Sorcery in Appin
Witchcraft proceedings in 1677
Extracts from the Proceedings at the Justice Court held at Inveraray Tolbooth, 27 October 1677
John McIlverie in Dalavich persews Donald McIlmichall vagabond without residence and Donald dow MaGregour in Dalavich for a cow they stole from him upon 4 or 5 October last. Donald McIlmichall examined confesses that he and John dow McDonald vcranld in Glentindall (small glen near Barcaldine House) and Allister oge mcdonel in Ardnaclach in Appyne coming from Kilmichall in Glastrie met with the said Donald dow McGregor at Dalavich and after cloud of night bought the said kow from him for 11 ½ marks. The culprits had previously trysted at the Michaelmas Fair at Kilmichael and agreed to steal something ‘worth ther paynes'. Donald the vagabond also admitted other thefts of cattle and horses from the laird of Lochnell, in the lands of Lorne etc. which he had ‘taskalled' (the money formerly given in the Highlands to those who should discover cattle that had been driven off andmade known the spoilers) others from Lismore and Appin. The names of other common thieves were given up.
The above Justice was continued on the 15 November 1677, when Donald dow McIlmichall and the above Donald dow McGregor again appeared. Donald (the vagabond) was particularly pursed for that horrid cryme of corresponding with the devil and consulting him anent stolen goods and getting information for discoverie thereof beingexpressly contrare to the 78 act, Queen Mary Parl. 9.
1°. And the said Donald being thereupon interrogat confesses judiciallie that on a night in the month of November 1676 he travelling betwixt Ardtur and Glackiriska at ane hill he saw a light not knowing quhair he was. And ther a great number of men and women within the hill quhair he entered haveing many candles lighted and saw ane old man as seemed to have preference above the rest and that sum of them desired to shut him out and others to have him drawine in and saw them all dancing about the lights and they wold have him promise and engadge to come ther againe that night eighr nights and for a considerable space thereftir. Being interrogat what night it was he mett first and quhair he went after he parted with them answers that it was on the Sabath night and eftir he left them that night he went to Robert Buchanan his house in Glackiriskay and that he was forceit to com againe the second tyme on the Sabath thereftir.
2°. Interrogat what tyme he continowed his meitting answers that he entered 20 days eftir Hallowday and continowed till 20 days before Candlemes.
3°. Interrogat with quhom he engadgeit and what he judget them to be and if his name was enquired or got a new name, answer that was a woman among them that took the promise of him and that he cannot weill tell quhat persons they wer bot he judges them not to have bein wordlie men or men ordained of god and that they enquired if he was baptized and that he said he was, bot that they gave him no name nor that he told them his name bot still called him by the name of that man.
4°. Interrogat if he mett with them in other places, answers that he mett them in Leismore and at the Shian of Barcaldine (near the ferry to Appin) and still saw the old man that seemed to be cheif being ane large tall corporal Gardman and ruddie and that and that he was engadgeit to conceal them and not to tell others. Bot that he told it to the foresaid Robert Buchanan once fer which he was reproved and stricken be them still on ilk Sabath nights and that he played on trumps (Jew's harp) to the them quhen they danced.
5°. Being interrogat as he consulted the devil and these evil spirits anent stolen goods answers that he went and enquired anent stolen goods and that it was told him especiallie of the stealing these twa horses from McAllister VcLauchlane in Ballegowine in Leismore. And that other tymes loist goods was told him without asking quhilk he was discovering to the owners. Upon all quhilks hail foresaid confessione the procurator Fiscal taks instruments. ( signed) NICOLL ZUILL.
As a result of this confession the jury unanimously found him guilty of theft and of consulting with evil spirits sundry times (Mr Archibald McCorquidill in Auchnamaddie being chancellor).
On 17 November 1677, sentence was pronounced by the justice Depute, the said Donald McIlmichall to be taken on Monday 19 November instant be 2 o'clock in the afternoon and on the Ordinare gibbet at the gallow farlanether be hangit to death and to forefault his hail moveable goods and gear, Requyreing the Magistrats of Inveraray to sie this sentence put to exectione.