The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 5/Cornish Folk-Lore (pp. 14-61)
By Miss M. A. Courtney.
EVERY stream in Cornwall however small is called a river (pronounced revvur). One flows into the sea west of Penzance, between it and Newlyn, known as Laregan, and another at the east in Gulval parish, as Ponsondane river. There is an old rhyme about them that runs thus:
"When Ponsondane calls to Laregan river,
There will be fine weather.
But we may look for rain
When Laregan calls to Ponsondane."
Years ago there was a marsh between Penzance and Newlyn, now covered by the sea, known to the old people as the "Clodgy"; when the sea moaned there they said, "Clodgy is calling for rain." Sometimes at the present day it is "Bucca" is calling, Bucca being the nickname in Penzance for the inhabitants of Newlyn.
"Penzance boys up in a tree,
Looking as wisht (weak, downcast) as wisht can be;
Newlyn 'Buccas,' strong as oak,
Knocking them down at every poke."
The weather at Mount's Bay is also foretold by the look of the Lizard land, which lies south:
"When the Lizard is clear, rain is near."
The marsh on Marazion Green still exists, and not many years ago no one cared to cross it after nightfall, especially on horseback, for at a certain spot close by the marsh a white lady was sure to arise from the ground, jump on the rider's saddle, and, like the "White Lady of Avenel," ride with him pillion-fashion as far as the Red river that runs into the sea just below the smelting-works at Chyandour, a suburb of Penzance. The last person who saw her was a tailor of this town, who died in 1840. He was commonly called "Buck Billy," from his wearing till the day of his death a pigtail, a buff waistcoat, and a blue coat with yellow buttons.
Marazion, or Marketjew, which latter is a corruption of its old Cornish name, Marghaisewe, meaning a Thursday's market, is a small town exactly opposite St. Michael's Mount. Until its present church was built its mayor sat in a very high seat with his back against a window. This is the origin of the Cornish proverb: "In your own light, like the mayor of Marketjew." This mayor is jokingly said to have three privileges. The first is, "That he may sit in his own light"; the second, "Next to the parson"; and the third, "If he see a pig in a gutter he may turn it out and take its place."
In the parish of Breage, near the sea, about four miles from Marazion, are the ruins of Pengersick Castle, of which only some fragments of walls and a square tower now stand. Some of the upper rooms in the latter have fallen in, and they are all in a state of decay. The lower have oak-panels curiously carved and painted, but time has almost effaced the designs. The most perfect is one representing "Perseverance," under which are the following lines:
"What thing is harder than the rock?
What softer is than water cleere?
Yet wyll the same, with often droppe,
The hard rock perce as doth a spere.
Even so, nothing so hard to attayne,
But may be hadde, with labour and payne."
So many are the legends told of the former inhabitants of Pengersick, that it would be almost impossible at this date to decide which is the original. These ruins stand on the site of a much older castle, and in it dwelt, far back in the dark ages, a very wicked man, who, when he was fighting in foreign parts, forgetting his wife at home, courted a king's daughter, who gave him a magic sword, which ensured in every battle the victory to its owner. He deceived and left her; but she, with her son in her arms, followed him to his home by the Mount. There she met him, and upbraided him with his cruelty, and in a fit of passion he threw them both into the sea. The lady was drowned, and after her death she was changed into a white hare, which continually haunted the old lord; but her boy was picked up alive by a passing ship. The lord's wife afterwards died, and ho married again a woman as bad as himself, reputed to be a witch, who was very cruel to her step-son, who lived with his father at the castle. One night there was a great storm in Mount's Bay, and the young man went down to the shore to see if there were any vessels in distress, and spied on the beach an almost exhausted sailor, who had been washed in by the waves, and whom he bade his servants carry to his home, and put into his own bed. When he revived, all were struck by the marvellous resemblance to the young heir; and they conceived a great affection for each other. Together they went to Marazion to see if they could find the vessel from whose deck the stranger had fallen into the sea. It was safe in harbour, and the captain, whom the sailor had always thought to be his father, told him then for the first time, "How, when he was an infant, he had rescued him from drowning where last night he had nearly lost his life." Thus they were discovered to be brothers, and a day or two after, when out hunting, guided by the white hare, they accidentally came upon the miraculous sword that had disappeared when his mother was killed. Then these two brothers sailed away from Cornwall, and dwelt in peace in the land of a strange princess; where the Cornishman studied, under a celebrated master, astrology and all other occult sciences. After some time the old lord of Pengersick met his death in this wise: As he was riding out one fine morning, the white hare suddenly sprang up in front of his horse and startled it, so that it ran madly with its rider into the sea, where both were swallowed up. When this^news was brought to him, the Cornishman bade his brother an affectionate farewell, and, with his wife, went back to Pengersick, where they lived happily for several generations, for, amongst many other wonderful things, the young lord had discovered an elixir of life which, had they so wished, would have kept them alive to the present day. (See Bottrell.)
Another account of the old lord's death says that he and a party of his friends were dining in his yacht around a silver table when she went down, and all on board perished. This happened off Cudden Point, which juts into the sea just opposite Pengersick. Children living there formerly used to go down to the beach at low water to try and find this silver table. A ship laden with bullion is reported to have been lost here in the time of Queen Elizabeth. "The present castle," one tradition says, "was built in the reign of Henry VIII. by a merchant, who had acquired immense wealth beyond the seas, and who loaded an ass with gold, and broke its back. He sold the castle to a Mr. Milliton, who, having slain a man, shut himself up in it to escape punishment."
Another legend says that Sir William Milliton built it, and, soon after its completion, married a very rich but extremely ugly and shrewish woman, of whom he tried by various ways to rid himself but in vain. One day, after a desperate quarrel, he begged her forgiveness, and asked her, in proof of having pardoned him, to sup with him that evening in a room overlooking the sea. She agreed; and at the conclusion of the feast they pledged each other in goblets of rich wine. Then Sir William's looks altered, and, in a fierce voice, he said, "Woman, now prepare for death! You have but a short time to live as the wine that you have just drunk was poisoned." "Then we die together," she answered, "for I had my suspicions, and mixed the contents of the goblets." Up to this time the moon, which was at its full, had been shining brightly through the open windows, for it was a warm summer night, when suddenly a frightful storm of thunder and lightning arose, the winds lashed the waves to fury, and the moon was darkened. The servants, alarmed by this, and the unearthly, fiendish yells that came from the banqueting hall, rushed upstairs, and there found the bodies of their master and mistress dead on the floor; and through the open window they saw, by the light of the moon which for a moment shone through a rift in the clouds, their souls borne away on the wings of a demon in the shape of a bird.
The original name of Breage parish was Pembro; but St. Breaca, hearing that the inhabitants were at a loss to know how to raise the money for a peal of bells, offered to extricate them from their difficulty on condition that they should call the parish after her. The condition was accepted, the bells were hung, and the parish henceforth was known as that of St. Breage.—Through Rev. S. Rundle.
All Cornishmen at one time were thought to be "wreckers," and from the peninsular-shape of their county came the proverb, "'Tis a bad wind that blows no good to Cornwall." But the dwellers in Breage and the adjoining parish of Germoe must in olden times, from the following distich, have been held in worse repute than their neighbours:
"God keep us from rocks and shelving sands,
And save us from Breage and Germoe men's hands."
The most noted and daring Cornish smuggler of the last century, Coppinger, a Dane, lived on the north coast, and of him a legendary catalogue of dreadful tales is told, all to be found in the Rev. R. S. Hawker's book, the Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall. He lays the scene of his exploits in the neighbourhood of Hartland Bay, my informant near Newquay. He swam ashore here in the prime of life in the middle of a frightful storm from a foreign-rigged vessel that was seen in the offing, and of which nothing more was ever heard or known. Wrapped in a cloak, that tradition says he tore from off the shoulders of an old woman who was on the beach, he jumped up behind a farmer's daughter, who had ridden down to see the wreck, and was by her taken to her father's house, where he was fed, clothed, and most hospitably received. He was a fine, handsome, well-built man, and gave himself out to be most highly connected in his own country. He soon won the young woman's affections, and at her father's death, which took place not long after, he easily induced her to marry him; but it was far from a happy union. Luckily they had but one child—a deaf and dumb idiot, who had inherited his father's cruel disposition, and delighted in torturing all living things. It is even said that he cunningly killed one of his young playmates. Coppinger, after his marriage, organized a band of smugglers, and made himself their captain; and quickly through his misdeeds earned the title of cruel Coppinger. One legend relates that he once led a Revenue cutter into a dangerous cove, of which he alone knew the soundings, and that he and his crew came out of it in safety, but the other vessel with all on board perished. Mr. Hawker calls Coppinger's ship the "Black Prince," and says he had it built for himself in Denmark, and that men who had made themselves in any way obnoxious to him on land were carried on board her, and compelled by fearful oaths to enrol themselves in her crew.
In 1835 an old man of the age of ninety-seven related to this writer that when a youth he had been so abducted, and after two year's service he had been ransomed by his friends with a large sum. "And all," said the old man, very simply, "because I happened to see one man kill another, and they thought I should mention it." The same author gives him a wonderfully fleet horse, which no one but Coppinger could master, and says that on its back he made more than one hairbreadth escape. He has also a marvellous account of his end, in which he disappears as he came, in a vessel which he boarded in a storm of thunder, lightning, and hail. As soon as he was in her "she was out of sight in a moment, like a spectre or a ghost." For this he quotes the following verse:—
"Will you hear of the cruel Coppinger?
He came from a foreign kind;
He was brought to us from the salt water,
He was carried away by the wind."
The one thing certain about him is, that at one time he amassed money enough by smuggling to buy a small freehold estate near the sea, the title-deeds of which, signed with his name, still exist. But in his old age, I have been told, he was reduced to poverty and subsisted on charity.
That in those bygone days smuggling was thought no sin every one knows. And who has not heard the oft-quoted apocryphal anecdote of the Cornish clergyman, who—when he was in the middle of his sermon and some one opened the church door and shouted in, "A wreck! a wreck!"—begged his parishioners to wait whilst he took off his gown that they might all start fair.
