The History of Leith

January 3, 2012

Inhuman persecution for Religion,

On the last day of February, 1539, Thomas Forret, Vicar of Dollar, John Keillor and John Beveridge, two black friars, Duncan Simpson a priest, and a gentleman named Robert Forrester, were all burned together on the Castle Hill on a charge of heresy ; and it is melancholy to know that a king so good and so humane as James V. was a spectator of this inhuman persecution for religion,
and that he came all the way from Linlithgow Palace to witness it, whither he returned on the 2nd of March. It is probable that he viewed it from the Castle walls.
Again and again has the same place been the scene of those revolting executions for sorcery which disgraced the legal annals of Scotland. There, in 1570, Bessie Dunlop “was worried” at the stake for simply practising as a “wise woman” in curing diseases and recovering stolen goods. Several others perished in 1590-1 ; among others, Euphemie M’Calzean, for consorting with the devil, abjuring her baptism, making waxen pictures to be enchanted, raising a storm to drown Anne of Denmark on her way to Scotland, and so forth
In 1600 Isabel Young was “woryt at a stake”for laying sickness on various persons, “and thereafter burnt to ashes on the Castle Hill.”
Eight years after, James Reid, a noted sorcerer, perished in the same place, charged with practising healing by the black art, “whilk craft,” says one authority, ” he learned frae the devil, his
master, in Binnie Craigs and Corstorphine, where he met with him and consulted with him divers tymes, whiles in the likeness of a man, whiles in the likeness of a horse.” Moreover, he had tried
to destroy the crops of David Liberton by putting a piece of enchanted flesh under his mill door, and to destroy David bodily by making a picture of him in wax and melting it before a fire, an
ancient superstition—common to the Western Isles and in some parts of Rajpootana to this day. So great was the horror these crimes excited, that he was taken direct from the court to the
stake. During the ten years of the Commonwealth executions on this spot occurred with appalling frequency.

source-Old ans New Edinburgh

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