Whitsunday – ‘Quhissonday’ in Scots – is Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter or Pasche, and a moveable feast. In 1588, it fell on May 26th in the Julian calendar.
In Scotland, it was a legal quarter day, and the term day on which tenancies were agreed or terminated. The term dates also shifted year by year, according to the date upon which Easter fell, until 1690–93, when Whitsunday was fixed at May 15th. ‘Witsondays’ are agreements going forward from that date, while the ‘Whitsunday term’ may be retrospective too, covering the period since the previous quarter day, or since Martinmas. A ‘witsonday fee’ is one due at this time.
Now was the time of year for exchange of property. The Whitsun removal day was known as ‘flitting Friday’, the Friday before the feast of Pentecost. The Old Scots word to ‘flit’, in the sense of house removal, is in use today. In early legal documents it generally appears as ‘flit and remove’.
Whitsunday was also the name given to the third term in the academic year at St Andrews and the other ancient Scottish Universities, its context in the story here. The fictitious ‘Bumbaise’ Sempill, who forms part of the commission to inspect the University in the Whitsunday term of 1588, first appeared in Fate & Fortune, where he was the judge in the first case Hew defended, and pronounced himself baffled by the evidence. He is nameless there, but here he gives a nod to the poet Robert Sempill, whose satirical account of the life of Patrick Adamson, and his consulting of witches, gave shape to Friend and Foe, and casts a further shadow over 1588, when the witches he consorted with were tried and put to death.
A Merry Month
May was traditionally a month of revelry, beginning with the May Day games or plays, the merry burgh pageants of misrule. In Friend & Foe, which opens on the first day of the month, the antics of the much maligned Archbishop Patrick Adamson hark back to the days of the plays of Robin Hood, which like Candlemas processions were an essential part of the early civic calendar, and were stamped out at the Reformation by a jealous Kirk. The writing was on the wall as early as 1555:
Concerning Robin Hood and the Abbot of Unreason:
Item, it is statute and ordained that in all time coming no manner of person be chosen Robin Hood or Little John, Abbot of Unreason, May Queen or otherwise, neither in burgh nor to land, in any time to come, and if any provost, bailie, council and community chooses such a personage as Robert Hood, Little John, Abbot of Unreason or May Queen within the burgh, the choosers of such shall forfeit their freedom for the space of five years and otherwise shall be punished at the will of [Mary of Guise], the queen’s grace, and the person who accepts such an office shall be banished out of the realm; and if such persons as Robin Hood, Little John, Abbot of Unreason or May Queen be chosen outwith the burgh and other landward towns, the choosers shall pay to our sovereign lady £10 and their persons put in ward, there to remain during the pleasure of the queen’s grace; and if any women or others in summer tries singing, makes perturbation to the queen’s lieges in the passage through burghs and other landward towns, the women perturbers, for the extortion of money or otherwise, shall be taken, handled and put upon the cukstule of every burgh or town
Despite the law, the characters of Robin Hood and Little John, the Queen of the May (no Maid Marian here), and the Abbot of Unreason or Unrest, who played merry havoc in the ancient plays, were sometimes irrepressible. At the General Assembly for 1591, ‘Profaners of the Sabbath day by Robin Hood plays’ are included in a list of the vilest threats to assail the land, no better and no worse than Jesuits and murderers. Here is the plea from the Kirk to the Crown:
It is craveit, The acts of Parliament made for suppressing of the enormities following may be put to executioun: First, against Jesuites and the receipters of them; and of excommunicats…profainers of the Sacraments; privat men and wemen givers therof; idolaters, pilgrimagers, papistical Magistrates; sayers and heirers of the mess; givers of the Sacraments according to the papisticall forme, and receivers of the same; committers of apostasie; publick mercatts vpon the Sabboth day; violent invaders of Ministers be strikeing of them or shedding of thair blood; profaners of the Sabboth day be Robein Hoodes playis; murderers and blood shedders quhilk overflow the land.
This Whitsunday story is intended for a comedy, in the gentle spirit of the merry month. But like the plays themselves, the order and disorder represented there, and the mood against them, it has darker undertones.