The following is, however, a genuine letter of the last century from a vicar in the eastern part of the county to a noted smuggler of that district:—
"Martin Rowe, you very well know,
That Cubert's vicar loves good liquor,
One bottle's all, upon my soul.
You'll do right to come to-night;
My wife's the banker, she'll pay for the anker."
To the same jovial vicar is credited this grace, given to his hostess' horror at her table after he had dined out several days in succession, and had rabbits offered him, a dish he detested:—
"Of rabbits young and rabbits old,
Of rabbits hot and rabbits cold,
Of rabbits tender, rabbits tough,
I thank the Lord we've had enough."
Inland from Breage is the small hamlet of Leed's-town (called after the Duke of Leeds, who has property in Cornwall). It is the seat of the following short story:—"The Leed's-town ghost runs up and down stairs in a house during the night, and then sits in a corner of the room weeping and sleeking her hair. It is the ghost of a young woman who was engaged to be married to a man, who refused to become her husband until she gave him certain deeds kept in a box in the above room. As soon as the deeds were in his possession, he realised the property and escaped to America, leaving the luckless girl to bemoan her loss. She went mad: night and day she was searching for her deeds; sometimes she would sit and wail in the spot where the box had been. At length she died: her spirit, however, had no rest, and still constantly returns to keep alive the memory of man's perfidy."—Through Rev. S. Rundle.
Close to Leed's-town, at the foot of Godolphin-hill, is the old house, or hall, of Godolphin. The basement-floor of the original house alone remains: it consists of a long facade supported by pillars of white granite, the interior containing many objects of interest well worth a visit. Opposite the inhabited part of the house is the King's room, opening on the King's garden. (The title of King's room was given to it from the legend that Charles II. once slept there.) You could leave it by five ways: as there were three doors, one exit through the floor, and another through the roof. Godolphin is held by a very curious tenure, said to have originated in a bet between the representatives of the Godolphin and St. Aubyn families on a snail race. As the Godolphin snail was being beaten, its owner pricked it with a pin to make it go faster, but it drew in its horns and refused to move, consequently the other won. The following is the ceremony which takes place every Candlemas. Before sunrise a person, appointed as reeve by the Rev. St. Aubyn Molesworth St. Aubyn, the lord of the manor of Lambnrn, in the parish of Perranzabuloe (near Truro), knocks at the ancient outer door of the quadrangle, and repeats this demand thrice:—"Ojez! Ojez! Oyez! Here come I the reeve of the manor of Lambnrn, to demand my lord's dues, eight groats and a penny in money, a loaf, a cheese, a collar of brawn, and a jack of the best ale in the house. God save the Queen and the lord of the manor." It is said at the outer door of the quadrangle, at the inner door, and for the third and last time at the table in the kitchen (which is one of the oldest and not least interesting rooms). The above high lordship is paid by the Duke of Leeds to the St. Aubyn family, to whom should they fail an heir the estate reverts. There is another curious tenure in this part of Cornwall, which as I am on the subject I will, before proceeding further, quote. "The parsonage of St. Grade, with a small portion of land, including an orchard, is held of the manor of Erisey by the following tenure, viz. that on Easter-day, yearly, the parson provide a dinner for the master and mistress of Erisey house, and their man and maid, with a pan of milk for a greyhound bitch."—Lake, Helston and Lizard.
The old manor-house of Erisey is in Ruan Major (near the Lizard), and of one of the family the following story is told:— " He was dancing with other ladies and gentlemen at Whitehall before James L and, through the violent motion and action of his body in the middle of the dance, had his cap slip from his head and fall to the ground; but he instantly with his foot tossed it on his head again, and proceeded without let or hindrance with his part in that dance, to the admiration of all who saw it, which gave occasion to King James to inquire who that active gentleman was, and being told that his name was Erisey, he forthwith replied 'I like the gentleman very well, but not his name of Heresey!'" The rector of Ruan Minor by ancient usage and prescription (which is always admitted) claims a right of sending a horse into a certain field in the parish of Landewednack, whenever it is cropped with corn, and taking away as many sheaves as the horse can carry away on its back.
"At Jew's Lane Hill, near Godolphin, a Jew is said to have hung himself on a tree still pointed out, and was buried beneath the road. His ghost appears in the shape of a bull and a fiery chariot. This superstition has been known for generations."—M. H., through Rev. S. Rundle.
"I remember this stone a rough cube about three feet in height; it stood by the wayside forty or fifty years ago about a-quarter of a mile from the old Godolphin mansion near the coast, where the nobility and gentry of the county were wont periodically to assemble to hear the news from Court. The servants who waited on their masters at the banquet diligently listened to the conversation, and afterwards spread the information thus collected among the crowd assembled for the purpose around Cornwall stone."—G. F. W. Western Antiquary, 1881.
An old writer on the Scilly Isles mentions a rock on Bryher, one of the smallest of the islands, where the neighbours were wont to collect to hear and repeat the news. He calls it the News Rock.
Between Helston and the Lizard lies the parish of St. Keveme; unlike the other parishes of Cornwall it contains no mines. To account for this it is said that St. Keverne cursed it when he lived there, for the want of respect shown him by its inhabitants. Hence the proverb "No metal will run within the sound of St. Keverne's bells."
St. Just, from the Land's End district, once paid a visit to St. Keverne, who entertained him for several days to the best of his power. After his departure his host missed some valuable relics, and determined to go in pursuit of his late guest, and try, if possible, to get them from him. As he was passing over Crousa-down, about two miles from St. Keverne church, he pocketed three large stones, each weighing about a-quarter of a ton, to use if St. Just should offer any resistance. He overtook him at a short distance from Breage and taxed him with the theft, which was indignantly denied. From words the saints came to blows, and St. Keverne flung his stones with such effect that St. Just ran off, throwing down the relics as he ran. The stones still lie where they fell, about four hundred yards from Pengersick Lane.
Going along the coast from Breage to the Lizard the solitary church of Gunwalloe is passed, built so close to the sea that the waves wash its graveyard walls. It is said to have been erected as a thank-offering by some man who escaped drowning when shipwrecked. "In the sand-banks near it (or, as others say, at Kennack cove), the notorious buccaneer Avery is reported to have buried several chests of treasure previously to his leaving England on the voyage from which he never returned. So strongly did this opinion prevail that Mr. John Knill, collector of the Customs at St. Ives, procured about the year 1770 a grant of treasure trove, and expended some money in a fruitless search."—Rev. C. A. Johns, Week at the Lizard.
Near by is Mullion parish, of which the celebrated ghost-layer, the Rev. Thomas Flavel, who died in 1682, was the vicar, and the following quaint lines to his memory may still be read in the chancel of his church:—
"Earth take thine earth, my sin let Satan havet,
The world my goods, my soul my God who gavet;
For from these four, Earth, Satan, World, and God,
My flesh, my sin, my goods, my soul I had."
Of him the Rev. C. A. Johns writes:—"This Thomas Flavel, during his life, attained great celebrity for his skill in the questionable art of laying ghosts. His fame still lingers in the memories of the more superstitious of the inhabitants through the following ridiculous stories. On one occasion when he had gone to church his servant-girl opened a book in his study, whereupon a host of spirits sprang up all round her. Her master observed this, though then occupied at church, closed his book, and dismissed the congregation. On his return home he took up the book with which his servant had been meddling, and read backwards the passage which she had been reading, at the same time laying about him lustily with his walking-cane, whereupon all the spirits took their departure, but not before they had pinched the servant-girl black and blue. His celebrity, it seems, was not confined to his own parish, for he was once called on to lay a very troublesome ghost in an adjoining parish. As he demanded the large fee of five guineas for his services, two of the persons interested resolved to assure themselves, by the evidence of their own eyes, that the ceremony was duly performed. They accordingly, without apprising one another of their intention, secreted themselves behind two graves in the churchyard a short time before the hour named for the absurd rites. In due time the ghost-layer entered it with a book in one hand and a horsewhip in the other. On the first smack of the whip the watchers raised their heads simultaneously, caught a glimpse of each other, and were both so terrified that they scampered off in opposite directions, leaving the operator to finish his business as he might. So popular are superstitions of this kind, and so long do they linger, that to the present day a spot is pointed out on the downs, named 'Hervan Gutter,' where Thomas Flavel's own ghost was laid by a clergyman, of whom he said before his death, 'When he comes I must go.' In olden days there were several of these ghost-laying clergymen in Cornwall, of whom, before going on with the legends of the parishes, I will mention three known in folklore. In the parish of Ladock, on the east side of Truro, dwelt rather more than a century ago the famed ghost-layer, the Rev. Mr. Wood, who, when walking, usually carried an ebony stick with a silver head, on which was engraved a pentacle, and on a broad silver ring below planetary signs and mystical figures. Of him Mr. Bottrell tells many thrilling tales, I will only give the substance of one. Mr. Wood was usually a match for most demons, whom he would change into animals and thrash with his whip; but one more cunning than the rest defied him, by taking the shape of an unknown coal-black bird, and perching on the church tower, from whence during divine service he made all sorts of queer noises, disturbing the congregation, and inciting the irreverent to laughter. He was too high up to be exorcised or reached with the whip. At last the clergyman, at his wits end, remembered that the Evil One could not endure the sight of innocent children, and he sent his clerk round to all the mothers of his parish who had unchristened children, asking them to bring them to church on the next Sunday to have the rite performed. As he was a great favourite with his people all the mothers, and they were eight, readily agreed to come. But as twelve is the mystical number he invited four other mothers whose children had recently been baptised to come as well and bring their children and sponsors with them. The eight children were christened, and the parson walked out of church followed by the twelve mothers with their infants in their arms. The clerk arranged them in lines five deep, the mothers in front, opposite the belfry door. Mr. Wood directed each to pass her child from one to the other of its sponsors and then hand it to him that he might hold it up for the demon to see; but for some time the cunning bird hid himself behind a pinnacle, and nothing would induce him to look, until one of the children, growing tired, began to cry, and all the others chimed in, screaming in chorus at the top of their voices. Then the demon hopped down from his perch and peered over the parapet to try and find out what could be the matter. The sight of the twelve children had such an effect upon him that he too gave an unearthly yell and flew away never to reappear. The church bells were soon after put in order, and it is well known that no evil spirit ever ventures within sound of their ringing."
