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Plans to rebuild historic Fife lighthouse as memorial to victims of Scottish witch trials

How the Beamer might look if rebuilt.
How the Beamer might look if rebuilt.

A 200-year-old lighthouse could be reinstated in Fife as a memorial to women persecuted for witchcraft.

The Beamer beacon, which guarded the Beacon Rock off the coast of Rosyth for 185 years, was dismantled in 2011 to make way for the new Queensferry Crossing.

And it could now be rebuilt at Torryburn as part of plans to commemorate those persecuted for witchcraft including local woman Lilias Adie, who died in prison in 1704 while awaiting trial.

Lilias faced being burned at the stake having confessed, after prolonged interrogation and possibly torture, to having a “tryst” with the devil.

An image of what Lilias Adie may have looked like, created by researchers at Dundee University.

Supporting the campaign for a memorial are local community councils and Fife councillors Kate Stewart, Mino Manekshaw and Bobby Clelland.

Ms Stewart said it is important members of the public are given a chance to have their say on the plans.

The plans will be on display at Torryburn and Newmills Community Centre at 7pm next Thursday, when people will be able to give feedback.

“We’d love to see the creation of a memorial at Torryburn, dedicated to the memory of Lillias Adie and more generally to the many thousands of, mainly women, persecuted as ‘witches’ in early modern Scotland,” said Ms Stewart.

“It would help to reposition them away from the misguided modern Halloween-style perception of fun they have become. They were the innocent victims of an unimaginable injustice.

“The council has a potentially ready-made piece of monumental architecture in the form of the 1840s Beamer navigation beacon which has it’s own ties to Torryburn.

“It was designed by Stevenson, whose nanny for 20 years, Alison Cunningham, was born in Torryburn.

“We’re keen to gauge public opinion on its possible repositioning and use for such an iconic role.”

It follows a recent campaign to highlight the story of Lilias, with efforts also under way to find her missing remains.

A wreath laying ceremony was recently held at her final resting place, which is marked by a stone slab among the mud at the Torryburn coast.

Depute Provost of Fife Julie Ford, centre, laying a wreath at the grave of Lilias Adie, with councillors Mino Manekshaw and Kate Stewart.

Believed to be the only witch grave in Scotland, missing from the lair is Lilias’ skull and part of her skeleton.

The story went global after capturing the imaginations of news outlets, researchers and members of the public worldwide.

Fife Council archaeologist Douglas Speirs said: “Fife, and specifically Torryburn, the site of Lilias’ unique revenant grave, is a particularly good place for such a memorial. Given the sad fact that in Fife possibly more witches than any other county in Scotland were accused and executed.”

There are approximately 3,300 records of accusations of witchcraft in Scotland between the 16th and 18th centuries, and about 1,400 recorded executions.

However, this only reflects what researchers have been able to track down in records and the real statistics are believed to be much higher.

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