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  • Bessie Dunlop of Lynn

    Bessie Dunlop of Lynn

    • Bessie Dunlop
      Lynn Glen small spout.JPG
      The Caaf Water in the Lynn Glen
      Born Scotland
      Died 1576
      Edinburgh, Scotland
      Occupation Farmer and housewife

      Living in the 16th century Bessie Dunlop, Elizabeth Dunlop or Elizabeth Jack was an Ayrshire farmer's wife who was 'burned at the stake' at Edinburgh for the crime of sorcery, witchcraft, incantations, etc. Her case was unusual in the amount of fine detail related in her testimony and the lack of anything but positive or neutral outcomes of her recorded ministrations and actions. Her admission to the use of a 'familiar spirit' and association with the fairies were the main cause of her conviction and her death sentence. For consistency the name 'Bessie Dunlop' is used throughout.

      Bessie was the wife of Andrew Jack of Lynn, Lyne, Lin or Linn a hamlet and the name of a glen through which the Caaf Water runs, lying in the Barony of Lynn, then owned by Robert, Master of Boyd, eldest son of Lord Boyd. It seems therefore that their farm lay near or at the bottom of the Lynn Glen on the Caaf Water, near Dalry in North Ayrshire, Scotland. She was married to Andrew Jack and her surname suggests an Ayrshire connection as the town of Dunlop in the old Cunninghame district lies in the nearby parish of Dunlop. She is recorded as driving cattle at one point and sheep are also mentioned together with a horse and a journey to Edinburgh and Leith with her husband to collect animal feed, so a small family farm is implied at the very least. Bessie also records a meeting at the 'Thorn of Dawmstarnik' which is probably Dalmusternock on the Kilmarnock to Glasgow road.

      A kiln is mentioned on one of the visits of Thomas Reid to Bessie's house and it is possible that her husband was the miller at one of the mills in the Lynn Glen. She was called the 'goodwife' which was one step down from a laird and a miller's wife would have a right to that assignation. She was of child bearing age at the time of these events and had surviving children with another born during the four-year period that she knew Thomas Reid.

      Her husband features very little in the story considering how often Thomas Reid is in her company, but very little evidence exists of any impropriety other than the breaking of relatively minor social conventions such as trying to tug her by her apron strings to encourage her to go to the elfhame. A John Jack is mentioned as the father of one of her patients.

      When Bessie Dunlop was accused of sorcery and witchcraft she answered her accusers that she received information on prophecies, the whereabouts of lost goods and the natural remedies from Thomas or Tom Reid, a former barony officer of Blair near Dalry who claimed to have been killed at the Battle of Pinkie some 29 years before in 1547. She describes him in terms of an elderly, well dressed, honest and respectable man with a long grey beard who carried a white wand. Bessie revealed to her interrogators that she had "Never known him when he was alive", but had first met Thomas or Tom Reid circa 1572 whilst driving cattle to the common grazing between her own house and the yard or garden of Monkcastle and after a discussion he then disappeared through a hole in a wall or dyke at Monkcastle garden, apparently a hole too small for a living person to pass through. Service records that he came out of a stone dyke, more than once, without reference to anything unusual.



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