Memorial to ‘witches’ unveiled at Tullibole Castle

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A MEMORIAL to 11 “witches” executed in Scotland has been unveiled at the ancestral home of those who sent them to their deaths.

The Witches Maze at Tullibole Castle in Perthshire commemorates the victims of the Crook of Devon witch trials in 1662.

Tullibole castle. Picture: Helen Peck

Tullibole castle. Picture: Helen Peck

The castle was once home to William Halliday and his son John who held court over the “covens” in the village.

Rhoderick Moncrieff, who now owns Tullibole, commissioned the maze as a lasting memorial.

In 1662 the court sat five times and resulted in the deaths of 11 suspected witches.

Lord Moncreiff, who paid a five-figure sum to have the pillar made by Gillian Forbes, a stone carver from Path of Condie, said the memorial was pentagonal to represent each of the five trials.

He said: “I do not and have never believed in witches. It is shocking what happened to these poor people – people who had done nothing wrong.

“One of the saddest things is that anyone found to be who using folk healers was also sentenced to death – unless they gave evidence identifying a person. That was the only way to save their lives.

“I wanted to create a permanent tribute in the memory of those who died and something that will educate visitors to the castle about what exactly happened.”

He added: “I dislike public art that has nothing to say and commissioned Gillian because I believe she understands the sensitivity of the task.

“It is my hope that the memorial will also question our understanding of the past and issues of blame and judgment in modern-day society.”

Lord Moncreiff came up with the idea of the maze in 2003. The finished memorial is a circle 100ft wide and consists of 2,000 beech trees.

At the centre is the one-and-a-half-ton elaborate sandstone pillar, with the names of the victims etched on it.

Lord Moncreiff said he was keen to redress the balance after discovering the terrible secrets of Tullibole Castle the centre of one of the darkest chapters of Scotland’s history. His family have lived at Tullibole for generations, and he commissioned the memorial on the 350th anniversary of the atrocities, as a monument to those put to death on the orders of his predecessors.

The sandstone statue bears the names Agnes Murrie, Bessie Henderson, Isabella Rutherford, Robert Wilson, Bessie Neil, Margaret Lister, Agnes Brugh, Janet Paton of Crook of Devon, Janet Paton of Kilduff, Janet Brugh and Christian Grieve.

The few records that remain show that the evidence put before the Perthshire court, run by landowners rather than trained lawyers, included “confessions” from the accused naming those in a local coven and details of their supposed meetings.