New lamps for old: St Andrews and The New Foundation
Following the drafting of the second Book of Discipline setting out the rules for the Kirk of Scotland, the ancient universities came into the firing line for reform from ‘Papistrie’, and other ideology that might infect the young. The ‘New Foundation’ of St Andrews, replacing the medieval model which had been in place since the papal bull of 1413, was to take effect in 1579. The reformer Andrew Melville was appointed principal of St Mary’s College in the following year, to implement the change, as he had done in Glasgow and in Aberdeen.
Under its terms, St Mary’s, called the ‘New College’, was to be explicitly a college of theology, teaching the ‘whole course of the new and auld testament’, with the New Testament, ‘out of the Greek tongue, conferring with the Syriaque’, to train up the ministers for the new Kirk. The other two colleges, ‘Sanctleonardis’ and ‘Sanctsalvatores’ were to be reformed in such a way that ‘the youth may atteane into perfite knawledge of humanite and trew philosophy,’ with four ordinary professors or regents besides the principal, teaching the first year the basics of Greek, with exercises in composition, for the first six months in Latin, and the rest in Greek. In the second year, the students were to be taught ‘the precepts of invention, disposition and elocution’ in both languages, through study of the best authors. In the third year, they should progress to the logic, politics and ethics of Aristotle, all in Greek, ‘and the offices of Cicero in Latin’. In the fourth year, they would study Aristotle’s physics and the spheres.
Because the long vacation seemed of dubious benefit, it was proposed to reduce this to the month of September, with the new term starting on October 1st, on which day the students and bursars would be examined to see if they were worthy of admission or promotion, or whether (like Henry Balfour in the story) they should be kept back for the year.
It was proposed, too, that the principal of St Salvator’s should be a professor of medicine, and the principal of St Leonard’s a specialist in the philosophy of Plato, and that the lawyer and mathematician at that time in the New College should be transferred to St Salvator’s; their roles in the stories are assumed by Giles and Hew, and by (the ghost of) Bartie Groat.
The wives, bairns and servants of principals and masters living in the colleges must remove at once, so that women ‘to a evil and slanderous example, have not residence amang the young men studentis, nor yet that the same wemen have ony administratioun and handilling of the comon guides of the College, to the greit prejudice thairof and of sic as frelie wald gif thame selffis to the studies of lettres’. The bairns and servants only were permitted to remain, providing they were male, and were students there.
It was proposed that each regent or ordinary professor should teach the class for which he was most qualified, not, in the traditional way, that he should teach the same group of students through the full four years of their course. The recurring question through two hundred years of inspections: ‘At what period was each Professor limited to one particular department? and when was the practice of each Professor, or Regent, carrying forward one class for the whole period of the course of study, through all the sciences, discontinued?’ shows with what little success.
Following the rules and regulations prescribed by the King’s Commissioners in 1579, acting on a previous visit by the earl of Morton in 1574, is a list of violations of the Reformation and the new foundation, and of points ‘not kept’. These include: that every master should teach every day, that he should keep to his subject and place, that there should be examinations in the first year and public declamations every month, that bursars should be given places and bursaries in the manner told, that masters should not ‘mell with the common rents’ but should appoint an economus, that rents and stipends should be commonly distributed, that records should be kept, and that the college ‘now in ruins’ should be repaired. It comes as no surprise that nothing had improved by 1588.
The Library at Leiden University in 1610. Scots travelled abroad to study law and medicine. Hew and Giles first met at the Collège des Écossais* in Paris in 1573, where both had embarked upon postgraduate degrees, having graduated Master of Arts from St Andrews and Glasgow universities respectively. They were born too early to enrol at Leiden, which was founded by William of Orange-Nassau in 1575. It soon attracted Scots, and its Calvinist philosophies would have appealed to Hew.
*In the Rue des amandiers, not the Rue des fosses, as in Hue & Cry. Galignani’s New Guide of Paris, 1830.
News from Scotland
Lord Sempill’s apprehension for a witch, comic though it is in the context of the story, was a real and present danger at the time. On May 28th of 1588 ‘Alesoun Peirsoun of Byrehill’ came to trial at the high court in Edinburgh for her treatment of the illness of Archbishop Patrick Adamson in 1583. Adamson denounced her to the Kirk in August of that year. She was committed to ward in the castle, but managed to escape, probably with help from Adamson himself. Now at last the law, which does not forget, appears to have caught up with her. Her trial, and its inevitable outcome, were recorded by Pitcairn in his Criminal Trials of Scotland. Alison was convicted of sorcery and witchcraft with the invocation of the spirits of the devil.
