A LAWYER with a passion for singing has released a song about one of the darkest episodes in Scottish legal history.
Neilston’s wife Sharon Collins’ debut single focuses on the infamous Renfrewshire witch trials of 1697.
Six people were executed in Gallow Green, Paisley, and another committed suicide after all seven – called The Bargarran Witches – were found guilty of practicing black magic.
Her trial was triggered by the alleged possession of an 11-year-old girl, Christian Shaw, who was the daughter of the wealthy Laird of Bargarran.
The ashes of the victims were buried at the intersection of Maxwellton Street and George Street and were later covered by a horseshoe designed to seal a witch cast on the city.
Sharon, a former student of St. Luke’s High School in Barrhead, has been an attorney for 14 years and hopes the importance of shedding light on injustice will be reflected in her song, The Witches of Bargarren.
She said, “I remember seeing a play about the witches and I just thought what happened was terrible.
“By today’s standards, it’s incredible that something like this can happen on the basis of such assumptions.”
Sharon paid for her way through her law degree by singing in local clubs, but is now taking the opportunity to create her own music for the first time after pairing up with multi-instrumentalist Mario D’Agostino.
Her band – The O’Cuilleans – have made it their business to tell Scottish stories like the witch trials with a distinct Scottish lowland voice.
They’ve also worked with a powerhouse of Irish and Scottish musicians including Jar Henderson, Cormac Byrne and Roo Geddes to create an EP out next month and an upcoming album.
“I sang a lot by doing covers, but there was always that little thing gnawing inside me of writing my own stuff,” said Sharon.
“I lost my mom last April and it’s sad that she doesn’t see this as she always told me to do it, but I’m really enjoying the process.”
By chance, Sharon discovered that Claire Maddison Mitchell QC was running a campaign for the pardon of the witches of Scotland and was making a TV documentary about the story of the Bargarran witches.
Claire was so impressed with Sharon’s song that she forwarded it to her producer, and there are now plans to use it as the theme melody for the documentary.
The catchy folk track also caught the attention of award-winning American director Julia Campanelli, who wrote a screenplay about the Bargarran trials. Production is scheduled to begin this year.
“We’re in talks to see if she can use the song for that,” said Sharon, who composed the tune after researching the event at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.
“We know she’s interested, so we keep our fingers crossed.”
Sharon even risked life and limb by driving to the point at the intersection where the horseshoe is to film scenes for a video that accompanies her song.
Most of the video was shot in sub-zero temperatures in Paisley’s historic Anchor Mill.
Sharon said, “We chose this as the location because Christian Shaw became one of the first industrialists in Scotland to open a mill.”
To listen to the song, visit youtube.com/watch?v=zd4GjX8lQFw.