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Weir, Major Thomas

Category: Business and political leaders

Major Thomas Weir (1599 – 1670) was a Scottish soldier, who professed a particularly strict form of Presbyterianism called Covenanting.  He was a native of Carluke (Kirkstyle) in Lanarkshire, descendant of one of the most powerful and ancient families of the County, the Weir-de Veres. He was the son of Thomas Weir, Laird of Kirkton, and his wife Lady Jean Somerville who was reputed to possess clairvoyant powers.

Weir was a resident of West Bow in Edinburgh's Lawnmarket district, where he lived with his sister Jean. Dressed in a long cloak and always leaned on a staff, he was an apparently pious man, who was respected for his powerful preaching. The populous were therefore shocked when he confessed to sorcery, incest and other black crimes.

He was convicted in a sensational trial and sentenced to be strangled and burned at the stake. It was suggested that his staff had a life of its own, carrying out his evil orders and, when cast onto Weir's pyre, it is said to have been burned only with the greatest of difficulty. Jean was convicted of witchcraft and hanged in the Grassmarket.

Why is he on the site?

Because he appears to have been abducted by a UFO. 

The Covenanters

Very few English people know about the major influence the Scots had in the English Civil War.  The Covenanters were a Scottish Presbyterian movement that played an important part in the history of Scotland, England and Ireland. They derived their name from the series of bands or covenants by which the adherents bound themselves to maintain the Presbyterian doctrine and polity as the sole form of religion of their country.

The first "godly band" of the Lords of the Congregation and their followers is dated December 1557; but more important is the covenant of 1581, drawn up by John Craig in consequence of the strenuous efforts Roman Catholics were making to regain their hold upon Scotland, and called the King's Confession or Negative Confession.

Based on the Scots Confession of Faith of 1560, this document denounced the Pope and the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church in no measured terms. It was adopted by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, signed by King James VI and his household, and enjoined on persons of all ranks and classes.  It was subscribed to again in 1590 and 1596.

In 1643, the leaders of the English Parliament, were being beaten in the  English Civil War.  They implored the aid of the Scots; this was promised on condition that the Scottish system of church government would be adopted in England. Following considerable debate, a document called the Solemn League and Covenant was drawn up. This was in effect a treaty between England and Scotland which called for the preservation of the reformed religion in Scotland and the reformation of religion in England and Ireland "according to the word of God and the example of the best reformed churches", and the extirpation of popery and prelacy. It was subscribed to by many in both kingdoms and also in Ireland, and was approved by the English Parliament. This agreement resulted in the Covenanters sending another army south to England to fight on the Parliamentarian side in the English Civil War.

The Scottish armies in England were instrumental in bringing about the victory of the English Parliament over the king.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60; Weir, Thomas  by Thomas Finlayson Henderson

WEIR, THOMAS (1600?–1670), reputed sorcerer, son of a Lanarkshire proprietor in Clydesdale, was born about 1600. He served as captain-lieutenant in Colonel Robert Home's regiment in Ireland in 1641, and also for some time as major in the Earl of Lanark's regiment; and on 3 March 1647 presented a petition to the estates for the payment of a sum of 600 merks due to him for these services. In 1649–50 he was promoted to the command of the city guard of Edinburgh. He was one of the promoters of the western remonstrance in 1650.

The Western Remonstrance was drawn up on 17 October 1650 by Scotsmen remonstrating against Charles, the son of the recently beheaded King Charles I, being crowned King of Scotland. It was presented to the Committee of Estates by Sir George Maxwell, at Stirling, on 22nd of that month.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60
Weir, Thomas  by Thomas Finlayson Henderson

Weir gradually became noted as one of the most devoted and sanctified [sic] of a strict sect of Edinburgh covenanters, at whose meetings he displayed a remarkable gift of extempore prayer. As major of the city guard he had special charge of Montrose before his execution in May 1650, and is stated to have treated him with peculiar harshness.

