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Re: Battle of Otterburn, 5th August 1388

Dear Iain:

Almost two and a half centuries later on December 4, 1628, in a period of history come to be known as "Early Modern", a descendent of Sir John Sinclair of Hermandston was involved in something far less heroic than the Battle of Otterburn.  No poems were written about the event, and so even today the following uninspired lines exist only between-leaves on the dusty shelves of the Edinburgh Room of the National
Library of Scotland:

"Commission to Johne Sinclair of Hirdmistoun, and others, against William Davidson, laitlie in Saltoun, for witchcraft."--Register of the Privy Council, 2 series, v. 2, p. 517.

Unlike the Battle of Otterburn, the outcome of Davidson's trial is unknown.  By law, a Laird had to apply to the Privy Council for a commission to try a suspected witch--which cost money and time.  The verdict and punishment meted out was not required to be reported back, and so usually wasn't.

A couple of years before Johne's claim to ignominity, on March 28, 1626, a similar commission was granted to "William, Lord Sinclair of Berrydaill [Caithness], and others, to try Jonnett Budge, long suspected of witchcraft."--Register of the Privy Council, 2 series, v. 1, p. 258.

As genealogists and family historians we may welcome the Pirates, Corsairs and White Panthers.  They do, after all, add a bit of spice to the mix.

But the 130-odd-year period of the Scottish witch hunts are another matter altogether.  Anyone who studies the period can rise from their desk feeling nothing but revulsion.  The religious zeal of the "true faith" (perhaps rightly so) is nowadays given the lion's share of the blame, but our noble Scots families--especially those which supposedly had the wisdom to know better--did not do what they did out of
ignorance, but out of "prudence."

I do not know if anyone wept when a "witch" was "wirried and brint," although I suspect tears may have been shed by someone.  But I do know that there was no poet present to record the accomplishments of our noble ancestors on those particular days.  More's perhaps the pity.

All Best!

Jeff Nisbet
Reader of the Lost Stone

Iain Laird wrote:

> Otterburn, a Scots response to an English Raid, is remembered as the battle where "A dead man won the field".
> The Battle took place just across the Border in Northumberland , the Scots led by James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas, against Henry Percy and his followers.  John Sinclair and his cousin, another Sir John Sinclair of Hermandston were in the Scots force. Early in the battle Douglas was mortally wounded.  He ordered his officers to hide him in a bush so that news of his injuries would not influence the fight.
> "My wonnd is deep; I fain would sleep;
> Tak the vanguard o' the three,
> And bide me by the bracken bush,
> That grows on yonder lea.
> O bury me by the bracken bush,
> Beneath the blooming breer;
> Let never living mortal ken
> That a kindly Scot lies here."

[ Excess quotations omitted. ]

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