Islandmagee plaque to mark last witch trial

A historic plaque is to be placed at the Gobbins Visitor Centre in Islandmagee marking the last witch trial to be held in Ireland.

The Islandmagee Witch Trial took place on March 31, 1711 when eight women and one man were found guilty of witchcraft.

They were: Janet Carson, Janet Latimer, Janet Main, Janet Millar, Janet Liston, Margaret Mitchell, Catherine McCalmond, Elizabeth Sellor and William Sellor. They were put in stocks and jailed for a year.

The installation of a plaque at the Gobbins Visitor Centre was approved by the legacy Larne Borough Council in 2015 and Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Maeve Donnelly asked Mid and East Antrim interim chief executive Valerie Watts recently to progress the project.

The Gobbins Visitor Centre. Google pic

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council agreed earlier this year to work with a research team from Ulster University to establish a heritage exhibition based on the theme of “The Islandmagee Witches 1711” in the borough.

The council’s Borough Growth Committee was told at a meeting at Smiley Buildings in Larne on Monday evening that officers are in the process of confirming a location for the plaque.

Questioning the proposed wording for the plaque at the meeting, Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Keith Turner asked if those listed were found to be innocent or guilty. He queried if it is within the council’s capacity to say they were innocent.

He went on to say that he is “all for tourism” but he questioned whether or not the council had the power to “overturn” the verdict.

Larne Lough Alliance Cllr Robert Logan joked: “There are no such thing as witches.”

“How can you be accused of being a witch if there is no such thing as a witch?” he asked.

Cllr Turner maintained that until 1821, there was such a thing as being tried for being a witch.

A line saying “Today the community recognises your innocence” was dropped from the proposed plaque wording.

Commenting after the meeting, Cllr Donnelly said: “I am delighted that the plaque is finally being progressed after being agreed back in 2015 by council. It is long overdue that these women ( and one man ) have been commemorated.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter