Saturday, 20 September 2014

Witchcraft in Strathearn

The practice of witchcraft was  widespread in 16th and 17th century Scotland. In 1563 during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots a law was passed making witchcraft a capital crime. Witchcraft was described as a “havy abominabill superstitioun”, “against the Law of God” “abusand the pepill”. In other words it was an offence against both God (and therefore the church) and society.
The passing of the Act did not immediately lead to a large scale witch hunt although there were a number of trials and executions between 1563 and 1590. The Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597 took place during the reign of James VI who himself wrote his own work “Daemonologie” on the subject in 1597. The exact number of those executed at this time is unknown but believed to be about 200. This was the second of five nationwide witch hunts between 1590 and 1662. One of the most famous trials took place at North Berwick but many other areas were affected including Perthshire, Fife. Stirlingshire and specially Aberdeenshire.
“The Annals of Auchterarder and Memorials of Strathearn” recounts a record from the Register of The Privy Council on 1st May 1610. ‘The Drummonds of the Kirktown of Auchterarder appear to have been a troublesome family. John Drummond came under notice of the Privy Council of Scotland and he and Duncan Neishe, Burgess of the Cannongait as his cautioner had to grant bond of £500 not to harm David and Robert Grahame of Callander. The fate of Alexander Drummond, probably the father of John, was a tragical one. Without being a practiser of witchcraft in the acceptation of the term he used unlawful acts which brought him within reach of the Act of 1563. His crime appears to have been using charms for curing sickness both in men and cattle which he did openly. He was brought to trial in January 1629 and on 3rd July he was sentenced to death and suffered accordingly at the Market Cross of Edinburgh. One of the witnesses was Mr Freebairn, who was minister of Madderty from  1620 to 1657.’
This of course was in an age when medicine and doctors were not generally available so people turned to witches to cure illnesses and many of the herbs used then have now been shown to have medicinal benefits. Similarly in an age of ignorance some people thought that illnesses particularly in children such as epilepsy, convulsions and fevers were the work of witches. Often their fears were confirmed by unskilled Physicians.
Most of the persecuted were women, the traditional description of a witch as contained in “Scots Discover of Witchcraft “ 1665  which describes them as ‘ women which be commonly old, lame, blear eyed, pale, fowl and full of wrinkles’. A description which could be applied to many older women.
Scotland is estimated to have been Europe’s biggest persecutor of witches, in the 16th and 17th century it is thought that over 1500 people were executed, most were strangled then burnt. The last hanging for witchcraft took place in 1728.


Explore books about witchcraft in the Library any time during our opening hours.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Every road leads to Innerpeffray…

Tucked away in the countryside, the white washed walls of Innerpeffray Library shining through the surrounding greenery are an unexpected but pleasant sight to the approaching visitor. Although off the popular tourist trail, every road in Perthshire seems to lead to the Library of Innerpeffray, and rightfully so since the Library in its long history has served the people of Perthshire near and far.
When we made our way to the Library for the first time to take up our positions as guest curators, we were captivated by the setting of the Library, but more so by its diverse book collection. Off the motorway and into the Strathearn countryside, on every new visit we seemed to get lost and enjoyed discovering new ways to get to the Library, which seemed limitless. Having come to do a project as part of our Masters course at the University of Stirling, our experience quickly turned from purely academic to a work we felt passionate about. We were given the opportunity to create two exhibitions for the 2014 season at the Library: The Battle of Bannockburn and Golf. Both topics are highly relevant this year for Scotland and for the local area and we were very excited to take up the challenge of presenting to the visitor what the more than 300 year old collection of the Library could tell about them.    
We spent many long hours in the first two months of the year becoming familiar with the collection to be able to pick just the few books which are now on display. The story of the Battle of Bannockburn has been told in different ways throughout the centuries, including songs, poetry, historic fiction and history books. A personal favourite is England’s Monarchs, with a great picture of a mean-looking Edward II and a brief description of his shameful defeat and flight from Bannockburn. In contrast to this unflattering portrayal, there is a heroic description and picture of his father, Edward I, of whom the author clearly has a more positive view, showing that the telling of history can be a matter of the author’s opinion. 
Golf has been taken up not only in popular chronicles such as the Scots magazine, describing one of the first Edinburgh Open’s, but also in fiction and satire. For example one of my favourites of the collection is a publication of the Punch magazine, including caricatures picking up on contemporary issues of the early 20th century such as women’s voting rights and connecting it with the male dominated sport of golf.
As winter turned to spring and snowdrops surrounded the building, we became more and more aware of the multifaceted attractions of Innerpeffray Library in addition to its impressive collection; the beautiful, changing view from the reading room window and the surrounding Perthshire hills.
With the 1st of March and the start of the tourist season, our work came to an end with an Opening Event attended by the Library’s Board of Governors and specially invited guests to whom we introduced our exhibitions. The work-based project has not only provided us with an expansive skill set useful for our academic studies and future employment, but also left us with a strong and lasting attachment to the Library of Innerpeffray and what it stands for.
Miriam & Joana
PS: Come and see the exhibitions, experience the collection and find your own road to the Library. A warm welcome is guaranteed! 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Pleasures and Pastimes that the Wild Woods afford

It's been some time since our last post, and with the advent of Spring (hopefully), we thought you might enjoy a little 16th century thoughts on enjoying the great outdoors!

But the chiefe pleasure and pastime which commeth by wilde woods, is, that being joined to your house and champion habitation, (which is the place, where it must be seated or planted) it is pleasant to the sight: for by his diversitie of greenenes, it marvellously delighteth, and with great contentment recreateth the sight.
The second pleasure or pastime is, that the woodes (being neere unto your lodging) are alwaies full of all sorts of pretie birds, which might sing sommer and winter all the day long, and the most part of the night as nightingales and other such like, wherby their songs become joyful and delightsome to the eare, and so there is a pleasure and great contentment to the eare even to them in the house if it be neere unto.
Another pleasure us, that in the said woods there are alwaies great store of wood coists, popiniaies, stares, cranes and other sorts of bird which make you pastime to see them flie: there may also pleasure be reaped in taking of them with little engines, as with a call, nets, the tonnell, or others such like.
The fourth is, that in the woods are to be had conies, hares, squirrels, and other sorts of small beasts pleasant to behold, and of great service for the provision of vittaile.
The fifth is, that in hot seasons you may purchase a coole aire within the said woods, as those which will cover and defend you from the iniurie and vexation of the sunne, and contrariwise cooling you whether the heate will or no: and therein you have aklso to behold a comfortable greenenes, both upon the boughs and ground, which keepeth his grass greene through the cooleness and shadow of the trees.
The sixth is, that in winter being in the said woods, you are out of the iniurie and force of the winds and great cold, because they breake them off: and further in these woods you are solitarie, and may use your leasure, in reading, writing or meditating upon your affaires, without being disquieted or distracted, or drawne to cast your sight abroad over any far distant place of countrie, in as much as the sight cannot pearse through the boughs or bushes.

The Countrie Farm or Maison Rustique
Charles Estienne & Jean Liebault