I will close this list of worthies by a short notice of Parson Dodge, a vicar of Talland, a village on the south coast of Cornwall, and then give an encounter of the famous Nonconformist divine, John Wesley, with some spirits whom he vanquished at St. Agnes on the north. The church of Talland is not in the centre of the parish, but near the sea; a legend accounts for its position thus: It was begun at a spot called Pulpit, but each night a voice was heard saying:
"If you will my wish fulfil
Build the church on Talland hill."
and the stones put up by day were removed. Of this church, about a hundred and fifty years ago the Rev. Richard Dodge was vicar. He had such command over the spirit-world that he could raise and lay ghosts at his will, and by a nod of his head banish them to the Rod Sea. His parishioners looked up to him with great awe, and were afraid of meeting him at midnight, as he was sure then, whip in hand, to be pursuing and driving away the demons, that in all kinds of shapes were to be seen hovering around him. Amongst his other eccentricities he was fond of frequenting his churchyard at the dead of night. Parson Dodge's fame was not confined to his own immediate district, and one day he received a letter from a fellow-clergyman, the Rev. Grylls, rector of Lanreath, asking his assistance in exorcising a man habited in black, who drove a sable coach, drawn by headless horses, across Black-a-down, a neighbouring moor, as this apparition, when they happened to meet it, frightened his people almost out of their wits. He acceded to this request, and late at night the two clergymen rode to the spot, "where they waited for some time, but seeing nothing decided to separate and return to their respective homes. Mr. Dodge, however, had not gone very far when his horse obstinately refused to proceed a step further in a homeward direction: this he interpreted to be a sign from heaven which he must obey, and giving it the rein he allowed it to go as it willed. It wheeled round and went back at a great pace to the moor. Here through the gloom he saw standing the black coach with the headless horses: its driver had dismounted, and the Rev. Grylls lay in a swoon at his feet. Mr. Dodge was terribly alarmed, but managed to keep his presence of mind, and began to recite a prayer: before he could finish it the driver said—"Dodge is come! I must begone!" jumped on to his seat and disappeared for ever. Mr. Grylls' parishioners now arrived in search of their rector; they knew there must be something amiss, for his horse, startled by the horrible spectres, had thrown its rider and galloped off, never stopping until it reached its stable (his friends, through fright, had also been, until the apparition vanished, almost unmanageable). They found him senseless, supported in Mr. Dodge's arms; but he soon revived, and they took him home, although it was some days before his reason recovered from the shock. A much fuller account of this may be found in the History of Polperro, by Mr. T. G. Couch. It has also been published by Mr. Robert Hunt in his Popular Romances of the West of England. The Rev. R. S. Hawker, in his Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall, gives some very interesting extracts from the "Diurnal" of one Parson Rudall, of Launceston, who in 1665, with the sanction of his bishop, laid the Botathen ghost—the spirit of a young woman by name Dorothy Dinglet, who could not rest in her grave—"Unquiet because of a certain sin." It is a very well-known fact that the Rev. John Wesley was a firm believer in supernatural agencies; he compiled a book of ghost-stories, that was lent to me when I was about ten years old by a kind but ignorant woman, the reading of which caused me many sleepless nights. "On one occasion Wesley could, when at St. Agnes, find no place to pass the night save a house which had the reputation of being haunted. However, he was not deterred; he entered and went to bed. But he could not rest, for there was a terrible tumult below; the sound of carriages was heard, the noise of feet, and fearful oaths. At length he could bear it no longer; he descended, and then found the large hall filled with guests. They greeted him with loud welcome, and begged him to be seated. He consented, saying, however, that he must say grace first. This remark was hailed with roars of laughter. Nothing daunted he began—"Jesus, the Name high over all." He did not finish; in a moment the lights were extinguished, he was alone, and from that time the house was no more haunted.—Through Rev. S. Rundle.
Clergymen in Cornwall are still supposed to be able to drive out evil spirits. A poor, half-crazed woman, yet living in Madron parish, near Penzance, went about ten years since to the house of a clergyman then residing there, and asked him to walk around her, reading some passages from the Bible, to exorcise the ghost of her dead sister, who had entered into her she said and tormented her in the shape of a small fly, which continually buzzed in her ear. Once before the board of guardians she talked sensibly for some time, then suddenly stopped and exclaimed, shaking her head: "Be quiet, you brute! don't you see I am talking to the gentlemen?"
We must now, after this long digression, return to Mullion. Between it and the Lizard is a fine headland, the Rill, and on its summit are a number of loose, rough stones, known as the Apron String, which the country people say were brought here by an evil spirit, who intended to build with them a bridge across to France for the convenience of smugglers. He was hastening along with his load, which he carried in his apron, when one of its strings broke, and in despair he gave up the idea. On the opposite side of the Lizard, at the mouth of Helford river, stands the church of St. Anthony in Meneage; like that of Gunwalloe it is little above the level of the sea, and is also, according to tradition, a votive offering. Some people of high rank, crossing over from Normandy to England, were caught in a storm, and in their peril vowed to St. Anthony that they would build a church in his honour if he would bring them safe into harbour. The saint heard their prayers, and the church was erected on the spot where they landed. Helford river, in Carew's days, was the haunt of pirates, and of it he says: "Falmouths ower neere neighbourhood lesseneth his vse and darkeneth his reputation, as quitting it onely to the worst sort of Seafarers, I mean Pirats, whose guilty brests with an eye in their backs, looke warily how they may goe out, ere they will aduenture to enter, and this at unfortified Hailford cannot be controlled, in which regard it not vnproperly brooketh his common term of Helford and the nickname of Stealford."
On the subject of pirates a friend writes:—"The popular play of 'The Pirates of Penzance' had not its origin in that town, but in the little fishing village of Penberth, near the Land's End; but that, alas! is in its 'custom port.' The captain of the pirate vessel, and all his ship's crew, were wrestlers. They would go out to the small Spanish, Dutch, and other merchant ships, and would ask for provisions, or tender assistance, and on making sure that the ship was unarmed they would overpower the sailors and plunder it. This was before the time when the Trinity Corporation had begun its work on our Cornish coast."
From Helford we will proceed to Penryn—the scene of Lillo's play, "Fatal Curiosity." The legend on which it is founded is as follows: A gentleman who had rashly squandered his own and his wife's fortune, sent their only son early into the world to seek his. During his absence his parents were reduced to penury; but he prospered, returned home and sought them out. He did not at first disclose to them who he was, intending to do so later on, but begged to be allowed to rest in their house, and whilst he was sleeping asked his mother to take charge of a casket for him. Her curiosity impelled her to open it, and her avarice was so inflamed at the sight of the rich jewels it contained that she incited her husband by prayers and reproaches to murder the poor young man. After the fatal deed was done, the unhappy pair discovered him to be their son.
It has been said that a party of Spaniards landed at Penryn in 1565, intending to plunder the town, but were alarmed by the sound of a drum beaten by some strolling players, and made a hasty retreat. Before the year 1600 there were only a few houses where Falmouth now stands, called Pennycomequick, which name tradition declares was given it From the following: A woman, who had been a servant to a Mr. Pendarves, left his employ, and went there to reside, where, I suppose, she kept an ale-house, as the story says that he ordered her to brew a cask of ale, and on a certain day he and some friends would come and drink it. The ale was brewed; but in the meantime a Dutch vessel put into the creek, and she sold it all to the sailors. When her former master and his friends arrived at the appointed time, he was of course very angry. Her excuse was that the "penny comed so quick" that she could not refuse it. The name really means the head of the valley of the creek.
There is a pyramidal monument at the south end of Falmouth erected by one of the Killigrews to the memory of Sir Walter Raleigh, who had been entertained by an ancestor at their family-seat of Arwenack, when there was only one other house in the place. There is a red stain on it, "A blood-mark," the old people said, "that would not wash out, splashed there from the body of a man employed in making it, who fell from its top and was killed." On the coast just outside the town is Gyllanvaes, or William's Grave, which is pointed out as the place where King Henry I.'s son, who was drowned on his passage from Normandy to England, was buried.
On the opposite side of Falmouth Harbour, where St. Anthony's church now stands, was formerly the priory of St. Mary de Vale, and King Henry VIII. is reported to have landed here in 1537, and told the prior that it would soon be destroyed, and he with all his brethren turned out. It was; but the prior left his curse behind him, and the first holder of the lands lost all his family by untimely deaths, and he himself committed suicide.
Of all the creeks up the Fal from Falmouth to Truro, most marvellous tales of smugglers and their daring deeds are told; and of King Harry's passage, where a ferry-boat crosses the river, this legend: That it is called after bluff King Hal, who forded it with his queen (sometime Katherine of Arragon) on his back. To have accomplished this feat he must have been taller than the sons of Anak, for in the middle the water is several fathoms deep.
At the head of one of these creeks is Veryan parish. And there is a tradition that should its church clock strike on the Sunday morning during the singing of the hymn before the sermon, or before the collect against perils, at Evening Prayer (which does not often happen), there will be a death in the parish before the next Sunday.
On a hill near Veryan is a barrow, in which Gerennius, a mythical king of Cornwall, was said to have been buried many centuries ago, with his crown on his head, lying in his golden boat with silver oars. It was opened in 1855, when nothing but a kistvaen (a rude stone chest) containing his ashes was found. His palace of Dingerein was in the neighbouring village of Gerrans. A subterranean passage, now known as Mermaid's Hole, one day discovered when ploughing a field, was supposed to have led from it to the sea. Treasures of great value are reputed to be hidden under all the Cornish menhirs and barrows. Carew tells of a gentleman who was persuaded that by digging under a menhir near Fowey he would get great riches. "Wherefore, in a faire moone-shine night, thither with certaine good fellowes hee hycth to dig it up. A working they fall, their labour shortneth, their hope increaseth, a pot of gold is the least of their expectation. But see the chance. In midst of their toyling the skie gathereth clouds, the moonelight is overcast with darknesse, downe fals a mightie showre, up riseth a blustering tempest, the thunder cracketh, the lightning flasheth. In conclusion, our money-seekers washed instead of loden, or loden with water instead of yellow earth, and more afraid than hurt, are forced to abandon their enterprise and seeke shelter of the next house they could get into."
