It's a witch hunt! Scotland appeals to have the remains of a woman who was condemned for practising magic 315 years ago to be returned after mysteriously vanishing a century ago

By Ian Randall For Mailonline12:50, 04 Sep 2019, updated 14:55, 04 Sep 2019













Scotland is appealing for the return of the only-known remains of a Scottish witch after the skeletal remains mysteriously vanished almost a century ago.
After confessing, under duress, to the crimes of casting malicious spells and having sex with the devil, Torryburn, Fife resident Lilias Adie died in the year 1704.
She had been sentenced to be burnt to death but died in prison, possibly by suicide. Her body was buried on the village's foreshore under a large stone.
In recognition, Torryburn villagers and members of the 'Fife Witches Remembered' Facebook gathered at her grave on September 1, 2019, and laid wreaths.
The event also commemorated the estimated 3,500 other Scottish men and women prosecuted and killed for allegedly practising witchcraft in the 16–18th centuries.
The group and a local councillor have pledged to recover Ms Adie's skull and some of her missing bones, which were removed from her grave in 1852.
They have also launched a drive to establish a 'Fife witches' memorial trail.

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Scotland is appealing for the return of the only-known remains of a Scottish 'witch' which mysteriously vanished almost a century ago. After 'confessing' to her alleged crimes, Torryburn, Fife resident Lilias Adie, pictured in this artist's reconstruction, died in 1704

WHO WAS LILIAS ADIE?

Lilias Adie, from Torryburn, Fife, died in 1704 while in prison for her 'confessed' crimes of being a witch and having sex with the devil.
Her remains were buried on the beach, between the low and the high tide marks, under a large stone.
It is suggest that this was intended to stop Ms Adie's return from the dead.
By the 19th century, scientific curiosity prevailed and antiquarians dug up Ms Adie's remains to study and display.
Her skull ended up at the St Andrews University Museum, where it was photographed around a century ago.
It then went missing at some point in the 20th century — although the images remain and are held in the National Library of Scotland.
Records paint a picture of a frail woman in her 60s with failing eyesight.
They also suggest Ms Adie showed courage in holding off her accusers, denying their demands for the names of others to interrogate and kill.








Historian Dr Louise Yeoman of the University of Edinburgh, who specialises in the study of Scotland's witchcraft history, said that it was emotional to see Ms Adie's memory embraced on the 315th anniversary of her death.
'Lilias was cast out of this community and literally her body [was] taken and buried on the boundary between high and low tide,' Dr Yeoman said.
'It is like she has been brought back into the community in an act of remembrance.'
It is believed that Ms Adie was in her sixties — and frail, with failing eyesight — at the time of her trial.
She was tortured and terrorised into 'confessing' to her alleged crimes in front of her entire community.
According to Dr Yeoman, it is not possible for Scotland's alleged witches to be retrospectively pardoned.
'Do I think there should be a national statement that we think the witch hunt was wrong and we are sorry? Yes,' she commented.
'Do I think there should be a national memorial? Yes, and local memorials.'



'Lilias is not forgotten, she has never been forgotten,' said West Fife and Coastal Villages councillor Kate Stewart, who is championing the efforts to find and return the alleged witch's remains.
'We need to get her back. This has been a great injustice and we need to reverse that.'
During the remembrance, Fife depute provost Julie Ford laid a wreath at Ms Adie's grave, which is marked by a stone slab lying in the coastal mud at the Torry Bay Nature Reserve.
'It's important to recognise that Lilias Adie and the thousands of other men and women accused of witchcraft in early modern Scotland were not the evil people history has portrayed them to be,' Councillor Ford said.
Instead, she added, they were 'the innocent victims of unenlightened times. It's time we recognised the injustice served upon them.'
'I hope by raising the profile of Lilias we can find her missing remains and give them the dignified rest they deserve.'



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During the remembrance, Fife depute provost Julie Ford, pictured laid a wreath at Ms Adie's grave, which is marked by a stone slab lying in the coastal mud at the Torry Bay Nature Reserve

Ms Adie's skull was last known to have been on display at the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park in 1938, but after this point the location of her remains can no longer be traced.
However, a 3D reconstruction of what she may have looked at was created by University of Dundee forensic artist Christopher Rynn two years ago, based on photographs of Ms Adie's skull that were taken at St Andrews University in 1904

'When the reconstruction is up to the skin layer, it's a bit like meeting somebody and they begin to remind you of people you know, as you're tweaking the facial expression and adding photographic textures,' said Dr Rynn.
'There was nothing in Lilias' story that suggested to me that nowadays she would be considered as anything other than a victim of horrible circumstances,' he added.
'So I saw no reason to pull the face into an unpleasant or mean expression and she ended up having quite a kind face, quite naturally.'



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Ms Adie's skull was last known to have been exhibited in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park in 1938, but photographs of the remains that were taken at St Andrews University in 1904 remain held in the collections of the National Library of Scotland

The reconstruction had been undertaken in tandem with BBC Radio Scotland's 'Time Travels' programme.

'It was a truly eerie moment when the face of Lilias suddenly appeared,' said presenter Susan Morrison.
'Here was the face of a woman you could have a chat with, though knowing her story it was a wee bit difficult to look her in the eye.'



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Torryburn villagers and members of the 'Fife Witches Remembered' Facebook gathered at Ms Adie's grave on September 1, 2019 to lay wreaths. The event commemorated the thousands of Scottish men and women prosecuted for alleged witchcraft in the 16–18th centuries

Dr Yeoman, who served as the programme's historian, added: 'I think she was a very clever and inventive person.'
'The point of the interrogation and its cruelties was to get names.'
'Lilias said that she couldn't give the names of other women at the witches' gatherings as they were masked like gentlewomen.'
'She only gave names which were already known and kept up coming up with good reasons for not identifying other women for this horrendous treatment — despite the fact it would probably mean there was no let-up for her.'
'It's sad to think her neighbours expected some terrifying monster when she was actually an innocent person who'd suffered terribly.'
'The only thing that's monstrous here is the miscarriage of justice.'
Fife Council archaeologist Douglas Speirs will be giving a talk on the life, death and legacy of Lilias Adie at the Dunfermline Library and Galleries on October 31, 2019.



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Lilias Adie, from Torryburn, Fife, died in 1704 while held in prison for her 'confessed' crimes of being a witch and having sex with the devil