Thursday, September 30, 2010

A wonderful Photo taken by a friend

You can vote for this wonderful photo in a photo contest at that link.

Jean Dombroski, Beekeeper taking a look into the beehives in Scottsville NY summer 10

Lovely Irish Landscapes

A visual tour of Ireland with tin whistle as the background music.

Music by The Salmon's leap

Newly Painted front porch

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Promises not Kept.

Haiti. Nearly nine months after the earthquake, more than a million Haitians still live on the streets between piles of rubble. One reason: Not a cent of the $1.15 billion the United States promised for rebuilding has arrived.

Lowlands of Holland

Celia from Salmon's leap sings the folk song Lowlands of Holland,

The Lowlands Of Holland [play] [print]

Now, when that I was married
And in my married bed
There came a bold sea captain
And he stood at my bedhead
Saying arise, arise young wedded man
And come along with me
To the lowlands of Holland
For to fight the enemy

Now Holland is a lovely land
And in it there grows fine grain
It is a place of residence
For soldiers to remain
Where the sugarcane grows plentiful
The tea grows on each tree
I only had the one true love
And now he's gone far away from me

Said the mother to her daughter
Leave off your sore lament
Is there ne'r a man in Ireland
That will be your heart's content
There are men enough in Ireland
But alas there is none for me
Since high winds and stormy seas
Have parted me love and me

I'll wear no shoes all on my feet
No combs all in my hair
I'll wear no handkerchief around my neck
For to shade my beauty fair
And neither will I marry
Until the day I die
Since high winds and stormy seas
Have parted me love and I

Monday, September 27, 2010

Misty Moisty Morning

One Misty Moisty Morning lyrics

One misty moisty morning when cloudy was the weather
I met with an old man a-clothed all in leather
He was clothed all in leather with a cap beneath his chin
Singing how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again
This rustic was a thresher as on his way he hied
And with a leather bottle fast buckled by his side
He wore no shirt upon his back but wool unto his skin
Singing how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again
I went a little further and there I met a maid
A-going a-milking, a-milking Sir she said
Then I began to compliment and she began to sing
Saying how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again
This maid her name was Dolly clothed in a gown of grey
I being somewhat jolly persuaded her to stay
And straight I fell a-courting her in hopes her love to win
Singing how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again
I having time and leisure, I spent a vacant hour
A-telling of my treasure while sitting in the bower
With many kind embraces I stroke her double chin
Singing how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again
I said that I would married be and she would be my bride
And long we should not tarry and twenty things beside
I'll plough and sow and reap and mow and you shall sit and spin
Singing how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again
Her parents then consented, all parties were agreed
Her portion thirty shillings, we married were with speed
Then Will the piper he did play whilst others dance and sing
Saying how do you do and how do you do and how do you do again
Then lusty Ralph and Robin with many damsels gay
Did ride on Roan and Dobbin to celebrate the day
And when they met together their caps they off did fling
Singing how do you do and how do you do and how do you do and how do you do

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Child Ballad #056
The Southern English ballad version of the story of Dives and Lazarus

"This song is also commonly sung to a variant now known widely as The Star of the Country Down" This is perhaps a little misleading and might benefit from qualification. The Star of the County Down is a composition of the early 20th century. The County Down lyric was written by Cathal McGarvey (who also wrote the words of The devil and bailiff McGlynn). He set his words to the old tune of Divers and Lazarus. This ancient tune Child Ballad #056 has also been used as a setting for the hymn, Come All Ye Worthy Christian Men and The Murder of Maria Marten (among others). The earliest known examples of the tune belonged to Gilderoy, but it has not been quite settled whether the tune is originally Scottish or English. Even though the melody is now most commonly called "The Star of the County Down", as I stated before, this is a recent innovation (last 50 years). This is due to the fact the Star of County Down has been recorded and distributed widely through commercial recordings and in Celtic circles. There are also many people who prefer a secular theme rather than a Christian one. No one can deny the tune is a very fine one. RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS wrote an orchestral piece based on the tune known as Five Variants of "Dives and Lazarus" (1939) and it is extremely beautiful.

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke (16:19-31)
19 ¶ There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28 for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Canto Della Terra - Andrea Bocelli

Lyrics translated in English:
"Song about the Earth"

Yes I know
My love, that you and I
Are together briefly
For just a few moments
In silence
As we look out of our windows
And listen
To the sky
And to a world
That's awakening
And the night is already far away
Already, far away

Look at this world
Spinning with us
Even in the dark
Look at this world
Spinning for us
Giving us hope and some
Sun, sun sun

My love, you are you my love
I hear your voice,
And I listen to the sea.
It sounds just like your breathing
And all the love you want to give me
This love
That is there, hidden
Hidden among the waves
All the waves in the world
Just like a boat that....