Malpas (pronounced Mopus) ferry was, nearly a century ago, kept by a woman called "Jenny Mopus," who was quite a character. "Wemmin and pigs" she used to declare were the worst things to ferry across.
The water bounds of the borough of Truro are renewed every six years, and the following curious ceremony takes place: On reaching the limits of their jurisdiction, the mayor, town clerk, members of corporation, &c., go on shore, when a writ for the sum of 999l. 19s. 113⁄4d. is produced against a person present, selected beforehand. He is arrested by the bailiff of the borough, on which two of the party offer themselves as bail, and the prisoner is liberated. Not far from Perranworthal is one of the most celebrated Cornish Tol-mên, Mên-an-tol, or holed stones. This is an immense egg-shaped mass of granite, perched on a dreary hill nearly 700 feet above the sea, and is thought to weigh 750 tons. It is generally known as the Cornish Pebble, and is supported on the points of two other stones leaving a hollow space beneath. In this it differs from other Mân-an-tol which have the orifice in the centre of the stone (hence their name). There are many in the county. The one at Madron is sometimes called the Crick Stone. It gets this name because in days not very long ago people afflicted with rheumatism, sciatica, &c., in May, and at certain other seasons of the year, crawled on all fours nine times around these Mên-an-tol from east to west, and, if thin enough, squeezed themselves through the aperture. This was then thought such a sovereign remedy for these diseases that parents brought their weak-backed children and carried them around. To work the charm properly there must always be two people, one of each sex, who stand one on each side of the stone. The child, if a male, must first be passed from the woman to the man; if a girl, from the man to the woman, and always from the left of the one to the right of the other. Some sort of divination, too, was formerly practised on these Mên-an-tol by pins laid cross-ways on the top.
In the parish of St. Dennis the church is dedicated to that saint. And when St. Dennis had his head cut off at Paris, blood, a legend says, fell on the stones of this churchyard; a similar occurrence often afterwards foretold other calamities. The exact centre of the county is reputed to be a hole in a field at Probus, a neighbouring parish.
At Boconnor, near Lostwithiel, not long ago stood the stump of an old oak, in which, in 1614, when Charles I. made this seat his headquarters, the royal standard was fixed. It bore variegated leaves. According to tradition, they changed colour when an attempt was made to assassinate the king whilst he was receiving the sacrament under its branches. The ball passed through the tree, and a hole in its trunk was formerly pointed out in confirmation of the story.
Heath, in his Description of Cornwall, 1750, speaks of two other trees of the same kind to be seen in this county. "In Lanhadron Park," he says, "there grows an oak that bears leaves speckled with white, as another, called Painter's Oak, grows in the hundred of East. Some are of opinion that divers ancient families of England are preadmonished by oaks bearing strange leaves." A turtle-dove is said to be seen by the Bassetts of Tehidry in Camborne before death.
The church of St. Neot, in the parish of St. Neot, is celebrated for its beautifully painted glass. One of the windows contains many legends of this saint, but they have all been too fully described by other writers to require a lengthy notice from me. St. Neot is the reputed brother of King Alfred, and lived some hundreds of years before the present church dedicated to him was erected. But folklore has it that it was built at night entirely by his own hands, and that he drew from a neighbouring quarry, by the help of reindeer, all the stones he used in the building. He is described as a man of short stature, and tradition also says that after the church was finished he found that he was not tall enough to reach the keyhole of the door, and could not therefore unlock it. To remedy this defect he put a stone opposite (still pointed out), from which, when he stood on it, he could throw the key into the lock with unerring precision. About a mile to the west of it is an elevated spot with a square entrenchment, an ancient granite cross stands at one corner. There is a story attached to it which runs thus:—The crows in this neighbourhood were in his time so numerous that the farmers could not, fearing the mischief they might do in their absence, leave their fields and young crops to attend St. Neot's discourses. He, on hearing of it, determined to put a stop both to the excuse and the thieving habits of the birds, and one day ordered them all to enter this enclosure, from whence they could not stir until he gave the signal; upon which they all immediately flew away and returned no more.
The fine old mansion of Cottrell, situated on the River Tamar, was built in the reign of Henry VII.; it belongs to the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, and is full of quaint treasures, many of the rooms and the furniture they contain dating from the time of Queen Elizabeth. But the only part that concerns us is a little chapel in the woods perched on a rock overhanging the river, of which this legend is told. It was erected by Sir Richard Edgcumbe, who was a partizan to Henry, Duke of Richmond, the rival of Richard III. A party of soldiers were sent to take him prisoner, but he managed to elude them and escaped into the woods, where his pursuers were so close upon his heels that he would certainly have been captured had not his cap, as he was climbing down this rock, fallen off his head and floated on the stream. On seeing it the men, thinking that Sir Richard had in despair drowned himself, gave up the chase. He shortly after crossed over to Brittany, where he stayed until the news came of the defeat and death of the king, when he returned home, and, in gratitude for his miraculous escape, caused this chapel to be built.
Dupath Well, not far from Cottrell, was, according to tradition, the scene of a desperate duel between two Saxons, called by one authority Colan and Gotheb, who were both suitors for the hand of the fair lady Gither; but the Rev. R. S. Hawker, who has written a ballad on part of the legend, gives the name of Siward to the younger and favoured one who killed his rival, but who himself in the combat received a wound from which he soon after died. The same author has also put into verse the well-known story of Bottreaux bells. Bottreaux is the parish church of Boscastle, a corruption of Bottreaux castle, and its tower is, and always has been, silent. When it was built the inhabitants, who had long been jealous of the beautiful peal at Tintagel, a neighbouring village, aided by the Lord of Bottreaux, raised enough money to buy a set for themselves, cast by a famous London founder. But when the ship that brought them was nearly in port the sound of Tintagel bells was in the calm evening borne across the water. The pilot, a native of that parish, hearing them, piously crossed himself, and thanked God that he should soon be safe on shore. On this the captain grew very wroth and said, "Thank the ship and the canvas at sea, thank God on shore." "No!" meekly replied the pilot, "we should thank God at sea as well as on land." At this the captain grew still more angry, swore and blasphemed, and with an oath exclaimed, "Not so, thank yourself and a fair wind." Upon which a violent storm suddenly arose, the ship became unmanageable, struck on a rock, and went down. All on board, with the exception of the pilot, were drowned. Above the roar of the winds and waves the eager watchers from the shore, who were waiting for the arrival of the vessel with her precious freight, could hear the solemn tolling of their bells. And still before a gale their warning chimes sound from their ocean bed, but woe to the unhappy ship's crew that hears them, for wreck, misfortunes, and deaths are sure to follow. The following proverb would seem to infer that Boscastle, as well as no bells, has no market: "All play and no play, like Boscastle Market which begins at twelve o'clock and ends at noon." Mevagissey church, on the opposite coast, has neither tower nor bells, and there is a standing joke against its people that they sold their bells to pay the cost of pulling down the tower.
Gorran men, who live in an adjoining parish, seem in former days to have been rivals to the famous "Wise men of Gotham," from the absurd deeds attributed to them, such as "Trying to throw the moon over the cliffs," "Building a hedge to keep in the moonlight," &c. The inhabitants of more than one parish in Cornwall are said "to have built a hedge to keep in the 'juckaw' (cuckoo)." In fact, of nearly all in the county some joke is current in the neighbouring villages.
Not far from Boscastle is the beautiful "waterfall of St. Nighton's Kieve, and close by are the ruins of a cottage, once the habitation of two ladies, who took possession of it at night. They evidently had seen better days, but their names and from whence they came remain a mystery, as from the date of their arrival they held no communication with the outer world. They kept no servant, and from the villagers bought for themselves the necessaries of life, asking but few questions, and not answering any. At first they took long solitary walks in the most secluded spots of the district; when met they were rarely conversing, and never spoke to a stranger. These walks were gradually discontinued, and one day a rumour spread through the village that one of the poor ladies was dead. Tradition says that the neighbours found the other weeping silent tears by the side of the corpse. After the funeral the survivor daily grew more infirm and but rarely left the house, and one morning soon after, no smoke issuing from the chimneys of the cottage, the villagers peeped in through the uncurtained windows and saw her sitting dead in her chair. The friends were buriod in one grave, and their secret died with them.
In Wellcombe church, near Morwenstow, against the font in the north wall, is a door called the "devil's door," opened at baptisms at the Renunciation, that the devil, which is then supposed to come out of the child, may be able to get away.
Trecarrel, in East Cornwall, formerly belonged to the Trecarells, the last of whom built Launceston church. A singular story has been handed down from the sixth century of the birth and death of his only son. His father is described as having been very learned in philosophy, astrology, astronomy, and other sciences; and it is said that, having surveyed the planetary orbs just as his child was about to be brought into the world, he perceived that the time was unfavourable to its birth, and foreboded a speedy and accidental death to the child. Overcome with these gloomy ideas he hastened to the house, and requested the midwife to delay the birth (if it were possible) for one hour; but nature, conspiring with fate on the downfall of his house, turned a deaf ear to his entreaties, and a son was born, to the great joy of all present except to him who was the most interested in the event. The child, however, grew up in a very promising way, until a servant-maid, having placed him to stand near a bowl of water in order to wash him, chanced to have forgotten the towel, and having stepped into another room to procure one, on her return found the boy dead, having fallen into the water with his head foremost: and in consequence of this unfortunate event the father spent a large part of his large property in charitable purposes, and in building and repairing churches in the county of Cornwall.—J. C. Gilbert.
A story of a similar nature is related of one of the Arundells, of whom it had been foretold "that he should die in the sands." To prevent this he left his house of Efford, near Stratton, and took up his abode at Trerice, another of his estates, about three-and-a-half miles from Newquay. But the Earl of Oxford, having surprised and taken St. Michael's Mount, Sir John Arundell, who was then sheriff of Cornwall, marched there to besiege and retake it for the king, Edward IV. Here his fate overtook him, for in a skirmish on Marazion sands he lost his life, and was buried in the chapel at the Mount. A funeral procession goes through Stratton before the death of the Bathes of Kilkhampton.
