Sunday, 19 April 2015

Dando and His Dogs

In the neighborhood of the lovely village of St. Germans formerly lived a priest, connected with the old priory church of this parish, whose life does not appear to have been quite consistent with his vows.
He lived the life of the traditional "jolly friar." He ate and drank of the best the land could give him, or money buy; and it is said that his indulgences extended far beyond the ordinary limits of good living. The priest Dando was, notwithstanding all his vices, a man liked by the people. He was good-natured, and therefore blind to many of their sins. Indeed, he threw a cloak over his own iniquities, which was inscribed "charity," and he freely forgave all those who came to his confessional.

As a man increases in years he becomes more deeply dyed with the polluted waters through which he may have waded. It rarely happens that an old sinner is ever a repentant one, until the decay of nature has reduced him to a state of second childhood. As long as health allows him to enjoy the sensualities of life, he continues to gratify his passions, regardless of the cost. He becomes more selfish, and his own gratification is the rule of his existence. So it has ever been, and so was it with Dando.
The sinful priest was a capital huntsman, and scoured the country far and near in pursuit of game, which was in those days abundant and varied over this well-wooded district. Dando, in the eagerness of the chase, paid no regard to any kind of property. Many a corn-field has been trampled down, and many a cottage garden destroyed by the horses and dogs which this impetuous hunter would lead unthinkingly over them.

Curses deep, though not loud, would follow the old man, as even those who suffered by his excesses were still in fear of his priestly power.

Any man may sell his soul to the devil without going through the stereotyped process of signing a deed with his blood. Give up your soul to Satan's darling sins, and he will help you for a season, until he has his chains carefully wound around you, when the links are suddenly closed, and he seizes his victim, who has no power to resist.

Dando worshipped the sensual gods which he had created, and his external worship of the God of truth became every year, more and more, a hypocritical lie. The devil looked carefully after his prize. Of course, to catch a dignitary of the church was a thing to cause rejoicings amongst the lost; and Dando was carefully lured to the undoing of his soul.

Health and wealth were secured to him, and by and by the measure of his sins was full, and he was left the victim to self-indulgences -- a doomed man. With increasing years, and the immunities he enjoyed, Dando became more reckless. Wine and wassail, a board groaning with dishes which stimulated the sated appetite, and the company of both sexes of dissolute habits, exhausted his nights. His days were devoted to the pursuits of the field; and to maintain the required excitement, ardent drinks were supplied him by his wicked companions.

It mattered not to Dando, provided the day was an auspicious one, if the scent would lie on the ground, even on the Sabbath, horses and hounds were ordered out, and the priest would be seen in full cry. One Sabbath morning, Dando and his riotous rout were hunting over the earth estate; game was plenty, and sport first-rate. Exhausted with a long and eager run, Dando called for drink. He had already exhausted the flasks of the attendant hunters.

"Drink, I say; give me drink," he cried.
"Whence can we get it?" asked one of the gang.
"Go to hell for it, if you can't get it on earth," said the priest, with a bitter laugh at his own joke on the earth estate.

At the moment, a dashing hunter, who had mingled with the throng unobserved, came forward, and presented a richly mounted flask to Dando, saying, "Here is some choice liquor distilled in the establishment you speak of. It will warm and revive you, I'll warrant. Drink deep, friend, drink."
Dando drank deep; the flask appeared to cling to his lips. The strange hunter looked on with a rejoicing yet malignant expression, a wicked smile playing over an other wise tranquil face.
By and by Dando fetched a deep sigh, and removed the flask, exclaiming, "By hell! that was a drink indeed. Do the gods drink such nectar?"

"Devils do," said the hunter.

"An they do, I wish I were one," said Dando, who now rocked to and fro in a state of thorough intoxication, "methinks the drink is very like --" The impious expression died upon his lips.

Looking round with a half-idiotic stare, Dando saw that his new friend had appropriated several head of game. Not withstanding his stupid intoxication, his selfishness asserted its power, and he seized the game, exclaiming, in a guttural, half-smothered voice, "None of these are thine."
"What I catch I keep," said the hunter. 
"By all the devils they're mine," stammered Dando.
The hunter quietly bowed.

Dando's wrath burst at once into a burning flame, uncontrolled by reason. He rolled himself off his horse, and rushed, staggering as he went, at the steed of his unknown friend, uttering most frightful oaths and curses.

The strange hunter's horse was a splendid creature, black as night, and its eyes gleamed like the brightest stars, with unnatural luster. The horse was turned adroitly aside, and Dando fell to the earth with much force. The fall appeared to add to his fury, and he roared with rage. Aided by his attendants, he was speedily on his legs, and again at the side of the hunter, who shook with laughter, shaking the game in derision, and quietly uttering, "They're mine."
"I'll go to hell after them, but I'll get them from thee," shouted Dando.
"So thou shalt," said the hunter; and seizing Dando by the collar, he lifted him from the ground, and placed him, as though he were a child, before him on the horse.

