Christian Shaw

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Christian Shaw
Christian Shaw

1685 (1685)
DiedSeptember 8, 1737 (aged 51–52)
Bargarran, Scotland
Other namesChristian Miller
OccupationTextile industrialist, industrial spy
Rev John Millar
(m. 1718; died 1721)

William Gillespie (m. 1737)

Christian Shaw (1685[1] – 8 September 1737[2]), was a Scottish industrialist regarded as the founder of the thread industry in Renfrewshire.[1] As a child, she was instrumental in the Bargarran witch trials of 1697.[3]

Early life[edit]

Christian Shaw was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland in 1685 [1] the daughter of Christian McGilchrist and John Shaw, the Laird of Bargarran.[2]

Little is known about Shaw's early life until the age of 11, when she becomes widely documented as a witness in the Bargarran witch trials.

Bargarran witch trials[edit]

Christian Shaw is most documented for her role in the Bargarran witch trials, which took place in 1697. Shaw, then aged 11, gave evidence that led to 8 people being accused of witchcraft,[1] including Elizabeth Anderson, Katherine Campbell, James Lindsay, and Thomas Lindsay.[4]

Accounts of the trials reported that Shaw had been "betwitched" by the suspects and was exhibiting behaviours including flying, and "vomiting coal and bent pins".[1] During the investigations, which were led by Paisley Minister Mr Blackwood,[1] the presbytery ordered prayer and fasting with the victim (Christian Shaw).[5] Seven of those accused were hanged as a result of the trials, three men and four women.[3] The eighth accused person was found dead in his cell.[1]

An alternative account suggests that Shaw had taken a dislike to a servant, Katherine Campbell, and intentionally feigned bewitchment in order to bring about her death,[6] and that her testimony led to the execution of 24 individuals in her home parish of Erskine.

Bargarran Thread[edit]

Shaw founded the Renfrewshire thread industry, introducing the spinning of fine linen thread to Scotland[7] and the development of her own "Bagarran Thread".[2]

Shaw married Rev John Miller, the minister of Kilmaurs on 8 September 1718.[8] After his death in 1721[9][10] she returned to the family thread business, travelling with her mother to Holland, where both women observed Dutch spinning techniques. Shaw sketched the thread production process that she saw, and is said to have smuggled some associated machinery back to Scotland in her luggage.[11] The new production methods resulted in a more durable whiter thread, and Shaw established a small thread manufacturing company, "The Bargarran Thread Company", in Johnstone on her return.[11]

The Bargarran Thread was, by the 1720s,[11] seen to be a mark of quality in thread, and was advertised as the product of "Lady Bargarran and her Daughters[7]".

Later life[edit]

Shaw spent increasing amounts of time in Edinburgh from the 1720s onwards,[12] and was based in Leith. She established a spinning school in the city, taking donations that were distributed to trainee girls.[12]

Shaw married William Gillespie (a glove manufacturer) in Edinburgh in 1737[12] but died in September of the same year. She is buried in Grey Friars Kirk, Edinburgh.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Renfrewshire Council. "Christian Shaw". Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Renfrewshire Witch Hunt 1697. "Later Life". Renfrewshire Witch Hunt 1697. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b Sinclair, John (1799). Account of 1791-99 vol.9: Erskine, County of Renfrew (Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online Service (digitised copy) ed.). Sir John Sinclair. p. 74.
  4. ^ Survey of Scottish Witchcraft. "Christian Shaw". Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  5. ^ Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database. "Campbell,Katherine (12/5/1697)". Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Christian Shaw and the witches": Lambroughton.
  7. ^ a b Chambers, Robert (1874). Domestic Annals of Scotland From the Reformation to the Revolution. p. Reign of George I: 1714–1727 Part G. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  8. ^ Sinclair, John (1845). Account of 1834-45 vol.7: Erskine, County of Renfrew (Statistical Accounts of Scotland Online Service (digitised copy) ed.). Sir John Sinclair. p. x508.
  9. ^ Patience, Rev. Donald. "The Kirk at Kilmaurs". Church at Kilmaurs, Ayrshire. Marjorie J. Jodoin / Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  10. ^ Paisley's Enchanted Threads. "Beyond Baragarran". Paisley's Enchanted Threads. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Paisley's Enchanted Threads. "New Threads". Paisley's Enchanted Threads. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d Paisley's Enchanted Threads. "Life and Death in Edinburgh". Paisley's Enchanted Threads. Retrieved 18 February 2015.