Happy New Year

Every New Year brings new hopes and opportunities for each of us. It will bring Positives and Negatives and leave it to us to choose how we grasp the Positives and mitigate the Negatives. Whether we choose to steer our path forwards with guiding resolutions or sit back and allow our path to drift with the flow is a decision for each of us. Personally I will be applying a mixed approach with some planned actions to guide in certain areas. I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year and all the best for whatever the future of 2019 holds. In every sunrise there is hope 🙂

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The Mystery of Maggie Wall

Witches are sometimes recalled in local memory through the names of wells or caves where they reputedly practised their arts. Uniquely, Maggie Wall has a monument located beside the B8062 close to Dunning in Perthshire. The monument carries the daubed inscription ‘Maggie Wall burnt here 1657 as a Witch’. Some people clearly come here in the knowledge of what the memorial represents – there are many small tokens left as offerings on the cairn below the cross. Reputedly, a wreath is left here to Maggie on occasion. Someone certainly repaints the inscription regularly. Unlike these ‘pilgrims’ I just stumbled upon the site on my way past and in the assumption that it marked a battle from Scotland’s history came back to take a look. What I found was a mystery!

In 17th century Scotland and England, not to mention much of Europe, fear of witchcraft combined with religious fervour and resulted in the deaths of many women. It was the Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563 that made witchcraft, or consulting with witches, capital crimes in Scotland though the peak period of burnings appears to have been 1658 and 1662. In general these were faithfully recorded by clerks of the law courts or the church’s own court. Historians can read about the witch burnings of 16th and 17th century Scotland for they were very well chronicled by the courts of the time – Some of the records are even available online. Six witches were tried in Dunning in 1662, an event which is faithfully recorded. However, there is no record of a witch trial in 1657 nor any reference to a witch called Maggie Wall. The Scotsman newspaper has a number of interesting articles about this mystery and a good starting point for any of my readers wishing to learn a bit more would be their article here. Another source to visit is the Dunning Parish Historical Society website where you can read more about the local events of the period. There appears to have been a lot of local unrest in the area around the time and the local laird, Lord Rollo, would seem to be implicated along with the priest of St. Serf’s church.

One thing that does seem clear is that the monument itself is much more recent. Like the professional historians I’ve done a bit of checking on old maps in the National Library of Scotland’s archive. The earliest map that I have found a reference to the monument on it is the 1862 25 inch to the mile Ordnance Survey map which was surveyed in 1859. The monument sits beside the road as it does today but it is in the edge of a plantation of trees called Maggie Walls Wood. The wood appears on the John Stobie map of 1783 but is not named and the scale is too small to categorically state that the wood was named or had a monument. So the earliest date we have for the monument is 1859. A theory put forward on the Dunning Parish website suggests that the monument may have been constructed by Lord Rollo. This carries the assumption that there was some historical family guilt in the matter. Was Maggie Wall murdered without trial on suspicion of witchcraft by an earlier Laird? Or perhaps she was a servant girl on the estate who died at the hands of one of the Laird’s sons? A story of burning a witch would have been a good way to cover up the crime and that would explain why there is no recorded trial! Another thought that occurs to me is the nature of the monument. Was it really erected to the memory of a witch? The scrawled text is hardly in keeping with the quality of the stonework. Perhaps it was intended to mark the Battle of Dorsum Crup in 965AD which may have been fought in the valley below (appearing on maps now as Duncrub) – historians are still debating where this battle actually took place! So perhaps it was never inscribed and its purpose was then suborned by some Victorian graffiti artist?

All this is just supposition. The truth seems destined to remain hidden in the ashes of long dead pyres. Today the monument stands stark against the sky for even the wood is just a memory – cleared and the land given over to grazing sheep. You can see the view from the memorial in the last picture of my Ochil Hills post – the sheep are walking in Maggie Walls Wood.

Closing the Season Out

The normal Ryman Football League season ends with today’s matches and brings to a close one of the strangest seasons I can recall. Both ends of the table see teams bunched together on similar numbers of points, especially at the bottom. I don’t think we’ve ever gone into the last match with only 2 relegation spots confirmed out of the 4. And things are so tight amongst the lower teams that it has become a perm any 2 from 6 situation!

I recall chatting with the Metropolitan Police’s kit man Chris only 6 weeks ago and the prognosis then was that 52 points were needed to stay up. Recent results have left 3 teams in the relegation battle with 53 points including the Met! It seems that the safety line was 54 points this season which is unprecedentedly high. Chris is a friend so I wish the Met luck today.

Sitting in the prime relegation spots to join already relegated Grays Athletic and AFC Sudbury, are Canvey Island and Burgess Hill Town. Both have games that on a good day they’d expect to win but it’s out of their hands because if they do win they’re still reliant on the results of the matches involving the teams immediately above them. It feels a little strange to see Grays and Canvey in this position as both are battling sides that normally can be found in the upper mid-table. Putting the final nail in Grays coffin fell to us on the 1st April but, in truth, they were already gone. It was a sad day but despite their woes they brought along a good loyal following of fans – Respect!

The top end of the table see’s the automatic promotion spot still undecided with Havant & Waterlooville currently in the box seat having knocked Bognor Regis Town off the spot in a derby between the two sides last Saturday. The roles could still be reversed again depending upon results for the sides today and it will be interesting to see who takes the league title and who gets the poisoned chalice of the top playoff spot.

The remaining play-off slots are occupied by Dulwich Hamlet, Enfield Town and ourselves, Wingate & Finchley. Dulwich are safe with 77 points. The two spots below the playoffs are occupied by Leiston and Needham Market – both of whom have been in the top 5 at times with Needham occupying a playoff position for much of the season.

At this end of the table the permutations are simple – if we get a point or win against Dulwich who we play today then we are in the playoffs. If we lose then it depends on Leiston’s result – they need a win to have a chance to overtake us. Needham are unlikely to challenge for a playoff spot now – they would need to win and overturn a goal difference of 8 which is a ‘mathematical possibility’ that will get you very long odds at the bookies! So we know what we have to do – let’s get out there and do the business…

#Enemyfor90 – ex-W&F Skipper Marc Weatherstone backs into W&F frontman Rob Laney – the two are good friends off the pitch and will meet in todays final match of the season.


C’mon you Blues!