“It is the year of our Lord 1644 and we are gathered at this Hamlet of Gyrnos, to witness a trial to determine the guilt or innocence of Margaret, the straw roofer’s daughter, who is accused of being in league with the Devil!” declared the Puritan dramatically. The man was dressed all in black from his stovepipe hat down to his cape and trousers, with only a square white frilled ‘ruff’ , adorning the area around his collarbone. He held a silver-tipped cane in one hand and use it somewhat belligerently to command respect from the assembled crowd. “ This wretch is accused of maleficium, causing storms which sank Good King Charles ships, consorting with familiars, and putting spells on the good folk of the village!” continued the Puritan. Poor Margaret was tied up on a wooden stool which was precariously balanced over the limestone outcrop of rocks over the River Taf Fechan in Pontsarn. She also had a hangman’s noose around her neck to prevent escape. She may have only been in her forties but with all the outdoor hard work that had exposed to the elements and years of labouring in the fields that surrounded the Gyrnos, she looked more like she was sixty. Her face was cracked and lined and she had more warts on her face than Oliver Cromwell himself. “ Behold ….said the man…she bears the marks of a wytch…!” said the Puritan in a strong Suffolk English accent, as pointed with his cane towards her lumpy face. Most people spoke Welsh in these parts but even they recognised why the oldest woman in the village had been called to the ‘cleansing’ waters of the Pwll Glas to answer for her crimes against God, the Monarch and Mankind.
It was a time of superstition, a time of ignorance and a time for vengeance. There was no television, no radio, or internet. The only entertainment was provided by the local Hangman and Netflix by local fishermen. Most of the inhabitants of the sleepy hamlet, lived in simple, white- daubed cottages with thatched roofs and were not literate. They were God- fearing folk, tied to the Feudal system of their local Lord of the Manor, who lived off the land, defecated in buckets and ploughed the fields just like their fore-fathers had done. How times have changed. Margaret sat trembling- she already had a fear of heights and was being held against her will, balancing precariously on a wooden chair with her hands and feet bound by rope, some 40 feet above the raging white water and limestone rocks of the Blue Pool. “ I am innocent of all charges!” pleaded the woman. “ Be quiet wretch…ordered the Puritan…it is my time to speak not yours…for it is I Matthew Hopkins -Court appointed Witch Finder General- here on the orders of King Charles I himself to root out the evil that lurks amongst us!” continued the Pilgrim dramatically. “ I thought you told me you were down here on HOLIDAY!” said Olwen the Cholera, standing on her own away from the gathered throng. “ Be quiet woman…snapped the Holyman’s sidekick John Stearne not wishing to have his Master’s Pilgrim’s Progress interrupted. Once again Hopkins addressed his accused. “We have examined your body and found it to contain many marks of the Devil himself…warts, bo-pox, even a Bunyan too called John!” said the Pilgrim. “ It’s a lie....!” said Margaret protesting her innocence. “ AND she has a THIRD nipple!” said a yokel from the crowd called Scaramanga the Titman. “ I know …because she feeds her familiar with it at full moon on Cilsanws Common!” continued one of her Irish neighbours from the cobbled Street, Betty Lynch who simply hated the old hag. “ This is just crazy….just listen to yourselves for a moment….who picks the herbs and mixes your potions when your children are ill?” pleaded Margaret quaking in her Boots. “ Verily- She condemneth herself with her own words!” whispered Hopkins to his sidekick. “ Give them enough rope and these stupid, illiterate creatures will eventually hang THEMSELVES!” said the Pilgrim.
“ She turned all the cow’s milk blue in the village with her witchcraft and grabbed away from my son the last remaining pail from his hands!” said another villager, Thomas Thomas, the Satellite Navigation inventor’s son. “ Where’s the evidence for that?” asked Margaret, amazed at the spurious nature of the claims against her. “ I saw her run across my Twynyrodyn field of barley naked, before she changed shape into a Mountain Hare….!” Said Pete the Pimper. The whole mob was now in a state of hysteria, making up lies and half-truths, just to get rid of the woman who was disliked by the village and was suffering from a mild form of dementia. Matthews Hopkins banged the ducking stool impatiently with his shoe like a future Nikita Khrushchev at the United Nations, until the ‘Lynch’ Mob finally quietened. “ We have heard several testimonies from you good, God-Fearing people of the Gyrnos, which in my eyes condemn this Evil Hag to death….and I Matthews Hopkins -the Hammer of the Wyches will, once I receive my payment from the Hamlet, arrange for the ducking stool to be lowered into the water to determine her guilt….I am not Judge Rinder…I do not predetermine this case….but will allow God to do that for me…..if Margaret shall float, she is guilty of her heinous crimes….but if she drowns….then she is innocent….!” Said Hopkins. “ What sort of choice is that?” protested Margaret. “ Either I die by hanging or drowning!” “ Yes….but if your soul is pure….you shall surely go the Heaven…..or as I believe ….as guilty as the original sin, then you shall be reunited with your Dark Master for all eternity!” replied Hopkins. “ This is why I am a Puritan….I can cleanse this Parish of the curse of foul creatures like you and do good by setting up chocolate factories at Bourneville and cereal production at Quakers Yard with the money I receive from the Community!” he continued. Realising she was damned if she did or damned if she didn’t, Margaret decided to fight fire with fire and spit back at her neighbours, reinfusing their superstitions beliefs, hoping to prick their conscience or at least make them scared of her vengeance and of course of venturing out at night. Margaret twisted her head and contorted her face to look as ugly as possible. Like Anne Widdicombe without make-up. “ So you ALL think I am a wytch do you?.....Well let me tell you this…when I meet up with Lucifer later today in Hell…I shall make sure that he knows all of the names of you ‘Good’ Christian Folk who would hang an innocent woman….you Silas Mahoney the Weaver….you Watt the Tyler and you gluttonous bastard- Corden the Smithy!” said Margaret pointing a bony finger at the cringing menfolk . “ If you shall murder me in cold blood based on false witness, spurious accusations and religious claptrap be warned this day that the Hamlet of Gyrnos and the wider village of Merthyr Tydfil shall
