Memorial Event at the Gallow Green.

On March 8th, 2020,  International Women’s Day, Witches of Scotland group launched a campaign asking the Scottish Parliament to pardon and memorialise those innocents who were accused and persecuted under the Witchcraft Act. A petition was submitted to the Scottish Government bearing the signatures of more than 3,400 supporters a year later.

On International Women’s Day, 2022,  First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced an official Scottish Government apology to those accused of witchcraft in Scotland over the centuries under the Witchcraft Act. While men and women of all ages suffered torture, trial and often execution after being accused of this offence, we know that most of these unfortunates were women.

On 24th of May, 2022, the Church of Scotland made a statement acknowledging with regret the part it had played in the injustices perpetrated upon the innocents by way of the Witchcraft Act.

To complement this historic righting of wrongs, Renfrewshire Witch Hunt 1697 and its sister company, Fablevision with help from the local Star Project and Men’s Shed projects, have embarked on a project to build a memorial garden in the west end of Paisley. With this venture, Renfrewshire Witch Hunt 1697 will create a place of remembrance to honour the eight innocent people who were convicted and sentenced to death for witchcraft in the Bargarran witch trials of that year. The memorial garden will also give the people of Paisley a new and pleasant greenspace to enjoy and should be a useful addition to the regeneration of that part of town. Features such as a labyrinth, a tree to commemorate each of the victims and a seating area will adorn the garden along with the old well which sits there already, making a fitting memorial to the past as well as a place of recreation for the present.

Gallow Green

On 10th June, 2022,  325 years to the day since the execution of the innocents on the Gallow Green, Paisley, Renfrewshire Witch Hunt 1697 held an event there to honour the victims. It had been an unsettled week weather wise, but canellation was no real option, we had no choice but to continue. Invitations had been sent and there were posts on social media encouraging everyone to come along
We needn’t have worried. The sun shone, the breeze was warm and we were ready to begin a wee while before 1pm – our starting time. First to arrive were our team, Gayle Pollock, Carol Watson and Andy Doyle all in costume and looking the part. Liz Gardiner, the Project Manager was there too.They were accompanied by the Fablevision crew, cameras in hand and eager to be clicking if anyone turned up. We were not to be disappointed. People came in from the street, keen to pay their respects. Some had been connected with Renfrewshire Witch Hunt in days gone by while others had researched the story by themselves and felt a gesture of this kind was not only a fitting show of respect but a necessary one. Next came the rather unexpected dignitaries as car by car, councillors, Deputy Provost Cathy McEwan, Mags and Kenny McLaren, Lisa- Marie Hughes,  Andy Doig and even two MSPs,  Natalie Don and George Adam joined us. After a few minutes to greet those who’d come along, we hushed as Jeremiah, our bard, gave a recital of the story of Christian Shaw and those she accused, seven of whom met a miserable end, enabled by a legal system corrupted with superstition and religious fundamentalism.
We then witnessed Ness Bosch, a local priestess,  perform a cleansing ceremony full of symbolism to recognise that the poor folk who suffered and died on Gallow Green deserved to be known as  the innocents they were and to atone in some small way for their awful misfortune. A wreath  had been laid at the well from which everyone  was invited to take a flower and  place it in the water as a token of the connection and affinity they felt for the victims and their story. Most of the people there took part in this symbolic gesture.
To finish we played a song written about ‘The Witches of Bargarran’ by Sharon Collins who was in attendance.

Speaking with people afterwards, they all said they’d enjoyed the event. It was moving to see that all these years later, the injustice of what happened at the Gallow Green on June 10th, 1697, still resonates with those who value truth, fairness and humanity.

Tondo at Maxwellton Sandy Stoddart

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