The Wigtown Women

In 1685, two women were executed
at Wigtown, Galloway, for being
Both called Margaret,
they were 19 and 65 years old.
They were tied to stakes in the
harbour and drowned by the tide.
4 men, convicted of the same
offence, were hanged.


God’s tide is coming, Margaret.
God’s tide is coming.
These stakes they have driven
Into the foul slime

Between their dry sinful lives
And the eternal sea
Are here to hold us to our faith.
Stout ropes that wrench

Our wrists, keep us to our covenant
With Him, as did his
Nails. Regard not their cries.
They shame themselves.

The sea will not wash their sin
Away when our lives
Go to Him. We die as upright
Christians, they to fester

In their beds of fever or sullen
Age. No quick rising
Waters will cleanse their filth.
The cold will cling

To us, will cleave to our heart’s
Core, but His Fire there
Will burn harder than hate’s laws.
We are but women –

Bodies meant for pain and giving
Life. Men, who spent
Their days in fields or hammering
Their praise, they hang

In air, strangled, broken necked
Like crows on a wall.
Poor things to be so separate
From life in death.

We they do not torment so.
Hand back our bodies
To the Lord. Think on this
Margaret. Do not despair.

One given body, one that’s
Yet to yield. That’s all
We are, and coming to His love.
Forget the cold around

Your breast. Drink deep.
Our names are there.

August 1995

Republished June 2018

The poem implies the elder woman gave the younger courage. In fact she was drowned first, so that her death might change the mind of the younger woman. Young Margaret did not yield, and the Episcopalian executioners allowed her to drown when she would not break her oath.