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18 June 2014
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Immigration and Emigration
Witch
witch
A witch depicted, feeding her ‘familiars`.
Planters, chiefs and hollowed out cheese

Why leave Scotland anyway?

By the 17th Century, Scotland was awash with religious and social persecution. Anger against church taxes and intolerant policies had been festering for years; politics and religion were at times inseparable.

Witchcraft was especially targeted with merciless justice. After a family row with her brother in law, Margaret Barclay from Ayrshire, made comment that she hoped the boat in which her brother in law was due to sail in, would sink. Unfortunately for Margaret, the ship sank.

Witches collar
witches collar
set of ‘Jougs’ or witches collar used in 17th century Scotland to restrain a `suspect`.
Her comments were enough to have her tortured until she confessed to being a witch and to admit that her dog was the devil. Even though she subsequently pleaded that she had only confessed to the "charges" because of the severe torture, she was still convicted, strangled and burnt to death.

Thomas Ross, former minister of Cargill, in Perthshire, had gone to Oxford to study. In a moment of madness he wrote a libel on the Scottish nation, and fixed it to the door of St Mary's Church. It spoke in scurrilous terms of the people of Scotland, demanding that the King should banish all Scots from his court.

He was extradited to Edinburgh, where, 'his right hand was first struck off, then he was beheaded and quartered, his head being fixed on a prick at the Nether Bow Port and his hand at the West Port'.

Although the stories above are enough to make any sane person want to emigrate, it wasn't the main reason that Scots came to Ulster. High inflation, in the 16th Century, due to successful agricultural yields, led to an abundance of food for export. This success only benefited land-owning classes, which led to friction with their tenants and sub-tenants.

Hunger and poverty meant that the less well off, especially the people of the over populated Lowlands, were forced to move for political, religious, and most importantly, economic reasons.


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