At the instigation of a ghost a lawsuit took place at Downpatrick in 1685. The account of this was given to Baxter1 by Thomas Emlin, " a worthy preacher in Dublin," as well as by Claudius Gilbert, one of the principal parties therein concerned : the latter's son and namesake proved a liberal benefactor to the Library of Trinity College—some of his books have been consulted for the present work. It appears that for some time past there had been a dispute about the tithes of Drumbeg, a little parish about four miles outside Belfast, between Mr. Gilbert, who was vicar of that town, and the Archdeacon of Down, Lemuel Matthews, whom Cotton in his Fasti describes as " a man of considerable talents and legal knowledge, but of a violent overbearing temper, and a litigous disposition." The parishioners of Drumbeg favoured Gilbert, and generally paid the tithes to him as being the incumbent in possession ; but the Archdeacon claimed to be the lawful recipient, in support of which claim he produced a warrant. In the execution of this by his servants at the house of Charles Lostin, one of the parishioners, they offered some violence to his wife Margaret, who refused them entrance, and who died about a month later (1st Nov. 1685) of the injuries she had received at their hands. Being a woman in a bad state of health little notice was taken of her death, until about a month after she appeared to one Thomas Donelson, who had been a spectator of the violence done her, and " affrighted him into a Prosecution of Robert Eccleson, the Criminal. She appeared divers times, but chiefly upon one Lord's Day-Evening, when she fetch'd him with a strange force out of his House into the Yard and Fields adjacent. Before her last coming (for she did so three times that Day) several Neighbours were called in, to whom he gave notice that she was again coming ; and beckon'd him to come out ; upon which they went to shut the Door, but he forbad it, saying that she looked with a terrible Aspect upon him, when they offered it. But his Friends laid hold on him and embraced him, that he might not go out again ; notwithstanding which (a plain evidence of some invisible Power), he was drawn out of their Hands in a surprizing manner, and carried about into the Field and Yard, as before, she charging him to prosecute Justice : which Voice, as also Donelson's reply, the people heard, though they saw no shape. There are many Witnesses of this yet alive, particularly Sarah (Losnam), the Wife of Charles Lostin, Son to the deceased Woman, and one William Holyday and his Wife." This last appearance took place in Holy-day's house ; there were also present several young persons, as well as Charles and Helen Lostin, children of the deceased, most of whom appeared as witnesses at the trial.
1 Op. cit.; w. p., History of Witches and Wizards (London, 1700 ?).
Upon this Donelson deposed all he knew of the matter to Mr. Randal Brice, a neighbouring Justice of the Peace ; the latter brought the affair before the notice of Sir William Franklin in Belfast Castle. The depositions were subsequently carried to Dublin, and the case was tried at Down-patrick Assizes by Judge John Lindon in 1685.1 On behalf of the plaintiff, Charles Lostin, Counseller James Macartney acted —if he be the Judge who subsequently makes his appearance in a most important witch-trial at Carrickfergus, he certainly was as excellent an advocate as any plaintiff in a case of witchcraft could possibly desire, as he was strongly prejudiced in favour of the truth of all such matters. "The several Witnesses were heard and sworn, and their Examinations were entred in the Record of that Assizes, to the Amazement and Satisfaction of all that Country and of the Judges, whom I have heard speak of it at that time with much Wonder; insomuch that the said Eccleson hardly escaped with his life, but was Burnt in the Hand".
1 John Lindon (or Lyndon) became junior puisne Judge of the Chief Place in 1682, was knighted in 1692, and died in 1697 (Cork Hist, and Arch. Journal, vol. vii., 2nd series).
A case of supposed witchcraft occurred in Cork in 1685-6, the account of which is contained in a letter from Christopher Crofts to Sir John Perceval (the third Baronet, and father of the first Earl of Egmont) written on the fifteenth of March in that year. Though the narrator professes his disbelief in such superstitions, yet there seems to have been an unconscious feeling in his mind that his strict administration of the law was the means of bringing the affliction on his child. He says : " My poor boy Jack to all appearances lay dying ; he had a convulsion for eight or nine hours. His mother and several others are of opinion he is bewitched, and by the old woman, the mother of Nell Welsh, who is reputed a bad woman ; and the child was playing by her that day she was upon her examination, and was taken ill presently after she was committed to Bridewell. But I have not faith to believe it was anything but the hand of God. I have committed the girl to Bridewell, where she shall stay some time."1
At one period in their history that peculiar people, known amongst themselves as the Society of Friends, and by their opponents as Quakers, appear to have been most troublesome, and to have caused a good deal of annoyance to other religious bodies. Not unnaturally their enemies credited any wild tales which were related about them to their detriment, especially when they had reference to their doctrine of the influence of the Spirit. Dr. More, in his continuation to Glanvilfs book, has in the sixth Relation an account of a man, near Cambridge in England, who was possessed by an evil spirit which led him to do the most extraordinary things in its attempt to convert him to Quakerism. In the Life of Mr. Alexander Peden, late Minister of the Gospel at New Glenluce in Galloway, who died in 1686, there is an account of a Quakers' meeting in this country at which the Devil appeared in most blasphemous parody of the Holy Ghost. As Mr. Peden was travelling one time by himself in Ireland " the night came on, and a dark mist, which obliged him to go into a house belonging to a Quaker. Mr. Peden said, 1 I must beg the favour of the roof of your house all night.' The Quaker said, ' Thou art a stranger, thou art very welcome and shalt be kindly entertained, but I cannot wait upon thee, for I am going to the meeting.' Mr. Peden said, ' I will go along with you.' The Quaker said, ' Thou may, if thou please, but thou must not trouble us.' He said, 'I will be civil.' When they came to the meeting, as their ordinary is, they sat for some time silent, some with their faces to the wall, and others covered. There being a void in the loft above them there came down the appearance of a raven, and sat upon one man's head, who started up immediately, and spoke with such vehemence that the froth flew from his mouth ; it went to a second, and he did the same ; and to a third, who did as the former two. Mr. Peden sitting near to his landlord said, ' Do you not see that ? Ye will not deny it afterwards ?' When they dismissed, going home Mr. Peden said to him, ' I always thought there was devilry among you, but never thought that he did appear visibly among you till now that I have seen it.' The poor man fell a-weeping, and said, ' I perceive that God hath sent you to my house, and put it into your heart to go along with me, and permitted the Devil to appear visibly among us this night. I never saw the like before. Let me have the help of your prayers.' After this he became a singular Christian".
1 Egmont mss. (Hist. mss. Comm.), ii. 181.
Mr. Peden was also somewhat of a prophet, and his speciality appears to have been the prognostication of unpleasant events, at all events to persons in Ireland. Two instances will suffice. When in a gentleman's house in co. Antrim he foretold that a maid-servant was enceinte, that she would murder the child, and would be punished. " Which accordingly came to pass, and she was burnt at Craig Fergus." On another occasion two messengers were sent to inform the Lord-Lieutenant that the Presbyterian ministers in Ireland should affirm that they had nothing to do with the rebellion at Bothwell Bridge. Mr.
Peden said they were on the Devil's errand, but God would arrest them by the gate. Accordingly one was stricken with sickness, while the other fell from his horse and broke his leg.