Friday, 14 September 2018

Guldize on Bodmin Moor

On Bodmin Moor, during the first half of the 20th century, Guldize, (the end of harvest) was marked by Crying the Neck and performing a Broom Dance.

At North Hill during the 1930s, Goldhys was celebrated with a broom dance to the tune of ‘So Early in the Morning’. This was recorded in Old Cornwall magazine in 1931, where the writer, E. Thompson says: 

“…I must not forget to mention the dance over the Broomstick. This is most interesting especially if someone is present with a concertina. The Dance, I think it is to the tune of So Early In The Morning. It’s fine when you hear the heavy boots beating a tattoo on the stone floors, as the dancers first lift one leg then the other, to pass the broomstick from hand to hand, as if they were weaving. What a wonderful time too. As the dance proceeds, the musician plays faster and faster and the dancers have to dance faster. It is a marvel how these men, some big and well built, can jump so nimbly as they do in this dance."

For more on this and other lore, check out From Granite to Sea

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

The Black Dog of Tregrehan

An old tale, re-imagined by Alex Langstone.

Tregrehan Mills, 1779.

It was a clear moonlit night in the narrow lanes at Tregrehan Mills, and a clandestine group of men were out poaching. Close to midnight they had gathered at an isolated trackway on the edge of the hamlet, not far from the boundary of the large estate owned by Lord Carlyon. Most of the men had cut across the fields from St Blazey, Boscoppa and Par and now gathered in the shadows of the ancient hedge. The old lane was brightly lit by the moon, and all was quiet.               

One of the lads, a mere boy, was told to keep guard by the granite hedge, whilst the older men quickly dispersed in the neighbouring fields, looking for deer tracks under the soft silver light of the full moon. Sam was on the lookout for any intruders, and he had been instructed to raise the alarm if any strangers appeared in the vicinity. Though nervous, he was a seasoned lookout, and had been on many night-time errands before, be they poaching at Tregrehan or smuggling at Par. If it wasn’t for these activities, Sam knew they would probably be starving, so it was all part of his regular routine.

                                                                     Artwork copyright Paul Atlas-Saunders
Shortly after, Sam thought he heard a horse approaching, and he drew himself closer to the dark shadows cast by the tall hedge. He listened again, but the clattering sound had ceased. An owl hooted from the tree tops and another responded, their eerie avian conversation seemed to hang on the night air, in this ancient Cornish lane.

Sam’s senses suddenly heightened, as again he heard the clatter of a horse approaching. This time he raised the alarm, as they could ill afford to be caught trespassing, let alone poaching. As his companions drew close to the shadows of the hedge, the sound grew louder., and the noisy clatter of hooves became much more distinct. They were all intrigued to see who was riding out so noisily on this fine moonlit night. However, a dire feeling of dread came over them all, as a very strange apparition manifested before them. Instead of a horse, there appeared a huge furry black beast, which looked like a large dog or small bear.

As the creature passed by the group, they all witnessed the wild monster with his demonic fiery eyes and large teeth, which struck terror into their hearts. What was this uncanny beast? Furthermore, the strange creature walked straight through a wooden gate, without any obstruction, as if it were a ghostly apparition or maybe a demon straight from hell.

Beyond the sturdy wooden gate, the strange black dog trotted off into the fields beyond. The men watched its monstrous spectral illuminated form for several minutes, and they continued to hear the strange nightmarish clattering of the ghost dog’s hoof-like paws, which gradually seemed to fade into the disturbing shadows of the trees on the far side of the pasture. 

The poachers decided to call it a night, and as they dispersed into smaller groups to head for their homes, the conversation was of confusion and fear, as they tried to understand what they had all witnessed in the lush fields and ancient woodlands of Tregrehan Mills on that fateful and haunted moonlit night.
Artwork copyright Paul Atlas-Saunders

Please see here for source material

This piece was first published in Lien Gwerin no. 2

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Poperro Feast of St Peter

Image courtesy of Polperro News

Jonathan Couch describes the traditional midsummer festivities and the harbour beach fire in his 'History of Polperro'

"On the eve of the fair is the prefatory ceremony of a bonfire. The young fishermen go from house to house and beg money to defray the expenses. At night-fall a large pile of faggots and tar-barrels is built on the beach, and amid the cheers of a congregated crowd of men, women and children, (for it is a favour never denied to children to stay up and see the bonfire), the pile is lighted. The fire blazes up, and men and boys dance merrily round it, and keep up the sport till the fire burns low enough, then they venturously leap through the flames. It is a most animated scene; the whole valley lit up by the bright red glow, bringing into strong relief front and gable of picturesque old houses, each window crowded with eager and delighted faces; while around the fire is a crowd of ruddy lookers-on, shutting in a circle of impish figures leaping like salamanders through the flames. The fire was no doubt, originally intended to celebrate the solstitial feast, but was in later times, deferred until the festival of St Peter".