Weir was a zealot and fanatic.  His sermons and prayers were so extreme they attracted crowds and visitors to his home in Edinburgh.

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (1612 – 21 May 1650) was a Scottish nobleman, poet and soldier, lord lieutenant and later viceroy and captain general of Scotland. Montrose initially joined the Covenanters in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, but subsequently supported King Charles I as the English Civil War developed. From 1644 to 1646, and again in 1650, he fought in the civil war in Scotland on behalf of the King. Weir was at one time an officer in the Covenanting Army of James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose (1612-50).  It appears he never forgave him for ‘changing sides’.   .  During a time when blood spilled endlessly, Montrose met a gruesome death by hanging, followed by beheading and quartering.


Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60;  Weir, Thomas  by Thomas Finlayson Henderson

In his later years, and after he retired from the city guard, Weir gradually became reputed as a wizard. On coming to Edinburgh he lodged for some time in the Cowgate, in the house of a Miss Grissel Whitford, ….. Subsequently he resided with his sister Jean in a house in the West Bow. On the stair of this house he is said to have cast a powerful spell by which those who were ascending it felt as if they were going down. His incantations were mainly effected by means of a black staff, which was curiously carved with heads like those of the satyrs, and was supposed to have been presented to him by Satan. This staff could be sent by him on errands, and on dark nights (so it was gravely affirmed) might be seen going before him carrying a lantern. Fraser, minister of Wardle, who saw him in Edinburgh in 1660, thus describes him:

His garb was still a cloak, and somewhat dark, and he never went without his staff. He was a tall black man, and ordinarily looked down on the ground: a grim countenance and a big nose’ (manuscript in the Advocates' Library, quoted in Wilson's Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time, 1872, pp. 335 sqq., where is also an engraving of Weir's house in the West Bow).

Following retirement, Weir fell ill in 1670, and from his sick-bed began to confess to a secret life of crime and vice.

Wonders In The Sky - Unexplained Aerial Objects From Antiquity To Modern Times - and Their Impact on Human Culture, History, and Beliefs - Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck

In the spring of 1670, Captain of the Town Guard and highly respected preacher Major Thomas Weir (ca. 1596-1670) and his sister Jane Weir confessed to a series of terrible offenses. Thomas' confession began with a detailed summary of his sex crimes which was horrible enough in the eyes of the city officials in Edinburgh. But it was when he admitted to being a witch and a sorcerer that the authorities became truly anxious. Weir said that he and his sister had had dealings with demons and fairies, to whom they had duly sold their immortal souls.

The Lord Provost initially found the confession implausible and took no action, but eventually Weir and his spinster sister, Jean Weir, were taken to the Edinburgh Tolbooth for interrogation. Major Weir, now in his seventies, continued to expand on his confession and his sister, having seemingly entirely lost her wits, gave an even more exaggerated history of witchcraft, sorcery and vice.

One has therefore to take the observation with a pinch of salt – maybe he was possessed by demons, as opposed to abducted by UFOs, either way this account has interest value.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60;  Weir, Thomas  by Thomas Finlayson Henderson

…..whether influenced by remorse or lunacy, or a combination of the two, Weir, though he never professed any penitence, made a voluntary confession to the authorities of incest, sorcery, and other crimes; and, after trial, on 9 April 1670, during which he is said to have been delirious, was burned at the stake on the 12th, at Gallowlie, on the slopes of Greenside, between Edinburgh and Leith. He died impenitent, and renounced all hopes of heaven. His staff, which was also burned with him, ‘gave rare turnings’ in the fire, and, like himself, ‘was long a burning.’ His sister, notwithstanding that she manifested unmistakable symptoms of lunacy, was burned along with him.

Weir was garrotted and burned.  Shortly before his end Weir had made a further public confession of incest with his sister, who was executed in the Grassmarket.  The Weirs' house in the West Bow stood empty for over a century because of its reputation for being haunted. According to Walter Scott, the house was demolished in 1830.


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