Saturday, January 3, 2009

Local myths and legends - The Lambton Worm

I'm back in England for the holiday period and this week's theme got me thinking about our local legend which is very much preserved in local folklore as well as being the name of a pub in the area. The Lambton family are the local aristocracy - the Lords of the manor, so to speak. At the time of the crusades, young rebellious John Lambton skipped church to go fishing in the river Wear. He caught a very strange, eel-like creature which made him so uneasy that he threw it down a nearby well. He then went off to join the crusades for many years, only to find, upon his return, that the eel had grown into an enormous poisonous snake. The beast was destroying local livestock, terrorising the locals and otherwise spending its time smugly wrapped around Penshaw Hill (the photo is of the monument on the hill) although some say it was a place aptly named Worm Hill. Apparently you can still see the grooves in the ground where it coiled itself. On the advice of a local wise woman (and let's face it, every legend needs one) Lambton covered his armour with spear heads to face the worm. He was also advised to killl the first thing he saw having slain the beast in order to avoid its curse. A fearsome struggle ensued, but the worm speared itself to death on Lambton's armour whilst trying to crush him. Unfortunately, Lambton's father was so elated that his son had rid him of the beast, that he rushed out to congratulate him instead of releasing the pre-arranged hound for his son to kill. Lambton could not bear to kill his own father and, as a result, the Lambton family was cursed to die violent deaths over 9 generations. This has held true for many members of the family. As with all good legends, it was made into a song, a book, an opera and a film and I am confident that you can buy Lambton Worm t-shirts and mugs if you look hard enough. I've put the song at the beginning of the playlist and you'll find a fuller version of the legend as well as an explanation of the Geordie lyrics here.
And the question to go: Do you have any cool local myths or legends we should know about? Any dragons, witches, or other sundry monsters?

49 comments:

Blimpy said...

Halfway across the Tay River (which is very wide where I live) , at low tide, a large sandbank appears.

Some friends of mine who belong to the sailing club play cricket on it annually during the summer (I can't believe i just typed that sentence).

This sandbank is named Betty's Toes, as legend has it a local women, Betty Macleod, rowed there one day but was caught out by the swift incoming tide. It engulfed her until all you could see was her toes.

To this day, no one as yet has written a song about it to my knowledge.

Blimpy said...

Apologies about the bad grammar during that last commentting.

treefrogdemon said...

Here in Galloway we have our very own cannibal, Sawney Bean, who lived with his family in a cave just along the coast from where I live, and preyed upon innocent passers-by. The Fortean Times found a picture of him:

http://www.forteantimes.com/front_website/gallery.php?id=324

In other news, I've been watching a family of otters outside my window today.

Blimpy said...

In other other legendary news, I think I've discovered the mythical My Bloody Valentine shoegaze ear bleed chord, and have been playing it for about 40 minutes.

My neighbour must love me the most.

FP said...

Blimpy! Put that guitar down and play this!
(To the tune of Jessie's girl)
I want Betty's toes!
Yeah Betty's toes!
Where can I find a woman like that...?
----
TFD: great story! A kilt swirling cannibal. Love it!

ejaydee said...

I've got nothing, but are you back for good now FP?

Frogprincess said...

Salut Frenchy! Quitter la douce France??? Ca va pas!!! No - I'm just visiting. Back to Frogland soon.

Abahachi said...

Just a couple of miles north of Cadbury Castle, which is the real (accept no fraudulent claims from Wales or Cornwall) Camelot; other than that, an assortment of local highwaymen who came to sticky ends and led to place names like Gibbet Hill and Cannard's Grave. But what I'm really focused on is TFD's family of otters; so envious.

Mnemonic said...

Cadbury may or may not be the "real" Camelot but I'm certainly not making any claims for Cornwall. I've always thought Tintangel as Camelot was just Victorian romanticism run wild.

I have just ventured out to give my back a little exercise (much improved today, incidentally) and walked straight into a fox at the bottom of the back steps. You may sniff at this but as I live in the main street in Croydon, I thought it was pretty special.

ShivSidecar said...

Round about where I grew up in Devon, Old Nick 'imself went for a wander one snowy night... and this was the result: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Footprints . Hopping mice, my arse.

I remember the Penshaw Monument well from my time at college in Newcastle, and I used to own a (slightly twee) EP of Lambton Worm songs by a local electric folk band named Hedgehog Pie. [Mmmm - spiny. - Ed.]

If you want Wormy lyrics, this site has them in spades: http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=5469 .

ToffeeBoy said...