Look at this world
Spinning with us
Even in the dark
Look at this world
Spinning for us
Giving us hope,
And some sun, sun, sun,
Some sun, sun, sun.

Look at this world
Spinning with us
Giving us some sun,
Mighty sun
Mighty sun
Mighty sun

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Panis Angelicus

Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum;
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum;
O res mirabilis!
Manducat dominum

Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis.
Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis.

Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum;
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum;
O res mirabilis!
Manducat dominum

Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis.
Pauper, pauper
Servus, servus et humilis.

Jesus, our living bread,
Great gift from heaven sent,
Fulfill the signs of old, and be our nourishment.
We humble people come
To eat your sacred food,
In peace, joy, love, and gratitude.

O blessed Trinity,
We praise and worship you;
Strengthen our unity,
Our faith and trust renew.
Lord, lead us all our days
To heavenly peace and light;
Grant us rest there, before your sight.

Andrea Bocelli sings Panis Angelicus

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Moon's a Harsh Mistress - Jimmy Webb

See her how she flies
Golden sails across the sky
Close enough to touch
But careful if you try
Though she looks as warm as gold
The moon's a harsh mistress
The moon can be so cold

Once the sun did shine
Lord, it felt so fine
The moon a phantom rose
Through the mountains and the pines
And then the darkness fell
And the moon's a harsh mistress
It's so hard to love her well

I fell out of her eyes
I fell out of her heart
I fell down on my face
Yes, I did, and I -- I tripped and I missed my star
God, I fell and I fell alone, I fell alone
And the moon's a harsh mistress
And the sky is made of stone

The moon's a harsh mistress
She's hard to call your own.

The Sage

I carry the dust of a journey
that cannot be shaken away
It lives deep within me
for I breathed it every day

You and I are yesterday's answers
the earth of the past come to flesh
Eroded by time's rivers
to the shapes we now possess

Come share of my breath and my substance
and mingle our streams and our times
In bright infinite moments
our reasons are lost in our eyes

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Autumn basket, Wax Begonias

Red and pink Wax Begonias with spider plants and vinca vine

About Wax Begonias

In tropical or subtropical climates, the wax begonia is a perennial plant that can grow to the size of a small shrub. In cooler climates, it is grown as an annual. It has been popular in gardens since the Victorian era, and it is one of the most common plants in commercial cultivation today.

A group of hybrid cultivars, Begonia x semperfloren-cultorum, is the most widely planted. This group probably originated from a cross between Begonia cucullata var Hookeri and Begonia schmidtiana. The genus Begonia is unusual because all 1500+ species can be hybridized with one another, even those that originated on different continents.

Begonia semperflorens-cultorum was named for its long bloom period, from semperflorens, meaning 'everblooming'. The common name, wax begonia, refers to the waxy sheen of the leaves. The genus was named in honor of Michel Bégon (1638-1710), a French amateur botanist who collected begonias from while he was stationed in Santo Domingo with the French navy.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom - Plantae
Division - Magnoliophyta
Class - Magnoliopsida
Order - Cucurbitales
Family - Begoniaceae
Genus - Begonia
Species - Begonia semperflorens


Wax-leaf begonias prefer dappled or bright shade. Most varieties can tolerate heavy shade, and a few varieties have been developed to do well in full sun. Their tolerance for shade makes them suitable for use as houseplants as well as in the garden.

They are not fussy about soil pH, but they do need good drainage. The soil should be kept evenly moist for the best flower production, but the plants will tolerate dryness once they are established.

Wax begonias are heavy feeders. Regular fertilizing will encourage all-summer bloom. Frequent pinching results in fuller plants and heavier bloom.

These begonias are at their best when daytime temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They will tolerate cooler and warmer temperatures, but they cannot tolerate frost. Set plants out in spring after the last frost date.

Wax begonias can be grown from seed, but are most easily increased by cuttings. This is a great plant for gardeners on a budget, because the cuttings root so easily! You can start plants on a sunny windowsill in the fall and winter.

