Her tormentors had told Miss Dunbar that she should have no power to give evidence against them in Court. " She was accordingly that day before the trial struck dumb, and so continued in Court during the whole trial, but had no violent fit. I saw her in Court cast her eyes about in a wild distracted manner, and it was then thought she was recovering from her fit [of dumbness], and it was hoped she would give her own evidence. I observed, as they were raising her up, she sank into the arms of a person who held her, closed her eyes, and seemed perfectly senseless and motionless. I went to see her after the trial ; she told me she knew not where she was when in Court ; that she had been afflicted all that time by three persons, of whom she gave a particular description both of their proportion, habits, hair, features, and complexion, and said she had never seen them till the day before the trial".
The prisoners had no lawyer to defend them, while it is hardly necessary to say that no medical evidence as to the state of health of Miss Dunbar was heard. When the witnesses had been examined the accused were ordered to make their defence. They all positively denied the charge of witchcraft ; one with the worst looks, who was therefore the greatest suspect, called God to witness that she was wronged. Their characters were inquired into, and some were reported unfavourably of, which seemed to be rather due to their ill appearance than to any facts proved against them. " It was made appear on oath that most of them had received the Communion, some of them very lately, that several of them had been laborious, industrious people, and had frequently been known to pray with their families, both publickly and privately ; most of them could say the Lord's Prayer, which it is generally said they learnt in prison, they being every one Presbyterians".
"Judge Upton summed up the whole evidence with great exactness and perspicuity, notwithstanding the confused manner in which it was offered. He seemed entirely of opinion that the jury could not bring them in guilty upon the sole testimony of the afflicted person's visionary images. He said he could not doubt but that the whole matter was preternatural and diabolical, but he conceived that, had the persons accused been really witches and in compact with the Devil, it could hardly be presumed that they should be such constant attenders upon Divine Service, both in public and private".
Unfortunately his Brother on the Bench was not so open-minded. Judge Macartney, who is almost certainly the Counsel for the plaintiff in the Lostin case, differed altogether from him, and thought that the jury might well bring them in guilty.
The twelve good men and true lost no time in doing so, and, in accordance with the Statute, the prisoners were sentenced to a year's imprisonment, and to stand in the pillory four times during that period. It is said that when placed in this relic of barbarism the unfortunate wretches were pelted by the mob with eggs and cabbage-stalks to such an extent that one of them had an eye knocked out. And thus ended the last trial for witchcraft in Ireland.
It is significant that witch-trials stopped in all three countries within a decade of each other. The last condemnation in England occurred in 1712, when a woman in Hertfordshire, Jane Wenham, was found guilty by a jury, but was reprieved at the representation of the Judge ; another trial occurred in 1717, but the accused were acquitted. In Scotland the Sheriff-depute of Sutherland passed sentence of death on a woman (though apparently illegally) in 1722, who was consequently strangled and burnt. Ashton indeed states (p. 192) that the last execution in Ireland occurred at Glarus, when a servant was burnt as a witch in 1786. This would be extremely interesting, were it not for the fact that it is utterly incorrect. It is clear from what J. Franšais says that this happened at Glaris in Switzerland, and was the last instance of judicial condemnation and execution in Europe. We have drawn attention to this lest it should mislead others, as it did us.
Before concluding this chapter it will not be out of place to mention the fact that one of the most strenuous writers against witchcraft subsequently ornamented the Irish Episcopal Bench. This was Dr. Francis Hutchinson, who wrote the " Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft" in the form of a dialogue between a clergyman (the author), a Scotch advocate, and an English juror. The first edition was published in 1718, and was followed by a second in 1720, in which year he was promoted to the See of Down and Connor. As to the value of his book, and the important position it occupied in the literary history of witchcraft in England, we cannot do better than quote Dr. Notestein's laudatory criticism. He says : " Hutchinson's book must rank with Reginald Scot's Discoverie as one of the great classics of English witch-literature. So nearly was his point of view that of our own day that it would be idle to rehearse his arguments. A man with warm sympathies for the oppressed, he had been led probably by the case of Jane Wenham, with whom he had talked, to make a personal investigation of all cases that came at all within the ken of those living. Whoever shall write the final story of English witchcraft will find himself still dependent upon this eighteenth-century historian. His work was the last chapter in the witch controversy. There was nothing more to say".