Friday, July 17, 2015

The Second Sight among the Scots Irish

Sarah Pearl Tweedy circa 1905
The phenomenon of Second sight has fascinated me for many years.  I was exposed to the Second Sight early in my life, before I even knew what it was.  My grandmother had the Second Sight.  She was Sarah Pearl McCain née Tweedy, born in Carbondale, in southern Illinois, in 1883.  She passed away in 1962, when I was only twelve years old, but I was close to her and despite her passing when I was young, I remember her countenance and personality well.  I also remember she had a unique quality to her; it is hard to describe in words, other than to say she had an other world quality.
 
I found out about her Second Sight through a child's eyes and ears.  I heard her friends and relatives talk about it and tell stories. She never mentioned it to me.  She had a strong case of it one could say.  She 'saw' things and had experience that exist in a world that is not well understood by our sciences. 

The Second Sight is so called because normal vision was regarded as coming first, and with certain individuals a  supernormal vision developed.  The Gaelic term is An Da Shealladh which means "the two sights," meaning normal sight and the sight of the seer. There are many Gaelic words for the various aspects of second sight, but An Da Shealladh is the one mostly recognized by non Gaidhlig speakers, even though, strictly speaking, it does not really mean second sight. 

Simply put, Second sight is a form of extrasensory perception, the ability to perceive things that are not present to the senses, whereby a person perceives information, in the form of a vision, about future events or events at remote locations.  Other manifestations include knowing things about a person just by meeting them, such as their true nature and history, or sometimes by perceiving this by merely handling an object that the person owns.  In popular culture it is also called 'the sixth sense.'

The Second Sight happens in several peoples and cultures, but it is in Scotland perhaps that it is most recognized and studied.  My grandmother's Tweedy family originated in Scotland and migrated to Ireland very early in the 1600s or even late in the 1500s.  In Scotland, the Tweedys had a penchant for getting into feuds that resulted in legal issues and even their surname was proscribed at one time.  Migration from Scotland to Ireland and other parts of the Isles was an often used path for them to 'get out of town.'   I have found records of them in the 1620s with a group of native Irish in County Cavan and being listed as 'Irish.'  This means the clerk thought them born in Ireland.  I know many of the Tweedys spoke Irish and were often Protestant and in the Established Church (the Church of Ireland, i.e. Anglicans). 
 
Her family migrated to the English Colonies in the late 1600s, oral history remembers the place of entry as Rhode Island.  The Tweedys migrated to the Carolinas in the early 1700s.  They were what popular history likes to call Scots-Irish.  They were an adventurous family as several of them were in Daniel Boone's party that crossed the Cumberland Gap in the 1770s.  Their history is one of trailblazing adventures, ferocious battles with Indians, and eventually settling in southern Illinois by 1805.  That area was very dangerous and very few white people lived there at that time. Hostile Indians were very active and their family records has accounts of Indian raids and several brutal deaths to members of the extended family.
 
As an adult my research discovered that the Second Sight runs in their family.  This is not unusual and Scottish families with the Second Sight often report it as an inherited trait.  I found records of a Tweedy woman that had been accused of witchcraft in the mid 1600s.  I do not know if the woman was a relation to my grandmother's family, but it is very possible.  In the mid 1600s people with the Second Sight were sometimes accused of witchcraft and brought to trial.  Such was the case of the poor Tweedy woman whose records I read.  She was arrested and a trial held.  I found the record of the trail, her charges, and also found the brutal method with which she was interrogated.  It involved a government paid witch hunter.  He would ask questions and then stick her with long metal needles, about the size of a small knitting needle.  If the wound bled it meant she was telling the truth, if it did not bleed, this indicated a lie.  Yes, I know what you all are thinking, that is insane.  She was found guilty and did not survive the ordeal.


17th Century witch pricking needles
 
In my work and travels I have discovered many accounts of families that have the Second Sight, particularly in the Southern Uplands and Backsettlments.  It was a normal aspect of Scots-Irish culture well into the 1900s and even today it is known.  When you read the literature written on the Scots-Irish in their traditional homelands the phenomenon of Second Sight or 'Seers' is a common theme. 'Seer' was a common term for people with the Second Sight in the Uplands from the Ozarks to the Appalachians.   I am researching Scots-Irish families that have a tradition of the Second Sight for a new writing project now.
 
I am collecting stories from Scots-Irish families now that have experience with the Second Sight, have old tales of it in their family, etc. So, anyone reading this who has a story, do please contact me, I would love to hear your Second Sight experiences.
 
  

Sarah Pearl Tweedy circa late 1800s

17 comments:

Deb said...

You might be interested in Neil Gunn's Butcher's Broom - wonderful writing and two characters have second sight.
https://literaryleila.wordpress.com/

Alise Stewart said...

