Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Letters of Dora Harcourt

Telling the bees - and draping the hives in black ribbons

TWO hundred years ago people knew precisely what they must do when someone died: Tell the bees. While the unfortunate soul was being carried to his or her final resting place, someone from the household would be seeking out the nearest beehive and telling the bees about the death. The hives might even be draped in black ribbons and some of the funeral cake left at the entrance to the hive for the bees to enjoy.

It's just one of the strange customs revealed in my new book that details superstitions, customs and folklore from West Cumbria at the start of the 19th Century. The Letters of Dora Harcourt  reveals some curious, intriguing and downright daft superstitions of our ancestors. Dora was actually a 'posh' Londoner - a Sloane Ranger from the Georgian era - but she spent several months staying with her relatives a couple of miles south of Whitehaven. Her father - Cecil Harcourt - had a keen interest in folklore so asked her to write to him with the various customs and bits of folklore she witnessed. Her letters are full of such delights as a Christmas mummers play, new year's eve traditions, harvest festival customs, maypole dancing and even superstitions surrounding funerals. 
Barring Out

One of the most interesting is barring-out. Pupils in village schools in the north of England would 'bar out' the teacher, barricading the school door so he couldn't get in. They then demanded days off for holidays before they let him back in. The custom died out once school holidays became a legal right in the mid-19th Century.

The letters were re-published by Dora's father in 1850 in Arts Illustrated Magazine to share her memories of rustic superstition. They have lain forgotten ever since but recently the magazines have been digitized and so a search of keywords 'Whitehaven' and 'folklore' brought them to light. And having found this rich resource, I thought the letters deserved to be republished for a wider audience. My partner, Lesley Park, and I have annotated the letters explaining the reason behind some of the superstitions and also saying if any of them survive today. Lesley's mother - Babs Park - for example maintains the new year custom of not doing any washing on New Year's Day in case she 'washes out' any of her relatives!

The Letters of Dora Harcourt is available from Amazon for £5 (Kindle £3). A deluxe hand-bound and stitched edition for £15 is also available from my online bookstore or  Lowes Court Gallery in Egremont.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Self-publishing - what to do and what not to do

Starting your self-published book

MORE and more people are turning to self-publishing. It’s becoming easier, cheaper - and for those who just want to print and hopefully sell a few copies of their book, it’s a better option than seeking an agent or a publisher.

Many wannabe authors have already made great strides towards self-publishing their book - only to discover they have gone down a blind alley and need to start again.

So for those literally just starting out, here are some tips on what to do - and more importantly, what not to do:

Do write your book! You need a ‘finished’ clean manuscript. Once you start preparing to publish it becomes very difficult to change, add or delete entire chapters. It’s best to work with a complete and finished product.

  • Use Microsoft Word or Open Office to write your text. The latter program is free from openoffice.org.
  • Do consider spacing between paragraphs but the use of italics and bold (or similar) may be left until the pages are laid out. Indeed, bold, italic etc will often be stripped out when your text is imported into page-layout software.
  • Do get it proof-read. Use spell-check and grammar-check; use your friends. Proof-reading is harder than it looks.
  • Do source high quality, high res images. Pictures need to be at least 300ppi (600ppi for glossy picture books).
  • Don’t merge text and pictures. You may be tempted to merge pictures into your text at the appropriate places. Don’t. Text and images need to be separate ahead of laying-out pages. Just put a line saying “Teddy Bear picture goes here”.
  • Do start thinking about a cover - a striking image will help sell your book so it can be worth paying a freelance photographer or agency (such as http://www.arcangel.com/)
  • Do start thinking about how many copies you want printed (you can just print one!). If you are ordering more than 500 copies, how are you going to sell them? Start thinking about promotion.

Take a look at www.lulu.com and www.blurb.co.uk which are the two main self-publishing websites. In particular look at what format they require your files. Also see if they will include your book on Amazon or Kindle if you want to publish on those platforms.

Finally, have you backed up your precious book? Back up the data in at least three places (hard disc, USB, the cloud) in case you lose your computer. The cloud is probably the safest place to store data.

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Crier of Claife revisited



crier map
The only ghost to appear on an Ordnance Survey map: The Crier of Claife

The Crier of Claife is one of Cumbria's most famous ghosts, haunting the shores of Windermere. It also crops up in pub quizzes as the only ghost to appear on an Ordnance Survey map. But it's a story told and retold so often in 'Haunted Lake District' books that it has become rather confused. One of the clearest re-tellings and examinations of the ghost appears on Esmeralda's blog but in brief...


