Plea To Pardon Last Witch Of Scotland
Feb 29 2008 By Dave King
CAMPAIGNERS fighting for a pardon for the last Scot convicted under anti-witchcraft laws have called on Holyrood to help.
Duncan travelled the country holding seances. She was one of Britain's
best-known mediums, reputedly counting Winston Churchill among her
But she spent nine months in London's Holloway jail after her trial in April 1944.
Helen, of Callander, Perthshire, was arrested in January that year during a seance in Portsmouth.
supporters believe she was targeted by the authorities after a 1941
seance during which she was said to have disclosed, through her
spirit-world contacts, the loss of the battleship HMS Barnham.
The sinking, with the loss of most of the crew, had been kept secret to avoid damaging public morale.
It was not officially revealed until two months after Helen's seance.
arrest three years later came just months before the D-Day landings and
her campaigners say paranoid military officials feared she would reveal
She faced a number of possible charges before prosecuters dusted off the 1735 Witchcraft Act.
Under these laws, she was convicted of fraudulent "spiritual" activity.
Despite Churchill condemning her trial as obsolete tomfoolery, her conviction stood and she was forced to serve her sentence.
supporters say it took a toll on her health and she died 12 years
later, aged 59 A petition to Westminster last year failed to win a
pardon. Campaigners met public petitions convener Frank McAveety
yesterday to ask the Scottish parliament to put pressure on the UK
Medium and spiritualist Roberta Gordon said: "Helen
Duncan was tried under the Witchcraft Act, which hadn't been used for
"She was an ordinary woman - a wife, mother and
grandmother. Even Winston Churchill described the use of this Act as
"If these Acts were still in force today, the same thing could happen tome."
Campaigners also lodged a petition calling for pardons for all Scots convicted under witchcraft laws.
They say 4000 people, mostly women, we re convicted. The worst place for witchhunts was East Lothian.
Roberta said in that area alone in 1590-91, 81 alleged witches - including babies - were executed.
The Witchcraft Act was repealed in 1951.