In the 1600s, noblewoman Lady Helen Manderston was accused of using witchcraft to damage the life and estate of her ex-husband Sir George Manderston. Those accused of witchcraft had to go through an often highly unbalanced trial, where they would likely be sentenced to death. Helen was luckier than many others like her, as two of her investigators were prosecuted for taking false testimony and she was set free.
There were quite a few people accused of witchcraft in the Lammermuirs, the majority in Duns. Thirteen people were accused including a widow named Katherine Wilson and a 64-year-old messenger called John Crods – it wasn’t always women who met an unfortunate fate.
There were six people accused in Chirnside and one in Abbey St Bathans — Euphame Bartleman of Woodfoot of Newhall. Commissioners appointed to hold the trials were all men, including local ministers.
Placenames such as Witches Hill and Witches Knowe remind us of this dark time.