Murrain simply means a plague and that is exactly how the episode starts out. Vet Alan Crich comes out to a rural village to look in on Farmer Beeley’s pigs. The pigs are dying and the water that is up the hill which comes from the spring has dried up. Crich doesn’t know why. Beeley and his farm hands know. They believe that an old woman who lives up the road from Beeley, Mrs. Clemson is a witch and they hate her. They believe that she is killing off the pigs through witchcraft, messing with the water supply and also making people sick.
Meeting Mrs. Clemson, he realizes that she is an old woman who can do very little about the situation she is in. She even has money to buy food but they refuse. Crich decides to take matters into his own hands. In his mind, she is no witch, just someone who needs his help. Crich, taking Mrs. Clemson’s money, goes to the local store to buy food for her and tells the owner Mrs. Leach that he is buying the food for himself. Once Beeley and his men meet up with Crich in the store, the truth comes out that he is buying to food for Mrs. Clemson. Mrs. Leach screams and is horrified that she has touched money that came from a witch. She is scared because her son is very sick and she thinks this is because of Mrs. Clemson.
In the DVD viewing notes for Beasts which this episode is an extra on the DVD set, Andy Murray says the outcome of the episode is ambiguous whether or not Mrs. Clemson is actually a witch or not and that Kneale left it up to the audience to decide for themselves. Thinking about it, I guess that makes sense. I actually assumed she was a witch but the way it is laid out, maybe not. The only thing we see Mrs. Clemson do that could be considered witch like is her saying some kind of spell before Beeley falls down dead. It could very much be power of suggestion and when Beeley heard the “spell”, it may have been too much for him and he had a heart attack. In regards to the sick kid and his mom, it could be the effect of the murrain. The kid was probably hanging around where the pigs were ill and ended up getting the sickness. Mrs. Leach had been attending to the kid and it is possible she got sick too. Or it could be that Mrs. Clemson was a witch. Have you ever seen this episode? Do you have any thoughts?
Of course, no article would be complete unless I included a shot of the VT Clock since it is available:
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