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Up to eighteen people were tried for witchcraft in the tiny village of Inverkip.

Inverkip was a hotbed of witchcraft activity for half a century from 1640 to 1690. The Ministers of the parish at the time, the Rev John Hamilton and Rev Alexander Leslie  were noted as being ‘zealous persecutors of witches’. 

A Royal Enquiry into the Inverkip witch hunts, which have been compared to those at Salem, was led by Archibald Stewart of Blackhall. During this enquiry 18 year old Marie Lamont was tried as a witch before the Commission, Sir Archibald and the Rev John Hamilton. Marie confessed that ‘Jean King, Kattie Scott, Janet Holm, herself and sundry others, met together in the mirk, at the bucht-gait of Ardgowan whar, the devil was with them in the shape of a black man with cloven feet, and directit them to fetch whyte sand fre the shore, and cast it about yetts of Ardgowan and about the ministers hous’.

 Marie was found guilty of witchcraft and burned at the stake, the fate of the others is not known

Another source differs a wee bit and is a bit more graphic stating the the Devil  appeared at the sabbaths in the form of a big brown dog and that He had left the ‘Devil’s Mark’ on her by nipping her on her side.

A local verse recalls another notable character during this period…

“In Auld Kirk the witches ride thick
And in Dunrod they dwell;
But the greatest loon amang them a’
Is Auld Dunrod himsel’.”

'Auld Dunrod’ was the last of the Lindsay family of Dunrod Castle. As the result of a dissolute life he lost all his possessions and fell into the black arts. Local reputation had it that he was in league with the devil, and he died in mysterious circumstances in a barn belonging to one of his former tenant farmers.
Nothing now remains of the castle which stood at the foot of Dunrod Hill, so I’ve posted a pic  of Ardgowan Castle, which was originally called Inverkip Caste and is in the same vicinity.

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This is a muckle, foreboding castle in my own opinion, it wasn’t built to be pretty, and one of the most sinister and atmospheric castles in the whole country.

Hermitage was the home of William, Lord Soulis is said to have been the most evil wizard in Scottish history.


William de Soules was a huge and physically powerful man, and when he became Lord of Hermitage in 1318 he rapidly demonstrated a deep vein of cruelty that quickly had him loathed by all who came into contact with him. Stories began to circulate that he practiced the Black Arts, kidnapping local children and using their blood in dark rituals at the castle.

One day, in 1320, Lord de Soulis, took a fancy to a young lady, an Armstrong,  who lived nearby. To satisfy his passions, he planned to seize her regardless of her wishes. Used to having his own way he brought terror to any woman in whom he took an interest.

Riding to her home he was confronted by her father who was determined to defend his daughter, even against a powerful figure such as Soulis.

Not being used to having his desires frustrated, de Soulis struck out at the man and killed him.

The local people had witnessed the incident, and Soulis would have been slain by the infuriated mob and he was forced to abandon his prize and flee for his life.

He would certainly have been killed but for the intervention of Alexander Armstrong, the Laird of Mangerton, who, arriving on the scene in the nick of time, restrained the crowd, and escorted de Soulis back to Hermitage.

De Soulis, safe at home, felt no gratitude to the man who had saved his life. Indeed, he was offended that a man whom he regarded as his social inferior could so control his people and save his life.

Brooding over these thoughts, he sent an invitation to Alexander, inviting him to a banquet at Hermitage to demonstrate his appreciation and thank him for his help.

But on arriving at the castle Alexander was attacked and murdered by De Soulis, stabbing Alexander in the back.

His grieving friends bore away his body to be buried at Ettleton Cemetery. It was nightfall when they rested by the roadside at the foot of the hill below the graveyard.


Next morning Alexander was laid to rest, and later, by the roadside, beneath the cemetery, a cross was erected, the Milnholm Cross to mark the event and passing of a respected and much loved laird.

His long suffering people made countless complaints to officials which became so frequent that eventually they reached the ears of the king himself.

Exasperated by the constant barrage of complaints, the king, in despair, clasped his head in his hands and cried out ‘Soulis! Soulis! Go boil him in brew!’

That was all that was needed, an order from the king himself!

Soulis was overpowered  and taken to Nine Stane Rig, high up in the hills by a Druid circle. There, a huge cauldron and fire had been prepared and the Lord Soulis was wrapped in lead and placed in the cauldron where he was boiled to his death.

When he discovered that the Borderers had taken him literally the king dispatched officials hastily to Liddesdale. They were too late to save De Soulis and arrived in time to witness the cauldron with Soulis inside 'supping his own broth.’

The story or De Soulis being boiled in molten lead was derived from an 18th century ballad written by an obscure author.

A good story indeed, except from Soulis’s viewpoint, but unlikely to be true. There is evidence to believe that Soulis, in fact, died while in captivity in Dumbarton Castle. He had been guilty of a conspiracy against Robert Bruce.

Oh Mary Queen of Scots is also said to haunt the castle, but that’s said to be true of many places, the Wizard story is much better!

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