Thursday 5 December 2013
The Sow of Merripit.
“This was told me in 1949 by the late Mrs. Elizabeth Warne of Lydgate. She and her son Solomon subsequently wrote it down for me, and I quote it just as they wrote it:- ’At certain times of the year (as long ago as 200 years) an old sow and her litter of young pigs can be seen walking across the moor on Merripit Hill, on a dark and foggy night. The young pigs are very hungry, and the old sow is taking them to Cator Gate, where there is a dead horse.
The pigs are saying to the mother:
‘ “Starvin’, starvin’.”
‘The old pig replies:
‘ “Cator gate, Cator Gate;
Dead Hoss, Dead Hoss, Dead Hoss.’’
‘They travel on through Runnage Bottom, Cator Moor, and at last arrive at Cator Gate. On arrival they find they are too late; only the skin and bones of the dead horse are left. The little pigs all cry:
‘ “Skin an’ Bones, Skin an’ Bones.’’
‘The Old Sow replies:
‘ “ Let ‘en lie, let ‘en LIE.’’
‘And all return again across the moor to Merripit Hill and vanish in the darkness and fog.’
Brown, Tales of a Dartmoor Village, 21-22.
The Warren House Inn
Salting Down Fayther.
“The most famous story connected with this building was that of the innkeeper who died there one winter when the inn was cut off by snow for many weeks. Eventually the snow melted, and the little daughter struggled into Widecombe to ask the vicar to arrange for the funeral. ‘I am so sorry to hear this, my dear,’ said the vicar; ‘which day did he die?’ ‘Oh dear,’ said the little girl, thinking hard,’it must be all of six weeks last Sunday.’ ‘Good heavens,’ exclaimed the innocent cleric; ‘how really appalling. We must get on with the funeral.’ ‘Oh, I don’t think there’s any need for haste,’ replied the child calmly. ‘It happened very lucky-like. We’d just killed the pig, and we was saltin’ ‘un down, so mother, ‘er put father in tu.’
Brown, Tales of a Dartmoor Village, 19. See also: Mrs. Bray, Traditions, legends, superstitions, and sketches of Devonshire (London, J. Murray, 1838), 27-33.
A Quarter of a Mile Downstream from Bellever Bridge
The Snaily House.
This, once called White Slade, is now inside a Forestry Commission plantation, about a quarter of a mile downstream from Bellever Bridge, on the east bank. The Forestry Commission has avoided the ruins, but the clitter and brambles make it almost inaccessible. One tall, white, dead trunk marks the place. Here two lonely women once lived. They had no cattle, tended no garden and were never seen to approach the village for stores or company. Yet glimpses of them showed that they were fat and buxom. For years the mystery deepened, and people grew afraid of them and believed they must be witches and possess some horrible resources. Unable at last to bear the suspense, a party of villagers went over to the cottage, waited at a distance till they saw the ladies wander off on the moor and then broke into the house. They found it pitifully bare of any furniture or possessions, save for a number of cloam pots on the floor - filled with pickled snails and the black slugs of the moor. This was the sole diet of these eccentrics. The secret being out, the poor women lost heart and pined away.
Brown, Tales of a Dartmoor Village, 19, 20. See also: Sabine Baring-Gould, Dartmoor Idylls (London: Methuen, 1886) 69-104; William Crossing, Guide to Dartmoor, Amid Devonia’s Alps (London: Marshall Simpson, 1888) 78-80.
The Great Storm: Ball Lightning.
“Upon Sunday the 21. of October last, In the Parish Church of Withycombe in Devonshire neare Dartmoores, there fell in time of Divine Service a strange darkenesse, increasing more and more, so that the people there assembled could not see to reade in any booke, and suddenly in a fearefull and lamentable manner, a mighty thundering was heard, the ratling whereof did answer much like unto the sound and report of many great Cannons, and terrible strange lightening therewith greatly amazing and astonishing those that heard and saw it, the darkenesse increasing yet more, till they could not (in the interim) see one another; the extraordinarie lightning came into the Church so flaming, that the whole Church was presently filled with fire and smoke, the smell whereof was very loathsome, much like unto the sent of brimstone, some said they saw at first a great ball of fire come in at the window and passe thorough the Church, which so much affighted the whole Congregation that the most part of them fell downe into their seates, and some upon their knees, some on their faces, and some one upon another, with a great cry of burning and scalding they all giving themselves up for dead.”
A True Relation Of Those Sad And Lamentable Accidents, Which Happened In And About The Parish Church of Withycombe in the Dartmoores on Sunday the 21. of October last 1638 (London: R. Harford; 1638) reprinted in Brooking Rowe ed., The Two Widecombe Tracts, 1638 giving a Contemporary Account of the great Storm, reprinted with an Introduction (Exeter: James G Commin, 1905).