From the contemporary pamphlet Newes from Scotland, 1591, as reprinted in Pitcairn's Criminal Trials in Scotland, vol. 1, pt. 2, pp. 215-223. English.
Within the towne of Trenent, in the kingdome of Scotland, there dwelleth one David Seaton, who, being deputie bailiffe in the said towne, had a maid called Geillis Duncane, who used secretlie to absent and lie forth of hir maister's house every other night: This Geillis Duncane tooke in hand to helpe all such as were troubled or grieved with anie kinde of sicknes or infirmitie, and in short space did perfourme many matters most miraculous; which things, for asmuche as she began to do them upon a sodaine, having never done the like before, made her maister and others to be in great admiration, and wondered thereat: by means whereof, the saide Davide Seaton had his maide in great suspition that shee did not those things by naturall and lawful waies, but rather supposed it to bee done by some extraordinarie and unlawfull meanes. Whereupon, her maister began to grow verie inquisitive, and examined hir which way and by what means shee was able to performe matters of so great importance; whereat shee gave him no aunswere: nevertheless, her maister, to the intent that hee might the better trie and finde out the truth of the same, did with the help of others torment her with the torture of the pilliwinkes 1 upon her fingers, which is a grievous torture; and binding or wrinching her head with a cord or roape, which is a most cruell torment also; yet would she not confess anie thing; whereuppon, they suspecting that she had beene marked by the Devill (as commonly witches are), made diligent search about her,
and found the enemies mark to be in her fore crag, or fore part of her throate; which being found, she confessed that al her doings was done by the wicked allurements and entisements of the Devil, and that she did them by witchcraft. After this her confession, she was committed to prison, where shee continued a season, where immediately shee accused these persons following to bee notorious witches, and caused them forthwith to be apprehended, one after another, viz. Agnes Sampson the eldest witche of them all, dwelling in Haddington; Agnes Tompson of Edenbrough 1; Doctor Fian alias John Cuningham, master of the schoole at Saltpans in Lowthian, of whose life and strange acts you shal heare more largely in the end of this discourse. These were by the saide Geillis Duncane accused, as also George Motts wife, dwelling in Lowthian; Robert Grierson, skipper; and Jannet Blandilands; with the potter's wife of Seaton: the smith at the Brigge Hallis, with innumerable others in those parts, and dwelling in those bounds aforesaid; of whom some are alreadie executed, the rest remaine in prison to receive the doome of judgment at the Kinges Majesties will and pleasure.
The saide Geillis Duncane also caused Ewphame Mecalrean to bee apprehended, who conspired and performed the death of her godfather, and who used her art upon a gentleman, being one of the Lordes and Justices of the Session, for bearing good will to her daughter. Shee also caused to be apprehended one Barbara Naper, for bewitching to death Archibalde lait Earle of Angus, who languished to death by witchcraft, and yet the same was not suspected; but that bee died of so straunge a disease as the Phisition knewe not how to cure or remedie the same. But of all other the said witches, these two last before recited, were reputed for as civill honest women as anie that dwelled within the cittie of Edenbrough, before they were apprehended. Many other besides were taken dwelling in Lieth, 2 who are detayned in prison untill his Majesties further will and pleasure be knowne . . . . 3
As touching the aforesaide Doctor Fian alias John Cunningham, the examination of his actes since his apprehension, declareth the great subteltie of the Divell, and therefore maketh thinges to appeare the more miraculous; for beeing apprehended by the accusation of the saide Geillis
Duncane aforesaide, who confessed he was their Regester, and that there was not one man suffered to come to the Divels readinges but onely hee: the saide Doctor was taken and imprisoned, and used with the accustomed paine provided for those offences, inflicted upon the rest, as is aforsaide. First, By thrawing of his head with a rope, whereat be would confesse nothing. Secondly, Hee was perswaded by faire meanes to confesse his follies, but that would prevaile as little. Lastly, Hee was put to the most severe and cruell paine in the worlde, called the bootes; 1 who after he had received three strokes, being inquired if he would confesse his damnable actes and wicked life, his toong would not serve him to speake; in respect whereof the rest of the witches willed to searche his toong, under which was founde two pinnes, thrust up into the heade; whereupon the witches did say, Now is the charme stinted; and shrewed, that those charmed pinnes were the cause he could not confesse any thing: Then was he immediately released of the bootes, brought before the King, 2 his confession was taken, and his own hand willingly set thereunto. . . . 3
Thus, all the daie, this Doctor Fian continued very solitarie, and seemed to have a care of his owne soule, and would call uppon God, shewing himselfe penitent for his wicked life; nevertheless, the same night, hee found such meanes that he stole the key of the prison doore and chamber in which he was, which in the night bee opened and fled
awaie to the Saltpans, where hee was alwayes resident, and first apprehended. Of whose sodaine departure, when the Kings Majestie had intelligence, hee presently commanded diligent inquirie to bee made for his apprehension; and for the better effecting thereof, hee sent publike proclamations into all partes of his lande to the same effect. By meanes, of whose hot and harde pursuite he was agayn taken, and brought to prison; and then, being called before the Kings Highnes, hee was re-examined, as well touching his departure, as also touching all that had before happened. But this Doctor, notwithstanding that his owne confession appeareth, remaining in recorde under his owne hande writting, and the same thereunto fixed in the presence of the Kings Majestic and sundrie of his Councell, yet did he utterly denie the same.
