Thomas Weir

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Major Weir's House in the West Bow, Edinburgh Major Weir's House.jpg
Major Weir's House in the West Bow, Edinburgh

Major Thomas Weir (1599 1670) was a Scottish soldier and presumed occultist, executed for bestiality, incest and adultery.

Zoophilia paraphilia involving a sexual fixation on non-human animal

Zoophilia is a paraphilia involving a sexual fixation on non-human animals. Bestiality is cross-species sexual activity between human and non-human animals. The terms are often used interchangeably, but some researchers make a distinction between the attraction (zoophilia) and the act (bestiality).

Incest is human sexual activity between family members or close relatives. This typically includes sexual activity between people in consanguinity, and sometimes those related by affinity, adoption, clan, or lineage.

Adultery is extramarital sex that is considered objectionable on social, religious, moral, or legal grounds. Although the sexual activities that constitute adultery vary, as well as the social, religious, and legal consequences, the concept exists in many cultures and is similar in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. A single act of sexual intercourse is generally sufficient to constitute adultery, and a more long-term sexual relationship is sometimes referred to as an affair.

Contents

Weir was a Covenanter who professed a particularly strict form of Presbyterianism. His spoken prayers earned him a reputation for religiosity which attracted visitors to his home in Edinburgh. He served under James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, as a lieutenant in the Army of the Covenant. He was known as the "Bowhead Saint", [1] because his residence was near the top of the West Bow, off the Grassmarket, and "saint" was a popular epithet for Calvinist zealots.

Presbyterianism Branch of Protestant Christianity in which the church is governed by presbyters (elders)

Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism, which traces its origins to Britain, particularly Scotland.

Edinburgh Capital city in Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian, it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore.

Grassmarket market square in Edinburgh

The Grassmarket is a historic market place and an event space in the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland. In relation to the rest of the city it lies in a hollow, well below surrounding ground levels.

Biography

Weir was a native of Carluke (Kirkstyle) in Lanarkshire, descendant of one of the most powerful and ancient families of the County, the Weir-de Veres. He was the son of Thomas Weir, Laird of Kirkton, and his wife Lady Jean Somerville who was reputed to possess clairvoyant powers. His grandfather was William Weir, or Vere, of Stonebyres Castle who married Lady Elizabeth Hamilton. Weir was a signatory to the Solemn League and Covenant and an officer in the Scottish anti-Royalist army. As a Lieutenant, he served in Ulster during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. In 1650, he obtained the post of commander of the Edinburgh Town Guard, thus acquiring the rank of major. When the defeated royalist general Montrose—branded a traitor for changing sides—was brought to Edinburgh for execution, Weir notoriously mocked and abused him during his custody. [2]

Carluke town in Scotland, United Kingdom

The town of Carluke lies in the heart of the Lanarkshire countryside in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, 4.7 miles northwest of Lanark and 4.2 mi (6.8 km) southeast of Wishaw.

Lanarkshire Historic county in Scotland

Lanarkshire, also called the County of Lanark is a historic county in the central Lowlands of Scotland.

Stonebyres was an estate and country house in Lanarkshire, Scotland, belonging to the Weir, or de Vere, family from earliest recorded history. The Weir-de Veres were a cadet branch of the Weir family of Blackwood but were a powerful and sometimes rival branch of the laird of Blackwood, head of Clan Weir. The laird of Stonebyres was often styled Baron Stonebyres.

Following retirement, Weir fell ill in 1670, and from his sick-bed began to confess to a secret life of crime and vice. The Lord Provost initially found the confession implausible and took no action, but eventually Weir and his spinster sister, Jean Weir (known to her friends as 'Grizel'), were taken to the Edinburgh Tolbooth for interrogation. Major Weir, now in his seventies, continued to expand on his confession and Grizel, having seemingly entirely lost her wits, gave an even more exaggerated history of witchcraft, sorcery and vice. She related how many years before a stranger had called in a "fiery" coach to take her brother to Dalkeith and how during the short trip another man had given him "supernatural intelligence" (Chambers) of the Scots' defeat at Worcester that same day. [3] (In fact, Cromwell's Commonwealth Commissioners in Scotland had been based in Dalkeith and would have been among the first to know the outcome of the battle—though not, of course, on the same day.) Grizel maintained that Weir derived his power from his walking stick, topped by a carved human head, giving rise to later accounts that it had often been seen parading down the street in front of him.