Marigolds, Mary's Gold or Cempasuchil

Marigolds are native to the Americas, originally found from the southwestern United States south to Mexico and Argentina. The ancient Aztecs called the marigold “cempasuchil," and considered it a sacred plant. To this day the marigold plays an important part in the Mexican Dias de los Muertos, or the Days of the Dead ceremonies. Formed into garlands, wreaths and crosses, marigolds decorate altars and cemeteries, where their scent is believed to guide the spirits of the dead back home.

Sixteenth century Spanish and Portuguese explorers transported these new world flowers to Europe and India. Marigolds, in Hindi called “gendha,” became an important flower in Indian culture and religion. Marigold garlands serve as an adornment for religious statues, or as a decoration or offering at weddings, funerals and other celebrations. Now a widely cultivated crop in southern Asia, marigolds are used to make dye, flavoring, essential oils and medicine.

The name bestowed on the plant by Europeans was not original. People were already using the term marigold to refer to the similar-in-color Calendula officinalis (also called the pot marigold). The name marigold, a shortened form of “Mary’s gold,” came about because the plant was associated with the Virgin Mary.

As Summer Into Autumn Slips

"As Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
"The Summer" than "the Autumn," lest
We turn the sun away,

And almost count it an Affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved --

So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
Of Life's Declivity."

- Emily Dickinson, As Summer Into Autumn Slips

Monday, September 20, 2010


Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.

- William Wordsworth, September

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumn Fires by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Dumb Girl of Pollok By E. Lynn Linton

