Of human remains and another sinister reality behind a television programme
I wonder how many listened to this programme a week or two ago? It was about the late diminutive Scottish actress Molly Weir who, between 1978 and 1984, played “Hazel McWitch” in the children’s comedy Rentaghost – you could tell it was a children’s comedy because one of the main characters died in the first few minutes of the opening episode, after a motorcycle accident.
Had she existed, McWitch, being Scottish, is likely to have been a victim of the campaign against witchcraft begun by James VI and to have been one of about 1700 burned between 1590 and 1722. Most were strangled before being burned, although William Tyndale could testify that this was not always effective.
In England, where witches were hanged instead, the total is usually estimated at 500 of a population four times that of Scotland. Quite apart from being less painful, even short-drop hanging preserved the body for future identification. The two convicted at the St. Osyth trial of 1582 are still being investigated to determine which witch is which, although it is now thought that the remains do not relate to Ursula Kemp