By 1642 King Charles had withdrawn the Prayer Book, and agreed to the findings of an assembly which had met in Glasgow in 1638, and for a time Episcopacy ceased to be the State religion and Presbyterianism was re-established.
In 1649 lay patronage was abolished and congregations had the very questionable privilege of choosing their own ministers. Democracy cherishes the delusion that in Church and State majorities are always right, whereas they often only indicate the ebb and flow of changing and uninformed opinion.
About this time prosecutions for witchcraft began to appear. The parish of Kilmacolm and the lower ward of the county seem to have been favorite haunts for these imposters. Inverkip was especially notorious. There is an old ballad on this subject.
In Auldkirk the witches ride thick,
And in Dunrod they dwell,
But the greatest loon amang them a'
Is auld Dunrod himself."
On 13th September, 1649, " every brother was ordained to cause search for one James Thomson, a vaiging beggar, alleged to be a warlock." Many witches were confined to prison in Paisley and Renfrew, and Mr. Thomas Hall, the Kilmacolm minister, was appointed to visit the Paisley gaol on Tuesday, and the Renfrew one on Wednesday, and try and bring them to confession.
At this period the civil authorities and the Church were of opinion that witchcraft was a reality, and the tendency of the Scottish mind to act upon and even form separate sects, based on some isolated text in the Old Testament, without any reference to the whole teaching of Christianity, was very marked. In the witches' case the injunction of the Mosaic law,
" A man also, or woman, that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death. They shal stone them with stones, their blood shall be upon them" was often literally carried out.
About 1628 Mr Cunningham, the parish minister resigned and in 1630 a Mr Ninian Campbell was appointed, he was to hold charge for 21 years.
At the end of the centuary there was a great outbreak of witchcraft in the lower ward of the county. It resulted principaly from the zeal of Mr Brisbane who was the minister of the parish 1693 to 1704.
Hes seemed to have had a great deal of influence with the presbbytery. His obsession in this subject resulted in the death by drowning and burning of a good few people who had been arrested and confined to the Paisley goal. There were other who were imposters and preyed on the credulity of the simple country people and extracted money from them. The effect of Mr Brisbanes enthusiasm was that some hysterical girls became influenced by him.
Of these there were two typical examples. The worst was Christian Shaw, daughter of the Laird of Bagarren in Erskine parish. She was only 11 years. Margaret Laird, of Dippany, Kilmacolm was another.
Christian Shaw began to develop symptoms which nowadays nowadays would be recognised as histeria but in those days were thought to be the results of witchcraft.
She took convulsions sometimes she was blind or deaf and dumb, and vomited straw, hair, cinders, etc which she had swallowed previously. She accused three men and four women of Bewitching her. When any of these people were brought to her peculiar symptoms became worse, which was be positive proof of their guilt.
One of them committed suicide in prison , the other six were burnt at the Green, Paisley.When Mr. Brisbane removed to Stirling in 1704 all the witches disappeared.
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