Scotland’s Dunnottar Castle

May 11, 2014 by


On the north east coast of Scotland, high atop a rocky headland on the North Sea, lie the ruins of a medieval fortress called Dùn Fhoithear. Known as Dunnottar in English, this famous castle is one of the most photographed in Scotland, and with good reason. The views of the castle from land and sea are simply stunning, calling up memories of ancient Picts, medieval Scottish knights and Jacobites, all of whom are connected to the site. Dunnottar was once controlled by the Keiths, who held the peerage title Earl Marischal until the lands and castle were seized by the Crown from the 10th Earl for his role in the Jacobite Rising of 1715. The castle essentially fell into disrepair until it was bought by the Cowdray family in 1925; the family still owns the castle, but it is open to the public.



The castle played a prominent role in the history of Scotland, and William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose and the future King Charles II all visited Dunnottar at some point during its storied history.



In November, 1651, Cromwell’s forces laid siege to the castle, seeking the Honours of Scotland (the regalia of crown, sword and sceptre) used during the coronation of Charles II at Scone castle earlier in 1651. The Dunnottar defenders held out for six months against a vastly superior force, until the Honours were safely smuggled out of the castle and secreted beneath the floor of a local church. The Honours, which are the oldest set of crown jewels in the British isles, are now on display at Edinburgh Castle.



Visitors to Dunnottar can walk from the nearby town of Stonehaven (about two miles) or drive to the small car park near the castle. You must then follow a footpath to the base of the castle headland, and climb a long, steep set of stone stairs to reach the castle grounds.


For more information about Dunnottar, its hours of operation and directions, click on the castle website HERE.

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Bleak November in Boston, 1688: Witches, Gaelic and Prejudice in the American Colonies

Nov 17, 2013 by

Approximately 325 years ago, on November 16, 1688, an old Irish woman in Boston was charged with witchcraft and hanged for her allegedly malevolent acts against the children of a local Protestant family. Her real crime, in fact, was simply being an Irish Catholic who spoke Irish Gaelic in 17th century Protestant Massachusetts.

A woodcut depiction of a witch in 1643.

A woodcut depiction of a witch in 1643.

Today, if you ask the average person what culture and people are most connected with Boston, a majority will choose the Irish. It is a bitter irony, however, that Boston was at one time a potentially lethal place to be Irish, and even worse, an Irish Catholic female.

Goodwife Ann “Goody” Glover was a poor woman of Irish birth who was sold into slavery in Barbados by Oliver Cromwell in the mid 1600’s. Cromwell was an English military and political leader whose brutal treatment of the Irish and Scots in the 17th century has been characterized as almost genocidal by many historians. Ann and her husband were just two of the thousands of native Irish who were cruelly rounded up by Cromwell’s troops between 1649 to 1652 and then sent to work(against their will) on the English sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

Little is known of Ann’s life prior to her arrival in the American Colonies. We do know from records of her trial that she spoke Irish Gaelic, although she also acquired some knowledge of English during her enslavement. Her true name cannot be authoritatively determined; it is likely that “Ann Glover” is an Anglicization of her original Gaelic name or perhaps a name given by her slave master, who may have used his own surname as a way to identify Ann as his property. How and why Ann came to Boston is unknown, but her husband did not make the journey with her–he died in Barbados after refusing to renounce his Catholic faith.

By 1680, Ann and her daughter(whether she had more children is unknown) had been in Boston for about six years, with the daughter employed as a housekeeper for John Goodwin. In the summer of 1688, four years before the notorious Salem witch trials began, four of the Goodwin children became ill–suspicion quickly fell on Ann and her daughter as the cause of the sicknesses. Ann, elderly, poor and perhaps a bit senile, was eventually singled out as the source of the children’s maladies and was soon arrested and brought to trial for practicing witchcraft.

Anti-Irish Prejudice in 17th-18th Century America

Anti-Irish Prejudice in 17th-18th Century America

At her trial, Ann’s refusal to speak English was seen by Cotton Mather, the highly influential and fiercely anti-Catholic Puritan minister and writer, as particularly indicative of her evilness:

“While the miserable old Woman was under Condemnation, I did my self twice give a visit unto her. She never denyed the guilt of the Witchcraft charg’d upon her; but she confessed very little about the Circumstances of her Confederacies with the Devils; only, she said, That she us’d to be at meetings, which her Prince and Four more were present at. As for those Four, She told who they were; and for her Prince, her account plainly was, that he was the Devil. She entertained me with nothing but Irish ‘, which Language I had not Learning enough to understand without an Interpreter.”

Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions, Cotton Mather, 1689

Mather also called Ann “a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholic and obstinate in idolatry.” Magnalia Christi Americana (roughly, The Glorious Works of Christ in America), Cotton Mather, 1702

At trial, Ann was asked to recite The Lord’s Prayer, which she did in Gaelic and broken Latin, but could not do  in English as she had not learned the prayer in that foreign language.  Unsurprisingly, Ann was convicted of witchcraft and hanged in public on November 16, 1688. The Protestant, English-speaking Scots-Irish of Ulster had bettered their lives by coming to America, but Catholic, Irish-speaking Ann Glover may have been better off had she stayed a slave in Barbados and never set foot on American soil.

Cotton Mather went on to publish several pamphlets that espoused the dominant Puritan narrative of the day, a treacherous construct built of layer upon layer of abject falsehoods. Fueled by his own anti-Catholic biases and superstitious hatred of “witchery”, Mather became a driving force in the witchcraft hysteria that dangerously engulfed the colonies over the next decade. No doubt, some of the later accusations also had non-religious motives such as jealousy and misogyny.  People from all faiths were accused of and executed for witchcraft during those years, but poor Irishwoman Ann Glover was the model upon which all subsequent persecutions were based.


A plaque in the North End recalls Ann Glover. Nov. 16 in Boston has been officially declared Goody Glover Day.
Steve Coronella-

Three hundred years after Ann Glover’s execution for witchcraft, the Boston City Council proclaimed November 16 as Goody Glover Day, in recognition of Ann as the first Catholic martyr in Massachusetts.


Sources: Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions,Cotton Mather, 1689–a must read if you want to gain a better understanding of the outrageous charges brought against Ann Glover, and to understand Cotton Mather’s motivations in condemning Ann. Robert Calef’s rebuttal of Cotton Mather’s writings about witchcraft in Massachussetts–Calef was a wealthy Boston merchant who knew both Ann Glover and Cotton Mather and considered Ann’s trial and execution a perversion of justice.

Boston Globe, November 14, 2012

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