Between Stratton and the village of Marham, about half-a-mile from the former town, in the orchard of Binamy farm-house, is an old quadrangular moat, all that remains to show where stood the castle of the Blanchminsters; an old family now, I believe, extinct in this neighbourhood. Of one of them, who lived in the reign of Edward I. and went with him on a crusade, folk-lore still tells some strange but—through the lapse of time—vague tales. His name was Ranulph de Blanchminster, corrupted by the country people into old Blowmanger, and it is said that after he had been absent for two or three years in the Holy Land, his wife, I suppose thinking that he was dead, married another baron. On his return he shut himself up alone in his castle, with the drawbridge generally raised to keep off intruders. No one was with him when he died; but after his death a will was found leaving the greater part of his property for the benefit of the poor of the parish of Stratton. His effigy may be seen in the church, in the habit of a Crusader, grasping a sword, with his feet resting on the back of a lion. Through his interest Stratton had the charter of its market. His spirit haunts Binamy grounds (avoided after dark by the superstitious) in the form of a hare, which always starts out of the moat and manages to elude the dogs.
Of the doings of the famous Grenvilles of Stow,—Sir Beville, the brave Royalist leader, who lost his life at the battle of Lansdowne in 1643,—Admiral Sir Richard, immortalized by Tennyson in his ballad "The Revenge,"—and of his son. Sir John, who served under Sir Walter Raleigh and died at sea,—I shall say nothing, these noted men belonging more to history than folk-lore.
Under the same head, too, may be classed the Cornish female Whittington, Thomasine Bonaventure, of St. Mary Wike (now Week St. Mary), who lived in the fourteentli century; the daughter of a labourer, she herself was a shepherdess. A London merchant, when travelling in Cornwall, lost his way on our moors, and accidentally met her with her sheep. He asked of her the way, and was so much struck by her good looks and intelligence that he begged her from her parents and took her back with him to be a servant to his wife. In her new situation she conducted herself with so much propriety that on his wife's death he courted and married her. Soon after he himself died, and left her a wealthy widow. Her next marriage was to a much richer man, named Henry Gall. Widowed a second time, and again inheriting her husband's money, she took for her third and last husband Sir John Percival, Lord Mayor of London. Him, too, she outlived, and after his death returned to her native village, where she employed her great riches in works of charity. Amongst her other good deeds she founded and endowed a chantry there, together with a free school, and lodgings for masters, scholars and officers.
The Rev. R. S. Hawker, in his book before-quoted, has a legend which he calls "The first Cornish Mole. A Morality." I, however, suspect it to be a pure invention of this author; but as it is very pretty, I will give the substance of it. Alice of the Combe was a very beautiful, but proud and vain, damsel; the only child of her widowed mother, with whom she dwelt at Morwenstow. It chanced one day that they, with all the neighbouring gentry, had been bidden to a grand banquet at Stow; and, as she had set her love on the great and noble Sir Beville Grenville, its owner, Alice, to win his affections, dressed herself in her richest robe,—"a woven velvet, glossy and soft," and put on her fairest jewellery. Her mother, when she saw her thus attired, struck by her exceeding grace and beauty, said, "Often shall I pray to-night that the Grenville heart may yield. Aye, thy victory shall be my prayer." The haughty maiden replied, "With the eyes I now see in that glass, and with this vesture, meet for a queen, I lack no trusting prayer." At this a sudden cry was heard, and the damsel disappeared from their sight for ever. Shortly after, the Combe gardener discovered in the garden a small, unknown hillock, and on the top of it shone a ring, which was recognized as the one the lady wore on the day she vanished. A close examination showed that an old Cornish couplet was now traced on it, which the parish priest interpreted to mean—
"The earth must hide
Both eyes with pride."
As he uttered these words a low cry was lizard by his feet, and there "They beheld, O wondrous and strange! a small dark creature, clothed in a soft velvet skin, in texture and in hue like the Lady Alice her robe, and they saw as it groped into the earth that it moved along without eyes in everlasting night." "She herself had become
THE FIRST MOLE
OF THE HILLOCKS OF CORNWALL."
Before finishing this section of my work I must say a few words about the islands of Scilly and their legends. The Rev. H. J. Whitfield, M.A., in 1852 published a book on this subject, but his legends are for the most part purely fictitious, and its title, Scilly and its Legends, a little misleading.
The Scilly Isles, just off the Land's End, are very numerous, but only five are inhabited; some are mere rocks in the sea, and, counting ihose, they are said to be a hundred and fifty. The largest is St. Mary's, and the dwellers on it are apt to look with contempt on the inhabitants of the other islands (the Off Islands). The word Scilly is sometimes derived from Sulleh, rocks dedicated to the sun, and sometimes from Sillyas, a conger. This fish is very plentiful on these coasts, and a ridiculous rhyme says that Scilly fare consists of—
"Scads and 'tates, scads and 'tates,
Scads, and "tates, and conger,
And those who can't eat scads and 'tates
Oh, they must die of hunger."
Occasionally the saying runs: "Oh! the Scillonians live on fish and 'taties every day, and conger-pie for Sundays."
In the beginning of this century, before steamboats were invented, when communication between Scilly and Penzance (the mainland) depended upon wind and weather, in winter its people were often reduced to great straits for want of provisions, which gave rise to the proverb, "There is always a feast or a fast in Scilly." This is, however, now far from being the truth, and Scilly is one of the most prosperous parts of Great Britain; its inhabitants, as a rule, are well educated, they are noted for their courteous manners; and for its beautiful scenery it is well worth a visit. The dialect of its poorer people, as also the tones of their voices (each island has its peculiarity), differ from those of the same class in West Cornwall. Their pronunciation rather resembles the Irish. Thread with them is tread, the th at the beginning of words being rarely sounded, pint is point, and point pint.
Irreverent people declare that when Ireland was made some little bits of earth fell from the shovel and formed Scilly. Certain it is that when St. Patrick drove out all venomous reptiles from the former place he did the same kind service to the latter. The island of St. Agnes was particularly favoured, for until recently there was not a rat on it, then it was introduced from a wrecked vessel.
Small as St. Mary's is (about three miles long and nine around) it boasts of two capitals; the modern one dates from the time of Queen Elizabeth, and is called Hugh Town; before that Old Town was the principal village. At the east of Old Town Bay is Tolman Point (a corruption, I suppose, of Tôl Mên, the holed stone). Of it an old legend says when Scilly was under the monks of Tavistock, and Old Town the only port of St. Mary's, that they drew a chain from "Tollman head" across the entrance, and levied a toll from all who embarked and landed there, not excepting the fishermen. It was abolished by Richard Plantagenet, who, coming disguised to the port, was not recognized by the friar in charge, who demanded from him his dues. Upon which Earl Richard, in a fit of passion, struck him dead at his feet. According to Leland, "Inniscan longid to Tavestock, and there was a poor celle of monkes of Tavestock. Sum caulle this Trescau."
There was a settlement of Benedictine monks here long before the Norman Conquest; their cell was dedicated to St. Nicholas. A few fragments of the abbey which was then founded still exist. It was independent until the reign of Edward I. when it was joined to Tavistock. St. Nicholas, as well as St. Peter, is the patron saint of fishermen; the former also takes school boys under his protection. The same monarch, Edward I., made Ranulph de White Monastery (supposed to be Ranulph de Blankminster, or Randolph de Blancheminster), according to an old archive, constable of these islands, with the castle of Ennor, in Old Town, on his "Paying yearly, at the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, 300 birds, called puffins, or 6s. 8d." Traces of these monastic visitors are to be found in a pile of rocks at St. Mary's, called Carn Friars (a farm near by bears the same name), and one of the most highly cultivated and sheltered spots, where a few trees grow, is known as Holy Vale. Whitfield places a nunnery there, and says Holy Vale takes its name from a miraculous rosebush that grew in it, and that "One of its flowers was deemed to have the power, if worn, to preserve its bearer from mortal sin," but no other authority mentions it.
Giants, of course, frequently played a great part in the history of Scilly. Buzza's Hill, just beyond Hugh Town (St. Mary's), commemorates a giant of the name of Bosow, who made his home on its summit (now crowned by a Spanish windmill), and from whom the family of Bosow were descended. One of the finest promontories on the same island is Giant's Castle—Troutbeck says, built by the Danes. Here, too, is Giant's Chair, where the Arch Druid used in former days to sit and watch the sun rise. Druidical remains are scattered all over the different islands, and the many "barrows" are known as "giants' graves." In the old abbey gardens at Tresco is a curious stone, about four feet long, two feet wide, and six inches in thickness, in an upright position. Near the top are two holes, one above the other (one being somewhat larger than the other), through which a man might pass his hand. It is supposed to be an old Druidical betrothal or wishing-stone, and used before the monks built the abbey at Tresco. Young people, engaged to be married, would pass their hands through the holes, and, joining them together, would so plight their troth. As a wishing-stone, or to break a spell, a ring would be passed through the holes with some incantations.—J. C. Tonkin's Guide to the Isles of Scilly.
The finest headland on St. Mary's is Peninnis, and some of the sheltered nooks under its rocks have rather curious names. One of them is known as Sleeps Abode (or Parlour), and close by is Pitt's Parlour, which commands a lovely view; it is so called after a Mr. Pitt, who, when on a visit to Scilly, spent his summer evenings there with a chosen party of friends. An old lady, a native of Scilly, long since dead, told me that tradition said Mr. Pitt came to Scilly in consequence of a bet he made with a gentleman (I believe the then governor of the islands), who, when over in London, spoke in the highest terms of the morality of its women, and offered to lay a heavy wager that not a single courtezan could be found on them. Mr. Pitt took up the bet, travelled down to Scilly, and for a long time seemed likely to lose it; but at last, by a large bribe, he overcame the virtue of one very poor woman, and, in gratitude, allowed her a small pension until her death.
At the foot of Peninnis is Piper's Hole (in which there is a pool of fresh water). This is said to be the entrance of a subterranean passage leading to the island of Tresco, where another Piper's Hole is shown as the exit. Old people told marvellous tales of rash people venturing in so far that they never returned, but died there overcome by fatigue—the passage was too narrow for them to turn. Also of dogs who disappeared in the hole at St. Mary's, and after many days crept out from the one in Tresco, very emaciated, and almost hairless. The Rev. J. W. North, in his Week in the Isles of Scilly, has an interesting account of Piper's Hole at Tresco.
