Witchcraft

The following extract is taken from In Famed Breadalbane and may refer to our Alexander Fisher. The Parish records show an Alexander Fisher, married to Anne Fletcher, living in Wester Acharn at this time.

Belief in witchcraft and in the power of magical processes was at one time as general and deep-rooted in Breadalbane as it was in other parts of the Highlands but these superstitious ideas and practices gradually faded away before the growing light of education, and by the middle of the nineteenth century very few traces of them survived. During the eighteenth century the Kirk Session of Kenmore investigated and dealt with several disputes that had been caused by persons being accused of using charms and enchantments. The recorded evidence of witnesses before the Session reveals some of the methods adopted by parties who wished to hurt their neighbours and secure advantages for themselves.

In 1747, two young girls, Janet and Margaret McIntaggart, were charged with using charms and enchantments against Alexander Fisher in Wester Acharn. Janet confessed before the Session that, observing that the substance of their milk was taken away, she was advised by certain women to milk three drops from their neighbour's sheep as a charm to recover the substance of their own milk, and that after this was done, the substance of their milk did actually return. Margaret, her sister, acknowledged that on a recent Sabbath morning she had gone to the house of Alexander Fisher and to all the houses in the town with an egg shell having a little milk in it, because she had been informed that the milk in the shell would " earn," and the substance of their own milk would return. Alexander Fisher's wife in giving evidence stated that having been warned by neighbours she regarded the visit of Margaret McIntaggart to her house early on the Sabbath morning with some suspicion. She told the girl that if she came in God's name she was welcome to stay, but if she came in the Devil's name with the egg-shell and the milk she had better get away at once. Margaret replied that she had simply come to enquire whether her maid was going to the church that day. Mrs. Fisher, not being satisfied with Margaret's explanation, declared that she followed her quietly to the door, and saw her open her breast, and take out the egg shell with the milk in it. She thereupon went and immediately told her neighbours about the matter. When parties had been removed, the Session considered the affair, and " being difficulted how to behave in it," they desired the minister (Mr. John Douglas) to consult his brethren about it. Three weeks later Mr. Douglas reported that he had talked to some of his brethren about the McIntaggarts, and they were of the opinion " that they should be rebuked on some several Sabbaths." The girls were accordingly summoned to appear on the following Sabbath, and were ordered to stand before the congregation to be rebuked " for their base practices." They were afterwards " examined, exhorted, and dismissed."

For further detail see Witchcraft in Kenmore and Witch-hunting and witch belief in the GĂ idhealtachd