Shantooe Jest: A Forgotten Nineteenth-Century Fairy Saga
by Simon Young
[page 9] The bulk of English fairylore was recorded in the nineteenth century and particularly in the second half of that century. In some counties, for example, in Cornwall and Lancashire, fairylore was recorded as a still-living, if rapidly disintegrating, complex of beliefs. In other counties, e.g. Sussex and Norfolk, fairylore was already a memory by the 1850s, when British folklorists were setting to work: fragments at best were retrieved. In still other counties, the attempt to record vanishing traditions came too late: the fairylore of Kent, for example, has been lost in its entirety. This whole depressing process was compounded by the fact that English fairylore was described by men and women who were distant from the beliefs in question and were sometimes out of sympathy with the culture that had produced those beliefs. In fact, the vast majority of those who recorded fairy traditions came from educated middle-class backgrounds: doctors, vicars, lawyers, scientists, etc.1 However, there were also a handful of nineteenth-century writers who came from poorer backgrounds and from populations where fairy belief was still taken seriously. The purpose of the present note is to record one such writer, who has been almost entirely overlooked. Thomas Shaw (1789-1861) was a wool worker from Saddleworth in the South Pennines. Shaw published just one book in his lifetime Recent Poems on Rural and Other Miscellaneous Subjects (1824, printed in Huddersfield “for the author by J. Lancashire”), and, in that book, there was just one work on fairylore: Shantooe Jest. However, Shantooe Jest is a fairy saga of almost two thousand words in length. It is extraordinary that it has, since its publication, gone unnoticed by folklorists. Reading it today one cannot help but wonder what Katharine Briggs or Lewis Spence or, for that matter, Edward Sidney Hartland would have made of this collection of Pennine fairy legends.
The Poet Thomas Shaw
The little we know about Thomas Shaw comes from three different classes of sources. There is, first, Shaw’s one surviving work: Recent Poems. There are, second, the relevant parish and census records from Saddleworth. Then there are, third, the memories of two writers who had never met Shaw themselves, but who were certainly privy to stories about him: Joseph Bradbury and Ammon Wrigley.2 From these sources, we learn that Thomas Shaw–“Tom ut Top” as he was known locally (Wrigley, The Wind 70)– was baptized at St Thomas’s Church, Friarmere in [page 10] Saddleworth, 26 July 1789, and that he died in the same parish 10 March 1861 (Radcliffe 78). In 1841, in the census of that year, he was recorded as being 50 years of age and living at Oxhey together with his brother James, 45, and his sister Ann, 55 (Delph, District 13, 9). All three were described as “woolen weavers.” In the 1851 census, the Shaws were recorded in the same area and they were presumably in the same house–the census is not clear on this point. Thomas is described at this point as a “wool porter,” his brother James as “hand loom. Weaver woolen.” His sister Ann had no occupation (Delph, District 16, 13). Thomas also worked with bees. He called himself an “apiarian” in his book of poetry, and he includes there a poem on bees (“On Bees,” Recent Poems 97-103) and an image of a beehive on the front page; he even refers to a manuscript that he had written on bee “culture” in a note (102). In another poem, we learn that he was part of a scythe crew, famed for its excellence (“The Black Fleet of Denshaw” 197-199). The Shaws, of course, were not a wealthy family. James died just before being admitted to the workhouse (Bradbury 70), while Thomas boasts in one poem of the joys of the “humble state” (frontispiece and “The Choice” 18).
