Maggie Wall

The Witch called Maggie Wall


  Before we go on to the Mysterious and unexplained story of Maggie Wall lets first quickly explain the history behind Scottish Witches.

Witch trials in early modern Scotland were the judicial proceedings in Scotland between the early sixteenth century and the mid-eighteenth century concerned with crimes of witchcraft. In the late middle age there were a handful of prosecutions for harm done through witchcraft, but the passing of the Witchcraft Act 1563 made witchcraft, or consulting with witches, capital crimes. An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people, mostly from the Scottish Lowlands, were tried for witchcraft in this period, a much higher rate than for neighbouring England. Seventy-five per cent of the accused were women. Modern estimates indicate that more than 1,500 persons were executed; most were strangled and then burned. On the north side of the B8062 a just under a mile west of Dunning, a gap in the stone wall and some steps give access to one of Scotland's spookier monuments. This is the memorial to Maggie Wall, (also sometimes known as ‘The Witch’s Grave’) who, it says, was burned here in 1657 as a witch. It's a pretty imposing monument. It stands 20ft high, and is made of large stones held together by hefty iron staples. It comprises of a square tapering base on which is placed a stone pillar, and the whole thing is topped off by a stone cross. But the one thing that still remains to this day is that no one knows who Maggie actually was. Nothing appears to have been documented about Maggie or her crimes of witch craft. So if no one knows who Maggie was then why a Monument. So next you have to ask who would build such an imposing monument, and also when was it built, and why ?. Some feel that the way the stones are fixed together it suggests the monument was erected in the early 1800s. There are several theories about who Maggie Wall was and why her monument exists. Some have suggested that Lord Andrew Rollo (who was the landowner of the area) was having an affair with Maggie, and built the monument after she was executed out of guilt. It's also been suggested that there are echoes in the monument of the storyline of Sir Walter Scott's novel "Ivanhoe", in which the hero saves Rebecca after she is accused of being a witch. The novel was first published in 1820, so if there is a link, then the monument must have been erected after that date. The truth is that no-one knows, and no-one is ever likely to. In 1663, six women from Dunning were accused of witchcraft (and three were executed), which is an alarmingly high number considering the village only had a couple of hundred residents.


The local minister, Revered George Muschet, was deemed unfit by church officials, but he was well liked within the village. When officials attempted to discipline the minister in 1652, they were attacked by an angry mob of local women who wanted to keep him in the church. Some have suggested that Maggie Wall was part of this group, and that may be why she came under the wrath of the church and burned as a witch a few years later. Whatever the timing of the monument's erection, and the reasons for it, the local landowner must at least have given permission for its erection. Building it would have taken some effort and cost. Two further mysteries surrounding the memorial have a continuing resonance. The painted lettering is said to be reapplied periodically to ensure it remains fresh and legible. No-one seems to know who does the repainting. And the significance, if any, of a number of children's toys and other objects wedged in place on the memorial is also unclear. So if you travel near Dunning, and if you want to visit the Monument in the Dark of night, who knows who else may appear............