Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Paisley Curse, or, "We don't believe in this stuff, honest!"

My husband brought this one to my attention because he remembers the story being told in hushed tones when he was a lad; he grew up not far from Paisley in the 70s, so it was something that was still fresh in people's minds.

Anyway, the story goes that - back in the good old days of 1696 - a girl from a wealthy family in Paisley began to complain that she was being plagued and tormented by all kinds of supernatural and frightening things. Eventually the finger was pointed at several people; in the end, around 30 people were involved once things got a bit hysterical and accusations began to fly and it was quite a big story in its day...

Some might say the poor girl really was the victim of witchcraft or supernatural goings on. Others tend to be of the opinion that the story was an excuse to deal with a wee problem of industrial espionage going on. Whatever the case, the upshot of it was that four women and three men ended up sentenced to death - to be garroted, burned, and then interred in a mass grave.

This is where the curse bit comes in to the story, for it is said that one of the women didn't go quietly. Instead, she screamed out a curse on all of the people who were present, their descendants included. Being cautious types, the townsfolk decided to bury the ashes of the convicted 'witches' together, as planned, but sealed with a horseshoe to stop the curse from getting out of the grave. All was fine and dandy in the town of Paisley until the 1960s, when the roads were dug up to remove the tram lines. During the work, the grave was disturbed and the horseshoe was removed. And so, according to the article over on the Beeb:
"Of course in the 1960s, during road works, the horseshoe was lifted," explained Liz Gardiner from Renfrewshire Witch Hunt 1697.

"Now, we know it was coincidence, but from that point on Paisley's fortunes did decline. Last month it was declared the town with the highest number of empty shops of any high street of any town in the UK.

"We know it's a myth. But it's a powerful myth."

The horseshoe was restored four years ago, but since then it's apparently come loose and has now had to be fixed again - hence the article, hailing a new era of prosperity for the town. It may just be a myth (albeit a powerful myth), but...It can't hurt trying, right?

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