Her confession contains a detailed and remarkable account of her compact with the dead and journeys into fairyland. She confesses, too, that her consort in the spirit world had ‘tauld her that the Bischop of St Androis had mony seiknesses, as the trimblng fever, the palp, the rippillis and the flexus’. Alison was shown how to make a salve to rub onto his cheeks, his forehead, breast, stomach and sides, and how to make a draught of ewe’s milk, herbs and claret wine, and a boiled fowl, to give to him to drink.
In the margin of the record is recorded simply, ‘convicta and combusta’.
The poet Robert Sempill, in his scathing account of the archbishop’s life, implies that his sickness was due to a venereal disease, and that one of his conquests was Alison herself:
Now being tane and apprehendit Now being taken and apprehended
Scho being in the bischopis cure, She being in the bishop’s charge
And kepit in his castell sure, And kept securely in his castle,
Without respect of wardlie glamer, Without concern for reputation
He past into the witchis chalmer He passed into the witch’s room
Closing the dure behind his bak Closing the door behind his back
And quyetlie to hir he spak, And quietly he spoke to her
And said, his work lome was not worthe, And said, his tool was not fit for the job
Lowsing his poyntis, he laid it furth, Loosening his points, he laid it forth,
Scho sayned it with hir halie hand; She blessed it with her holy hand
The pure pith of the pryoris wand: The pure pith of the prior’s wand
To help that raipfull scho hes rest him, To help that rope-full she refreshed him
Whairfore, ye say, my ladie left him. Wherefore, you say, my lady left him.
For she had sayned it tuyss or thrise Before she had blessed it two or three times
His rubigo began to rise His rubigo began to rise
He mentions two other witches Adamson consulted, one of them ‘ane devil dwelling in Anstruther’, ‘that could mak auld men young agane’.This may have been poor Agnes Melvill, who was interrogated by the Kirk Session in St Andrews in July 1588, when the news of Alison’s demise was no doubt still fresh, as to whether she had ‘skill and knawledge of herbs,’ and admitted to having used spring onions, comfrey, wormwood, elecampane, and a herb called ‘concilarum’ to help ‘sindry personis that has hed evil stomakis’ and in particular, one Jonet Spens, spouse of John Simpson in Crail.
Agnes denied any knowledge of the use of stones but admitted that she believed ‘south running water’ should be used, a superstition linked to the practice of witchcraft.
What is concerning, in particular, in Agnes’ case, is that she is accused on the evidence of simple herbal remedies, and does not confess to using them in charms. Her trial is not recorded in Pitcairn, and may not have reached the highest court. That she may still have paid the final heavy price is suggested by a further entry in the Kirk Session records for September, 1595, in which Issobel Annell is required to make public humiliation for having consulted with Agnes Melvill, ‘ane condamnit wiche’.
Not everyone, however, was readily convinced that witchcraft was so prevalent, or that there existed people with the power to harm through use of magic charms. One dissenting voice, no doubt a welcome one to men like Giles and Hew, was Reginald Scott, who published his Discoverie of Witchcraft  in 1584, an attempt to allay the crying after witches, by defending them as poor and ignorant unfortunates, or by exposing them as frauds. At Lammas we will see his exposition of the magic tricks practised by the juglar at the fair.
It was against Scott that James VI took his stand when he published Dæmonologie  in 1597. He had strong personal reasons for doing so. The denial of the threat that witches posed was in effect the denial of, and collusion with, the existence of a terror threat. The king had experience of this at first hand. His marriage to Anne of Denmark in 1589 had been severely thrawn and delayed by storms, and witches were notorious for raising storms at sea. The subsequent North Berwick witch trials, in which more than a hundred people were accused, made sensational headline news, and continued for two years. The cruellest tortures were employed. Some of those accused were by no means poor unfortunates, but members of the Scottish court, and educated men like Dr Fian, or Cunningham, of Prestonpans. For the king, this was a sustained and real act of terrorism, on his person, his Crown and his country. The severity of threat could not be exaggerated.
