Bird Bird

Paisley's Enchanted Threads

Execution and disposal

Execution and disposal

The seven condemned were taken from the Tollbooth on the 10th of June 1697, and slowly transported up the High Street and into the Gallow Green. There are numerous second hand accounts and legends associated with this part of the story. Some descriptions note that when they turned to enter the Green, the scaffold had just been erected and the fire was already burning. A large and expectant crowd lay in wait, while ministers congregated at the foot of the gallows in solemn prayer.

The witches were hanged individually before their bodies were placed in a fire that had been fuelled with tar in order to increase its ferocity. Accounts vary as to the final moments of the victims. It is said that both Agnes Naismith and Katherine Campbell both struggled to the end, displaying a mixture of rage and fear as they were led to the rope. One story has the Lindsay brothers calmly chatting about whether or not they should admit their guilt, while John Lindsay in Barloch has been described either as giving a short, muted speech, or saying nothing at all. Margaret Fulton is popularly believed to have spent her final moments falling back upon her strong belief in elves and fairies for comfort. Some accounts have Margaret Lang admitting her guilt, including meeting with the devil over eighty times. Another, much fuller and probably more reliable source, has her making her peace calmly, before praying for the witnesses, the Shaw family, and her own soul.

The author of one eighteenth century account claims to have spoken with a descendant of a witness to the execution. This illustrates the power of the oral tradition in relation to this story, and how it has passed through the generations via storytelling and anecdote. In this particular report, the witness asserted that the smell of burning flesh never left his memory for the remainder of his life. Legends include the story of the young Semple boy who was desperate to attend, but his disapproving parents confiscated his shoes in order to deter him. It is said that he walked barefoot from Pollock to Paisley, but the scene left him traumatised. Another account has the witches still being alive when they were consigned to the flames, while yet another has an onlooker's stick being commandeered in order to push a stray leg back into the fire. It's owner is said to have refused to take it back.