Joseph Bradbury, a late nineteenth-century writer who had lived in Saddleworth as a child, notes that, on the basis of Shaw’s poetry, we might assume that Shaw was “quite a jovial character” (84). This is, indeed, a fair conclusion given the tone of the poetry and the subject matter, which covers such themes as dog racing, hunting, and illegal “hush shops.” However, there is no need to speculate, as the Saddleworth poet and local historian Ammon Wrigley records memories about Shaw handed down from “old men” and “an old friend” in the 1920s (The Wind 70-71). Here we learn that Shaw was “large in girth, and ample as a shire horse” and that he had “a back like a barn end and a pair of legs under him like twisted oak beams that you see under old roofs” (The Wind 70). He was a great carouser, drinking to excess with a “big jolly nose, ripe and good to look at” (The Wind 70-71). “He was,” in fact, Wrigley assures us, “good company and worth a quart of ale for his wit and his old sayings” (The Wind 70). It is claimed that the poet could drink 16 quarts of ale without showing any effects: we have another report where Shaw was led out of a public house paralytically drunk (Those Were 175-176).3 Wrigley also records Shaw’s peculiar habit of sleeping out in the fields in his old age (The Wind 71).4
Poems came onto the market when Shaw was about thirty-five and the book was brought out by subscription, not surprisingly given the poet’s social background: Shaw alleges that he was asked by several locals to publish his work (Poems dedication). Poems has a short errata page, and these errata cover only a handful of the many orthographical and punctuation errors present in the book (237). In particular, Shaw [page 11] frequently abused the apostrophe and was not consistent in his use of capitalization. From this we might deduce that his education had been partial: he, in fact, calls himself “self-taught” (Poems ii). These trifling mistakes, though, underline Shaw’s achievement in publishing anything at all: not many weavers had a book to their name in the 1820s. The poems show, too, a wide range of interests. The influence of Burns is gratefully acknowledged, though there is only one poem in dialect.5 Poems also show knowledge of various subjects including history (passim), botany and, as noted above, bee cultivation.6 Poems was, in one sense, a success; some of Shaw’s poems entered, as we will see below, the popular repertoire in his home area. However, Bradbury records the tradition that Shaw died with many copies of the book still in his house and that these books were then inherited by the local workhouse when Shaw’s brother James was taken there (Bradbury 70). It should also be noted that Shaw continued to write after Poems’ publication. Wrigley refers to a second volume that survived in manuscript. However, the location of this manuscript is presently unknown: perhaps it has been destroyed; perhaps it remains in a private collection in the Saddleworth area (The Wind 69).
Only one poem in Shaw’s book is concerned with local lore, and that is The Narrative of Shantooe Jest, (Alias) Old Mr Robert Dillrume, a thirteen-page work. Shantooe Jest includes fairies, a giant, and what Shaw likely would have called “boggarts” (the solitary fairies of the northwest of England).7 Shantooe Jest was the nickname of Robert Dillrume, a Saddleworth storyteller. The poem first describes Dillrume, then moves on to a typical evening together as the storyteller recounts a number of overlapping tales. The tales are allusive–we will return to this issue below–and the structure is complicated and difficult to follow. But even a rapid and superficial reading will show that Shantooe Jest is something unprecedented: a scrap of woven mythology from the Saddleworth twilight. Typically, later folklore accounts from Lancashire and Yorkshire end up focusing on the single most important figure from a given town or valley, and usually there is just one story about said figure that survives or, at very best, a series of stories strung together, but in Shantooe Jest, we have a far richer description, a fairy saga with imbricating episodes and contexts. Shantooe Jest is both a wonderful prize and a painful reminder of what has been lost elsewhere.
Reception of Shaw’s Work
Shantooe Jest was described by Bradbury in 1871 as Shaw’s “principal work… a Pindaric ode of sixty verses” about “the ancient gentry” (84-85). Lancashire antiquarian John Higson, in a brief essay in Notes and Queries a [page 12] year earlier, was clearly interested in the content of this “strange metrical sketch,” but he was just as clearly confused by its form: “If it does nothing else, the narrative portrays the then ‘Boggart’ lore of the district, enumerating about a dozen varieties as extant” (156-157).8 In 1893, James Bowker was less diplomatic, referring to the poem (whose name and whose author he did not deign to name) as “a bit of local doggerel from the pen of a dead and forgotten rhymester” (252).9 These comments from Higson and Bowker, two well-educated Lancashire writers, reflect the principal problem with Shantooe Jest for modern readers. Whatever its merits as poetry, the structure of the poem is confusing, and it is difficult for someone who does not know Saddleworth and its lore to make sense of what is happening.10
Perhaps this is another way of saying that Shantooe Jest is best judged not by its reception among Lancashire bien pensants, but by its popularity among the rural population of Saddleworth. Saddleworth was a hybrid industrial-rural area: Shaw, it will be remembered, had worked as an expert scyther, as a beekeeper, and as a weaver. However, rural or urban, there was a strong culture of traditional poems, rhymes, and songs in the parish. Frequently, we learn, in reading about Saddleworth, of songs that were locally celebrated, and even as late as 1936, Ammon Wrigley could refer to a poem of his which had become famous in the nearby Colne Valley (Those Were 114). The phrase “oral culture” is much abused, but we have an oral culture here in the sense that there are works shared between a partly, or at an earlier date, largely, illiterate population. Not the least striking thing about this oral culture is that we are speaking about a tiny area: thirty square miles in extent.