The Dumb Girl of Pollok
By E. Lynn Linton

On the 14th of October, Sir George Maxwell, of Pollok, and his household were much agitated and disturbed. He had been taken suddenly and dangerously ill, with pains which
read like the pains of pleurisy; and though he get partially well, had still some awkward symptoms remaining. A young deaf and dumb girl, of unknown origin, signified that
“there is a woman whose son has broke his fruit yeard that did prick him in the side.” This was found to mean that Jennet Mathie, relict of John Stewart, under-miller in Schaw
Mill, had formed a wax picture with pins in its side, which “Dumby” said was to be found in her house in a hole behind the fire, and which she further offered to bring to
them at Pollok, provided certain two of the men servants might accompany her to protect her. The young daughters of Sir George did not believe the story, but the two servants,
Laurence Pollok and Andrew Martin, professed themselves converts, and insisted on seeing the thing to an end. So they went to Jennet’s house, and into the kitchen, all
standing on the floor near the fire; “when little Dumby comes quickly by, slips her hand into a hole behind the fire, and puts into Andrew Martin’s hand, beneath his cloak, a wax
picture with two pins in it,” that in the right side very long, and that in the left shorter: which corresponded with the severity of the laird’s pains. The picture was brought to Sir
George; so was Jennet Mathie, who was apprehended on the spot and whom Sir George then sent to prison. When questioned, she denied all knowledge of the picture or the pins,
and said it was the work of the dumb girl; but on its being shown that her son, Hugh had once robbed Sir George’s orchard—which was what Dumby meant by “broke his fruit
yeard “—and that Sir George, when told that he was no longer in Pollokland, but had gone to Darnlie, had said, “I hope my fingers may be long enough to reach him in Darnlie”—
these circumstances were held quite sufficient evidence that the Stewart family would do the laird all the mischief they could. The prosecution wanted no stronger proof,
and the affair went on. Jennet was obstinate, and would confess nothing; upon which they searched her and found the devil’s mark. After this, Sir George got better for a short space, but soon the pains returned, and then the dumb girl said that John Stewart, Jennet’s eldest son had made another clay image, four days since, and that it was now in his house beneath the bolster among the bed straw. So she and the servants went there again, and sure enough they found it; but as it was only lately made, it was soft and broke in their hands. John said simply he did not knew who had put it there; but he and his young sister Annabel were apprehended: and the next day Annabel confessed. She said, that on the 4th of January last past, while the clay picture was being formed, a black gentleman had come into her mother’s house, accompanied by Bessie Weir, Marjorie Craig, Margaret Jackson, and her own brother John. When confronted with John she wavered, but John was no nearer release for that. He was searched, and many marks were found on him; and when found the spell of silence was broken, and he confessed his paction with the devil as openly as his sister, giving up as their accomplices the same women as these she had named. Of these, Margaret Jackson, aged fourscore or so, was the only one to confess; but as she had many witch marks she could not hope for mercy, so might as well make a clean breast of it at once. On the 17th of January a portion of
clay was found under Jennet Mathie’s bolster, in her prison at Paisley. This time it was a woman’s portrait, for Sir George had recovered by now, and the witches were against the
whole family equally. On the 27th Annabel made a fuller deposition. She said that last harvest the devil, as a black man, had come to her mother’s house, and required her, the
deponent, to give herself to him; promising that she should want for nothing good if she did. She, being enticed by her mother and Bessie Weir, did as was desired—putting on hand on the crown of her head, and another on the soles of her feet, and giving over to him all that lay between; whereupon her mother promised her a new coat., and the devil
made her officer at their several meetings. He gave her, too, such a nip on the arm that she was sore for half an hour after, and gave her a new name—Annippy, or an Ape
according to Law. Her mother’s devil-name was Lands-lady; Bessie Weir was called Sopha; Marjorie Craig was Rigeru; Margaret Jackson Locas; John Stewart, Jonas; and
they were all present at the making of the clay image which was to doom Sir George to death. They made it of clay, then bound it on a spit and turned it before the fire, “Sopha”
crying “Sir George Maxwell! Sir George Maxwell!” which was repeated by them all. Another time, she said, there was a meeting, when the devil was dressed in “black
cloathes and a blew band, and white hand cuffs, with hoggers en his feet, and that his feet were cloven.” The black man stuck the pins into the picture, and his name was Ejoall, or
J. Jewell. For the devil delighted in giving himself various names, as when he caused himself to be called Peter Drysdale, by Catherine Sands and Laurie Moir, and Peter
Saleway by others. John now followed suit. He confessed to his own baptism; to the hoggers on the black man’s legs, who had no shoes, and spoke in a voice hollow and ghousty; to the making the clay image; and to his new name of Jonas. On the 15th of February, 1677, John Stewart, Annabel Stewart, and Margaret Jackson all adhered to these depositions, but
Jennet and Bessie and Margerie denied them. Jennet’s feet were fixed in stocks, so that she might not do violence to her own life: and one day her gaoler declared that he had
found her bolster, which the night before was laid at least six yards from the stocks, now placed beneath her; the stocks being so heavy that two of the strongest men in the country
could hardly have carried them six yards. He asked her “how she had win to the bolster,” and she answered that she had crept along the floor of the room, dragging the stocks with
her. Before the court she said that she had got one foot out of the hole, and had drawn the stocks with her, “a thing altogether impossible.” Then John and Annabel exhorted their
mother to confess, reminding her of all the meetings which she had had with the devil in her own house, and that “a summer’s day would not be sufficient to relate what passages
had been between the devil and her.” But Jennet Mathie was a stern, brave, high-hearted Scotch woman, and would not seal her sorrow with a lie. “Nothing could prevail with her obdured and hardened heart,” so she and all, save young Annabel, were burnt; and when she was bound to the stake, the spectators saw after a while a black, pitchy ball foam out of her mouth, which, after the fire was kindled, grew to the size of a walnut, and flew out into sparks like squibs. This was the devil leaving her. As for Bessie Weir, or Sopha, the evil left her when she was executed, in the form of a raven; for so he owned and dishonoured his chosen ones. “The dumbe girl, Jennet Douglas, now speaks well, and knows Latine, which she never learned, and discovers things past!” says Sinclair. But she still followed her old trade. She had mesmeric visions, and was evidently a “sensitive;” and some of the people believed in her, as inspired and divine, and some came, perhaps mockingly, to test her. But they generally got the worst off, and were glad to leave her alone again. One woman came and asked her “ ‘how she came to the knowledge of so many things,’ but the young wench shifted her, by asking the woman’s name. She told her name. Says the other, ‘Are there any other in Glasgow of that name?’ ‘No!’ sayes the woman. ‘Then,’ said the girle, ‘you are a witch!’ Says the other, ‘Then are you a devil!’ The girl answers ‘The devil doth not reveal witches; but I know you to be one, and I know your practices too.’ On which the poor woman ran away in great confusion;” as, indeed, she might—such an accusation as this being quite sufficient to sign her death-warrant. To another woman who came to see and question her, she said the same thing; taking her arm, and showing the landlord a secret mark which she told him the woman had got from the devil. “The poor woman much ashamed ran home, and a little while after she came out and told her neighbours that what Jennet Douglas had said of her was true, and earnestly entreated that they might show so much to the magistrates, that she might be apprehended, otherwise the devil says she will make me kill myself.” The neighbours were wise enough to think her mad, as she was, and took her home; but the next day she was found drowned in the Clyde; fear and despair had killed her before the stake-wood had had time to root and ripen. The dumb girl herself was afterwards carried before the great council at Edinburgh, imprisoned, scourged through the town, and then banished to “some forraigne Plantation,” whence she reappears no more to vex her generation. God forgive her! She has passed long years ago to her account, and may her guilty soul be saved, and all its burning blood-stains cleansed and assoilzed!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Witches in Maxwell House