For all that, James makes a clear and reasonable distinction between the use of herbs in remedies or medicines and their use as charms. It was acceptable to make a salve to rub into a wound, or a potion for an ailing horse to drink. It was not acceptable to tie the same herbs in a bunch to the horse’s tail and say a spell over them:
I meane either by such kinde of Charmes as commonlie dafte wiues vses, for healing of forspoken goodes, for preseruing them from euill eyes, by knitting roun trees, or sundriest kinde of herbes, to the haire or tailes of the goodes: By curing the Worme, by stemming of blood, by healing of Horse-crookes, by turning of the riddle, or doing of such like innumerable things by wordes, without applying anie thing, meete to the part offended, as Mediciners doe
He makes a like distinction between astronomy and astrology in the science of the stars:
The one is their course and ordinary motiones, which for that cause is called Astronomia…that is to say, the law of the Starres: And this arte indeed is one of the members of the Mathematicques, & not onelie lawful, but most necessarie and commendable. The other is called Astrologia…which is to say, the word, and preaching of the starres: Which is deuided in two partes: The first by knowing thereby the powers of simples, and sickenesses, the course of the seasons and the weather, being ruled by their influence; which part depending vpon the former, although it be not of it selfe a parte of Mathematicques: yet it is not vnlawful, being moderatlie vsed, suppose not so necessarie and commendable as the former. The second part is to truste so much to their influences, as thereby to fore-tell what common-weales shall florish or decay: what persones shall be fortunate or vnfortunate: what side shall winne in anie battell: What man shall obteine victorie at singular combate: What way, and of what age shall men die: What horse shall winne at matche-running; and diuerse such like incredible things… Of this roote last spoken of, springs innumerable branches; such as the knowledge by the natiuities; the Cheiromancie, Geomantie, Hydromantie, Arithmantie, Physiognomie: & a thousand others: which were much practised, & holden in great reuerence by the Gentles of olde. And this last part of Astrologie whereof I haue spoken, which is the root of their branches, was called by them pars fortunae. This parte now is vtterlie vnlawful to be trusted in, or practized amongst Christians, as leaning to no ground of natural reason: & it is this part which I called before the deuils schole.
The fineness of this distinction, between the understanding of the planets and the elements, and their effects on the body, fundamental to medicine, and the use of them to predict the future, by casting horoscopes, is one that Giles Locke is very aware much of, when, throughout these stories, he insists that he has no power of prophecy, and that his ‘nativities’ cannot be exact. He is dabbling at the edge of a dangerous world.
Meg, with her skill in natural remedies and medicines, is equally at risk. For the moment, she is under the protection of a well-respected family, and has status in the town. But it may not always be that way.
Lord Sempill has been fortunate, in that he finds himself with sympathetic friends. His enemies will turn his weaknesses against him, given half a chance. His shame-faced defence that he has taken physick from a suspect source in order to treat an embarrassing complaint may not help him here. Clearly, he has been consorting with witches, even if he is not one himself. The remnants of his tale, when it comes back to the court, are unlikely to endear him to his king.
Lore of the land
For Meg, May is an important month. She expects to spend much of it in the still house, making medicinal waters from the morning dew. But the full moon on the last day of April means it will be later in the month before she comes to gather it, for the dew is better when the moon is waxing full. She must also choose a day when it has not rained overnight, which if the almanac is accurate, will be hard to find. When she finds the perfect day, she will slip out before sunrise and go by the light of the moon to her brother’s fields, to draw off the dew with a cloth.
It is likely she will not be there alone. The dew is believed to be good for the complexion, and others will have come to wash their hands and faces in it, hoping to remove their blemishes and spots.
Some of the water Meg collects will be used for cosmetics and perfumes. But most will be distilled, with white wine, herbs and flowers, to make the gentlest sort of medicines. It is said to be good, especially, for the eyes.
In this month, the finest kind of butter is made, with sweet new milk, delicate and fresh. It has the essence of new grass in it, the shimmer of the field, where the unripe corn is billowing in waves, and the butter has been churned into the palest primrose, speckled with crystals of salt. The butter is not only good to eat. Meg will wash it out in the morning dew, and use it as a base for all the oils and salves that require a grease. No other kind will do. Its quality has now become proverbial, so that looking as if ‘butter wouldn’t melt’, which is a favourite grumble of the preachers, is surpassed by one. His opponents engage in such
under-hand practises, and iuggling sleights of legerdemaine… with such a slie and nimble conueiance, as a man would hardly imagine, that not any other but May-butter it selfe could possiblie melt in their mouthes
Meg has made on ointment of it, mixed with oil of tartar, which Canny Bett has sworn has washed away her wart.