How did Shaw’s work fare in the parish of his birth? The answer is “well.” Ammon Wrigley, the single most important source for Shaw, writes that Shaw’s poems had been celebrated in Saddleworth: two in particular seem to have been recited, a poem about a scything team and another about a trail chasing dog (The Wind 68-69).11 Joseph Bradbury, meanwhile, describes in the late nineteenth century a Saddleworth party where one Woindy Bags “brasted streyt off… a considerable portion of the narrative of Shantooe Jest” to a crowded room (177). The evening was fictional–at the climax a boggart appears in the room and vanishes up the chimney with a baby!–but the idea that, half a century after publication, locals would know the poem was not seen as incredible (174-183).
Perhaps the most difficult thing to understand about the afterlife of Shantooe Jest is Ammon Wrigley’s use of the poem. Wrigley is the best known of all Saddleworth writers, a man who published a score of works, the majority associated with his home parish. In Wrigley’s first book, the 1909 Saddleworth Superstitions and Folk Customs, the author seems to draw heavily on Shantooe Jest for his sections on boggarts, fairies, and witches [page 13] (15-31). Wrigley is a popular writer, giving an entertaining description of the folklore of his home district, and he understandably did not feel obliged to reference all his sources; this inevitably means that, when there is a narrative similar to that of Shantooe Jest, we cannot be certain whether Wrigley has taken from the popular lore surviving in the area–popular lore that may have contributed to or that may have borrowed from Shantooe Jest–or whether he has simply elaborated on a reading in the poem. Let us give an example. First, here is the description of a battle among Upper Saddleworth boggarts at Bakestone Quarry near Delph in Shantooe Jest (§48-49):
There was old Baker then
Who lived on Delph’-hill end,
The blater of old Tame,
And thrasher of Slack-cote,
With New-Tame fiend
And young Grange-Bump his friend.
These five with old Delph Will,
And Griffon Fact’ry Marr,
Once met where bakestone grows,
That dreadful darksome night
Of din and war,
Fell all save Bump and Marr.
Now consider Wrigley’s version of the same. Italicized passages do not appear in the poem:
After the fashion of the old feudal barons the Friarmere boggarts appear to have cordially detested each other. Still we gather that they periodically met in their council chamber, the Bakestone Pit, to discuss matters affecting the government of the various boggart-ships. These meetings, we gather, were generally of a very rowdy character, young headstrong boggarts like New Tame Fiend and Grange Bump cut across the older boggarts, and went in for having their own way. They broke through the boggatorial enactments, and became unusually active at nights. This meant to the Old Delph Will and others the deprival of what they had been accustomed to consider their legitimate spoil, and a consequent loss of prestige. Such a state of things could not go on, and the end came one wild night, when after a turbulent meeting, they fell upon each other in a fight of extermination. Only two the Griffen Factory Marr and Grange Bump came out of the murderous struggle alive. (16-17)
The question is, did Wrigley elaborate on Shaw’s words to make a pleasing text for a modern reader, having himself commented upon how difficult [page 14] Shaw was to follow (Saddleworth Superstitions 16), or did he have access to other written or oral traditions? I ask this question not because we can give an answer: at this remove we can, at best, make an educated guess. I ask the question to establish just how difficult it is to chart the interplay of different sources when there is an oral culture in the background. This will be a fundamental problem in what follows.
Saddleworth Lore or Shaw’s Imagination?
When we focus on Shantooe Jest, we are faced with a similar problem. Above I have suggested that Wrigley may have elaborated on Shaw’s writing. But is there not also a danger that Shaw simply invented his fairy saga with little or no reference to popular tradition? This question is a central one, because unless it can be answered satisfactorily, then the poem will be useless to folklorists. The most obvious way around this problem would be to find other references to the same tales. This would show that Shaw had borrowed from tradition. For example, we know that Samuel Bottomley composed, sometime before his death in 1795, a poem on fairies close to Greenfield, the same general area that Shaw associated with fairies.12 We also know that, in 1870, John Higgins published a list of Saddleworth boggarts, which he had received from a Saddleworth resident, a list that overlaps with the boggarts mentioned by Thomas Shaw (156). Finally, in 1871, Bradbury also mentioned one of Shaw’s boggarts, Griffin Fact’ry Marr (178). These records are all certainly suggestive. But the difficulty is that Higgins and Bradbury had both read Shaw. Higgins is, it should be said, trustworthy in his writing more generally and we can, I think, be sure of the fact that he got his boggart list from a Saddleworth resident. However, who is to say that Shaw’s poem had not influenced local lore and that Shantooe Jest had spawned new boggarts fifty years later?