With a dash -- the horse passed down the hill, its hoofs striking fire at every tread, and the dogs, barking furiously, followed impetuously. These strange riders reached the banks of the Lynher, and with a terrific leap, the horse and its riders, followed by the hounds, went out far in its waters, disappearing at length in a blaze of fire, which caused the stream to boil for a moment, and then the waters flowed on as tranquilly as ever over the doomed priest.

All this happened in the sight of the assembled peasantry. Dando never more was seen, and his fearful death was received as a warning by many, who gave gifts to the church. One amongst them carved a chair for the bishop, and on it he represented Dando and his dogs, that the memory of his wickedness might be always renewed

There, in St. German's church, stands to this day the chair, and all who doubt the truth of this tradition may view the story carved in enduring oak. If they please, they can sit in the chair until their faith is so far quickened that they become true believers.

On Sunday mornings early, the dogs of the priest have been often heard as if in eager pursuit of game.
Cheney's hounds and the Wish hounds of Dartmoor are but other versions of the same legend.

 Dando and his dogs, St German's church

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Witches of the Logan Stone

WHO that has travelled into Cornwall but has visited the Logan Stone ? Numerous Logan rocks exist on the granite hills of the county, but that remarkable mass which is poised on the cubical masses forming its Cyclopean support, at Trereen, is beyond all others "The Logan Stone."

A more sublime spot could not have been chosen by the Bardic priesthood for any ordeal connected with their worship; and even admitting that nature may have disposed the huge mass to. wear away, so as to rest delicately poised on a pivot, it is highly probable that the, wild worship of the untrained tribes, who had passed to those islands' from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, may have led them to believe that some' superhuman power belonged to such a strangely-balanced mass of rock.

Nothing can be more certain than that through all time, passing on from father to son, there has been a wild reverence of this mass of rock; and long after the days when the Druid ceased to be there is every reason for believing that the Christian priests, if the) did not encourage, did not forbid, the use of this and similar rocks to be used as places of ordeal by the uneducated and superstitious people around.
Hence the mass of rock on which is poised the Logan Stone has ever been connected with the supernatural. To the south of the Logan Rock is a high peak of granite, towering above the other rocks; this is known as the Castle Peak.

No one can say for how long a period, but most certainly for ages, this peak has been the midnight rendezvous for witches, Many a man, and woman too, now sleeping quietly in the church yard of St Levan, would, had they the power, attest to have seer the witches flying into the Castle Peak on moonlight nights mounted on the stems of the ragwort (Senecia Jacoboea Linn.) and bringing with them the things necessary to make their charms potent and strong.

This place was long nøted as the gathering place of the army of witches who took their departure for Wales, where they would luxuriate at the most favoured seasons of the year upon the mill of the Welshmen's cows. From this peak many a struggling ship has been watched by a malignant crone, while she has been brewing the tempest to destroy it; and many a rejoicing chorus has been echoed, in horror, by the cliffs around, when the witches have been croaking their miserable delight over the perishing crews, as they have watched man, woman, and child drowning whom they were presently to rob of the treasures they were bringing home from other lands.

Upon the rocks behind the Logan Rock it would appear that every kind of mischief which can befall man or beast was once brewed by the St Levan witches.

from Popular Romances by Robert Hunt

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Giants of Carn Galva

Among these rocks and stones, methinks I see
More than the heedless impress that belongs
To lonely Nature's casual work!
They bear A semblance strange of Power intelligent,
And of design not wholly worn away.—Excursion.
One can't fail to pass a pleasant time, should the weather be fine, among the rocks and glades of Carn Galva. Above all, if we ramble hither through the ferns, heath, and furze, in the whortleberry season, we may pick the rich fruit, roll in the shade, or bask in the sun, on the beautiful green patches of turf, as soft as velvet, to be found everywhere; or one may ramble in and out, and all around, playing hide-and-seek, through the crellas between the earns, whence the good old Giant of the Carn often sallied forth to protect his Morvah people and their cattle against the incursions of the giants of other carns and hills. Those of Trink and Trecrobben were the most troublesome, because they lived near, in castles strong and high.

Now, they say that when the Trecrobben giant once got the cattle, or tin, into his stronghold, he would defy all the other giants in the country. By the traditions, still preserved in Morvah, the Giant of Carn Galva was more playful than warlike. Though the old works of the giant now stand desolate, we may still see, or get up and rock ourselves upon, the logan-stone which this dear old giant placed on the most westerly carn of the range, that he might log himself to sleep when he saw the sun dip into the waves and the sea-birds fly to their homes in the cleaves. Near, the giant's rocking-seat, one may still see a pile of cubical rocks, which are almost as regular and shapely now as when the giant used to amuse himself in building them up, and kicking them down again, for exercise or play, when alone and he had nothing else to do. The people of the northern hills have always had a loving regard for the memory of this giant, because he appears to have passed all his life at the earn in single blessedness, merely to protect his beloved people of Morvah and Zennor from the depredations of the less honest Titans who then dwelt on Lelant hills. Carn Galva giant never killed but one of the Morvah people in his life, and that happened all through loving play.