Half way down Giant's Castle, another steep earn on the same island (St. Mary's), lies a very inaccessible cave known as Tom Butt's Bed, from the fact that a boy of that name hid himself there in Queen Anne's time three days and three nights out of sight of the pressgang.
The wreck of Sir Cloudesley Shovel in 1707 upon Gilston Rock, in Porth Hellick Bay, near Old Town, is of course a matter of history. Very many traditions have, however, gathered around this sad event, related by many authors. I must briefly re-tell them, as no book of this kind would be complete without them.
The admiral, accompanied by the whole of his fleet, was returning home from Toulon, after the capture of Gibraltar, in his ship the Association. When they were off Scilly, on October 22nd, 1707, the weather became thick and dirty, and orders were given "to lye to." This was in the afternoon. Later on, about six, Sir Cloudesley again made sail, but two hours after his ship showed signals of distress, which were answered from several of the others. In two moments she struck on the Gilston Rock, sank immediately, and all on board perished. The Eagle and the Romney with their crews shared the same fate; the Firebrand also was lost, but her captain with most of her men were saved. "The other men-of-war with difficulty escaped by having timely notice." In this storm between fifteen hundred and two thousand people were drowned in one night.
A day or two before this took place, one man, a native of Scilly, is said to have persistently warned the officer of the watch on board the Association that unless their ship's course was altered she, with all the fleet, would soon be on the Scilly rocks amongst the breakers. These warnings so exasperated the officer that he repeated them to his admiral, and he, vexed that a common sailor should think that he knew better than his superiors how to navigate a vessel, summarily ordered him to be hanged at the yard-arm for inciting the others to insubordination and mutiny. The man before his execution begged, as a great favour, that the chaplain should be allowed to read him one of the Psalms. His request was granted, and he chose the 109th, repeating after the reader in a loud voice all the curses it contains. And with his last breath he prophesied that the admiral, with those who saw him hanged, would find a watery grave. Up to this time the weather had been fair, but as soon as his body had been committed to the sea it changed, the wind began to blow, and his ship-mates were horrified to see the corpse out of its winding-sheet, face up, following in their wake, and even before their vessel struck they gave themselves up for lost men. Some say that Sir Cloudesley's body came ashore on a hatch, on which he had endeavoured to save himself, with his favourite little dog dead by his side. Others, that after the wreck it was cast naked on Forth Hellick beach, where it was discovered by a soldier, who took off his ring which he still wore, and buried him in the sands.
Another account, on the authority of Robert, second Lord Romney, Sir Cloudesley Shovel's grandson, runs thus:—"There is one circumstance relating to Sir Cloudesley Shovel's death that is known to very few persons, namely, he as not drowned, having got to shore, where, by the confession of an ancient woman, he was put to death. This, many years after, when on her death-bed, she revealed to the minister of the parish, declaring she could not die in peace until she had made this confession, as she was led to commit this horrid deed for the sake of plunder. She acknowledged having, among other things, an emerald ring in her possession, which she had been afraid to sell lest it should lead to a discovery. This ring, which she delivered to the minister, was by him given to James, Earl of Berkeley, at his particular request, Sir Cloudesley Shovel and himself having lived on the strictest footing of friendship."
In the place and manner of his burial all traditions agree. Where he lay is still pointed out—a bare spot surrounded by green grass. And the Scillonians will tell you that, because he so obstinately refused to hear a warning, and wantonly threw away so many lives, God, to keep alive the memory of this great wickedness, permits none to grow on his grave.
Another legend has it that the man who gave the warning escaped death, as the storm suddenly arose whilst the Psalm was being read, before the order for his execution could be carried out, and that he was the only person on board the Association who was not drowned. "When Lady Cloudesley Shovel heard of the wreck, she asked that a search might be made for her husband's body. The soldier showed the ring which he had in his possession, which was immediately recognised as Sir Cloudesley Shovel's, The body was dug up and identified by the marks of his wounds. The ring was forwarded to his wife, and she, in gratitude for the soldier's kindness in giving her husband a decent burial, rewarded him with a pension for life. Sir Cloudesley's body was embalmed, first taken to Plymouth by sea, where for some time it lay in state, and finally to London, where it was interred in Westminster Abbey.
The abbey at Tresco, formerly under the jurisdiction of the monks of St. Nicholas at Tavistock, has been already mentioned. The abbey house, built on its site, is the seat of Mr. Dorrien Smith (the proprietor, as the Scillonians call him). The gardens that surround it are very beautiful, and famed for the tropical plants that here grow out of doors. There is an anecdote related of one of the inhabitants of Tresco, who, when asked what they did for firewood in a spot where no trees grew, answered, "We kindle our fires from the loppings of our geranium hedges." Tresco, like St. Levan, at the Land's End, was in bygone days the favourite haunt of witches. A poor man there walking out at nightfall had the misfortune to meet with a party of them taking a moonlight ride on their broomsticks. A relation of his was one of the number, and she warned him, in a stentorian voice, that if he ever mentioned what he had accidentally seen, he should bear the marks of their wrath until his dying day. For a long time the secret weighed heavily upon him, and at last he could not refrain from telling his wife. The witches, in revenge, turned his black hair white in a single night.
The Rev. H. G. Whitfield, in his Legends of Scilly, gives some marvellous tales of the family of "Dick the Wicked." They were all hardened wreckers, who generations ago lived on this island, and who also had the gift of second sight. Dick himself, according to this writer, when ill and unrepentant, was, by Satanic agency, taken out of his bed and borne, wrapt in a long loose coat, which he was in the habit of wearing, some considerable distance from his house. Here his friends discovered him on the following morning.
On this island stands Cromwell's castle, built during his Protectorate. Old people thought that he in person visited it. The large china tankard, out of which he was said to have drunk his breakfastbeer, still exists. On a hill above are the ruins of Charles's castle. Scilly always remained loyal and true to this unfortunate monarch, and this verse of a ballad told me by a Scillonian was not written of one of them:
"In Cromwell's days I was for him,
But now, my boys, I'm for the king;
For I can turn, boys, with the tide.
And wear my coat on the strongest side."
St. Warna, who presided over wrecks, was the patron saint of St. Agnes, another of the principal islands. She crossed over here from Ireland in a wicker-boat covered with hides, and landed at St. Warna's bay. Like many other saints she had her holy-well; and often the superstitious inhabitants of St. Agnes (five families in all), who enjoyed the reputation of being the most daring and unscrupulous amongst the Scilly wreckers of those days, threw crooked pins into it, and daily invoked and prayed her to send them "a rich wreck." There was no church there then, and its people rarely visited the other islands. But it chanced one fine morning the entire population started in their boats for the church of Ennor, in St. Mary Old Town, as two of them wished to be married. After the ceremony was over the clergyman, in the presence of most of his parishioners, who had assembled to witness it (between whom and the men of St. Agnes there was always a bitter feud), rebuked them for their lawless deeds. They, angry at being put to shame before their enemies, answered with many profane and mocking words, and were with difficulty restrained from coming to blows. So incensed were they that they took no notice of the signs which heralded a coming storm, and hastily got on board their boats to return to their own home, which none of them were ever destined to reach, as it broke with great fury when they were about half-way across. When close to land and the rowers were straining every nerve to get there, one wave larger than the rest broke over them, and every soul found a watery grave. This was of course said to be a judgment on them for their wicked ways. Leland briefly chronicles it. From that time St. Warna's well was neglected; there was no one left the day after twelfth-day, as had been the custom, to clean it out and return her thanks for her bounty: it gradually got filled with stones, and at the present day is little more than a hole.
There is a curious labyrinth on this island called "Troy-town," which it is popularly supposed to represent; but all intricate places in Cornwall are so denominated, and I have even heard nurses say to children when they were surrounded by a litter of toys that they looked as if they were in Troy-town.
A peculiar mode of punishment was formerly practised in Scilly. The offenders were placed in a chair called a "ducking chair," and publicly at St. Mary's quay-head "ducked" in the salt water.
Many old games worth recording are still played by Cornish children, out of doors in summer, indoors in winter, and at their numerous school-treats. To those common elsewhere, other names in Cornwall are often given, and different words sung. Some, wellknown thirty-five years ago, now (1886) live only in the memory of those who were children then, or linger in a very fragmentary state in some remote country districts. Such as—
"Here comes three dukes a-riding."
To play this the children were divided into two parties. In the first were only the three dukes: in the second the other players, who stood in a long line, linked hand- in-hand, facing them, the mother in the middle with her daughters ranged according to size on each side of her. One duke was chosen as spokesman, and he began the following dialogue, which was sung; the party singing advanced and retreated, whilst the other stood still:—
|"Here comes three dukes a-riding, a-riding,
Here comes three dukes a-riding, to court your daughter Jane."
"My daughter Jane is yet too young
To bear your silly, flattering tongue."
"Be she young or be she old,
She for her beauty must and shall be sold.
So fare thee well, my lady gay,
"We'll take our horse and ride away,
And call again another day."
"Come back, come back I you Spanish knight,
And clean your spurs, they are not bright."
"My spurs are bright as 'rickety-rock' (and richly wrought),
And in this town they were not bought,
And in this town they shan't be sold,
Neither for silver, copper, nor gold.
So fare thee well," &c.
"Come back! come back! you Spanish Jack (or coxcomb)."
"Spanish Jack (or coxcomb) is not my name,
I'll stamp my foot (stamps) and say the same.
So fare thee well," &c.
"Come back! come back! you Spanish knight.
And choose the fairest in your sight."
The dukes retired, consulted together, and then selected one, singing—
"This is the fairest I can see,
So pray young damsel walk with me."
When all the daughters had been taken away, they were brought back to their mother in the same order, the dukes chanting:—
"We've brought your daughter, safe and sound,
And in her pocket a thousand pound,
And on her finger a gay gold ring,
We hope you won't refuse to take her in."
"I'll take her in with all my heart.
For she and 'me' were loth to part."
