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57 “The young thing, sae bonie, weds some canker’t clownie,37 “Because ye’ve presag’d that nae ither’s decreed--- “While dupes trust the Sybil far mair than the bible, “An’ change the last sixpence that ye may be fee’d, “I’ll scorn the to-morrow, an’ banishin’ sorrow, “Learn mair light frae whiskey than e’er fill’t your head. The “Carnmoney Witch”, 1807-8. In 1807, in Carnmoney, a small, relatively poor, Presbyterian village in Co. Antrim, Alexander Montgomery and his wife became convinced their only cow had been bewitched when her milk could not be churned into butter. Mary Butters, a wise-woman from Carrickfergus was duly consulted but her cure turned out to be worse than the disease, causing the deaths of a number of local people. The below newspaper articles provide a narrative account of the tragedy and what happened to Mary Butters afterwards. The poem is by Francis Boyle, a theologically and politically conservative Presbyterian poet from Gransha, near Comber, Co. Down, who wrote in the Scots verse style and was probably born in the mid-eighteenth century.38 The version given here was published in the early twentieth century by the Ulster Journal of Archaeology. The Aberdeen Journal, 7 October 1807, Dreadful Catastrophe. A melancholy event took place some time ago, in the house of Alexander Montgomery, tailor at Carmonie Meeting-house in Ireland, which shows the extreme ignorance, folly, and superstition, of the country people:- “Montgomery had a cow, which continued to give milk as usual, but of late no butter could be produced from the milk. An opinion, which has long been entertained by many people in the country was unfortunately instilled into the mind of Mongomery’s wife, that whenever such circumstance occurred, it was occasioned by the cow having been bewitched. This family were informed of a woman named Mary Butters, who resided at Carrickfergus, and could, by contrary incantations, destroy the evil genius. They brought her to the house. The enchantress informed the family, that, after night fall, she would try a spell that could not fail. 37 Short-tempered/coarse fellow. 38 For more poetry by Francis Boyle, see Frank Ferguson (ed.), Ulster Scots Writing: An Anthology (Dublin, 2008).

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