We used to spend most summers (and Christmases) at my Grandma's in Edinburgh. Just up the hill from where she lived there was (and indeed, still is) an old Dovecot (or Doo'cut) which was apparently haunted by the White Lady. All sounds a bit tame now but at the time it scared the bejeebuz out of me...

saneshane said...

http://www.pocketnorwich.co.uk/pnhfiles/audio/ghostwildman/ghostwildman.mp3

overturned tables, spilled pints and finger nails clawing into the wood.. 'tis not a ghost, it's the punters hearing another Norwich result.

Mnemonic said...

Oh dear, my brother's a Norwich supporter. Does this mean I shouldn't phone him this evening?

saneshane said...

@Mnemonic
it was a draw so not as bad as it has been lately!
My dad phoned giving me a blow by blow account, last 20 minutes were good (and Charltons goal.. worse luck) he says.
(I gave him the cup ticket as part of his xmas present)

so phoning your bro should be just about ok.

if you know anyone who supports Man city.. don't call!

steenbeck said...

Oh, TFD--otters are my favorite animals. Apparently there are some along the river by me, but I've never seen them outside the zoo. Did you get any pictures?

And we have the Jersey Devil. I posted a dopey video about it on my playlist just above.

treefrogdemon said...

I did go down on the beach at one point, steenbeck, when I thought they weren't looking, to see if I could get some pix - but they obviously WERE looking, as they moved away, but not quickly: they didn't seem to be frightened. They settled down a bit further away and when I went back indoors I could still see them quite well. Need a long lens!

TracyK said...

Loving all the cosy stories, just what you need on another subzero night! Here in Lincoln there is the legend of Little St Hugh, turned into Little Sir Hugh and divested of the anti-semitism by Steeleye Span. However, his tomb can still be seen inside the catherdral, just along from the eviscera of Eleanor of Aquitaine (the Eleanor crosses, as in Charing Cross and Waltham Cross started here, there's a very ruined pediment in the grounds of Lincoln castle, a fascinating place in itself) and a few feet along from the Lincoln Imp.
There's also a lovely, gruesome legend about Tom Otter, a rather nasty character who got his mistress pregnant and faced with the courts' options (marry her or go to prison) decided to wed again bigamously. Walking back from Lincoln to the nearby village of Saxilby he decided to stove her head in with a fencepost: cue all manner of grisly goings-on and more local legends. See here is you like such stuff:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/lincolnshire/unexplained/tom_otter.shtml
I absolutely love all the folky tales and legends from the UK, and often tell them to my students while they are working or as a treat if we've finished. Or a digression if even I'm bored...There's quite a few based around Tamworth castle, where I grew up (Tamworth, not the castle).

FP said...

Nice collection of homespun, folkweave yarns there, peeps. We went to a few great craft shops and farm shops when I was over. Stunning selections of Northumberland cheeses (Frogprince v. impressed) and strange fruit liquors. (Ejay what on earth is a 'sloe' in French??)The folk legend culture is alive and well, having not quite been vanquished by the nintendo monsters and manga serpents. All good. Well pleased that Mnemonic's back has decided to play the game. Utter misery while it lasts but lovely when it goes. Take care and no abrupt movements or lifting objects heavier than a small glass of wine... Mine is OK too but I will have to nurse it for the next few weeks. I'm killing time at CDG airport (which the French call Roissy) so am off to see if I can find out who the new dr Who is... These things matter as well as if I can add Kate Bush's divine Joannie to my playlist from this side of the channel. UK deezer didn't have the rights. If you're back to work tomorrow - COURAGE. FP.

FP said...

Oh Lord - that has worked! Anyone in the UK let me know if you can play the Joanni track in my serpent green playlist? Just curious...

ejaydee said...

What on earth is a sloe?

FP said...

Ah ha! Salut de Roissy!! It's a very dark fruit which the Brits use to flavour gin and I also bought a bottle of sloe liqueur which is rather delish. Aucune idee de la traduction....BTW they was a guy looking like you and speaking portuguese just behind me. You're not at Roissy are you?

ejaydee said...

Si seulement! I wish I was on my way to somewhere warmer.

FP said...

Oh well, never mind. English winters are a good excuse to drink lots of hot chocolate and eat biscuits in front of the telly. It's vin chaud over here as I'm sure you know. Bon courage - le soleil viendra plus tard. Promis. Unless you're north of Watford.

Mnemonic said...

I have a bottle of sloe gin in my kitchen right now. My brother lives near a whole hedge of sloes and this was buried in my Christmas stocking beats tangerines, I can tell you).

In view of the outpouring of folk, cannot resist posting a link to this website about all you can learn from folksongs. No good will come of it!

http://www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/006448.html

treefrogdemon said...

My dictionary gives 'prunelle' for sloe...Otters again today! also furniture-moving; too tired again to fiddle about with Boxstr I think. Back to work tomorrow, ugh.

