To the iron hoop we tied her wrist

All bone and wrassled skin

And to its legs her legs were bun’

Afore we dipped her in.

And to its seat her seat was tied

With t’rope about her waist

And over both her hips was laid

The seat beam to our taste.

Her e’en from sockets almost strained

With shaking gums and chin

With quivering brow and blanched cheek

T’old witch we dipped her in.

ON October 8, 1776, the good and wise people of Leeming, a village on the old Great North Road between Bedale and Northallerton, performed what must be one of the last witch duckings in our area.

The witch in question was Moll Cass and, according to an eyewitness who wrote a long poem about the occasion, she was “with great dordum dragged to the dam and there ducked”.

Moll had a long record of duckable witchery, and her most heinous crime seems to have been an ability to predict the future by using a witch’s garter, which had a little tabs dangling from it.

A client crossed her wrassled palm with silver and she tied the garter around her calf. She inserted her magic cube into the folds and then invited the client to choose at random one of the dangling tabs.

The tab provided the key to the magic tables by which the witch foretold the future. Only Moll could understand these tables.

But the tables did not warn Moll herself that a ducking was coming if she did not mend her ways, because, according to the poem which was republished in the Darlington & Stockton Times 100 years ago this week, she had a long history of sorcery:

For smiting Mary’s bairn wi’ t’pock

For setting Willie’s stack on fire

With some Hell flames she gat

And being so very kind with Nick

That the devil went and spat

Near t’altar rails and in t’church porch

And three times on t’toon Brig

And mair ‘an yance she spelled awd Tom

And laid him on his rig

For working much fildeed

With Tommy’s sheep and Hannah’s ducks

And makking Sally bleed

Worse than a stuck pig forsooth

And likewise we all swear

For casting pains in Martha’s bed

Past what a wife can bear

For drying up Ann Jepson’s breasts

Afore her bairn was speaned

For causing strife ‘mang wedded folks

We yan and all have deemed

That thoo shall be a water queen.

This is a long and devastating indictment of Moll who clearly set fire to chimneys, struck people with the pox, was in league with the Devil, did dreadful things on the land, caused poor Martha unbearable pain and sucked the life-giving milk out of Ann Jepson’s breasts. So it was quite right that she be ducked.

The scene of the punishment was the Bedale Beck which runs through Leeming, and despite being repeatedly ducked, “the amazement is that it was not her end for she amost drownded”.

Indeed, despite the ducking, Moll continued to practise her dark arts, predicting the future from her magic garter until her natural death in 1795.