.

archaeology: history of witchcraft in Aberdeen

The 12th century St. John’s Chapel houses a memorial to those killed in the Piper Alpha oil disaster. These amazing chairs are part of it. They sit right underneath the steeple.

carved furniture as a memorial

This window depicts the history of Aberdeen. It was paid for by the oil and gas industry so those themes dominate.

14664648327_339113ba52_z

I walked down steps and cobbled streets in search of comfort, hot chocolate and books.

research

Unfortunately there’s not much comfort to be found in researching The Witchcraft Act and all that followed.

The Witch Stone

History of Witchcraft: the witch stone near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire

It is said that witches were tied to the witch stone near Fraserburgh, and burnt. The landowner questions whether this was the case as no documentation exists on the subject. But such evidence was often destroyed, or omitted from written history. After the burnings and ‘dookings’ and other well specified outrages by church and state had ended, people were ashamed. And rightly so. But where’s the memorial in that?

Memorial through Dance

70 years since D-Day, BalletBoyz pay tribute to the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives with a specially commissioned short film for Channel 4:

More Witch Related Posts

The book that eventually sprang from all this is out in both paperback and Kindle now!

See the publisher’s press release here.

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

Waterstones

Mailing List

Keep up to date with all my news by signing up to the mailing list. It’s a more intimate space than the blog, and always includes some exclusive photos. I aim to send it once a month, but don’t always succeed!

Writer’s Tip Jar

Apology for Scotland’s Witchcraft Trials and an Anniversary

Apology for Scotland's Witchcraft Trials - sunrise
sunrise

Apology

Yesterday, on International Women’s Day, the Scottish Government issued a formal apology for Scotland’s witchcraft trials. You can read more about it and watch the First Minister’s address to parliament here.

Apology for Scotland's Witchcraft Trials - chasing the sunrise
Chasing the sunrise…

Anniversary

On this day in 1597, Bessie Thom and Christen Michell were executed in Aberdeen, having been found guilty of witchcraft. I wrote about both women in THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, and remembered them today as I chased the sunrise round Strichen Lake.

The apology for Scotland's witchcraft trials - sunrise.

Maria Robertson reviewed the performance ‘Witch Hunt’ here, which took place in St Nicolas Kirk in Aberdeen. “It made me think of Ailish Sinclair’s first novel The Mermaid And The Bear as there are a couple of chapters in that based around the treatment of witches in the Mither Kirk back in the days of yore.”

Witch Hunt

And Nelliphant wrote about some Scottish books here, saying this of FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE: “The main character, a many-times-great-granddaughter of the Mermaid and the Bear, is an extremely feisty Doric-speaking young woman whom I liked very much…”

In other news (less dramatic and much less historic than an apology for Scotland’s Witchcraft Trials) the new book is now with the editor. So, progress towards publication is being made. And, apparently, I can now chase sunrises round lakes so health progress is happening too.

There were some lovely spring flowers planted along the path through the woods. They seemed like wreaths to me, today. Purple and white. Beautiful and sombre.

Apology for Scotland's Witchcraft Trials - flowers
For Bessie, Christen and Isobell, and all those persecuted as witches.
Ailish's books

Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic and a love story.

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen.

Paperbacks and kindle: Amazon UK or Amazon Worldwide

“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society Editor’s Pick

Walking the Witchy Ways of Aberdeen

cobbles, or cassies, as they are called in Aberdeen
Galllus Quines. Wonderful street art in Aberdeen honouring those persecuted for witchcraft.
Gallus Quines

I ran through St Nicholas Kirkyard, and down and round Correction Wynd, an old medieval lane in Aberdeen, to see this recent street art. I was due to meet people for breakfast, but determined to see the ‘Quine Shrine’ first. The reason being? That first part, on the left, honours those who were persecuted for witchcraft in Aberdeen, and one tile names a few of them, including the three women I chose to write about in The Mermaid and the Bear.

Tile naming some of those accused of being witches in Aberdeen, Scotland

The spellings are different, because spellings weren’t set back then, not like they are today. I chose to go with the way the names are recorded in the Survey Of Scottish Witchcraft from Edinburgh University. It was there that I learned, contrary to popular belief, that only a tiny proportion of those accused were midwives or folk healers; a mere 9 of the 3837 ‘witches’ in Scotland were midwives, and only 141 had some mention of healing in their cases (see the background page of the database).

In my fictional account of these women’s lives, one of them is a midwife and healer, but this is not the reason for the accusations brought against the three quines.

So, with the quine shrine admired and appreciated, on to breakfast:

Turmeric Latte
Turmeric Latte

Now fortified, off to gaol we go! It’s difficult to get good pictures in
the 17th century Tolbooth, what with it being so dark due to having windows like this:

Tiny and narrow window in a 17th century prison
Let the sunshine pour in!
Chain in the Tolbooth Museum, Aberdeen
A chain hangs from the wall

I think I did a better job with photos the last time I was there, blogged here. That was when I first read these words:

text, detailing some history of witchcraft in aberdeen

I remember feeling overcome and distressed by the information, but it was then that I decided I was definitely going to write the book. Here’s that steeple, or its replacement, standing tall against the blue sky:

Steeple and clock of St Nicholas Kirk in Aberdeen

Back in 1597, there were two large bells in the original steeple. Now there’s an impressive carillon, and it started to play while I was eating my lunchtime chocolate ice cream in the kirkyard. This is not as creepy and strange as it sounds; there are benches and lots of people go there for lunch! I took a short video, so you can hear the bells:

Lunchtime bells

I’ve made a Pinterest board for the book, though it does seem to be rather focussed on the cheerier parts of the story.

pinterest board for  the novel, The Mermaid and the Bear, by Ailish Sinclair
Pinterest board

And on another cheery, or perhaps laughable, note, I was recently mentioned in the Evening Standard as an example of a ‘weather obsessed’ Briton.

Ailish Sinclair in the Evening Standard.

I must go now; I have to check on the weather!

Sign up for my mailing list for more, exclusive, ramblings and photos 🙂

The book that came from it all is out now in paperback and kindle.

Amazon UK and Amazon Worldwide

Other bookshops (and libraries) can get it too!

Cover of Ailish Sinclair's 'The Mermaid and the Bear'

A Map of Witches and some Autumn Beauty

Map of Witches

The Map of Witches is a brand new resource from the University of Edinburgh, utilising the extensive data collected in their Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database. See it here. It’s a visual and clickable map of over 3000 people accused of witchcraft in Scotland, and is both fascinating and terrible, as this subject always is. My three quines from THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR are included (see Isobell’s entry above) as are a disturbing Witch Pricker’s Journey and various other stories. You can choose to view a modern map or a historical one, the latter suiting it better, I think.

After peering back into the dark like that, I need to look at beauty, so here’s some from recent days:

Continue reading “A Map of Witches and some Autumn Beauty”