Delve into the trial of the ‘Islandmagee Witches’ at Carrickfergus Museum this Autumn
Friday 25 August 2023
The spellbinding story of the last witch trial in Ireland is set to come alive this Autumn through a series of bewitching exhibitions, projects, events and workshops at Carrickfergus Museum.
The Museum is working closely with a multi-disciplinary team from Ulster University on this exciting new initiative which aims to showcase the story of the trial of the ‘Islandmagee Witches’ in Carrickfergus in 1711. The Ulster University research project is led by Dr Helen Jackson, Dr Victoria McCollum and Dr Andrew Sneddon.
Believed to have been the last witch trial to take place anywhere on the island of Ireland, eight women were put on trial and found guilty of exercising witchcraft on the body of young gentlewoman, Mary Dunbar.
The women were tried under the Irish 1586 Witchcraft Act and found guilty by a jury at County Antrim’s Criminal Assize Court held in Carrickfergus on 31 March 1711. They were sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and to be pilloried four times on market day for six hours.
They were - Janet Carson, Janet Latimer, Janet Main, Janet Millar, Margaret Mitchell, Catherine McCalmond, Janet Liston and Elizabeth Sellor.
At a later trial on 11 September 1711 in the same court, William Sellor – father to Elizabeth Sellor and husband to Janet Liston – was also found guilty of Mary’s bewitchment.
Kick-starting the programme of events will be ‘Reimagining the Islandmagee Witches: an Interactive Exhibition’. Officially opening on 9 September 2023, the exhibition will include a range of interpretative experiences developed by the team. These will include a virtual reality experience, animation, graphic novel and choice-driven video game.
The exhibition will also feature graphic interpretative panels and a range of objects from Carrickfergus Museum’s own collection plus loaned items from National Museums Northern Ireland, National Library of Ireland and Belfast Central Library.
Alongside the exhibition will be a series of public events and creative workshops.
The exhibition will run until 16 November. For further information:
T: 028 9335 8241
Also taking place on Saturday 9 September at Carrickfergus Museum from 10am – 2pm will be a FREE creative writing workshop led by Kentuckian playwright and professor, Georgia Rhoades.
This fascinating workshop will explore the lives of people whose experiences and viewpoints are often left out of historical accounts - beginning with the accused at Islandmagee. Participants will view the exhibition and discuss their responses to it before being invited to write about unexplored or forgotten people they’re interested in, with the option of performing what they write and sharing it with the group.
Also on offer is a two-part lino print workshop, designed to allow a deeper engagement with the ‘Reimagining the Islandmagee Witches’ exhibition. Participants will explore the exhibition themes in more detail before getting hands-on with lino printing - a style which allows us to recreate the woodblock prints of the early 18th century. Learn the techniques and create your own piece of art. These will take place on 7 and 14 October, though aimed at age 16+, no experience is necessary.
There will also be a series of spectacular storytelling performances in October when the ‘Islandmagee Witch Trial’ will be brought to life through live storytelling performances with music and visual imagery.
Created by professional storyteller Vicky McFarland and musician Lee McFarland, the production is based wholly on Andrew Sneddon’s extensive research into the trial. The 45-minute intimate and powerful performance is for ages 12+.