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Elspat Buchan


(Elsbeth or Elizabeth Buchan)

1738 - 1791

Sect leader. Born the daughter of a publican from Fatmacken, between Banff and Portsoy, (Aberdeenshire) she married a potter and settled in Glasgow. She founded the 'Presbytery Relief' or Buchanites at Irvine (North Ayrshire) in 1784. She portrayed herself as a prophet to the fanatical sect, and claimed to give immortality to her followers by breathing on them. The heretical behaviour of the sect was such that it, together with Buchan herself, were expelled by the Irvine magistrates and proceeded to tour the surrounding countryside (1784).

Novelist John Galt (1779 - 1840) tells in his autobiography that he left Irvine with the Buchanites, along with many other children, but was restrained by his mother who had grabbed him by the ear! The Buchanites journey towards Dumfries is remarked upon by Robert Burns (1759 - 96) in his letters. The cult fell apart when Elspat Buchan shocked her followers by dying a natural death!


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