Kate McNiven was a healer and accused witch whose story has many variations and has been the subject of endless debate.
Living in a cave near Crieff, she is believed to have used herbs and potions to ease the illnesses of local people. Of course, this was linked to witchcraft, and she became known as ‘The Witch of Monzie,’ head of a Crieff coven with the ability to take the form of a bee.
The first known mention of her in print is from 1818 and it is thought she lived sometime between the 16th and 18th centuries. There are many different accounts of her death, with dates ranging from 1560 to 1715.
In the 1715 version, it was said that she was the nursemaid of the young Laird of Inchbrakie and was the last woman in Perthshire to be burned at the stake.
However, scholars such as Alison Hanham have debated that the story was inspired by a real woman burnt for witchcraft around the 1560s. And in a Calendar of Cases of Witchcraft in Scotland, McNiven’s death is dated around 1615.