Another way to try to show that Shaw was employing authentic traditions would be to look at the folklore content of the poem. If Shaw was reporting tradition, then, presumably, there would be many traces of regional and national fairylore themes. On the other hand, if Shaw had invented the fairy content, that folklore content would be lower. This approach gives better results, for there are many folklore themes and motifs that are used more generally in the north of England and, indeed, further afield. First, the boggart Delph Willy was buried under a tree (§50): Lancashire boggarts are often “laid” under trees.13 Second, we are told (§19) that fairies and boggarts love the dark and dislike the light: this, of course, is a common fairy topos.14 Third, we read in Shantooe Jest (§22) that fairies flee from bells: fairies do, according to tradition, hate noise.15 Fourth, we learn that a hob can prevent cream from being made, [page 15] something attested elsewhere in the north-west.16 Fifth, we read that a witch can be summoned by her victims, something that can also be paralleled in witch tales from Yorkshire and Lancashire.17
These examples could be multiplied. But, of course, there is a problem here, too. A devil’s advocate might argue that Shaw created a folklore “hot pot” to bolster the credibility of his invention in the same way that a historical novelist includes details about the past to make an outlandish plot credible. But what, then, about the folklore references where Shaw has no obvious printed source–very little folklore had been written down at this date, with the most important sources being local almanacs, particularly– but where we, with our wider reference works, can show that Shaw is employing authentic traditions? Consider §39 about the boggart Delph Will:
If you on errands went
He’d catch you in the dark,
And like a sheet of wool
Come rolling close behind,
And find you work
To keep out of his lurch.
This reference to “a sheet of wool” might relate to descriptions of fairy memorates, where fairies are described as having amorphous bodies.18 However, against this there are several references from the later nineteenth and from the twentieth century where supernatural creatures are described, strange as this may sound, as pieces of rolling wool. Consider this description from Yeats about a fairy (pooka) in Kilkenny which
takes the form of a fleece of wool, and at night rolls out into the surrounding fields, making a buzzing noise that so terrifies the cattle that unbroken colts will run to the nearest man and lay their heads upon his shoulder for protection. (385)
Here is a description relating to Oxfordshire from 1903:
When [Mrs Wells] was a girl of fourteen a farmer, called George Andrews, was riding along the Clanfield Road past Cowleys Corner when he passed a sow with a litter of pigs. These made such a noise it frightened the horse, and in trying to stop him the farmer saw what appeared to him to be a wool-pack, which went rolling over and over along the fields from the Corner, till it at last vanished into the fish-pond near the Lady Well at Ham Court. (Manning 65-74)
Then we have a passage about the dialect poet William Barnes from Dorset, recorded in 1906:
That was the lane [Barnes told his grandchildren] your [page 16] grandfather was riding down when all at once he saw the ghost in the form of a fleece of wool, which rolled along mysteriously by itself till it got under the legs of his horse; and the horse went lame from that hour and for ever after. (Treves 35)
And here, finally, is another Irish account, from Meath, this one is from a work of fiction based on folklore traditions:
When Mochien was a lad his grandmother had told him about a ghost… it was known to some as a wool-pack, more called it the coos ha pooka.19 (Sherry)
What is striking about these four references (five including Shaw) is that they are almost certainly, with the possible exception of the two Irish references, independent of each other. And yet here, repeatedly, is the reference to a supernatural creature like a rolling wool pack. Luckily, it does not fall to the present author to explain these references, only to relate them to Shaw’s work, but there is clearly a British and Irish fairy tradition here that has not yet been elucidated by folklorists. (Shaw would not have read about this tradition anywhere for the simple reason that the present author is the first to notice its existence!) We can assume, then, that Shaw did not invent a rolling woolen boggart.
Another instant of Shaw anticipating later folklore writing appears in §33:
The winder seem’d a flea
Of matchless strength and size,
With cap as red as blood,
And firelike daring eyes
Leg, hip, and thighs
Of variegated dyes.
