First Borders memorial to those executed for ‘witchcraft’ is agreed

A first memorial in the Borders to honour people executed under the Witchcraft Act has received approval.

By Paul Kelly
Friday, 10th June 2022, 10:38 am
Updated Friday, 10th June 2022, 10:39 am
Elisa Smith and Simon Ritchie with author and historian Mary W. Craig discussing plans for the memorial.
Elisa Smith and Simon Ritchie with author and historian Mary W. Craig discussing plans for the memorial.

Last night, Wednesday, June 8, members of Peebles Common Good Fund Sub-Committee agreed in principle for a marble structure to be erected on Tweed Green to commemorate the 27 people executed in the town back in 1629 after being accused of witchcraft.

A public consultation supported a headstone-style memorial on parkland in the town.

The memorial would remember the those executed on a single day at Calf Knowe – now known as Venlaw Hill.

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An estimated 2,500 Scots were executed for breaking the Witchcraft Act between 1563 and 1736.

Elisa Smith, one of the campaign organisers, told committee members that Peebles-based William Purves funeral directors had agreed to fund and maintain the structure.

She said: “We would really like to place it somewhere on Tweed Green.

“We met Purves Funeral Directors yesterday and I now have some more details on the structure.

“We don’t want it in the middle of the grass as that would be a bit odd. Purves have offered to do this for free and to maintain the stone, which is amazing.

“The structure would be a granite slab, so we’re not going for a gravestone in the middle of Tweed Green, we thought that would be a little bit odd as well. So it’s granite slab of two feet by one feet six inches, and it will lie quite close to the ground.

“They feel that trying to lift it would be impossible but if a group of people tried that could be problem for safety, so what they’ve offered to do is lay a foundation, eight inches in the ground with a rod and a little wedge and then the granite would sit on that and be fixed quite securely.

“It will be split into two on the top like the pages of the book and it will have the 27 names in full of the people who were executed in 1629 but also have a paragraph or a short sentence recognising the people in Tweeddale. We don’t want to do it Borders-wide because we feel that other towns may want to do something similar as there is an ongoing national campaign.

“I want it to be accessible to the most amount of people, so around the edge somewhere, possibly near the pavilion.”