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Kate McNiven (died 1715), also called Kate Nevin and Kate Neving was a young nurse who served the House of Inchbrakie in the Parish of Monzie, near Crieff in Scotland in the early 1700s. She has become notorious as one of the last witches burnt in Scotland and the last in Perthshire.
Kate McNiven lived in the village of Monzie and was well known as a healer and prophetess. Her family came from Muthill and Braco in Strathearn and this also contributed to local feeling against her as an outsider.
In 1715, during the Witchhunts, she was accused of witchcraft and forced into hiding in a cave beside the Shaggy Burn stream, near the village of Monzie. However, after three weeks she was discovered and was sentenced to death. She suffered death by Fire and Faggot near Monzie Castle, Monzie, Perthshire. Kate Nevin was executed only 20 years before the passing of the Witchcraft Act of 1735, whereby the penalty for practising witchcraft was reduced from death to imprisonment.
There is some doubt as to the authenticity of this story. It was noted by Louisa G. Graeme in 1903 that no authentic record of Kate McNiven's death existed and the story has "caused endless discussion and argument". The blog of the University of Dundee's Archives notes that other sources have suggested that if Kate McNiven existed then she must have been executed around 1615. John L. Wilson dated the execution to 1615 and noted that while there are no records of her execution, written evidence from a 1643 witchcraft trial references a Witch of Monzie.
Before McNiven was burnt she cursed the Laird of Monzie and the Village of Monzie itself.
From father to son, Monzie shall never pass; no heir of line should ever hold the lands now held by him
She then proceeded to curse the Kirktoun of Monzie;
In future years, its size and population should decrease, it should hold no share in all the growing prosperity of the surrounding towns, and ever by some hearth amidst its cottage homes there should crawl an idiot with lolling tongue and rolling eyes
Landmarks and name in local geography
McNiven's name has been assigned to many landmarks around Monzie including Nevin's Cave, McNieven's Craig (Crag), The Kate Nevin Ghost Tree, McNieven's Well, McNieven's Yet and the Nevin Stone.
The Nevin Stone is a large freestanding stone said to mark the spot where she was burnt as a witch in 1715. The stone is an outlier, 0.5 miles from a Cairn Circle. The Cairn Circle is ancient and has been the subject of an archaeological dig. There is also a Petroglyph Stone beside the Cairn. David Cowan published a claim that the craig where Kate Nevin hid and the stone where she died are on a Ley Line.[failed verification]
After her death the Graemes of Inchbrakie incorporated the three crescent moons of the Nevins into the shield of their own coat of arms.[failed verification (See discussion.)] The Graemes of Inchbrakie Coat of Arms can still be viewed on the monument erected at Inchbrakie on the site of the original house which was demolished in 1888.
There is a modern-day rhyme in the village of Monzie that regards Nevin;
- As long as the Shaggie rins crookit and bent
- there’ll be a Witch o Mon-ie
- And she’ll ne'er be kent
Documentation and notes
In 1835, McNiven was chronicled by the Rev. George Blair in his book "The Holocaust".
- Blair, Revd. George. The Holocaust, or The Witch of Monzie. London, 1835.
- Hunter, Revd. John. Chronicles of Strathearn. David Philips, Crieff, 1896. Illustrated by W.B. MacDougall.
- Sharpe, Charles Kirkpatrick. Historical Account of the Belief in Witchcraft in Scotland. Hamilton, Adams & Co, 1884. Reprinted Kessinger Publishing Co, 2003.
- The Holocaust; or the Witch of Monzie.
- Scottish Gaelic Studies – Volumes 21–22 – p.51-54.
- "Graemes of Inchbrakie – The Witch's Relic".
- "Cultoquhey – Kate Nevin".
- Chronicles of Strathearn by David Phillips.
- Graeme, Louisa G. "Sketch XXV The Witch's Relic belonging to the House of Inchbrakie". A Book of the Graemes. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- "Witches, Ghosts and Ghouls". Archives Records and Artefacts at the University of Dundee. University of Dundee. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Wilson, John L. "June 4th 1615 The Inchbrakie Moonstone". Perthshire Diary. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- "David R Cowan – Monzie Ley Lines".
- Scottish Ghosts – Seafield. 1993. ISBN 978-0-8063-0381-9.
- Historical Account of the Belief in Witchcraft in Scotland by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe 1884 p51.