Spinster Unmarried woman, often older

Spinster is a term referring to an unmarried woman who is older than what is perceived as the prime age range during which women should marry. It could also indicate that a woman is considered unlikely to ever marry. The term originally denoted a woman whose occupation was to spin. A synonymous but more pejorative term is old maid. The closest equivalent term for males is "bachelor" or "confirmed bachelor", but this generally does not carry the same pejorative connotations in reference to age and perceived desirability in marriage.

Jane Weir, or Jean Weir, the sister of Major Thomas Weir who was charged with incest and witchcraft in 1670 and was subsequently executed.

Old Tolbooth, Edinburgh street in Edinburgh, United Kingdom

The Old Tolbooth was an important municipal building in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland for more than 400 years. The medieval structure, which was located at the northwest corner of St Giles' Cathedral and was attached to the west end of the Luckenbooths on the High Street in the Old Town, was first established in the 14th century by royal charter. Over the years it served a variety of purposes such as housing the Burgh Council, early meetings of the Parliament of Scotland and the Court of Session. The Tolbooth was also the burgh's main jail where, in addition to incarceration, physical punishment and torture were routinely conducted. From 1785 public executions were carried out. In 1817 the buildings, which had been rebuilt and renovated several times, were demolished.

A depiction of Weir's coach careering down the West Bow at midnight Major Weir's coach in the West Bow.jpg
A depiction of Weir's coach careering down the West Bow at midnight

Whilst as a high-ranking public figure Weir was not believed at first, his own confession together with that of his sister sealed his fate. Both were quickly found guilty at their trial and sentenced to death. [2]

While awaiting execution, they were confined in the former leper colony at Greenside below the Calton Hill. Weir was garrotted and burned at the Gallowlee [4] (literally, "gallows field") on the road between Edinburgh and Leith [5] (a site later occupied by the Shrubhill tram depot, then bus garage, near Pilrig on Leith Walk). His last words, while being urged to pray for forgiveness, were reported as, "Let me alone—I will not—I have lived as a beast, and I must die as a beast". [6] Weir's stick was consigned to the flames after him, reportedly making "rare turnings" in the fire. Shortly before his end Weir had made a further public confession of incest with his sister, who was executed in the Grassmarket. [7] The remains of the Weirs were buried at the base of the gallows at Shrub Hill, as was the custom of the time.

Calton Hill mountain in the United Kingdom

Calton Hill is a hill in central Edinburgh, Scotland, situated beyond the east end of Princes Street and included in the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site. Views of, and from, the hill are often used in photographs and paintings of the city.

Leith district and former municipal burgh in Scotland

Leith is a port to the north of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, at the mouth of the Water of Leith.

Leith Walk

Leith Walk is one of the longest streets in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is the main road connecting the port area of Leith to the centre of the city. Forming the majority of the A900 road, it slopes upward from 'the Foot of the Walk' at the north-eastern end of the street, where Great Junction, Duke and Constitution streets meet, to the Picardy Place roundabout at the south-western end.

Legacy

The Weirs' house in the West Bow stood empty for over a century because of its reputation for being haunted. It was said that one of Weir's enchantments made people ascending the stair think they were descending in the opposite direction. [8] It was eventually bought cheaply in about 1780 by an ex-soldier William Patullo who moved in with his wife. They are said to have fled the house on their first night there after experiencing a strange apparition of a calf approaching them in the night, propping itself up with its forelegs on the bed-end and staring at them in bed. [9] According to Walter Scott, the house, which remained unoccupied after the incident, was demolished in 1830.

The story of Weir has been proposed as an influence on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde , by Robert Louis Stevenson. [10] The 2000 novel The Fanatic by James Robertson features Weir as a character and uses the events surrounding him as a central aspect of the novel's narrative and themes.

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References

  1. Clan Weir
  2. 1 2 James Grant, Cassell's Old and New Edinburgh, a partwork published by Cassells from 1880.
  3. Chambers, R (1824). Traditions of Edinburgh. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. reprint 1980. p. 33. ISBN   0 550 21292 2.
  4. Edinburgh and The Lothians
  5. Grassmarket – Edinburgh.Com – History- Major Thomas Weir Archived 2007-10-15 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Sittwell, S; Bamford, F (1938). Edinburgh. London: Faber & Faber. p. 165.
  7. Major Weir Scottish Clans Tartans Kilts Crests and Gifts
  8. Sittwell, S; Bamford, F (1938). Edinburgh. London: Faber & Faber. p. 164.
  9. Chambers, R (1824). Traditions of Edinburgh. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. reprint 1980. p. 35. ISBN   0 550 21292 2--Sittwell and Bamford describe the calf as headless but give no supporting source.
  10. .BBC – Press Office – Ian Rankin investigates Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for BBC Four

Further reading