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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Witch of Youghal

The 'Witch of Youghal', was a woman by the name of Florence Newton. She found herself on trial at Cork Assizes on the 11th September 1661, where she stood accused of bewitching a young servant girl, and later of using witchcraft to kill a man.
The case stands out as there were very few witch trials in Ireland. In fact, up until this trial there had not been one recorded in Ireland for 83 years, the previous one being in Kilkenny in 1578.

The first accusation came from Mary Longdon, who worked as a servant for John Pyne. Mary said that Florence had called at John's house near Christmas 1660 begging for food. When she was turned away she threw curses at him. Later on Mary met Florence on the street outside where she kissed her. From that moment on Mary was plagued by sickness and fits. Mary said that whilst she was having fits she would go into a trance and see Florence's face. She also claimed that she would vomit things such as wool, straw, pins and nails. Mary also claims to have been haunted by a poltergeist following that ill fated meeting with Florence. John Pyne was called as a witness at the trial. He confirmed that on numerous occasions he had seen small stones hurled at Mary, seemingly out of nowhere.

Florence was also accused of using witchcraft to cause the death of David Jones. His widow said that Florence had met David in prison and kissed his hand. After that David became incredibly ill, dying shortly after screaming Florence's name on his deathbed.

Florence's trial ended in dramatic fashion. According to accounts as recorded by Joseph Glanvill, and later quoted by John Seymour in 'Irish Witchcraft and Demonlogy'. Whilst Mary Longdon was there to testify Florence raised up her manacled hands, looked at Mary at shouted “Now she is down”. At this point Mary collapsed shrieking, shaking and began biting herself.

However, the tale of The Witch of Youghal ends as somewhat of a mystery. Due to missing court records, no one knows what verdict was recorded. After her courtroom attack on Mary Longdon, most people have drawn the conclusion that she was found guilty and subsequently executed. But maybe, just maybe, the court records suddenly cut off for a reason. Could Florence have used her powers to bewitch herself free and live to curse another day? That, I'm afraid, is a question you will have to answer for yourself.

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