James Ramsay last hanging in Dunfermline Extracted from the Annals of Kinross-Shire by Dr Ebenezer Henderson F.R.A.S, LL.D
 

732. - EXECUTION OF JAMES RAMSAY AT TOP OF WITCH-LOAN ROAD.

James Ramsay
of Lambhill in Perthshire, his brother Andrew, his sister Helen and her
husband, Andrew Hutson, in Pliverhall, of Drumtuthell, near Dunfermline,
were tried by the Regality Court of Dumfermline in February, 1732, for
cattle stealing, &c.  The Judges at the trial were James Dewar of Lassodie,
Captain Peter Halket, younger of Pitfirrane, and Henry Wellwood of Garvock,
and a jury of fifteen.  The following notes regarding Ramsay's apprehension
and execution are from the Burgh Records:-

"James and Andrew Ramsay, after a long and violent resistance, were
apprehended within a hut in Pitconochie, dean-park, in the barony of
Pitfirrane.  The place where the hut stood, on a small eminence, was much
covered with whins and broom to screen it from observation.  In the hut
there were found a quantity of straw, two pairs of blankets, a bee-hive
with some honey in it, the foot of a sheep, raw, a timber-plate, with
mutton-collops, a cap which contained honey, and in which there were large
lumps of fat, and livers, and also the lead of a window."

The crimes which the Jury found proven against James Ramsay were, the
stealing four oxen and a quey from John Carswell, tenant in South Cults, in
the parish of Saline, and a bee-hive out of the gardens of Pitfirrane.  The
Sentence of the Court is dated 8th February, 1732, and so far as it relates
to James Ramsay, was as follows:-

"The Judges of the Courts of Justiciary and Regality of Dunfermline Having
considered the foregoing Verdict of Assyze, of the date 5th current,
Returned against James Ramsay, Andrew Ramsay, Andrew Hutson and Helen
Ramsay pannells: They in respect whereof, by the Mouth of John Cummin,
dempster of court - Decern and Adjudge the sd James Ramsay to be taken fra
the tolbooth of Dunfermline Upon Wednesday being the twenty second day of
March next to come, to that place of the common Muir of Dunfermline, called
the witch Loan; and there betwixt the hours of two and four o'Clock
afternoon of the said day to be hanged by the neck upon a gibbet, till he
be dead.  And ordains all his moveable goods and gear to be escheat and
inbrought for the use of the ffiscal of court.  Which is pronounced for
Doom."  (Regality Records, and Fernie's Hist. Dunf. pp. 170-172.)

In the Caledonian Mercury newpaper for 11th February, 1732, there is the
following paragraph regarding this trial, &c:-

"Dunfermline, February 8th, 1732. - This day was finished here a very
tedious trial of four gypses (or gypses habit and repute), strollers, or
vagabonds, which lasted between 18 and 19 hours, by the honoured Captain
Halkett, James Dewar of Lassodie, and Henry Wellwood of Garvock - deputies
of the most Honourable the Marquis of Tweeddale, as hereditary bailie of
the justiciary and regality courts of Dunfermline; when on a full and plain
proof James Ramsay, one of the gang, was sentenced to be hanged the 22d
March next; and the other three to be whipped the first Wednesday of each
month, for one half year, and afterwards to be banished the regality for
ever." (!!!)

"James Ramsay has, since his sentence was pronounced, confessed to the Rev.
Mr. Ralph Erskine that he stole the four oxen and young cow - one of the
branches of the indictment.  During his confinement in prison the Rev.
Ralph Erskine frequently visited Ramsay for spiritual advice and
consolation; he also went with him to his place of execution, soothing his
mind, and offered up a fervent prayer in his behalf to the fountain of
mercy, as he was turned off."