Witchcraft—Geilles Duncan—David Seton—Dr Feane at Saltpans—
Great Trial for Witchcraft—Condemnation—Military Riot at
Tranent; Prestonpans Men Involved—Their Acquittal—Riotous
Proceedings at Prestonpans—Imprisonment—Acquittal—A French
Professor on Prestonpans—As a Health Resort, &c. —The
French Professor and Glasgow Lasses—Taxing in 1827—Agricultural
Shows at Prestongrange.
THAT Saltpans was given up to witchcraft too, during the
sixteenth century, need scarcely have been doubted; but
that it had to do with the greatest witch trial on record
would scarcely have been expected. And yet it was so.
The implicator in this trial was Geilles Duncan, a Tranent
girl—indeed servant girl to no less a personage than David
Seton, the notorious witch-finder, chamberlain to the Earl
of Winton of that period, and who had his habitation in
that old house in Winton Place known as the Royal George.
The person implicated was Dr Fian or Feane. Sometimes he
is termed schoolmaster at Tranent, at other times master
of the school at Saltpans. It may be that he had both schools
under his charge; but we need scarcely attempt, at this
time of day, to explain that by any trick of witchery he
could be in both schools, and teach the scholars, at one
and the same time, for few would readily believe it. Geilles
had implicated a good many for witchery before she fell
foul of Dr Feane.
Fourteen jurymen sat on this case, and a curious thing connected
with this trial is the fact that no less than half a dozen
of them hailed from Tranent. Such a state of matters would
hardly be tolerated now in a court of law. King James himself
sat and heard this trial from beginning to end. Now for
Amongst others implicated by Geilles Duncan as being servants
of the devil was Dr Feane, who was tried at great
length before the Assize at Edinburgh; and whose
trial, in order to show the frivolous nature of the charges
brought against people, in many cases of unblemished character,
and for which they were cruelly put to death, we give in
its entirety. In the " History of King James VI., "
the culprit in this case is designated " schoolmaster
at Tranent, master of the school at Saltpans. " He
is termed also " register and secretar to the devil;
" and is set down in the indictment, December 26, 1599,
as Johnne Feane, alias Cunningham, last dwelling
in Preston; Condu, convict of divers poyntes of Witchcraft,
condemit in the dittay; comperit the samin Maister David
M'Gill of Cranstoune Rydell, Advocate to our Sovereign Lord,
as pursuer, and producit ane dittay against the said Johnne
Feanne. The jurymen were: —
| John Wilson, Edinburgh
John Halket, Edinburgh
James Watson, do.
Richard Newtoune, Tranent
William Strathearn, Tranent
|Richard Halzeot, Tranent
Robert Seyton, Tranent
John Donaldson, Edinburgh
Thomas Craig, Edinburgh
James Milton, Tranent
Robert Smith, do.
" Videlicit—Quhilkis persons of Assize being chosen,
sworn, and admitit upon the said Johnne Feane. He being accused
be dittay of the said crimes, they chuse James Watson, Chanceller;
after which, by the mouth of the said Chanceller, ffand, pronouncit,
and delyuerit the said Johnne Feane to be fylit and convict.
Fyrst, that when the devil appeared and come to him, when
he was lying in his bed at Tranent, in Thomas Trumbellis chalmer,
mwsand 1 and panpand 1 how he mycht be revenged of
the said Thomas, who had offended him in nocht spargeing2
of his room as he had promised, his face being towards the
wall; the devil appeared to him in white raiment, when he,
the devil, spak to him in thir terms, or ever he, Feane, spak
to the devil, " Will ze be ma serwand, 3 and
adore me and ma serwands, and ze sail never want, and also
ze suld be revengit of zour enimies; " like as, the same
devil persuaded him to burn Thomas Trumbellis hoose, in respect
he had not kept his promise.
2d Item—Fylit for suffering of himself to be markit by the
devil with ane rod the second nicht that he appeared to him
in white arayment as said is, in his bed, and for feigning
of himself to be seik in the said Thomas Trumbillis chalmer,
1 Thinking and cogitating. 2 Washing
or cleaning. 3 Servant.