Mary Spencer & Collock-Calling in Burnley

In many cases Northern dialect words cannot be evidenced before the nineteenth century. Not so, collock. It appears in Holyoke’s Latin Dictionary of 1640 and in Ray’s ‘Collection of North Country Words’ (1691) where it is described as a ‘great piggin’. Piggin was first noted in 1554 and was a diminutive form denoting any kitchen utensil which was small and made of wood. Therefore the ‘great’ counteracts this.

Mary Spencer of Burnley, supposedly aged twenty in 1633, in her confession utterly denied any knowledge of witchcraft, “and prays God to forgive Nicholas Cunliffe, who having borne malice to her and her parents these five or six years has lately wrongfully abused them.”

Spencer said she attended Brierley’s sermons at Burnley and used this to evidence herself as a ‘good Christian’ and not a witch in contact with forces of evil as she had been accused of being.

However, she never denied her record on collock-calling, claiming that it was the most natural thing in the world. Some of those investigating the case in modern times seem to have managed to confuse Mary with her mother who went by the same name and was also accused of witchcraft. Unhelpfully, Richard Brome’s play, the Late Lancashire Witches, may have been the original source for much of this error.

GO TO THE LATE LANCASHIRE WITCHES (online)

http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/brome/viewOriginal.jsp?play=LW&type=TEXT

 

 

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