Cosmic Conversations Turn to the Supernatural in Sanquhar

The second in a summer season of fascinating talks at A’ the Airts introduces mysterious tales of the Devil, witches and hauntings

The second in this summer’s series of Cosmic Conversations in Sanquhar will conjure up tales of witches and the Devil himself.

The public talks, at A’ the Airts community arts and crafts centre, are being staged in partnership with Crawick Multiverse, the 55-acre artland just outside the Dumfries and Galloway town.

Professor David Munro, Historical Geographer in Residence at Drumlanrig Castle, will deliver a public talk entitled Landscapes of Cosmos and Chaos in Nithsdale.

He says: “In times past, the 16th to the 18th century, people believed God created order and the Devil created chaos. Remote and wild areas often became associated with chaos while order is to be found in landscapes associated with buildings, gardens, parklands and the enclosures created during periods of agricultural improvement.
“We’ll be looking at some of the stories linked to these places – about witches, ghosts, murder and even the Devil himself.”

In some cases the professor says the tales grew up because locations had associations with a pagan past. In others they may have been been encouraged for more pragmatic reasons.

He says: “It may be that there were certain illegal activities taking place, like whisky making with illicit stills, and it may be that the tales of hauntings and witches were useful because they encouraged people to stay away.”

Prof. Munro will also talk about his own adventures in the local countryside as he has explored the places at the centre of local folk tales.

For example it took three attempts before he finally found the Deil’s Stone – which was reputedly the site of the murder of a passing pedlar. And he only discovered it after tumbling down a bank and ending up in front of it on his hands and knees.

According to folklore travellers along one path may even meet the Devil – a man in black who will offer them great riches in return for their souls. The area round the Crawick Waters is seemingly full of witchcraft associations.

Not far from Sanquhar there are also tales of a phantom black dog. There is also the poignant story of the White Lady who continually wrings her hands in despair after betraying her Covenanter lover in the Killing Times – mistakenly believing he had wronged her.

This is the second year of Cosmic Conversations, which give insights into some of the biggest and most enthralling issues, from history and science to art and religion.

They are also linked to the current Cosmic Collisions exhibition at Merz Gallery in Sanquhar, which is showing new work by Charles Jencks (who designed Crawick Multiverse) and previously unseen pieces by the architect Daniel Libeskind.

This year’s remaining Cosmic Conversations are:

  • LANDSCAPES OF COSMOS AND CHAOS IN NITHSDALE: Professor David Munro, Historical Geographer in Residence at Drumlanrig Castle. Wednesday 16 August, 7pm.
  • GAIA, GOD AND THE MULTIVERSE: Michael Northcott, Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh and Dr David Borthwick, Lecturer in Literature at the University of Glasgow. Wednesday 30 August, 7pm.

The Cosmic Conversations take place at A’ The Airts, 8-12 High Street, Sanquhar. Tickets are £5 each but entry is free to those aged 25 and under.

Tickets available at:

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