see a curse that will not be lifted for over 400 years- till it ends with the election of an Olde Labour Government….your menfolk shall NEVER find work…your children will be born ugly and deformed….and your minors will starve….. I will be reincarnated in many forms and will ensure this accursed place is only home to the illegitimate, the drunks and the Damned…..cholera, rickets, boils and diphtheria shall infest the land together with vermin and pestilence!” continued Margaret. “ Not taking it well is she?” said Corden. “ Silence WYTCH…!” shouted Hopkins above the furore of the confession. “ Thou art condemned thyself by thy own wicked tongue!” As he said so, his nodded to his assistant John Stearne, who pulled slowly on the rope which tightened around the poor woman’s scrawny neck. Margaret began to choke, as her windpipe became constricted. “ Plymouth (Pentrebach) Brethren, we are gathered here today in the eyes of God to rid the Earth of this evil creature who has tempted your children away to her ‘gingerbread’ cottage in the forest, forced the local farrier to perform cart- karaoke with the Smithy, cast incantations and spells on the menfolk so that Dewi the sheepherder was found unconscious but still attached to the back of one of his ewes….and spoken in tongues with the Devil himself!” said Hopkins voiced rising to intensify his statements as fact. “ Hang the Wytch!” cried Stearne stoking up the crowd. “ But first….the cost of investigating such crimes against God himself do not come cheap….come all ye Faithful fill this bucket with coins so that I may continue my work and purge these lands of evil!” continued Hopkins. Stearne having satisfied himself that the woman could not escape went around the crowd for collection. “ This Parish is poor!”….declared Stearne….after pocketing a few groats with a slight of hand before passing the bucket back to Hopkins. From on high, in amongst the oak trees, the entire scene was being witnessed by a man not un’familiar’ to Margaret. A Nobleman who normally put the liar into familiar. He had in his possession and bow and from his quiver he took an arrow. Stretching back his right arm, he took aim – for around these parts he was the ‘first among equals’. His name? Why Jeffrey the Archer of course. Down below, the choking Margaret was turning bluer than a Conservative Party Conference.
Margaret the Thatcher’s daughter was lost for words- she could not move a muscle- the lady was not for turning even if she could. Hopkins having counted the money sighed with disappointment. Was that all the hanging of a wytch fetched in these parts? Ten groats, three farthings and two buttons?. Anyway, he had a job to finish. He gave Stearne a stern look, as he realised that his sidekick had his ‘hand in the tiller’ once again. He should give him a Suffolk punch one of these days for his acts of dishonesty. He signalled for the ducking stool to be cut free and the woman dropped into the raging torrent below, only for her to be raised back up to be hung by the neck slowly, thereby prolonging the agony for her and the ecstasy for him- as the Deviant Puritan ‘got off’ by making an example of the poor woman. His misogynistic ways meant that once he had hung one woman in a given village, what other women would be brave enough to refuse his sexual advances without being accused of witchcraft and risk the same fate? Like Margaret -they were Damned if they did or Damned if they didn’t. Justice 17th Century-style. As Margaret’s feet touched the water, she gasped for oxygen, taking what might be her last breath. Her lungs began to fill with water, as she became totally submerged in the flooded River, coughing and spluttering as high above her ‘good’ Amish-like Christian Folk became her ‘witnesses’ to the acceptable punishment of Man over Women. History has shown that for evil to prevail it takes only a few good men to turn a blind eye to it. Margaret could see her hard life flashing before her eyes- she didn’t deserve this fate. What crime had she committed in her lifetime other than taking in those stray cats from the village. After all they kept the vermin problem down in the fields. True, she did have fourteen of them and one of them just so happen to be name Beelzebub but so what…..he was a horny little devil. Margaret could feel her soul beginning to separate from her physical body, as she started to feel that she was beginning to rise above the crowd and then the two were reunited in one sudden instance. Her out-of -body experience was halted by an expertly aimed arrow that had cut the rope around her neck.
Like a scene from Clint Eastwood’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the Good but extremely ugly Margaret threw herself of the stool into the mercy of the raging waters. Yes, her hands and feet were bound but at least she would have a fighting chance than the slow asphyxiation that was on offer from the Church-appointed executioner. The crowd and Hopkins himself were in a state of panic…how could God allow a self-proclaimed Wytch to escape the clutches of the Pilgrim….was it Black Magic at work? Margaret bobbed up and down for a few minutes thanks to the trapped oxygen in her oversized dress moving round the eddy of the whirlpool before being ejected with force like a fallen tree branch downstream with the fast moving current. Whether it was judgement by God or Man’s doing but 30 minutes later the dead body of Margaret the Thatcher’s Daughter was pulled out of the weir near Taff’s Well to the peel of bells from the local Church. The sound seemed to say ‘Ding Dong- the Wicked Wytch is dead’. Fast forward 320 years to 1984 and the Miner’s Strike. Fast forward another 32 to 2016 when Teresa May became the unelected Prime Minister of Great Britain. Only another 44 years and the Merthyr H-experiment 400 year old curse will lift.