THE cruelty and injustice of the Scottish witch hunts are to be marked in a play inspired by the mysterious Maggie Wall monument.

Built in Dunning in Perthshire, the monument commemorates the death of a woman tried and executed in the 17th century for witchcraft.

It is the only monument known to have been erected in earlier times in memory of a witch in Scotland and was visited by Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley during their killing spree.

Photographs of them during a holiday to Scotland in 1965 posing next to the stone cross sparked headlines comparing Hindley to a witch.

The monument was more recently the site of the unsolved brutal murder of 22-year-old Annalise Johnstone, a member of Scotland’s Traveller community.

It is a collection of stones standing about 20 feet high, bearing the words in white lettering, “Maggie Wall burnt here 1657 as a witch”.

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Well-known Glasgow pub The Saracen Head used to claim her skull was part of their “pub museum” but the mystery is that no record of a woman called Maggie Wall has ever been discovered.

Yet the monument is cared for by unknown people and visitors occasionally leave offerings, as if visiting a shrine.

One theory is that Maggie Wall was part of a backlash against a group of officials trying to elect a new minister. The group was attacked by angry women, and some believe Maggie Wall could have been singled out and punished.

Perhaps the most credible theory of the monument’s origins was outlined in 2011 by writer and researcher Geoff Holder who concluded it was erected in the late 18th century by schoolmaster and builder David Balmain who knew of earlier relatives who were accused but not charged with witchcraft in 1662. Six women were accused in Dunning in that year.

It is thought the monument commemorates all the people caught up in the witch hysteria that swept through Europe between the 1500s and 1700s. Three times as many people were accused of witchcraft in Scotland than in England – four times the European average.

Around 4000 people, 86% of whom were women, were prosecuted during Scotland’s witch trials.

Co-produced with Aberdeen Arts Centre, The Maggie Wall, which will be staged in Pitlochry this month, explores the vulnerability of women and the injustices suffered by them in a patriarchal and closed community, resonating with contemporary experiences, as well as marking a gruesome chapter of Scottish and British history in which many people were accused, tried and killed as suspected witches.

The Maggie Wall is performed by acclaimed Edinburgh-born actress Blythe Jandoo who featured in Disney’s live-action Aladdin and Beauty And The Beast movies.

“The persecution Maggie suffers, sadly, isn’t a thing of fiction and, in sharing her story, we remember the injustice of the Witch Trials and the injustice consistently suffered by persecuted people ever since,” said Amy Liptrott, director of Aberdeen Arts Centre.

Award-winning playwright Martin McCormick, who wrote the play, said he was thrilled the production would reach a wide audience.

“Maggie’s story is a fictionalised account of an individual tried and executed as a witch in 17th century rural Scotland,” he said. “However, the themes of my narrative – a young woman being persecuted, subjugated, and imprisoned by a patriarchy – are tragically valid and real.”

The Maggie Wall will be at the Studio at Pitlochry Festival Theatre from June 9 to 28 and then part of a special celebration at Aberdeen Arts Centre in October.