The old Windermere ferry. Photograph by J.W.Brunskill, photographer with a studio at Bowness, Windermere between 1860-1900. This simple rowed ferry preceded the much larger mechanised ferries. Picture by Picture Esk.


In olden times when the ferry between Ferry Nab and Sawrey was manned by men in rowing boats, you could 'call' the ferry over to collect you by shouting out. One night the ferryman heard someone crying out and rowed over to collect his passenger. But the oarsman returned a gibbering wreck and died a few days later from his madness. The other ferrymen concluded it must have been a ghost he encountered which had driven him mad so refused to row across any more in darkness. Eventually it was decided to 'lay' the ghost and they called upon monks from Furness Abbey. They agreed to hold a ceremony on Chapel Island in Barrow Bay and the villagers made their way to this desolate spot on Christmas Day for the exorcism. Although the 'Nab flay' was suitably dispensed with, his cry can still be heard - and woe betide anyone who rows across to try and collect the spectral passenger.

The Crier of Claife is indeed marked on OS maps (see above) but as to whether the name followed the ghost or the ghost arose from the name is impossible to tell. It is an eminence on the side of the lake and also a disused quarry. But is it the only ghost on a map? I'm not sure but can quickly think of Dobbie Lane at Cark which is named after its ghost. Let me know if you are aware of any others.

On re-reading this story on Esmeralda's blog, she identified Harriet Martineau's account of the story in A Complete Guide to the English Lakes (1855) as the earliest account and I wondered if - with the continuing digitisation of archives - it might be possible now to trace any earlier accounts. The British Newspaper Archive is slowly scanning and digitising old newspapers and a search on there did indeed reveal an earlier account. It was published in The Kendal Mercury on 25th December 1852 and is headlined: The Crier of Claife - A Christmas Ghost Story For Country Firesides. It is written by 'Snow Drop'. Not an auspicious start for those seeking a 'real' ghost but bear with me. The article is a detailed and colourful account of the Crier of Claife and one suspects it was Martineau's source for her story. It's a long article (I'm happy to email the full article to those who want it) but the crucial section is here:


"It was a wild stormy night about Martinmas, somewhere about 330 years ago, when a shout from the Nab called the Ferry boatman from amongst a lot of roystering travellers that had taken up their quarters at the then humble alehouse, from the inclemency of the weather and furious storm that raged out of doors. There was something particularly wild and awful about the night. Nothing could be more spectral; great flashes of lightning now and then made the hills look like giant phantoms, while the intervening hail showers had clothed them in a shroud, and they stared at the boatman with a still white face, the trees along the water edge, stood like huge skeletons, lifting their bleached arms towards the trooping clouds that hurried swiftly across the sky, like witches flocking to a ghostly feast. When sufficient time had elapsed for the boatman to return, the half-drunken guests staggered to the landing, to see who the newcomer might be, for in those days travellers were few, but the boatman had returned alone, a sober, silent man, with terror marked in every feature of his face. he was with difficulty got to bed, and awoke next morning in a violent fever, that carried him off in a few days, but he never could be prevailed upon to say a word of what had befallen him at the Nab. For weeks after, when the weather was boisterous, there were eager and violent shoutings and cries at the Nab, but the story of the apparition had got noised abroad, so that no boatman could be found that dared to venture across the lake after dark. These times were the days of Abbeys and Convents, and the Cistercian Monks held sway and ruled Furness Fells from the Abbey of Saint Mary in Furness, and a monk or friar used to attend the little convent on Chapel Island, half a mile north of Bowness Bay, to ease the inhabitants of the district of their sins and money. To him was application made about the much dreaded Nab affair. These monasteries founded at first as the abodes of piety and letters and refuges for the desolate and penitent, had become the haunts of idleness and superstition, and ready, very ready were the monks to comply with the request of the neighbourhood to remove the ghost, on condition that a certain amount of money was forthcoming when the incantation was completed, for in those days, as in our own times, amongst the Roman Catholics, there was "no penny, no paternoster". As to the exact year in which the ceremony was performed, all is left in doubt and dimmest twilight, but there is every certainty that it was Christmas day when the monks and their attendants met the zealous inhabitants of the thinly-populated district on Chapel Island.
"In the sacerdotal performance there was much rhapsody and little sober reason or religion, very much that was calculated to inflame the inexperienced imagination, but little that could direct the erring judgement. It was a sad spectacle for half a dozen cowled monks to persuade as many hundred people they possessed power over supernatural things. But it was an age of faith, and the whole multitude left the island firmly believing that henceforth and forever the 'Nab flay' must take up its location at the Crier. Since then centuries have passed away, and not a name exists of any individual that took part in the solemn service. The district is still busy, far busier than in those days; the hum of business and the notes of pleasure are still going on, but the simple inhabitants of the township then are far, far away, the veteran souls of many centuries. We might tell how that in times past, the fox-hounds, when in full chase, often came to a stand at the place that had become the dwelling place of ghosts, without any one being able to assign the reason; and of a schoolmaster from Colthouse, who, within the present generation, left home one evening to go past the spot, but was never seen or heard of more, and many other strange mysterious tales of people being mightily terrified, but time and space will not permit. Some will be ready to exclaim that these old prejudices are swept away, and such notions are discarded; that we have shaken off the trammels of ancient delusion, and folks do not believe in the imps of darkness now, but really the writer never knew an individual who visited the place in twilight without confessing to a heart clutching fear of unearthly company."

The question, of course, is whether this was complete fiction or if it was based on a known legend. I have certainly come across this style of newspaper article before where a legend is taken and enriched. The Whitehaven News in 1924 included an article by Joseph wear re-telling the story of the fairies who lived at Saltom Rock, near Whitehaven, but the legend is written about in a pamphlet published in 1850 so is clearly a piece of purple prose but based on a known story. And there's hope that the same is true of the Crier of Claife.

The legend was written about in 1873 by John Pagen White in his book, Lays & Legends of the English Lake District. This book takes local legends and re-tells them in verse form. What is interest to us is a footnote to the Crier of Claife re-telling which mentions a sighting of the ghost by White's fellow antiquarian, Alexander Craig Gibson. White says:

"Mr Craig Gibson, in one of his graphic sketches of the Lake country, says that he is qualified to speak to this, for he himself has heard him. "At least," says he, "I have heard what I was solemnly assured by an old lady at Cunsey must have been the Crier of Claife. Riding down the woods a little south of the Ferry, on a wild January evening, I was strongly impressed by a sound made by the wind as, after gathering behind the hill called Gummershow for short periods of comparative calm, it came rushing up and across the lake with a sound startlingly suggestive of the cry of a human being in extremity, wailing for succour. This sound lasted till the squall it always preceded struck the western shore, when it was lost in the louder rush of the wind through the leafless woods. I am induced to relate this," he continues, "by the belief I entertain that the phenomenon described thus briefly and imperfectly, may account for much of the legend, and that the origin of many similar traditional superstitions may be found something equally simple."

I haven't yet found Gibson's original 'sketch'** but he wrote a number of articles and pamphlets so I'm hopeful it will one day be found. However it appears Gibson lived in the south Lakes up until 1850 (then moving to Liverpool) so it is perhaps safe to assume for now that he saw the ghost prior to 1850 - ie before the article in the Kendal Mercury. This would confirm the Mercury's 'Christmas ghost story' was at least based in part on a known folk tale. Gibson's account would also be remarkable as a first-hand witness of the ghost. And although Gibson dismisses it as a story associated with a particular type of wind that is very interesting it itself. Britain has only one 'named' wind: The Helm Wind - also in Cumbria*. So at the very least we now have a second named wind: The Crier of Claife. Worthy of a quiz question if nothing else!

* I have actually come across another named wind: The Back Wind (I jest not!) on Derwentwater, Keswick which bounces off the surrounding fells but this does not appear to be a name still used.

** I have now found Gibson's account - at least one printed in 1867 (actually a transcript of a talk he gave in 1866). For the historical record I will include it here:

"The Lakeland of Lancashire No II. Hawkshead Parish. By A Craig Gibson. Read in 1866. Published 1867.
"Still to the south rises the fine, bold, but not high hill called Latterbarrow, which there divides the vales of Esthwaite and Windermere. On the wildest and most lonely part of this height, for it is scarcely a hill, there is an extensive slate or flag quarry, long disused and overgrown with wood, some of which is of considerable age. This desolate spot bears the singular name, singular as applied to an extinct quarry, of The Crier of Claife, whereby hangs a legend, the leading particulars of which may be given here, as indicating the character of the current traditions of that locality.
"It is said that, more than three hundred years ago, "The Ferry" on Windermere was haunted by a troublesome night walker, crying in a manner that enforced attention, from the Westmoreland shore, for a boat;' the most urgent and most awful appeals always coming on the most stormy nights. One of the ferrymen who attended to this weirdly hail when first heard, and rowed across the lake against a fierce gale from the southeast, returned with an empty boat, horror-stricken and dumb, continuing speechless for some days and then dying. Travellers began to avoid the ferry, for the crier continued to haunt the knab every stormy night; and "over all there hung a cloud of fear," so that few cared to venture near it even by day, and to the well-accustomed hostelry might at length be applied the often-quoted words:
"A merry place, 'twas said, in days of yore, But something ail'd it now - the place was cursed."
It thus became desirable that something should be done to abate this fearful nuisance, and naturally the monks of Furness were appealed to for aid. These holy men commissioned a brother of noted sanctity and skill to exorcise and lay the apparition, who had come to be known throughout the country by the title of "The Crier of Claife". He soon accomplished the object of his mission and succeeded in shutting up the crier in the desolate quarry, which has ever since borne the same name: a dreary spot, worthy of its story. None of the country people will go near it after nightfall and few care to approach it even in daylight. Desperate men, driven from their homes by domestic discord, have been seen to be going in its direction and never known to return. it is said that the crier is allowed to emerge occasionally from his lonely prison, and is still heard on very stormy nights sending his wild entreaty for a boat, howling across Windermere.  
I am qualified to speak to this, for I have heard him myself; or at least I have heard what I was solemnly assured by an old lady at Cunsey must have been the Crier of Claife. Riding down the woods a little south of the Ferry, on a wild January evening, I was strongly impressed by a sound made by the wind as, after gathering behind the hill called Gummershow for short periods of comparative clam, it came rushing up and across the lake with a sound startlingly suggestive of the cry of a human being in extremity, wailing for succour. This sound lasted till the squall it always preceded struck the western shore, when it was lost in the louder rush of the wind through the leafless woods. I am induced to relate this by the belief I entertain that the phenomenon described thus briefly and imperfectly, may account for much fo the legend, and that the origin of many similar traditional superstitions may be found in something equally simple."

Monday, 20 February 2017

The driverless coach


We like to think we've invented everything and pat ourselves on the back at our own ingenuity. But the latest 'invention' the driverless car is nothing new. In 1837 a man found himself on a coach and horses with no driver. His adventure was later told in a letter to Rev Nicholls of Ravenstonedale, Westmorland (now Cumbria) and published in 1877. Here it is:

"It is about forty years ago since the writer commenced a journey to Newcastle-upon-Tyne from the Bull Inn, Sedbergh, about one o'clock one severe frosty morning in midwinter, per the old Exmouth coach. The passengers consisted of myself and a lady and gentleman inside; Willy Taylor and Tom Heavyside, the driver, outside. We travelled at a good speed up to Dicky Metcalfe's, the Cross Keys, Cautley, a distance of about five miles ; and being a very cold morning, Willy the Butcher and the driver went into the inn to have a taste of Dicky's gin, but left no one in charge of the horses. Consequently they got tired with waiting, and started full trot towards Kirkby Stephen. 

Metcalfe hearing the horses, started off and ran a considerable distance after the coach, clothed only in nightshirt and slippers; but the speed of the horses being so great he had to give it up. During this time I was looking out of the coach windows, but never mentioned what had happened  to either the lady or gentleman. This part of the road was narrow and very dangerous, being entirely unprotected from a deep rocky river, so that I decided to leave the inside and hold on behind until we reached the next steep hill, called Rawthey Brow, which was about a mile further on the road; but in alighting from the step I fell upon a sheet of ice, and this prevented me from again reaching the coach, or of informing the occupants of what had occurred; but in their case ignorance was certainly bliss in crossing the moors on that dreary morning.

Still I kept on running until I reached the inn at Cross Bank, kept by Mr. Shaw, where I engaged a horse, and without saddle followed after, expecting at the bottom of each steep hill to find the coach upset; but to my great astonishment I found it standing in front of the King's Arms, Kirkby Stephen, its usual place, and the lady and gentleman in great perplexity sitting in the inn, wondering what had become of the driver and the person who had so abruptly left his seat in the coach without speaking a word, and concluded I must have been either drunk or insane, or had robbed them. But when they found their money and watches all right they could not conjecture how they had lost the coachman, nor what had caused me to decamp, until I had revealed to them the mystery, and told of the many dangers they had escaped in their journey of ten miles without any driver, while at the same time the reins were dragging about the horses' legs. 

In consequence of the heavy drifts of snow which occurred in several parts of our journey the horses had to be driven to the very edge of the road. We waited some time in Kirkby Stephen, expecting the driver; but as he never made his appearance, I was compelled to mount the coach box and drove through Brough to Spittle, a distance of ten miles, at which place we obtained another driver. Before again proceeding on our journey I did not omit the usual practice of opening the coach door and, in joke of course, tipping my hat to the lady and gentleman, who, instead of bestowing the usual gift, very politely acknowledged their appreciation of my exertions on their behalf." 

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Cumberland Bridal Cake

Recipe by Babs Park

In 19th Century Cumberland, a wedding cake with a difference formed one of the marriage customs. The bridal party, after leaving the church, repaired to a neighbouring inn, where a thin currant cake, marked in squares, though not entirely cut through, was ready for the bride’s arrival. Over her head was spread a clean linen napkin, and the bridgeroom, standing behind the bride, broke the cake over her head, which was then thrown over her and scrambled for by those in attendance. We don’t have the original recipe but ‘Grandma Park’ has devised this on the descriptions available of the cake:

Ingredients

4 oz (120g) self raising flour
2 oz (60g) butter or margarine, plus a little extra to grease baking tray
2 oz (60g) caster sugar
1½oz (45g) sultanas, raisins or currants
2 tbsps (40mls) water

Method

Pre-heat over to 350/180/gas mark 4.
Sieve flour into a bowl and rub in the butter/margarine until the mixture is the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and fruit and give it a good mix.
Add water to form a firm dough - if necessary add more water but only in small amounts.
Roll out the dough until ¼ - ½ inch (up to 1cm) thick. Dust with a small amount of flour to stop dough sticking to the surface and the rolling pin.
Place on a greased baking tray, lightly mark the cake into squares if desired. Glaze with egg and milk mixture and place in the top of the oven for about 15 minutes or until nicely golden brown.

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Waterside Boggle


Esthwaite Water - picture by Mark Kent

CHRISTMAS - the traditional time for joy, laughter, blazing log fires... and ghosts. In Celtic tradition, midwinter - with its long nights - was the time when the world of the living and the world of the dead were at their closest. This gave rise to the idea that it was the season was when ghosts and spectres could walk among us. 

It's on Christmas Eve that Scrooge's ghosts come knocking. And I remember as a child, Christmas Eve was always when the BBC showed its late-night MR James' horror story. So here's one haunting tale from Cumbria to scare you on your way to bed. In fact, not just any old boggle, dobbie, fetch or boggledeboo. This is easily the scariest ghost story I've come across in my researches into Cumbrian folklore.


HS Cowper. Credit: Lakeland Arts Trust
It's to be found in the very dry papers of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, although variants of it have appeared in other books since. The story is told by 19th century antiquary and collector, Henry Swainson Cowper - usually just known as 'HS' Cowper - and relates to Claife Poorhouse which stood on the banks of Esthwaite Water. This small tarn stands in the south of the county near Coniston, in what would have been at one time north Lancashire rather than Cumbria.

From the outset, it should be stated that this stretch of road by the Poorhouse had a long and fearful reputation for being haunted and I will talk later of some of the other ghosts reputedly seen there in the dark hours. It was generally referred to as The Waterside Boggle and HS Cowper writes that "in most cases the apparition is sighted by a night pedestrian, and when approached, suddenly and silently disappears". While researching this boggle (a Cumberland term for a type of ghost) Cowper was told about a woman still living who had actually spoken with the ghost. "Of course I interviewed her at once," he wrote. She was now elderly and somewhat of a cripple - the result of an accident in the Coniston copper mines where she had worked - but he assures us she was "yet intellectually perfectly vigorous". 

Her encounter had taken place some 30 years previously (ie about 1860). At the time she was living with - and nursing -  her mother at the poorhouse. In the neighbourhood at that time was, she said, a wicked chap called 'S' who had a terrible quarrel with one Roger Dugdale. This feud led to a fight one night as Roger was landing his boat near the poorhouse. 'S' was the victor, succeeding in drowning Roger in the lake. Such an event obviously caused a stir in the community but since the woman did not know the men it was no more than scandalous gossip to her.

But events took an unexpected turn one evening when the woman and her mother were sat in their rooms. She was surprised to see a man walk into the house - a man unusually dressed in his best Sunday clothes. The woman recalled: "He held out his hand to me, and said something but I didn't catch what it was. I had no idea who he was and took his hand. It was as cold as ice. He went to the mantel and struck a light with some matches." 

The mysterious visitor then turned round and left as abruptly as he had arrived. The mother then turned to her daughter and said: "Bairn - whatever have you done. That was Roger Dugdale."

The daughter had never met the murder victim so had no cause to recognise his ghost. She told Cowper, "I was almost dead with terror." Her mother tried to reassure her, saying that he would never come again "as he's been spoken with and touched" but it's clear the encounter had left a permanent effect on the daughter.

But what had the wandering soul said? Had he uttered the name of his killer? Sadly, the daughter had been unable to distinguish any words. And why was he dressed in his Sunday best? It's unclear what he was wearing on the day of his murder. And why should his ghost go to the poorhouse? So many questions and sadly so few answers.

There was one final twist in the tale. When the daughter went back to the mantel no matches had been struck, despite her clear recollection that this is what the figure had done.

There seems little doubt this was a sincere account of a 'real' event. It's not your usual ghost story and it sends a shiver down my spine each time I read it. I have only edited it slightly for clarity and the full version is available online on the CWAAS archives. Cowper refers to a number of the other supernatural experiences people had at this spot by Esthwaite Water but I'll leave you with just one:

"One of the vicars of the parish used to tell his friends how, walking one night from Sawrey, he was approaching the poorhouse when he observed an old lady in old fashioned bonnet walking before him. it was early in spring, and there had been a snow shower so that the road was all white. The vicar trudged along till he was abreast of the figure, and then, thinking she was probably a parishioner, he bade her 'good-night' as he passed. As there was no reply he turned to see who this unsociable old body was. To his horror, under the wide-brimmed bonnet, he saw a death-like countenance with goggle eyes, which gleamed like colour glass with a light behind them. The apparition then suddenly disappeared through a gap in the wall. The vicar, astounded, went up to the wall, but no trace of the figure could be seen. He then looked back along the road which he had come. the moon was bright, and he noticed  a strange thing: The snow bore only the tracks of one pair of feet, and those were his own."

Sweet dreams - and merry Christmas.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dobbie Lane

Dobbie Lane and Dobbie Bank, Cark, Cumbria

Extract from The Annals Of Cartmel Or Annals Of Cartmel 1872 by James Stockdale, relating to the Dobbie that haunted Dobbie Lane

The road from the lower part of Cark to Holker did not, until about the year 1815, pass by the west end of the High Row Cottages as it does at present. The old road to Holker passed from near my house, through the place where the lower gateway now is, into Carke Villa grounds, and up the hill into where the coachhouse and stable yard of Carke Villa are at present, and then into the present Holker Lane. Where these barns, stables, and yard now are, the lane was very narrow, and overhung with high hedges, there being a deep and wide sandhole at the top.

This lane had ever had the terrific name of “Dobbie Lane!” and so terrific was it indeed, that even those who were the stoutest of heart did not pass that way to Holker on a dark night in winter without having, as the saying is in this country, “their hearts in their mouths!”.

About the year 1809, a servant boy, then in the service of my late father, was sent with some newspapers to Mr. Kirkes’, of Holker House, one dark winter’s night about eight o’clock. He, like everyone else, had his apprehensions of “the dobbie;” still he passed through this frightful Dobbie Lane without observing anything. On his return, however, and when just beginning to descend the steep hill, he ventured to look back, when, to his infinite terror, he beheld a ball of fire following him! In an instant he took to his heels, “terror lending him wings” - particularly as he could perceive that the ball of fire, as he called it, was close behind him. In a few minutes he entered the kitchen at Carke, where were sitting some of his fellow servants, and, to their utter consternation, fell flat on the floor in a fainting fit. Very soon my father and mother, and some relatives who were staying in the house, were summoned to the kitchen to witness this extraordinary occurrence. Restoratives were administered as quickly as possible, and in about ten minutes the boy was just able to utter the word “dobbie,” and then fell into a second fit, in which he remained some time. After a while he had so far recovered as to be able, trembling and terror stricken, to make known to them what he had seen, as he has been related above.  All those who heard the tale he told, of course laughed at him, believing that he was labouring under some delusion; but from what I am about to relate, the truth of which cannot be doubted, a different opinion probably will be entertained. Several years after this, about the year 1817, after Dobbie Lane had been closed, my brother, coming late one winter’s night from Cartmel, (about twelve o’clock), on passing through Hoker, saw a light opposite the gate which then led into the Pot Level, nearly opposite to where the present new schools are. As the light was an odd-looking one, and had passed across the road, and was then on the top of the opposite wall, he at first thought that some of the gamekeepers might be behind the gate with a lantern, and that the light on the wall was reflected from the lantern. Knowing that he would have, on his return from Cartmel, to pass through Cartmel Park Woods, he had provided himself with a brace of pistols, and with one of these in his hand he approached the gate into the Pot Level, when all at once the light (and a most unnatural-looking light it was) came flickering down from the top of the wall into the middle of the road, and on his approach ran before him at about ten yards’ distance, along the middle of the road, till my borther, in some astonishment, stood still; when it at once passed along the ground across the highway and up the wall, placing itself on the top a second time. Of course it was not easy at the time to account for a phenomenon of this sort. My brother then again walked forward, on which the light left the wall, and came a second time into the middle of the road, moving along the very centre as my brother walked forward, stopping short in its onward course and retiring across the road to the top of the adjoining wall on every occasion of his stopping, and as regularly leaving the top of the wall and moving along the middle of the road on his approaching it; and such were its vagaries all the way (200 yards) to the west end of the High Row Cottages, where my brother, on passing down to his own home, not a  little astonished, left it, about ten yards from him, in the middle of the highway, being then quite at rest with the exception of a slight fluttering motion. The light, it may be mentioned here, was a pale (phosphoric) light, rather bright, but not flashing or sparkling, and was about the size and shape of an ordinary pineapple.

It happened that I was awaiting  my brother’s return from Cartmel that night; and on mentioning what he had then just seen, I marvelled for a while, of course, and then said, “Surely this must have been ‘Will-o’th’-Wisp,’ let us go and try if we can see it again.” Accordingly we were not long in reaching the place; but it was in vain: for though we walked backwards and forwards for more than an hour along the lane and Pot Level Field,  the light never appeared again. No one will doubt that this was the luminous “Jack-o’-t-Lanterns,” or  ‘Will-o’th’-Wisp,’ to which the superstitious and credulous have ever ascribed extraordinary and mischievous powers, and was no doubt that “dobbie” previously mentioned, which so frightened my late father’s servant boy, and very probably from time to time many others, so as to give the name of Dobbie Lane to the old road from Carke to Holker. Even at this day, there are not a few people who, in passing on a dark night the gate leading into Carke Villa stable yard, and the hollow in Pot level Field, have not some apprehension of seeing this “dobbie” or a hobgobbling of some kind. It is well known that there are particular districts and places where this  ‘Will-o’th’-Wisp may occasionally be seen, and these are about swampy grounds, stagnant ponds, churchyards, and other burial places, and it has been observed to be but little affected by storm and wind, and to retire always on the approach of anyone, and to follow occasionally when anyone retires from it. The field call ‘Pot Level’’ adjoins the old lane called Dobbie Lane; it is bowl-shaped and of course the very reverse of level, there being in the middle of it, a  considerable hollow or depression, in which part, formerly, there was a rather deep pit or pond of water. Till about the year 1775 this field was rough, coppice wood, but was theng rubbed up and trenched over in the usual way. As a great quantity of stones and rubbish was turned out in this operation, the whole mass was thrown into the deep pond, so as to entirely fill it up, and some soil being laid on the surface, this part became much like the rest of the field. Anyone however looking at the hollow place in this Pot Level Field, even at the present day, will at once perceive where the pond or tarn has been, and in father proof of stones and rubbish having been thrown into the water, it may be mentioned that in the very dry summers the grass on the place turns brown, whilst in very wet weather the water rises above the stones and soil, appearing more or less on the surface.