The Rev. S. Rundle, vicar of Godolphin, near Helston, saw some children lately in his neighbourhood playing a portion of this game, when to "Here comes three dukes a-riding" they added—"My rancy, dancy dukes." Mr. Halliwell Phillips, in his Nursery Rhymes and Tales of England, has published three versions of it, but the game as played in Cornwall has some additional couplets.
Pray, pretty Miss.
For this—quite, I think, a thing of the past—the children (a boy and girl alternately) formed a ring. One stood in the middle holding a white handkerchief by two of its corners: if a boy he would single out one of the girls, dance backwards and forwards opposite to her, and sing—
"Pray, pretty Miss, will you come out?
Will you come out? will you come out?
Pray, pretty Miss, will you come out.
To help me in my dancing?"
If the answer were "No!" spoken with averted liead over the left shoulder, the rhyme ran—
"Then you are a naughty Miss!
Then you are a naughty Miss!
Then you are a naughty Miss!
Won't help me in my dancing."
Occasionally three or four in turn refused. When the request was granted the words were changed to—
"Now you are a good Miss!
Now you are a good Miss!
Now you are a good Miss,
To help me in my dancing."
The handkerchief was then carefully spread on the floor; the couple knelt on it and kissed: the child formerly in the middle joined the ring, and the other took his place, or if he preferred it remained in the centre; in that case the children clasped hands and sang together—
"Pray, pretty Miss (or Sir)," &c.
The last to enter the ring had always the privilege of selecting the next partner.
In all these childish games, to prevent disputes, and decide who shall be middleman, hide first, &c., one or other of the following formula is always recited by the eldest of the party, who as he repeats the words points with liis forefinger at each player in succession until he comes to the end of the rhyme. The person then indicated goes out:—
"Vizzery, vazzery, vozery-vem,
Tizzery, tazzery, tozery-tem,
Hiram, jiram, cockrem, spirem,
Poplar, rollin, gem."
"There stands a pretty maid in a black cap.
If you want a pretty maid in a black cap,
Please to take 'she.'"—(East Cornwall.)
"Ene, mene, mona, mi,
Pasca, lara, bona (or bora), bi,
Elke, belke, boh!"
"Eggs, butter, cheese, bread,
Stick, stack, stone, dead!"—(West Cornwall.)
To this latter there are several nonsensical modern additions. A game with a jingle somewhat like the first is played by children at Newlyn West, near Penzance, called—
"Vesey, vasey vum."
One child is blindfolded, the others hide something, and shout—
"Vesey, vasey, vum,
Buck-a-boo has come!
Find if you can and take it home,
Vesej, vasey vum! "
A search is then made for the hidden object: when found the finder in his turn is blindfolded.
After this digression I will give all the other forgotten games before describing those still played.
"Frskee, friskee, I was, and I was."
Known elsewhere as "Now we dance looby, looby, looby." To play it the children formed a ring and danced round, singing—
"Friskee, friskee, I was, and I was
A drinking of small beer."
They then stopped suddenly and said, "Right arms in!" (all were extended towards the centre of the circle); "Right arms out!" (all wheeled round with arms outstretched in the contrary direction); "Shake yourselves a little and little and turn yourselves about." The circle was reformed, "Friskee," &c., was repeated, and the game went on until all the different parts of the body had been named.
"Fool, fool, come to School."
All the children in this game, except one who left the room, called themselves by the name of some bird, beast, or fish. The child outside was brought in, and one chosen as schoolmaster said—
"Fool I fool I come to school, And find me out the ——:"
giving the assumed name of one of the players. If the fool fixed on the right person, he stayed in and the other went out, which of course involved re-naming; but if he made a mistake they all cried out—
"Fool! fool! go back to school,
And learn your letters better."
He retired, pretended to knock his head against the door, and returned, when he was again asked in the same words to name some other player.
Some of the games were much rougher, such as "Pig in the middle and can't get out" and "Solomon had a great dog."
For the first, one of the children stood in the centre, whilst the others danced around him in a circle, saying, "Pig in the middle and can't get out." He replied, "I've lost my key but I will get out," and threw the whole weight of his body suddenly on the clasped hands of a couple to try and unlock them. When he had succeeded he changed the words to, "I've broken your locks, and I have got out."
One of the pair whose hands he had opened took his place and he joined the ring.
For the second, the players knelt in a line; the one at the head, in a very solemn tone, chaunted, "Solomon had a great dog"; the others answered in the same way, "Just so" (this was always the refrain). Then the first speaker made two or three more ridiculous speeches, ending with, "And at last this great dog died, and fell down," giving at the same time a violent lurch against his next neighbour, who, not expecting it, fell against his, and so on, to the end of the line.
"Scat" (Cornish for "slap").
A paper-knife, or thin slip of wood, was placed by one player on his open palm. Another took it up quickly, and tried to "scat" his opponent's hand before he could draw it away. Sometimes a feint of taking the paper-knife was made three or four times before it was really done. When the "scat" was given, the "scatter" in his turn rested the knife on his palm.
Hole in the Wall.
A person, who did not know the trick, was blindfolded, another stood in the corner of the room with his mouth open. The forelinger of the blindfolded player was carefully guided around the walls of the room to find the hole, until at last it was put into the open mouth, when it was sharply bitten.
Malaga, Malaga Raisins (a forfeit game).
The players sat in a circle. One acquainted with the trick took a poker in his right hand, made some eccentric movements with it, passed it to his left, and gave it to his next neighbour on that side, saying, "Malaga, Malaga raisins, very good raisins I vow," and told him to do the same. Should he fail to pass it from right to left, when he in his turn gave it to his neighbour, without being told where the mistake lay, he was made to pay a forfeit.
She Said, and She Said.
This required a confederate, who left the room. The other in the secret asked a person inside to whisper to him whom she (or he) loved, then called in his companion, and the following dialogue was carried on:—
"She said, and she said!
And what did she say?"
"She said that she loved."
"And whom did she love?
Suppose she said she loved ——?"
"No! she never said that, whatever she said."
An indefinite number of names were mentioned before the right one. When that came, to the surprise of the whisperer, the answer was—
"Yes I she said that."
The secret was very simple, the name of a widow or widower was always given before that whispered.
The two next are played everywhere, but the words I believe are peculiar to Cornwall.
Drop the Handkerchief.
This is much too common to require a description. I will therefore only give the doggerel, which is recited by the holder of the handkerchief as he walks around the ring:—
"I sent a letter to my love,
I carried water in my glove,
And by the way I dropped it.
I did so! I did so!
I had a little dog that said 'Bow! wow!'
I had a little cat that said 'Meow! meow!'
Shan't bite you, shan't bite you.
Shall bite you."
Throws the handkerchief, and chases the girl.
Rules of Contrary.
Four children hold a handkerchief by the four corners, one moves a finger over it, saying, as fast as possible—
"Here I go round the rules of contrary,
Hopping about like a little canary.
When I say 'Hold fast' leave go;
When I say 'Leave go' hold fast."
Any player making a mistake pays a forfeit.
Lady Queen Anne.
A very pretty version of this old English game is often played at juvenile parties in Cornwall.
One child is chosen to remain in the room, whilst the others go outside and consult together as to whom shall hold the ball (some small thing). They then troop in, with their hands either hidden under the skirts of their dresses, or clasped in such a way that Lady Queen Anne, by looking at them, cannot tell which has it; all repeating—
"Here come we to Lady Queen Anne,
With a pair of white gloves to cover our hand;
As white as a lily, as fair as the rose,
But not so fair as you may suppose."
L. Q. A. "Turn, ladies, turn!"
(Whirlround.) "The more we turn the more we may,
Queen Anne was born on Midsummer day."
L. Q. A. "The king sent me three letters, I never read them all,
So pray, Miss ——, deliver the ball."
Should she have guessed correctly, all the party courtesy, and say—
"The ball is yours and not ours,
You must go to the garden and gather the flowers."
And the child who had the ball takes the queen's seat, whilst she retires with the others; but should she have made a mistake, the same party go out again, saying as they courtesy—
"The ball is ours and not yours,
(Repeat) We," &c.
Mr. Halliwell Phillips, in his book before quoted, has shorter versions of this, with different rhymes.
Another game which has descended from generation to generation is
The children choose from their party an old witch (who is supposed to hide herself) and a mother. The other players are the daughters, and are called by the names of the week. The mother says that she is going to market, and will bring home for each the thing that she most wishes for. Upon this they all name something. Then, after telling them upon no account to allow any one to come into the house, she gives her children in charge of her eldest daughter Sunday, and goes away. In a moment, the witch makes her appearance, and asks to borrow some trifle.
Sunday at first refuses, but, after a short parley, goes into the next room to fetch the required article. In her absence the witch steals the youngest of the children (Saturday), and runs off with her. Sunday, on her return, seeing that the witch has left, thinks there must be something wrong, and counts the children, saying, "Monday, Tuesday," &c., until she comes to Saturday, who is missing. She then pretends to cry, wrings her hands, and sobs out—"Mother will beat me when she comes home."
On the mother's return, she, too, counts the children, and, finding Saturday gone, asks Sunday where she is. Sunday answers, "Oh, mother! an old witch called, and asked to borrow ——, and, whilst I was fetching it, she ran off with Saturday." The mother scolds and beats her, tells her to be more careful in the future, and again sets off for the market. This is repeated until all the children but Sunday have been stolen. Then the mother and Sunday, hand in hand, go off to search for them. They meet the old witch, who has them all crouching down in a line behind her.
Mother. Have you seen my children?
O. W. Yes! I think, by Eastgate.
The mother and Sunday retire, as if to go there, but, not finding them, again return to the witch, who this time sends them to Westgate, then to Southgate and Northgate. At last one of the children pops her head up over the witch's shoulder, and cries out, "Here we are, mother." Then follows this dialogue:—
M. I see my children, may I go in?
O. W. No! your boots are too dirty.
M. I will take them off.
O. W. Your stockings are too dirty.
M. I will take them off.
O. W. Your feet are too dirty.
M. I will cut them off.
O. W. Then the blood will stream over the floor.
The mother at this loses patience, and pushes her way in, the witch trying in vain to keep her out. She, with all her children, then chase the witch until they catch her; when they pretend to bind her hand and foot, put her on a pile, and burn her, the children fanning the imaginary flames with their pinafores. Sometimes the dialogue after "Here we are, mother," is omitted, and the witch is at once chased.
