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Grissel Jaffray – Dundee witch executed in 1669

Grissel Jaffray is the most famous witch to be tried and executed in the city of dundee, this account is adapted from the book Haunted Dundee by A.H. Miller

One memorable case in which the Magistrates of Dundee imposed the extreme penalty of the law, with all the barbarity prescribed by the statutes was the martyrdom of Grissel Jaffray in the Seagate of Dundee in November 1669.

Grissel Jaffray accused of witchcraft

On 11th November, 1669, the Privy Council, having been informed that Grissel Jaffray was then a prisoner in the Tolbooth of Dundee, at the corner of High Street and Overgate, accused of ” The horrid crime of witchcraft,” issued an order for her trial.

The remit to the ministers and Dundee Town Council ordained that “If by her own confession, without any sort of torture or other indirect means used, it shall be found she hath renounced her baptism, entered into paction with the devil, or otherwise that malefices be legally proven against her, that then and no otherwise they cause the sentence of death to he executed upon her.” 

The Guilty Verdict returned

Grissel Jaffray was found guilty of the crime of witchcraft and subsequently burnt at the stake by the good people of Dundee

Although we don’t know exactly what crimes Grissel Jaffray had committed, we do know she was strangled, then burned at the stake. 

The Judge and Jury

The three men responsible were leading ministers in the Dundee Presbytery at the time: Harry Scrymsour of St Mary’s, John Guthrie of South Church and William Rait of St Paul’s.

A consistent tradition exists that Grissel Jaffray was burned in the Seagate, almost opposite Horse Water Wynd where the first Cross of Dundee stood, another tradition tells that the sailor son of Grissel Jaffray brought his ship into Dundee on the very day of his mother’s execution; and when he learned that the smoke rising above the Seagate was from the funeral pyre of his mother, he sailed hastily away, and never again returned to his native town.

The Witches Stone

In January 1581, an agreement uniting the 9 trades into one organisation was signed in the Howff. The new association met at the Stone pictured opposite and paid the Town council the annual rent of 12s 0d for the privelage.

A tradition still exists that “the witches stone” was one of the largest in the graveyard before the “Powers that be” decided to obliterate the witches name from the history books, is she be a relation of grissel jaffray, I don’t know, any information would be well appreciated.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay