Sunday, 17 October 2010

Runswick legends

North Yorkshire is alive with folklore, myths and legends but Palmers didn't seem at all spooky, considering its age, remote location and nights blacker than the raven wings of midnight (ta Mr Poe). I tried my usual best to embrace the night side, taking along another collection of ghost stories by M. R. James to read at the witching hour; a helpful barn owl providing the blood curdling screams of lost souls somewhere beyond the garden walls, but it was no use. Some places just don't cooperate. The rumble of night flying planes and stray headlights on the windows remained stubbornly unsupernatural.
We took Harry out to Runswick Bay which has its fair share of its own folklore. The village here, having been a fishing village for well over half a millennium, has lots of fishing related superstition. It's been written that children used to light fires on the cliff during stormy weather, dancing and singing to influence the wind:
“Souther Wind, souther,
And Blow father home to mother.”
Did they really sacrifice cats when the fisherman returned home safe? Were fisherman really so superstitious they'd stay at home if they saw a woman before casting off... or heard talk of pigs? Apparently so.
There are stories of a hob (a goblin) who used to live in the caves at the southern end of the bay. This hob was supposedly a benevolent creature who could cure coughs. When the whooping cough struck their children, mothers would take them to the caves and cry out:
“Hob – hole Hob!
My bairn’s getten’t kink-cough:
Tak’t off! Tak’t off!"
I probably should have taken Debbie out there to see if he could help her with her cough. I wonder what his rates are like? Other stories tell of smugglers who would employ an owl to call out a warning as he perched on the inn sign. Smuggling did happen here as the caves were a useful place to hide out or store the goods.
In 1664 the entire village slid into the sea, the only building remaining was the house that belonged to the man whose wake occupied the villagers during the disaster. I can well believe how it could have happened too as the bay is so steep it seems to try to tip you all the way to the brine.

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