In addition to the still, and the herbs in her garden which are coming into flower, Meg is concerned about her bees, for this is a time when they are prone to swarm. Because it is the spring, and the weather has been cold, she gives them a little honey on a stick, ‘else may they starve … or be out of heart’.
In the middle of this work, in blunders Lord Sempill, and the best of the bees may be lost. The physick he is using for his fundamental ailment would not be recommended by either Meg or Giles. It is a dangerous concoction of henbane which can cause unconsciousness, ‘if one doe but smell often to the hearbe and flowers thereof’:
The leaues, stalkes, flowers, seede, roote, and iuice, doe coole all inflammations, cause sleepe, and swage paine, but it may not be vsed too much. Seethe Henbane in water, and wash thy forehead and feete therewith hote, to cause sleepe in the hote euill, and apply a plaster of the seedes with womans milke and vineger hote to thy temples. And so it also destroyeth the Emerods.
Here is the ointment itself:
To heale the griefes of the fundiment.
Take of the tender leaues of Henbane, and of Purcelane, and of crummes of bread infused in wine, the yolke of an Egge rosted hard, of eche like quantitie, of oyle of Roses as much as sufficeth, braye them all: then fomentate the place with the decoction of Roses, and of Mellilot, and laye vpon it the Cataplasme aforesaid.
Henbane is believed to be a witch’s drug, and its hallucinogenic properties may have led some to believe that they could fly. Witches could transform themselves, with the devil’s help, into any form. And Lord Sempill’s bird was found sitting in a hawthorn tree, which was believed to have magic properties. Hawthorn blossoms were not brought into a house, for fear they brought in death. The hawthorn has, in its chemical makeup, apparently some element that makes the dead flowers smell like rotting flesh.
As the spring brings life back to the garden and the land, and laughter and pleasure to the people who inhabit it, so it brings with it the regrowth of the natural world, which begins to burgeon and encroach upon the town. The world of hill and stream, of apple and of hawthorn tree, where the careless lover may yet fall asleep, is the fairy world, which threatens to disrupt and disturb the human one. And though Meg makes attempts to shape and take control of it, its lawlessness and dangers are never far behind.
 And still is. Whitsunday was redefined for legal purposes as May 28th in the Terms and Quarter Days (Scotland) Act 1990. It was the subject of a legal dispute in 2008. [Agricultural Holdings– Validity of Notice to Quit – Meaning of “Whitsunday” http://www.scottish-land-court.org.uk/decisions/SLC.134.08.rub.html]
 Records of the Scottish Parliament, William and Mary, 15 April 1690: ‘Act anent removeing from land:
Our soveraigne lord and lady and the estates of parliament, considering the inconveniency aryseing from the uncertainty of the terme of Whitsunday, whereby the indureance of the two ordinar termes of Whitsonday and Martimass is soe unequall, and Whitsonday oft times reaching far in summer by the removeing from lands, at that tyme, these who remove doe eat up and destroy the meadowes and hained ground; for remeed whereof, their majesties, with consent of the saids estates of parliament, doe statute and ordaine that the summer and winter termes shall in all tyme comeing be the fyfteinth day of May and Martimass, and that the legall terme of removeing both in burgh and landward shall be the said fyfteinth of May upon warneing fourty days preceeding the same.’ http://www.rps.ac.uk/ Re-enacted in 1693.
 DoST [The Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, up to 1700, part of the online Dictionary of the Scots Language/Dictionar o the Scots Leid] s.v. ‘witsonday’ http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/witsonday
 From the Middle English, originally Old Norse.
 Until 1997, when semesters were introduced, and reduced to two: Martinmas and Candlemas.
 Robert Sempill, ‘The Legend of the Bischop of St Androis Lyfe, callit Mr Patrick Adamsone’, in The Sempill Ballates, Edinburgh 1872. The poem was reprinted there from Dalyell’s Scottish Poems of the Sixteenth Century of 1801, from a manuscript the source of which was not disclosed. It was supposed to have been written ‘so late as the year 1583’ [Sempill Ballates p.196], however it refers to events which took place in 1584 (during Patrick’s Adamson’s embassy to England). Sempill is said to have died in 1595. The rudest words appearing in the early Scottish Dictionary referring to bodily functions, some of which have found their way into the world of Hew, are thanks in almost every case to him.