Blimpy said...

We spent months looking for Sloes to no avail. Traipsing about the countryside, hoping that the next hedge would be the one we wanted. It was for making Sloe Gin with. We gave away a fair whack of our homemade plum vodka in nice bottles as xmas pressies though.

So, Mnemonic, what's the exact location of this hedge of which you speak?

Blimpy said...

@tfg - work beckons me tomorrow also, darnit, although I am hopefully going to be filming some giant tortoises, which should be good fun.

Mnemonic said...

Blimpy, You think I'm going to put the location on a public website? Oh no, there wouldn't be any left for me if I did that. Norfolk is as much as I am prepared to give away.

Abahachi said...

I too remember long, usually fruitless treks through the Surrey countryside with my father when I was younger in search of sloes for sloe gin; the locations of bushes were closely guarded secrets, and you would try to get to them as soon as possible after the first frost, or even cheat by picking them before they'd been chilled and putting them in the freezer.

Here in Somerset there are hedgerows full, so the limit on how much slow gin I can make is set by the price of gin and sugar, not by the availability of fruit.

Blimpy said...

Hmmmm, Somerset and Norfolk aren't too easy for me to pop to!

I did spend part of my teenage years bent double in various fields seeking out an elusive type of fungus however....

ToffeeBoy said...

@ treefrogdemon - I'm so jealous of your otter spotting. The best I can offer in return is a huge flock of lapwings seen from my kitchen window this morning - plus the usual finches and tits busily emptying my seed feeders...

And it's back to work tomorrow...

ToffeeBoy said...

@ frogprincess - great playlist by the way - but could you please provide subtitles with any future Geordie folk songs?

steenbeck said...

Blimpy, did you just get a guitar for christmas? I don't remember you mentioning one before. And when will you be posting some garageBand madness on the 'Spill?

Blimpy said...

Hi Steen - i did indeed, an electric one, which is great cos my old electric guitar hasn't been functioning for about 10 years. I am a truly terrible musician and although there are various hideousnesses hiding in my garageband folder, there is NO WAY anyone's ever gonna hear them.

Frustrated musician? That's probs why I write about music so much. I really should sit down and learn some scales.

steenbeck said...

Heh heh, me too. I have a beautiful guitar--I'll post a picture--but I can't even play barre chords. Well, not very well anyway.

And go on--post some. I've posted some garageBand concoctions on the 'Spill I haven't even played for people I live with. Anonymity!!

Shoey said...

We have the local legend of a giant rodent who empties the pockets of overseas visitors.

FP said...

Toffee - thanking you kindly! A bit more mainstream than I would have liked but the deezer possibilities for adding songs are more limited in GB than they are in France. But I think you can still play the playlist in its entirety. An absolute shoo-in would have been Nico's Niebelungen but it's not on deezer. I hope there are no fascist undertones to the fact that she recorded it - I've not listened to the lyrics completely. I've been wrong before as someone thankfully pointed out what was actually being said in 'Hong Kong garden' for example...
----
Blimpy got a geetar from Santa! Rock on, Blimp! Try out rainbow's 'since you've been gone':
G_D-Em-C_G_D_Em_C_D; 'Woaooooh etc etc'
----
Loving all the sundy wildlife - otters and foxes cropping up.

DarceysDad said...

That vermin that Shoey mentioned is a mighty mouse indeed. It's drawing me in from thousands of miles away .... Nnnnoo-o-o-o ... must ... nnggah ... resist. $2000 are being drawn from my wallet and are shaping themselves into the 13th letter

Blimpy said...

@FP - I'll give it a shot

@Shoey and Dsd - it took me about 4 hours to figure that one out. D'oh!

Talking of wildlife, I spent an hour in a very small and hot hut today trying to get some giant tortoises to walk across a green cloth. God it's hard being back at work.

treefrogdemon said...

Maybe you need a bigger hut?

Seriously though: why?

Blimpy said...

@TfD - I was filming them!

saneshane said...

I always find a picture of Julian Cope gets the Tortoise moving.

treefrogdemon said...

@ Blimpy: I know, but why?

Blimpy said...

I'll let you know once it's finished!!

Blimpy said...

@steen - i did record a song this evening that i wouldn't feel too ashamed to share with ye goode spillers; but i think i'll disguise it as something else when i do put it up.

steenbeck said...

Do it BLimpy, Do it. HOnestly, this is the most supportive audience you could find.

And I'm doing another one too, after being sworn off into retirement.

Do it do it do it. I'm sure it's BRILLIANT!! you're Blimpy, after all.

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FP said...

Nice to know we are 'Big in Japan'!!! I am so noooot getting the rodent joke. It's Mickeym right?

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