Whereupon the Kings Majestie, perceiving his stubborne willfulnesse, conceived and imagined, that in the time of his absence, hee had entered into newe conference and league with the Devill his maister; and that bee had beene again newly marked, for the which he was narrowly searched; but it coulde not in anie waie be founde; yet for more tryall of him, to make him confesse, bee was commaunded to have a most strange torment, which was done in this manner following. His nailes upon all his fingers were riven and pulled off with an instrument called in Scottish a Turkas, which in England wee call a payre of pincers, and under every nayle there was thrust in two needels over even up to the heads. At all which torments notwithstanding, the Doctor never shronke anie whit; neither woulde he then confesse it the sooner, for all the tortures inflicted upon him. Then was hee, with all convenient speede, by commandement, convaied againe to the torment of the bootes, wherein hee continued a long time, and did abide so many blowes in them, that his legges were crusht and beaten together as small as might be; and the bones and flesh so brused, that the blond and marrow spouted forth in great abundance; whereby, they were made unserviceable for ever. And notwithstanding all these grievous paines and cruell torments, he would not confesse anie things; so deeply had the Devill entered into his heart, that bee utterly denied all that which he before avouched; and would saie nothing thereunto, but this, that what hee had done and sayde before, was onely done and sayde, for fear of paynes which he had endured.
Upon great consideration, therefore, taken by the Kings Majestie and his Councell, as well for the due execution of justice uppon such detestable malefactors, as also for example sake, to remayne a terrour
to all others heerafter, that shall attempt to deale in the lyke wicked and ungodlye actions as witchcraft, sorcerie, conjuration, and such lyke; the saide Doctor Fian was soon after arraigned, condemned and adjudged by the law to die, and then to be burned according to the lawe of that lande provided in that behalfe. Whereupon hee was put into a carte, and beeing first strangled, bee was immediately put into a great fire, being readie provided for that purpose, and there burned in the Castle Hill of Edenbrough, on a Saterdaie, in the ende of Januarie last past, 1591.
19:1 An instrument of torture similar to the thumbscrews later in use.
20:3 Then follows an account of the torture and confession of Agnes Sampson.
21:1 "The boots, or bootikins," says Pitcairn in his note on this passage, "were chiefly made use of in extreme cases, such as High Treason, Witchcraft, etc. This horrid instrument extended from the ankles to the knee, and at each stroke of a large hammer (which forced the wedges closer), the question was repeated. In many instances, the bones and flesh of the leg were crushed and lacerated in a shocking manner before confession was made."
21:2 The personal interest taken in these trials by King James is explained by the fact that one of the crimes which the witches were made to confess was that they had gone to sea in sieves and there raised the contrary wind which distressed His Majesty's ship on his return from Denmark, whither he had gone to fetch his bride. It was, perhaps, the experience thus gained in the persecution which impelled King James later to compose a book on witchcraft (Daemonologie, Edinburgh, 1597); and which led him, on his ascent of the English throne in 1603, not only to bring out at London a fresh edition of this treatise, but to inspire a new and sterner English statute against the witches. Under this statute of James was carried on the later witch-persecution in England; and it formed a basis for that in the colonies.
21:3 Then follows a summary of his confession and an account of his commission to a solitary cell. What is next printed above is alleged to have happened on the morrow.