Roundtable The Islandmagee Witches 1711 Creative and Digital Project

Andrew Sneddon, Frank Ferguson, Victoria McCollum, Stephen Butler, Alice McCullough

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Abstract

In March and September of 1711, in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland’s last witch trials took place. Eighteen-year-old educated gentlewoman Mary Dunbar accused eight Presbyterian women and one man from Islandmagee and the surrounding areas of using witchcraft to attack her in spectral or spirit form and to summon demons to possess her body. The women were tried on 31 March 1711 at the Spring Session of Carrickfergus County Assize Court. Despite pleading not guilty, they were convicted under the 1586 Irish Witchcraft Act and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and four stints in the pillory. Unlike most demonically-possessed persons, the incarceration of the convicted witches did not improve Dunbar’s health. Dunbar now claimed that William Sellor, husband and father to two of the convicted women, had begun bewitching her. William was convicted of witchcraft at the Summer Assizes in September 1711. Mary Dunbar however had died a few weeks earlier, just after the first trial, turning William’s original offence into a capital crime for which he was probably executed: he was thus one of a possible two people executed in Ireland under a witchcraft Act. The story of the trial is told in Andrew Sneddon’s book Possessed by the Devil: The Real History of The Islandmagee Witches and Ireland’s Only Mass Witchcraft Trial (History Press, 2013). Along with Victoria McCollum, Sneddon now heads the Islandmagee Witches 1711 Project (w1711.org). The following discussion outlines the origins, aims and outputs of the project.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-118
Number of pages7
JournalEstudios Irlandeses
Volume18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 21 Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Witchcraft trial
  • digital humanities
  • interdisciplinarity
  • heritage
  • ireland

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