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8 Villainies she had perpetrated, the child would not so quickly recover, for two other Witches, whom she named, had also given her mortal Infections, from the Effects she could not without Difficulty, and much time, be delivered.’ The prosecution and trial of the ‘Islandmagee Witches’, Co. Antrim, 1711 In the rural peninsula of Islandmagee, Co. Antrim, between September 1710 and February 1711, Mrs Ann Haltridge, the elderly widow of local Presbyterian minister, the Rev. John Haltridge, was staying in the house of her son, James. At various times during her stay, beds were stripped by unseen hands and bed-clothes rearranged in the shape of a corpse; stones were hurled at windows, household objects disappeared before re-appearing days later, and a demonic apparition foretold Ann’s death. Finally, on 21 February 1711, Ann died of inexplicable stabbing pains in her back. Almost immediately the small, Presbyterian-Scots community of Islandmagee attributed the incident to witchcraft, albeit of an undetermined source. Six days after Ann was buried, Mary Dunbar arrived in Islandmagee from Castlereagh, Co. Antrim. Shortly after her arrival, supernatural disturbances began to shake the Haltridge household once more and Dunbar, a good-looking, educated gentlewoman of eighteen, claimed she had been bewitched by eight women from Islandmagee and the surrounding areas, namely: Janet Carson, Janet Sellor (nee Liston), her daughter, Elizabeth Sellor, Catherine McCalmond, Janet Mean or Main, Janet Latimer, Janet Millar and Margaret Mitchell. The ‘Islandmagee Witches’ were tried on 31 March 1711 at Co. Antrim Assizes at Carrickfergus in a trial that lasted eight hours. The women were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and four appearances in the pillory on market day, the standard punishment laid out in the 1586 Irish witchcraft statute for a first offence where murder had not been committed.9 Below are a number of the witness testimonies or depositions given to magistrates concerning the case of the ‘Islandmagee Witches’, along with the only known contemporary newspaper report, and a mid-nineteenth-century folklore account. ‘Depositions in the Case of the Island Magee Witches 1710 [1711]’ in, R.M. Young (ed.), Historical Notices of old Belfast … (Belfast, 1896).10 (p.162) ‘The examination of W[illia]m Fenton, of Island Magee, 3D of March, 1710, 9 See Andrew Sneddon, Possessed by the Devil: the Real History of the Islandmagee Witches … (Dublin, 2013). 10 The original documents from which these transcripts were produced are currently housed in Trinity College, Dublin, Ms 883/2, papers of William and Samuel Molyneux, 1662-1745: Examinations and Depositions taken in the Co. Antrim Respecting Witches’.

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