I have the "Sight" as my family calls it. We are Stewarts/Wallaces. My Gammy had the sight as well. I am looking for it in my neice. I would be glad to talk to you. Alise Stewart of Roanoke, VA. I have a blog called Whisper of Fields. I don't tell anyone I have the sight because they would think I was crazy.

Joyful said...

Second sight is a trait that has been passed down through the generations on my father's side. I know my great-grand parents, grandparents, father and in some cases I also have it. Message me and I will tell you more about it.

B said...

I too am a Stewart. I had many experiences like this when I was younger. No one in my family ever spoke of similar sights or senses. I came to believe it was childish fantasy and learned to ignore it.

It's very interesting to read this from my hotel room in Scotland as I've spent the last few days walking in the villages my ancestors lived in.

Nan said...

My family is "Scots-Irish" and my grandfather was reported (by his sisters) to have the Sight, although he never spoke of it. It was just considered normal in my family to "know" things. Happy to tell you the story, if you're interested. This part of the family comes from the Ozarks.

Kessa said...

Got a few stories to share. Contact me at kessgen at gmail dot com.

Evie Thompson said...

I have the sight, Scottish/Irish. My family never understood it. Has many stories to share. Lochrie

Connie said...

I am a psychic medium by vocation, and I have always believed this came from my Scots Irish side of the family.

monnie said...

I'm Stuart as well. Same for me.

Casey Saumure said...

I'm Tweedy on one side, Stewart/Graham by marriage. Blood runs same here.

Robert Collier-James said...

This is a wonderful post. My great grandmother was ''two-sighted'' she had premonitions all her life, one being, seeing her sister walking up the hallway carrying a baby. A few hours later she received the news that her sister Nora-Margaret had died along with the baby during birth. I am Irish and we can trace our family back to Scotland, the clan Somervilles.

Holly Thompson said...

I too have the second sight and am Scots-Irish. It comes from my grandmother on my mother's side. My brother has it as well, when people pass I see them reunite with already deceased loved ones and read people very easily and know their intentions. My mother won't speak of it but I it comes from the family name which was Brown. You may contact me if you like holly.roberts34@yahoo.com

Corey said...

Scottish Clark (Clan Cameron) and Irish Barry on Mother's side. Second sight I believe runs in our family. The family settled in Kentucky and Indiana when they were territories along with many other Roman Catholics who left Maryland. Being devout Roman Catholics, my family recognized the second sight as a charism (gift from God) usually after Confirmation.
Corey

Corey said...

Scottish Clark (Clan Cameron) and Irish Barry on Mother's side. Second sight I believe runs in our family. The family settled in Kentucky and Indiana when they were territories along with many other Roman Catholics who left Maryland. Being devout Roman Catholics, my family recognized the second sight as a charism (gift from God) usually after Confirmation.
Corey

But I Digress said...

My father was Scots Irish and had the second sight. He was an officer in the 48th Highlanders, and he had a premonition about a ship in the convoy in which he was traveling during WW2 being bombed by a German plane. He dreamed this while napping below deck. It was so vivid and disturbing that he felt compelled to tell some other soldiers about it when he woke up. He described in detail which ship it was and exactly where it was hit. A few moments later, it all happened right in front of their eyes.

The other officers were concerned that he might be a spy or something because they couldn't understand how he would have had that knowledge. At last they accepted that it was second sight.

He also saw an old estate on the edge of a village in England and inquired about it at the pub later on. He said you could have heard a pin drop and that everyone stared at him. They asked him to describe it and he did, in detail. People were freaked out because the place had burned down in the previous century. They had drawings of it in books but no one had seen it except him.

His grandmother died not long before he was born, and he said that he and other family members used to sometimes see her sitting in her rocking chair in the living room, rocking. It was just accepted.

When my sister was a little girl, she always knew if a woman was pregnant, sometimes before anyone else did, and she knew the sex of the child. Women used to come to her to find out what they were expecting.

Diane Gehrig said...

I am Scots-Irish on my fathers side 'Davidson' and had my first 'vision' at about age 7. I was looking through Arizona Highways mag at my grandparents house in Iowa and had this flash of insight or knowing that one day I would live in AZ. 20 some years later I moved to Az...not even thinking about the vision. There were half dozen or more others...some not so pleasant (not involving death but terrible divorce) and I have also had many vivid dreams of prophetic nature which have come to pass. I have always felt different...much more intuitive than most people and at times worried about my mental stability...sometimes it is very unsettling. I am 52 years old and just discovered articles on second sight...feel relieved I'm not going crazy but don't feel I can tell ANYONE without them thinking so.

Rebecca said...

Lytle here, it's discouraged to speak of it but I know several ancestors had the sight, I have it, and my youngest son has it.