National Trust hunt for witch trials leads to Robert Burns’s birthplace

The birthplace of Robert Burns has been linked to witch hunts in a National Trust for Scotland (NTS) report because he wrote a poem about witches.

A report has found that 39 trust properties have links to Scottish witch hunts and trials, which took place between the 16th and 18th centuries, including the homes of famous authors.

The birthplace of Burns has been listed in a document of “connections of NTS properties to witch trials” due to him having written about witches in his work Tam o’ Shanter.

The review spanning castles and stately homes was launched after the NTS was accused of treating the subject of witch hunts in an “insensitive and flippant” way, the charity said.

Criticism came amid calls from Witches for Scotland, a campaign group, for politicians to pardon those accused of witchcraft in the past, a call which has been backed by SNP MSPs who are planning to put forward a private member’s Bill on the issue.

The NTS said its work addresses the “growing cultural demand to learn and understand the history of the witch trials and historical miscarriages of justice in general”, and will help steer changes to displays and events in future.

The entry for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum states that in Tam o’ Shanter: “A feckless farmer sees a group of witches dancing in ‘Aloway’s auld kirk’.”

The report added that the poem was written for Francis Grose, an acquaintance who was interested in witch-related legends linked to the local church.

The report also points out that Alloway, the village which is home to the museum, can be connected to witches because in 1537, 222 years before Burns was born, a local man called Thome Fayre accused fellow villager Megge Rankyn of bewitching people’s milk.

Home of Peter Pan author mentioned

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