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 16th November.