Interview: Anne Downie, author of The Witches of Pollock

Published Date: 18 September 2010
By Jackie McGlone
WHAT DOES the Hollywood star Sarah Jessica Parker have in common with one of the most shocking, secret and shameful episodes in Scotland's dark past? The answer lies in the terrible tale of the trials of the 17th-century witches of Pollok – and the cruel deaths by burning at the stake of four women and one man.
Award-winning Glaswegian author and actress Anne Downie says with an apologetic laugh: "It's only wild speculation," before explaining that she shuddered while watching an episode of the US version of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring Sex and the City star Parker
Parker discovered that a female ancestor, Esther Elwell, had been named as a witch on a warrant during the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692, which Downie says uncannily mirror those of the Pollok witches.

Although the Scottish trials have been largely forgotten, they reflect the sheer horror of the story of the Salem trials, in religious bigotry and intolerance, the snooping and sniping, and terror and torture.

In 1677, one Janet Douglas, an apparently mute (the legends use the word "dumb") young serving girl arrived at the Pollok estate of Sir George Maxwell of Auldhouse, who had suddenly become seriously ill.

She "miraculously" regained the power of speech, pointed the finger at five people, as well as a 14-year-old girl, accusing them of witchcraft, and therefore of being responsible for the Laird's sickness. Downie, whose first novel, The Witches of Pollok, is based on this terrible tale, says that it is one she can't seem to let go; in 1990, she even wrote a play based on it.

To this day Douglas – who was later employed in the Maxwell household – remains an enigma. Like the hysterical teenagers who sustained the Salem witch hunts in the US, Douglas is said to have held power as "a witchfinder" over the residents of Polloktoun – the town was eventually demolished in 1798, disappearing from maps of Glasgow. Incidentally, says Downie, these dreadful events unfolded close to where the Burrell Collection is displayed today.

Just as Sarah Jessica Parker's ancestor was alleged to have murdered a neighbour in "phantasmal form", the five witches of Pollok were, according to Douglas, guilty of consorting with and making pacts with the Devil. Later, Douglas herself was put on trial for spreading "malicious mischiefing", although she was never tried as a witch despite the fact that her knowledge and obsession with such matters was uncanny.

"The judge ordered that she be deported to the colonies – almost certainly to America," says Downie. "Did she fetch up in Salem perhaps? Was she among those who accused Parker's ancestor of witchcraft?" muses Downie. "One thing's for sure, she'll have caused mayhem wherever she ended up."

Downie – currently rehearsing with Karen Dunbar and Sharon Small at the National Theatre in London, for her role in Ena Lamont Stewart's Scottish classic Men Should Weep – says that this shadowy "dumbie" as Douglas was described, exerts a powerful hold on her imagination, because, bizarrely, the girl recovered the power of speech, speaking fluent French, Latin and Greek.

Twenty years ago, Downie's compelling play, The Witches of Pollok, was commissioned for the Tron Theatre by Michael Boyd – now artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company – as part of Glasgow's City of Culture celebrations. The production gave Annan-born actress Ashley Jensen one of her first stage roles before she went on to international stardom first in Ricky Gervais's Extras then the American TV series Ugly Betty.

• Pollok House

Twenty years ago, Scotland on Sunday's critic found The Witches of Pollok "a strange and disturbing story…(told] with economy, craft, and a tinge of the white magic that pure theatre can conjure." Today, it seems even stranger and even more disturbing, for Downie has seamlessly woven fact and fiction to conjure a truly gripping novel.

Why does this story – it's been called a Caledonian Crucible, a reference to Arthur Miller's play about the Salem "witches" – continue to intrigue and haunt her? Downie – who is the mother of a grown-up son and daughter and grandmother of two small children – replies: "I first stumbled on the story when I was commissioned by Wildcat to write a Glasgow comedy. I went to the Glasgow Room at the Mitchell Library searching for inspiration.

