On the 8th November, 1576, Elizabeth or Bessie Dunlop, spouse to Andrew Jak, in Lyne, in the Barony of Dairy, Ayrshire, was accused of sorcery and witchcraft, and abuse of the people. Her answers to the interrogatories of the judges or prosecutors ran thus. It being required of her, by what art she could tell ot lost goods, or prophesy the event of illness ? she replied, that of herself she had no knowledge or science of such matters, but that when questions were asked at her concerning such matters, she was in the habit of applying to one Thome Reid, who died at the battle of Pinkie Cloth September, 1547) as he himself affirmed, and who resolved her any questions which she asked of him. This person she described as a respectable elderly-looking man, grey-bearded, and wearing a grey coat with Lombard sleeves, of the auld fashion. A pair of grey breeches, and white stockings gartered above the knee, a black bonnet on his head, close behind and plain before, with silken laces drawn through the lips thereof, and a white wand in his hand, completed the description of what we may suppose a respectable-looking man of the province and period. Being demanded concerning her first interview with this mysterious Thome Reid, she gave rather an affecting account of the disasters with which she was then afflicted, and a sense of which, perhaps, aided to conjure up the imaginary counsellor. She was walking between her own house and the yard of Monkcastle, driving her cows to the common pasture and making heavy moan with herself, weeping bitterly for her cow that was dead, her husband and child that were sick of the land-ill (some contagious sickness of the time), while she herself was in a very infirm state, having lately borne a child. On this occasion she met Thome Reid for the first time, who saluted her courteously, which she returned. " Sancta Maria, Bessie!" said the apparition ; " why must thou make such dole and weeping for any earthly thing ?"—" Have I not reason for great sorrow," said she, " since our property is going to destruction, my husband is on the point of death, my baby will not live, and I am myself at a weak point ? Have I not cause to have a sore heart ?" —"Bessie," answered the spirit, " thou hast displeased God in asking something that thou shouldest not, and I counsel you to amend your fault. I tell thee thy child shall die ere thou get home; thy two sheep shall also die, but thy husband shall recover, and be as well and feir as ever he was." The good woman was something comforted to hear that her husband was to be spared in such her general calamity, but was rather alarmed to see her ghostly counsellor pass from her, and disappear through a hole in the garden wall, seemingly too narrow to admit of any living person passing through it. Another time he met her at the Thorn of Dawmstarnik, and showed his ultimate purpose by offering her plenty of everything if she would but deny Christendom and the faith she took at the font-stone. She answered, that rather than do that she would be torn at horses' heels, but that she would be conformable to his advice in less matters. He parted with her in some displeasure. Shortly afterwards he appeared in her own house about noon, which was at the time occupied by her husband and three tailors. But neither Andrew Jak nor the three tailors were sensible of the presence of the phantom warrior who was slain at Pinkie ; so that, without attracting their observation, he led out the goodwife to the end of the house near the kiln. Here he showed her a company of eight women and four men. The women were busked in their plaids, and very seemly. The strangers saluted her, and said, " Welcome, Bessie; wilt thou go with us ?" But Bessie was silent, as Thome Reid had previously recommended. After this she saw their lips move, but did not understand what they said; and in a short time they removed from thence with a hideous ugly howling sound, like that of a hurricane. Thome Reid then acquainted her that these were the good wights (fairies) dwelling in the court of Elfland, who came to invite her to go thither with them. Bessie answered, that before she went that road it would require some consideration. Thome answered, "Seest thou not me both meat-worth, clothes-worth, and well enough in person ?" and engaged she should be easier than ever she was. But she replied, she dwelt with her husband and children, and would not leave them ; to which Thome Reid replied, in very ill-humour, that if such were her sentiments she would get little good of him.
* The curious collection of Trials, from the Criminal Records of Scotland, now in the course of publication, by Robert Pitcairn, Esq., affords so singular a picture of the manners and habits of our ancestors, while yet a semi-barbarous people, that it is equally worth the attention of the historian, the antiquary, the philosopher, and the poet.
Although they thus disagreed on the principal object of Thome Reid's visits, Bessie Dunlop affirmed he continued to come to her frequently, and assist her with his counsel; and that if any one consulted her about the ailments of human beings or of cattle, or the recovery of things lost and stolen, she was, by the advice of Thome Reid, always able to answer the querists. She was also taught by her (literally ghostly) adviser, how to watch the operation of the ointments he gave her, and to presage from them the recovery or death of the patient. She said Thome gave her herbs with his own hand, with which she cured John Jack's bairn, and Wilson's of the Townhead. She also was helpful to a waiting-woman of the young Lady Stanlie, daughter of the Lady Johnstone, whose disease, according to the opinion of the infallible Thome Reid, was " a cauld blood that came about her heart," and frequently caused her to swoon away. For this Thome mixed a remedy as generous as the Balm of Gilead itself. It was composed of the most potent ale, concocted with spices and a little white sugar, to be drunk every morning before taking food. For these prescriptions Bessie Dunlop's fee was a peck of meal and some cheese. The young woman recovered. But the poor old Lady Kilbowie could get no help for her leg, which had been crooked for years ; for Thome Reid said the marrow of the limb was perished and the blood benumbed, so that she would never recover, and if she sought farther assistance, it would be the worse for her* These opinions indicate common sense and prudence at least, whether we consider them as originating with the umqubile Thome Reid, or with the culprit whom he patronised. The judgments given in the case of stolen goods were also well chosen ; for though they seldom led to recovering the property, they generally alleged such satisfactory reasons for its not being found, as effectually to cover the credit of the prophetess. Thus, Hugh Scott's cloak could not be returned, because the thieves had gained time to make it into a kirtle. James Jamieson and James Baird would, by her advice, have recovered their plough-irons which had been stolen, had it not been the will of fate that William Dougal, sheriff's officer, one of the parties searching for them, should accept a bribe of three pounds not to find them. In short, although she lost a lace which Thome Reid gave her out of his own hand, which, tied round women in childbirth, had the power of helping their delivery, Bessie Dunlop's profession of a wise woman seems to have flourished indifferently well till it drew the evil eye of the law upon her.