 See Anna Mill, Mediæval Plays in Scotland. New York, 1969 .
 See Candlemas, above.
 Records of the Parliament of Scotland, Mary l, 20th June 1555. Translation: University of St Andrews at http://www.rps.ac.uk/. It seems particularly harsh that a woman should be ‘handled’ to the cukstule for attempting to sing.
 Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, 1560–1618. 1591, July.
 The Book of Discipline, the order book and manifesto of the Reformed Kirk, based on the Geneva model of Protestantism, was drawn up by John Knox et al. in 1560, the date from which the Reformation in Scotland is said to have sprung, and adapted and revised along staunchly Presbyterian lines in 1578.
 ‘The New Foundation and Erection of the three Colleges in the University of St. Andrews, with the Ratification thereof by the King and Parliament of Scotland, 1579.’ In the Evidence, Oral and Documentary, taken and received by the King’s Commissioners, appointed by his Majesty George IV … for Visiting the Universities of Scotland. [Commission for visiting the Universities and Colleges of Scotland, Vol lll, University of St Andrews]. London, 1837 [p.183–87.
 On Andrew Melville see Stephen Reid, Humanism and Calvinism: Andrew Melville and the Universities of Scotland, 1560–1625. Ashgate: Farnham, 2011.
 James Melville was appointed to teach the Aramaic languages.
 Aristotle had originally been taught in the Latin translation.
 In 1579 the medicinar was James Martine, and the interim principal of the New College, John Robertson. The principal of St Leonard’s was James Wilkie, as in the Whitsunday story. [By 1588, he had been replaced by (his brother?) Robert, but there are already several Roberts on the scene, an unhappy hazard of the sixteenth century. Robert Black is a recurring character from the other books, while young Robin Grubb is a nod to Robin Hood, and to Robin Goodfellow.] The lawyer (as well as mathematician) for a considerable time was William Welwood. He wrote a little tract on the law of the sea, furnishing the shipwreck law for Hew in Time & Tide, and a Latin pamphlet on hydraulics, which lies behind Giles Locke’s ideas about the drains in Friend & Foe. So though he has been pushed aside – he was in life a character writ large, with stories to tell of his own – to make way for Hew, he has not been completely overlooked.
Despite the appointments, it was not possible to study for a full degree in medicine or law. St Andrews’ first degree in medicine was conferred in 1696.
 In Time & Tide, Friend & Foe and Martinmas, here.
 See ‘Bleis-silver and the Candlemas dividend’ above.
 ‘Headis of the Acte of Reformation, and of the Fundation, nocht kepit.’ In Commission for visiting the Universities and Colleges of Scotland, Vol lll, p.191. The University’s resistance to such change is the cornerstone of Hue & Cry, set in 1579.
 The hamlet of Boarhills, not far from Kenly Green, and, in the stories, part of Hew’s own land. The first part of Alison’s story is told in Friend & Foe, where she appears as a character.
 St Andrews Kirk Session Register, 1582–1600, Vol 2 ed. David Hay Fleming. Edinburgh, 1890. August 28th, 1583 [p.508].
 It did however forgive Patrick Adamson, who denounced the witches who had ‘cured’ him of his ailment with no judicial damage to himself, though at lasting cost to his reputation. The affair caught the attention of Sir Francis Walsingham, to whom Robert Bowes wrote in November 1583, ‘The archbishop in St Andrews is in readiness to go to England…It is thought that the bishop shall hasten his departure’ rather than face the sanction of the Kirk for certain sermons preached and for ‘the extraordinary favour suspected to have been shown by him towards a witch’. Robert Bowes to Francis Walsingham, November 9th, 1583. In the Calendar of State Papers Relating to Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots, vol 6, 1581–1583, p.652.
 Robert Pitcairn, Criminal Trials in Scotland, vol first, part second, Edinburgh, 1833. Part 3 (1569–1590) 1588 [p.161–65].
