Home Page John Wilson Related Sites Acknowledgements Send a message Email about the diary Start from January 1st

June 4th 1615

Previous day Next day

The Inchbrakie Moonstone

There are no records of the burning of Kate McNiven, the witch of Monzie, but there seems to be no doubt that she was a real person. Kate McNiven’s Crag, Kate McNiven’s Well and Kate McNiven’s cave near Crieff all bear witness to her existence. There is also some written evidence from the trial of John Brughe of Glendevon who was convicted of sorcery and other unholy arts in 1643. It was alleged that he had obtained his knowledge from “a widow woman of three score years of age, who was sister dochter to Nike Neveing, that notorious infamous witch in Monzie, who for her sorcerie and witchcraft was burnt four score years since or thereby.” 

To the Graham family of Inchbrakie, there was a more tangible relic of poor Kate, and the story of her death was carefully passed down from one generation to the next. It would appear that in 1615, Kate was accused and found guilty of witchcraft. The Laird of Inchbrakie was unaware of what had happened, but riding over from Inchbrakie to Monzie he came upon the scene with Kate already tied to the stake and the pile of faggots about to be lit. There was a large crowd gathered for the burning and though Inchbrakie tried to persuade them to release the woman they would have none of it, neither threats nor intreaties moved them from their purpose.

The first faggots were lit and Kate, realising that her fate was sealed, spoke out. First she cursed the Laird of Monzie on whose land she was being burned. Never should Monzie pass direct from father to son. Then she cursed the Kirkton of Monzie; unlike the neighbouring towns and villages it would dwindle in population as the years went by and always in some wretched house there would dwell an idiot boy. Lastly she turned to Inchbrakie. She blessed him for his kindness and his efforts to save her life. Then she bit a blue stone from a pendant around her neck and spat it towards him. She bade him keep the stone secure within his house and lands. If this were done Inchbrakie should never want for a son, nor Inchbrakie’s son his lands.

The Laird of Inchbrakie had the stone, a moonstone sapphire, set in a golden ring between two other stones of different shapes, the ring being partly embossed and ornamented with an unusual shade of blue enamel. It was kept in a casket and never allowed away from the house. When the sons married, the stone was placed on the fingers of their brides, but no daughter of Inchbrakie was ever allowed to wear it as she could not bring an heir.

Things continued in this way until the seventies of last century. Patrick, the 11th heir of Inchbrakie had come of age and departed with his regiment for India. Difficult times were facing the family and Inchbrakie was let while Patrick was abroad. The charter chest containing the family papers was left with his aunt for safe keeping. When he returned home he visited his aunt. Miss Louisa Graham tells the story. “When I was a young girl I well remember my mother’s horror and dismay when my cousin Patrick, head of the family, opened a box of papers which during the family’s absence abroad had been left in her care; for there was the ring in which the stone was set, no longer guarded within the walls of Inchbrakie. A few years after this the first acres were sold. Now there is not one of them left.” 

And Kate McNiven’s curse on the Laird and lands of Monzie? Writing around 1903 Miss Graham states, “Monzie has never since been owned from father to son; Monzie Kirkton still stands, but has grown smaller; and always an idiot dwells in the village.” 

Previous day Next day

Perthshire Diary Home | Author | Perthshire Links | Reference | Contact Us | Tell a friend | Browse