I am always pleased to receive some response to my articles no matter whether they be praise or criticism. Being read is what is important, and I am always ready to reply to any queries such as that raised by George B. McFarlane who wrote in to the Gazette to say that he had lived in Ballantrae in the 1930’s but had never heard of the Ballantrae Witch.
I am delighted to respond to Mr. McFarlane and advise that whilst I did not live in Ballantrae in the years mentioned I do considerable research and try and bring to light any such items which I think may be of interest to my, hopefully, many readers. There is little more that I can add to the tale of the Ballantrae Witch other than to advise Mr. McFarlane that a book by D.C. Cuthbertson entitled ‘Carrick Days’ published in 1933 records that the locals of Ballantrae told him of a local witch who had died within the past two years circa. 1930. Now what had been of real interest to Mr. Cuthbertson was the report that the witch had turned herself into a hare. His book had references to witches turning themselves into hares and he drew his information about the Ballantrae witch after hearing of events in Cumnock which was an area noted for witches.
There was a Cumnock witch in the 19th. century who did little serious harm, but she was blamed for causing cows to give little milk, or for scones to burn on a griddle. All such events were blamed on Nannie Reid, but if she was appeased in some way none of these problems would arise. Whether Nannie Reid turned herself into a hare is not mentioned but the folk around Cumnock believed that witches could turn themselves into animals and in particular hares. A young lad out shooting on the Farm of Lowes shot a hare and whilst being convinced he had hit it a deathly blow, the hare reared up on its hind legs and wagged its front paws at him in admonishment and ran off.
His friends who were with him at the time warned him that that he must have shot a witch and he was likely to befall some serious calamity within a few days. The lad went to a wise old woman in the vicinity who advised him to return to the spot where he had shot the hare and fire a piece of silver into the air. Silver was considered as having anti-satanic powers and firing it would kill off the witches curse.
I hope that this has been of interest Mr. McFarlane and other readers of the tale of the Ballantrae Witch. However if anyone has more to tell about this lady please let me know and I will be happy to pass it on. In the meantime I look forward to seeing you next week.