 She is likely to have been the person of whom the General Assembly ruled in February, ‘The brethren who deduced the processe in Sanct Andrews against a witch presentlie detained in prison, were ordained to subscribe the same authenticly, that it might be delivered to the Counsell of Edenburgh. Mr James Melvill was ordained to travell in the coast side, for matter of dittay against her.’ James Melville records the episode with Adamson fully in his diary for 1583, concluding with its outcome, but does not return to it in 1588. Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies of the Kirk of Scotland, 1560–1618. February, 1588. Session 15; James Melville: ‘This woman being examined by the Presbyterie, and fund a witche, in thair judgment, was giffon to the bischope to be keipe in his castle for executioun, bot he sufferit hir to slipe away; bot within thrie or four yeirs thairefter sche was takin and execut in Edinbruche for a witche.’ The Diary of Mr James Melville, Edinburgh, 1829: 1583 [p.98].
 Trimbling: trembling. A shivering fever or ague.
 Palp: palpitations.
 Rippillis: a venereal disease. ‘Be continuale imperceptible flux of his naturale generacioun (quhilk we call the passioun of the rippillis) he was ouresett’ [Boece, History and Chronicles of Scotland written in Latin by Hector Boece and translated by John Bellenden, Archdean of Moray. Quoted in DoST].
Flexus: the flux, a loosening of the bowels.
 Convicted and burned [at the stake].
 ‘Legend of the Bischop of St Androis Lyfe’, in the Sempill Ballates, Edinburgh, 1872 [p.210–11].
 ‘His work tool was not worthy’. ‘Lome,’ meaning tool or implement, had the same extended meaning that it has today.
 ‘Points’ were the eyelets through which laces were threaded (in the absence of elastic) to attach doublets to hose. The 16th century equivalent of taking down his trousers.
 ‘Rope-full’: i.e. a candidate for the hangman’s noose.
 Punning here on ‘malady’, perhaps.
 Rubigo is a kind of rust or blight, with a sense of foulness or of moral turpitude. Sempill’s use of the word to mean penis is unique, but many of his terms are unattested elsewhere. He has a rich and scurrilous vocabulary. Here, he was no doubt attracted by the sound, and the word has an exuberance that does not need a gloss.
 St Andrews Kirk Session Register, 1582–1600. July 17th, 1588 [p.620–23].
 The assize was made up, in the usual way, entirely of men who were local to the area, and were likely to have known the accused. See Fate & Fortune for a representation of the early Scottish criminal justice system, and the lack of distinction between jurymen and witnesses at trials.
 Though consorting with witches was in itself a capital offence, the full force of the law was not commonly applied. St Andrews Kirk Session Register, 1581–1600. September 10th 1595 [p.799–800].
 Reginald Scott, The discouerie of witchcraft vvherein the lewde dealing of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected, the knauerie of coniurors, the impietie of inchantors, the follie of soothsaiers, the impudent falshood of cousenors, the infidelitie of atheists, the pestilent practises of pythonists, the curiositie of figurecasters, the vanitie of dreamers, the beggerlie art of alcumystrie, the abhomination of idolatrie, the horrible art of poisoning, the vertue and power of naturall magike, and all the conueiances of legierdemaine and iuggling are deciphered: and many other things opened, which have long lien hidden, howbeit verie necessarie to be knowne.&c. London, 1584.
 James VI, Dæmonologie in forme of a dialogue, diuided into three books, Edinburgh, 1597.
 The storms that scuppered the Spanish Armada, on the other hand, were attributed, by both sides, to God.
 In the form of the published pamphlet Newes from Scotland, which gave lurid accounts of the trial and its aftermath.
 Dæmonologie first book p.11–12.
 Ibid. p.13.
 See e.g. Sir Hugh Plat, Delightes for ladies to adorne their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories with beauties, banquets, perfumes and waters. 1602, and cf the line in Henryson’s affecting ‘Testament of Cresseid’, ‘Quhair thou was wont full merilye in May/ To walk and tak the dew.’ Cresseid now has leprosy.
 John Deacon, A summarie answere to al the material points in any of Master Darel, 1601.
 Richard Remnant, A discourse or historie of bees, 1637.
 William Langham, The garden of health, 1597
 A verye excellent and profitable booke … Translated out of Italian into Englishe by Richard Androse. 1569. Melilotus is the sweet-clover plant. A ‘cataplasm’ is a poultice.