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Nairn author revisits story of Scotland’s most famous 'witch' Isobel Gowdie

By Federica Stefani

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Mandy Elizabeth Rush with her new book.
Mandy Elizabeth Rush with her new book.

An author and illustrator from Nairn has just released her latest book, revisiting the story of one of the most famous women in Scotland to have been branded a witch.

Mandy Elizabeth Rush’s latest children’s picture book is titled Isobel Gowdie the Green Witch of Auldearn.

Isobel, who was originally from Lochloy in Nairn and was the wife of a farm labourer, was tried and convicted of witchcraft in Auldearn in 1662.

Ms Rush said: “I had never heard of Isobel Gowdie until Nairn Museum offered a free talk for the year of Scotland’s Stories in 2022.

“I went along to the museum and listened enthralled to the panel of experts as they explored Isobel’s story.

“I was fascinated to learn that the original transcripts of her trial still exist and just how much accusations of witchcraft were a part of the history of the Moray Firth.”

At a time when fears of witchcraft were rife across much of Scotland, Isobel made four confessions over a period of six weeks.

These included details of charms and rhymes.

She also claimed that she was a member of a coven in the service of the Devil and that she met with the fairy queen and king.

It is not clear whether she was tortured ahead of making the confession that saw her convicted.

Inspired by her first encounter with Isobel, the author then went on to further research the woman and the places she would have know, including the church buidling where Isobel’s trial took place.

Ms Rush added: “I found some original transcripts of the trial online, read websites, watched YouTube videos and listened to a podcast, Sands of Time, again all featuring Isobel.

Mystery surrounds the eventual outcome of the trial for Isoble. While she confessed to witchcraft – and implicated others in indulging in similar practices – their is no actual record of her execution.

Whatever the real-life outcome of events Ms Rush was always aware of the young audience she was writing and drawing for in her latest book.

“Of course, this is an illustrated children’s book, so my story has the creatures mentioned in Isobel’s trial, where these become her playmates,” she said.

“In my book Isobel is a misunderstood healer at a time of unrest.

“It couldn’t be too sad!”

Isobel Gowdie the Green Witch of Auldearn, was released on July 31.

More about the author and her previous work is available online at mandyerush.me.

Copies of Isobel Gowdie the Green Witch of Auldearn – and many of her other titles – can be ordered via the website.

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