The giant was very fond of a fine young fellow, of Choon, who used to take a turn over to the earn, every now and then, just to see how the old giant was getting on, to cheer him up a bit, to play a game of bob, or anything else to help him to pass his lonely time away. One afternoon the giant was so well pleased with the good play they had together that, when the young fellow of Choon threw down his quoit to go away home,  the giant, in a good-natured way, tapped his playfellow on the head with the tips of his fingers. At the same time he said, "Be sure to come again to-morrow, my son, and we will have a capital game of bob." Before the word "bob" was well out of the giant's mouth, the young man dropped at his feet;—the giant's fingers had gone right through his playmate's skull. When, at last, the giant became sensible of the damage he had done to the brain-pan of the young man, he did his best to put the inside workings of his mate's head to rights and plugged up his finger-holes, but all to no purpose; for the young man was stone dead, long before the giant ceased doctoring his head.

When the poor giant found it was all over with his playmate, he took the body in his arms, and sitting down on the large square rock at the foot of the carp, he rocked himself to and fro; pressing the lifeless body to his bosom, he wailed and moaned over him, bellowing and crying louder than the booming billows breaking on the rocks in Permoina.

"Oh, my son, my son, why didn't they make the shell of thy noddle stronger? A es as plum (soft) as a pie-crust, dough-baked, and made too thin by the half! How shall I ever pass the time without thee to play bob and mop-and-heede (hide-and-seek)?"

The giant of Carn Galva never rejoiced any more, but, in seven years or so, he pined away and died of a broken heart.

So the Morvah people say;—and that one may judge of the size of their giant very well, as he placed his logan-rock at such a height that, when seated on it, to rock himself, he could rest his feet comfortably on the green turf below.

Some, also, say that he gathered together the heap of square blocks, near his favourite resting-place, that he might have them at hand to defend his Morvah people against the giants of Trecrobben and Trink, with whom he fought many a hard battle, Yet when they were all on good terms they would pass weeks on a stretch in playing together, and the quoits which served them to play bob, as well as the rocks they hurled at each other when vexed, may still be seen scattered all over this hilly region.

Surely a grateful remembrance of this respectable giant will ever be preserved by the descendants of those he protected in the northern hills.

We have often heard the high-country folks relate this legend of their giant in a much more circumstantial manner then we can attempt, because we do not, like the good Morvah holk, give implicit credence to all the traditions of Carn Galva. Yet this romantic region makes us feel that

"Surely there is a hidden power that reigns
 Mid the lone majesty of untamed nature,
 Controlling sober reason."—Mason's Caractacus.
from: Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Longstone - A Cornish Legend

Above: The Longstone © Paul Atlas-Saunders

In the parish of St. Mabyn, in East Cornwall, and on the high road from Bodmin to Camelford, is a group of houses (one of them yet a smith's shop) known by the name of Longstone. The curious traveller passing by inquires the raison d'etre of such a name, for there is no tall monolith, such as are not uncommon in Cornwall, to be seen near it. Let the reason be here fixed on the pages of "N. & Q."

In lack of records, I may say "in the days of King Arthur there lived in Cornwall" a smith. This smith was a keen fellow, who made and mended the ploughs and harrows, shod the horses of his neighbours, and was generally serviceable. He had also great skill in farriery and in the general management and cure of sick cattle. He could also extract the stubbornest tooth, even if the jaw resisted and some gyrations around the anvil were required.

There seems ever to have been ill blood between devil and smith, teste Dunstan and others, and so it was between the fiend and the smith-farrier-dentist of St. Mabyn. At night there were many and fierce disputes between them in the smithy. The smith, as the rustics tell, always got the advantage of his adversary, and gave him better than he brought. This success, however, only fretted old Nick and spurred him on to further encounter. What the exact matter of controversy on this particular occasion was is not remembered, but it was agreed to settle it by some wager, some trial of strength and skill. A two-acre field was near, and the smith challenged the devil to the reaping of each his acre in the shortest time. The match came off, and the devil was beaten; for the smith had beforehand stealthily stuck here and there over his opponent's acre some harrow tines or teeth.

The two started well, but soon the strong swing of the fiend's scythe was being brought up frequently by some obstruction, and as frequently required the whetstone. The dexterous and agile smith went on smoothly with his acre, and was soon unmistakably gaining. The devil, enraged at his certain discomfiture, hurled his whetstone at his rival, and flew off. The whetstone, thrown with great violence, after sundry whirls in the air, fell upright into the soil to a great depth, and there remained a witness against the evil one for ages. The devil avoided the neighbourhood while it stood. In an evil hour the farmer at Treblethick near set his heart upon the Longstone, for there were gate-posts and door-posts to be had out of it, and he threw it down. That night the enemy returned, and has haunted the neighbourhood ever since.

The destroyer of this fine monolith is a near neighbour of mine, who, showing no compunction, tells me that its overthrow was about thirty years ago. It was of granite, and consequently brought hither from a distance, for the local stone is a friable slate. It yielded four large gate-posts, gave spans to a small bridge, and left much granite remaining.

From T Quiller Couch, in Notes and Queries for April 23rd, 1883.