Mr. Halliwell Phillips calls this the "Game of the Gipsy," and gives some rhymes to which it is played, but I have never heard them in this county.
The next, a game quite unknown to me, I took down from the lips of a little girl in West Cornwall in 1882, who told me it was a great favourite with her and her playmates.
Ghost at the Well.
One of the party is chosen for ghost (if dressed in white so much the better); she hides in a corner; the other children are a mother and daughters. The eldest daughter says:
"Mother, mother, please give me a piece of bread and butter."
M. Let me (or "leave me") look at your hands, child. Why, they are very dirty.
E. D. I will go to the well and wash them.
She goes to the corner, the ghost peeps up, and she rushes back, crying out—
"Mother! mother! I have seen a ghost."
M. Nonsense, child I it was only your father's nightshirt I have washed and hung out to dry. Go again.
The child goes, and the same thing happens. She returns, saying—
"Yes! mother! I have seen a ghost."
M. Nonsense, child! we will take a candle, and all go together to search for it. The mother picks up a twig for a candle, and they set off. When they come near to the ghost, she appears from her hiding-place, mother and children rush away in different directions, the ghost chases them until she has caught one, who in her turn becomes ghost.
Mother, Mother, may I go out to Play.
I thought this game was a thing of the past, but I came on some children playing it in the streets of Penzance in 1883. It may be played by any number, and, as in the two former games, one is chosen for mother. This is the dialogue:
C. Mother, mother, may I (or we) go out to play?
M. No, child! no, child! not for the day.
C. Why, mother? why, mother? I won't stay long.
M. Make three pretty courtesies, and away begone.
C. One for mammy, one for daddy, one for Uncle John.
The child, as she mentions the names, spreads out the skirts of her dress and courtesies, after which she retires to a little distance, and then returns.
M. Where, child! where, child! have you been all the day?
C. Up to granny's.
M. What have you been doing there?
The answer to this is often "Washing doll's clothes," but anything may be mentioned.
M. What did she give you? The reply is again left to the child's fancy.
M. Where's my share?
C. The cat ate it (or. In the cat's belly). What's in that box, mother?
M. Twopence, my child.
C. What for, mother?
M. To buy a stick to beat you, and a rope to hang you, my child. The child at this tries to snatch at the box, the mother chases her until she has caught her (when there are several children, until she has caught one), she then pretends to beat her, and puts her hands around her neck as if she were going to hang her.
Here I sit on a cold green Bank.
The children form a ring around one of the party, who sits in the middle, and says:
"Here I sit on a cold green bank
On a cold and frosty morning."
Then those in the circle dance round her, singing:
"We'll send a young man (or woman) to take you away,
To take you away,
We'll send a young man to take you away
On a cold and frosty morning."
Child. "Pray tell me what his name shall be?"
"Pray, whom will you send to take me away?"
Circle. "We'll send Mr. —— to take you away."
This is repeated three times with the refrain, "On a cold," &c., after which the dancing and singing cease, and the child is asked, "Sugar, sweet, or vinegar, sour?" Her answer is always taken in a contrary sense, and sung, as before, three times, whilst the children circle round. The one in the middle then rises to her feet. The boy (or girl) named advances and kisses her, they change places, and the game begins again.
This is a very favourite open air game. To play it there must be an uneven number. He (or she) stands in the middle, whilst the others, arm in arm, circle around him, singing:—
"Come all ye young men, with your wicked ways,
Sow all your wild oats in your youthful days,
That we may live happy, that we may live happy,
That we may live happy when we grow old.
The day is far spent, the night's coming on,
Give us your arm, and we'll ' joggle along.'
That we may live happy," &c. &c.
At the words "joggle along" they all drop the arm of the person they are leading, and try to catch the arm of the player in front of them, whilst the middle man tries at the same time to get a partner. Should he succeed, the player left without one, takes his place. (Repeat.)
I am indebted to the Rev. S. Bundle, vicar of Godolphin, for another set of words to this game, which he calls—
The Jolly Miller.
And, under this title, a lady, two years since, saw some children playing it at St. Ives, in Cornwall.
"There was a jolly miller, lived by himself;
By grinding corn he got his wealth;
One hand in the upper, the other in the bag,
As the wheel went round they all called * Grab.' "
In this county "Tom Tiddler's Ground" is known as "Mollish's Land," "Cat and Mouse" as "The Duffan Ring," and "Blind Man's Buff" as "Blind Buck-a-Davy." To this last the following words are repeated, which I have never seen in print. One of the players takes the blindfolded person by the shoulders, and says:
"How many horses has your father got in his stables?"
"What colour are they?"
A. Red, white, and grey.
(Whirling him round.) "Then turn about, and twist about, and catch whom you may."
To make barley bread (in other districts, "Cockley bread") this rhyme is used in West Cornwall:—
"Mother has called, mother has said,
'Make haste home, and make barley bread.'
Up with your heels, down with yom: head,
That is the way to make barley bread."
Of this, which is a very common game at school-treats in some parts of West Cornwall, I have only lately through the kindness of the Rev. S. Rundle succeeded in getting a description. He saw some children in 1884 playing it in his parish, (Godolphin, Helston). A ring is formed, into the middle of which goes a child holding a stick, the others with joined hands run round in a circle singing—
"There was a farmer had a dog.
His name was Bobby Bingo;
B. I. N. G. O.
His name was Bobby Bingo."
When they have finished singing they cease running, whilst the one in the centre pointing with his stick asks them in turn to spell Bingo. If they all spell it correctly they again move round singing; but, should either of them make a mistake, he or she has to take the place of the middle man.
Weigh the Butter, weigh the Cheese.
Is rather dangerous, and now but rarely played. Two children stand back to back with their arms locked. One stoops as low as he can, supporting the other on his back, and says, "Weigh the butter"; he rises, and the second stoops in his turn with "Weigh the cheese." The first repeats with "Weigh the old woman"; and it ends by the second, with "Down to her knees."
Libbety, Libbety, Libbety-lat.
A game of a very different character, which pleases young children. The child stands before a hassock, and as if he were going up stairs; he puts on it first his right and then his left foot, gradually quickening his steps, keeping time to the words:—
"Libbety, libbety, libbety-lat,
Who can do this? and who can do that?
And who can do anything better than that? "
This ends the games in which children of both sexes join. I must next give those exclusively for boys. I will begin by a very old one.
Is a game usually played with marbles; one boy puts his hand into his trousers pocket and takes out as many marbles as he feels inclined; he closes his fingers over them, and holds out his hand with the palm down to the opposite player, saying, "Ship sail, sail fast. How many men on board?" A guess is made by his opponent; if less he has to give as many marbles as will make up the true number; if more, as many as he said over. But should the guess be correct he takes them, and then in his turn says "Ship sail," &c.
Buck shee, buck.
Is another game of chance, and is generally played by three boys in the following way. One stands with his back to a wall, the second stoops down with his head agamst the stomach of the first boy, "forming a back," the third jumps on it, and holds up his hand with the fingers distended, saying,—
"Buck shee, buck shee buck,
How many fingers do I hold up? "
Should the stooper guess correctly, they all change places and the jumper forms the back. Another and not such a rough way of playing this game is for the guesser to stand with his face towards a wall, keeping his eyes shut.
Leap-frog is known in Cornwall as "Leap the long-mare," and there is a curious variation of it called—
A cap or small article is placed on the back of the stooping boy by each in turn as he jumps over him. The first as he jumps says "Accroshay," the second "Ashotay," the third "Assheflay," and the last "Lament, lament, Leleeman's (or Leleena's) war." The boy who in jumping knocks off either of the things has to take the place of the stooper.
For this the boys divide into sides; one "stops at home," the other goes off to a certain distance agreed on beforehand and shouts "Buckey-how." The boys "at home" then give chase, and, when they succeed in catching an adversary, they bring him home and there he stays until all on his side are caught, when they in turn become the chasers.
Cutters and Trucklers (Smugglers).
A remembrance of the old smuggling days. The boys divide into two parties; the "trucklers" try to reach some given point before the cutter catches them.
Is a favourite recreation with the young fishermen in West Cornwall. Forty years ago "Pits" and "Towns" were the common games, but the latter only is now played. Boys who hit their nails are looked on with great contempt, and are said "to fire Kibby." When two are partners and one in playing accidentally hits the other's marble, he cries out "no custance," meaning that he has a right to put back the marble struck; should he fail to do so, it would be considered out of the game. To steal marbles is "to strakey."
To make ducks and drakes with a stone on the water is in Cornwall called "Tic-Tac-Mollard."
This game is, I believe, known in other counties as "Cob-nut," but in Cornwall the boys give the names of "Victor nut" to the fruit of the common hazel, and play it to the words:
"Cock haw! First blaw! Up hat!Down cap! Victor!"
The nut that cracks another is called a "cock battler."
Children under the title of "Cock battler" often in country walks play a variation of it with the "Hoary plantain," which they hold by the tough stem about two inches from the head; each in turn tries to knock off the head of his opponent's flower.
A rural game, played in the spring. An egg taken from a bird's nest is placed on the ground, at some distance off—the number of paces having been previously fixed. Blindfolded, one after the other, the players attempt with a stick to hit and break it.
"Uppa, Uppa Holye" (pronounced oopa, oopa holly).
When the writer was a boy, the following were the words used in the boys' game of foxhunting. When the hounds (the boys) were "at fault" the leader cried:
"Uppa, uppa holye,
If you don't speak
My dogs shan't folly."
(East Cornwall. F. W. P. Jago, M.B., Plymouth.)
Boys here, as probably elsewhere, are very fond of hitting each other and then running away, shouting—
"Last blaw, never graw,
For seven years to come."
The old Cornish game of "Hurling" I have already described under the head of "Western Customs."
- A small stream coloured by running through tin mining works.
- Dennis is a very common Cornish surname.
- "Old Monk" is a term of contempt in Cornwall, applied to old or young men. "I saw the old monk coming down the garden" (a youth of twenty).