When People Put People ‘Outside The Pale’ – Outside Society

By Bernie Bell

We’ve been watching ‘Britain At Low Tide’, presented by Dr. Tori Herridge.  https://www.channel4.com/programmes/britain-at-low-tide/episode-guide/series-3

We watched an episode which included an item about Lilias Adie, a woman who was accused of witchcraft, ‘died in custody’ ( oh, yeh?), and was buried in the inter-tidal zone, so that she couldn’t come back and haunt her persecutors.

The story starts when two respectable ladies of the town, accused Lilias of “Appearing to them invisibly, to torment them.”  Appearing to them invisibly?  – a nice trick, if you can do it. I suspect that these women had been mean to Lilias, felt bad about it, and their consciences troubled them – so, they turned their guilt on Lilias. As far as can be ascertained, it looks like Lilias was a bit of a batty old  lady.  So – she was fair game.

The following, is just my opinion, my view of these cases……

The people who were accused of being witches, sometimes were bad lots – people who used their personal strength of will, knowledge or knowledge of the weakness of others, to gain personal power, and wield that power in a mean, ill-natured, self-centred, harmful  way. The same can be true today.

Some of them, were people who did a lot of good – herbalists, or people who could channel life energies to help others. These were often placed outside society, as folk are often uncomfortable with people who are different, especially if those people can produce results which folk don’t understand.

Some of the people accused of being witches, were, simply, batty old people, or just batty people, who – due to their own insecurity – folk were worried by or scared of because they were ‘different’.

These people were put ‘outside the pale’,  not seen as or treated as real members of society, and so unfortunately, the people inside the pale, within the confines of respectable society, sometimes, often, saw them as easy prey – as outlets, whipping-boys, for their own fears and insecurities.

It still happens today.

So, Lilias was taken into custody by the representatives of the Kirk /the Establishment.  In the television programme, it was said that she died in custody  – how?  That  also still happens today.

Then the perpetrators of her end, had her buried in the inter-tidal zone, so that she couldn’t come back to haunt them.  Strangely enough, though condemning her as a witch, they  followed the ’rules’ pertaining to that particular superstition.


I was thinking. How afraid must they have been, to go to all that trouble? To source the big block of stone, which was from the local area, but not from near-by. Then, the trouble of a burial in the inter-tidal zone.  FEAR. That’s what was behind it all, fear and guilt.

They knew they’d done wrong, and their own fear and guilt, gave them these ideas of how to best deal with this oh-so-powerful woman. If she was so powerful, why did she allow these thing to happen to her?

Then, in later years, her bones were removed, for what reasons?  Maybe some actual practitioners of dark arts, thought her bones might give them strength and power?  Maybe it was antiquarians,  doing – what antiquarians do. One doctor ( who really, really should have known better), took her skull.

She wasn’t even allowed to rest in peace, in her grave between the tides.

And this, also, is what can happen, when someone is seen as being outside society, and as not being quite human – it’s ok to dig them up and mess with their bones.

I then thought about Betty Corrigall  https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/03/24/betty-corrigall/  , who was buried outside of society, and whose remains were later, repeatedly, dug up and messed with, until officers of the American military  put a stop to it, and a good-hearted Reverend had  a proper grave made for her.

Betty was outside society, so she was seen as fair game.

And it’s still happening – think about it, think about the individuals or even whole groups of people who are seen as being outside society and therefore not quite to be treated as human, and what is allowed to happen to them.  And I use the world  ‘allowed’ on purpose – society does not allow those things to happen to its more accepted/acceptable members – those inside the pale.

Here’s a song by Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman, about deportees……..it’s still happening………


The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They’re flying ’em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees”

My father’s own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they laid down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, it shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, “They are just deportees”

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except “deportees”?

At the base of all of this, is fear; fear of the different, fear of those who might unsettle the status quo, challenge or change or ‘threaten’ society and it sureties.  In the program, Tori Herridge mentioned how strange it is to her, that, at a time when Britain, and Scotland in particular, was in the middle of a revolution in technology, engineering, thought, expansion of ideas – this kind of barbarism was allowed to happen – a poor old woman, mistreated in the name of the Law and the Kirk.

Maybe that was part of the reason – maybe folk were uncomfortable with and afraid of the ‘progress’ –  of the inexplicable things happening around them, and so – they turn on the weaker members of society, the ones that it is ‘acceptable’ to turn on.

Again relating this to today’s world, I thought about the fear of ‘terrorism’ – that new big bogey-man, which means that governments have been able to introduce laws, and have indulged in ways of treating people, including torture, which would never have been accepted in a society with a less fear-full atmosphere.

I risk ranting about this.  I think I’ve made my point, and there have previously been similar articles along these lines, in TON.  But this is a new story, to me, and I saw the links with those who society puts outside the pale – outside the protection of the law.

I’ll say two things –

One – beware, be aware of fear, in yourself and in the society around you, and what that fear can produce in terms of how people treat people, and how people are allowed to be treated by others, and by the authorities.

And the second is, simply – Lilias Adie – Rest In Peace – whereever you are.

Bernie Bell Fear

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