"I came across the story of Janet Douglas, who had pointed the accusatory finger at five people who were burnt at the stake, in a book called Old Glasgow Tales. There was a letter from an Edinburgh minister saying that she had been beaten through the streets of Edinburgh, then banished to the colonies. It told briefly how she had been a mute who spookily recovered her speech and accused five people of witchcraft. No-one knows who she was or where she came from. She just turned up at Pollok House, home of Sir George Maxwell, the Laird of Nether Pollok."
Downie's curiosity was piqued. She discovered that Sir George had been a staunch Covenanter, who had travelled across Scotland to witness or even take part in various witch trials. Indeed, he'd just returned from a trial in Greenock, Renfrewshire, in October 1677, when he fell ill, with severe pains along the right side of his body.

"Then, out of the blue, Janet Douglas appeared," says Downie. Douglas claimed that the tiny community of Polloktoun had cursed the Laird. She named a widow, Janet Mathie Stewart, her son John – "the warlock of Pollokshaws" – and her 14-year-old daughter, Annabel, as servants of Satan.

Three other servants from the manor house were similarly accused. "All their homes were searched and wax effigies, pierced with pins, were found where Janet Douglas said they would be. She alleged they were of Sir George and the cause of his suffering."

All six were taken to Paisley, where they were tortured, "confessed" and put on trial. They were sentenced to death by strangulation and "condemned to the fire to be burned and their effigies with them."

Throughout, they maintained their innocence. Only young Annabel was not sentenced to death. Within a few months, the Laird himself was dead, but not before he'd had Douglas interviewed by George Hickes, a friend of Samuel Pepys, and the Reverend Scott, a minister from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. "Amazingly, she addressed Hickes in several languages.

He said she had second sight, while Scott thought her 'an impostrix'," says Downie.

"Later, she married a minister and moved to Edinburgh where she saw more witches. She was undoubtedly a 'witch obsessive.' Virtually everyone she met was in league with the Devil." Weary of her endless accusations, the authorities arrested her in the capital. At her trial, she told the judge she knew who he had been in bed with a few nights earlier – "a muckle devil".

Downie, who lives near Pollok House, often walks with her husband, John, in its grounds.which are now run by the National Trust for Scotland. There is a witch's wood, where people can go to put a curse on their enemies, tying messages to the trees.

"There's definitely a very strange atmosphere there even today," insists Downie, who remains frustrated that she can find so little information about Janet Douglas. "Some thought she'd been born 'on the wrong side of the blanket' into an aristocratic family, but it's not known whether she was even Scottish. When I first came across the story, I went to the Law Courts but drew a complete blank. Now, though, with the internet, there's so much more information available.

"My late brother, Jim Delaney, who lived in Canada, and who was a whiz at IT, managed to find Janet's charge sheet and a lot more background information than I'd had when I wrote the play, which was a dramatic, Gothic tale. I've been able to explore the story in much more detail in my novel and I think I've been able to throw some light on Janet."

In fact, Downie became so steeped in the period that she enrolled on a course in Scottish history at Glasgow University.

Downie was educated at Holyrood School, in Glasgow, and Langside College, and studied creative writing at Glasgow University, before she began wrtiting plays and scripts for Take The High Road, The Bill and Taggart, among many other popular TV series.

Ultimately, Downie says, it's the story's resonances with today that ignited her novel, drawing contemporary parallels with the latent tyranny of a repressive society and the dangers incurred in dissent.
"You can't feel superior by saying, 'Oh, these were just 17th-century people torturing confessions out of innocent people,'" she warns.

"You think of Guantanamo Bay and you wonder whether we've really advanced all that much. OK, we don't burn witches, but we still torture people. It seems there's no end to man's inhumanity to man – and woman."

• The Witches of Pollok, by Anne Downie (Capercaillie Books, £8.99). Anne Downie will read from her book at a free, ticketed event Blackwells Bookshop, South Bridge, Edinburgh, October 7, 6-7pm. Men Should Weep opens at the National Theatre, London, October 18.

The American Trials

• The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693.

• Two hundred people were accused of witchcraft. Twenty nine were convicted, with 19 – 14 women and five men – hanged.

• One man who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so.

• In 1702, the trials were declared unlawful and four years later, Ann Putnam Jr, one of the chief accusers, publicly apologised for her actions in 1692.

• The colony passed a legislative bill restoring the rights and good names of those accused of witchcraft in 1711.

• Salem Village was renamed Danvers in 1752.

The word is the grape harvest will be excellent this year

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Sinclair Lewis once said, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” Sadly he was correct and Jesus weeps.

The Rams Horn

The Rams Horn on Facebook