There is a northern fairy named the redcap, whose hat becomes red in function of how much blood he takes from others, something that invites a parallel with the “flea” here20 (Briggs, Abbey Lubbers 136). It is always possible that Shaw had read about the redcap, though I have not yet found such an early reference and the creature is quite obscure even in modern fairy works. However, note that Shaw does not call it a redcap, he only describes the creature’s apparel. Note also that George Shaw, fifty years later, described a Saddleworth fairy called the Old Red Cap, which he does not relate to Shantooe Jest21 (qtd. in Bradbury 255). It looks very much as if Shaw has recorded a tradition here that can be paralleled, but only by obscure sources, sources that he is unlikely to have known.
Allusion in Shantooe Jest
A final point in favor of the authenticity of Shaw’s fairy and boggart references is the question of the poem’s allusiveness. Wrigley put this in [page 17] slightly different terms when he wrote that Shaw’s “verse suggests that he knew much more than he has told us, and the pity of it is that he kept it to himself” (Saddleworth Superstitions 16).
Of course, poetry is by nature vague and elliptical, but even by those standards, Shaw’s verse seems to suppose knowledge on the part of the listener. Here is an example of this allusiveness (§36-37):
Whether old Will of Delph
Or Bump of later date,
Were of the fairy kind,
Is doubted very much,
For people state,
They could not pass Slackgate.
Is then the diel [devil] a witch?
Confess’d by many a score,
And fairies are the same
ask no more,
Could he do ye think get o’er.
This is dense: Will of Delph and Bump are solitary fairies or boggarts from around Delph in Saddleworth. The question that Shaw asks is “were Will and Bump fairies or something else?” Here he claims that they were not fairies because “they could not pass Slackgate.” But what is Slackgate? As inhabitants of upper Saddleworth would have known, Slackgate is a house above the hamlet of Slackcote where a stream feeding the Tame runs. The reference to passing seems to refer to the idea that certain creatures cannot cross running water (Briggs, Fairy Dictionary 344): note too “[c]ould he do you think get o’er” in the next verse. Now what reader in nearby Oldham, let alone in London, could possibly be expected to make sense of this? It is necessary to understand where Slackgate is, where the Tame runs, and the associated folklore convention that running water can block certain bogies. This suggests a specific local tradition to which Shaw has only to nod for his (local) audience to follow.
It should be noted that Shaw is difficult not just for us; his work caused difficulties for later nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Saddleworthians as well. A nice example of this is Shaw’s writing on the flit of the fairy queen, Moss. Reduced to its essentials, the story is that Moss is driven from Saddleworth by the noise of bells (fairies, as noted above, hate noise). She then goes to live with Todmore, a local giant, and together they head to where the town of Todmorden is today: Todmore is clearly an onomastic device to explain the town name. Here are the [page 18] relevant verses (§22-25):
But when the steeple rose
And bells began to play,
Old Moss the fairy queen
No longer durst remain
So sought a stay
Where Todmore’s Kingdom lay.
Subjects dispersed went
Marsden and Slaithwaite o’er
And to this very day
Use neochromancy skill,
But old Todmore
Increased much his store.
In Saddleworth was one
That liv’d two hundred years,
A hermit in the hut
Where Denshaw now doth stand
In Cromwell’s bloody wars.
Old Moss the Greenfield queen
Espous’d Tod of the den,
And they dwelt on the moor
Where Todmorden doth stand,
From hence ’tis plain
Derives that Village name.
The problem is the hermit. Who is he? Bradbury wrote the following about this hermit in 1871:
Once upon a time, an old hermit, generally called Todmore of the den, dwelt in a cavern in this vicinity–some say for two hundred years–but being disturbed in his solitude by the ringing of the bells at Saddleworth Church (bells then being new things in the neighbourhood) he sought out Moss, the Fairy Queen of Greenfield’s winding dells and, espousing her, the twain, with several of their subjects, started in search of a new residence, and finally settled in the valley of Todmorden, from which circumstance it is supposed that the place has derived its name.22 (119)
Bradbury or his source (and later, Wrigley) has, we suspect, misunderstood the poem here: “one” in the first line of the hermit stanza seems to refer to a fairy, not to Todmore, and Todmore is elsewhere [page 19] revealed to be a giant, not a hermit.23 The hermit verse may be a parenthesis describing one of the fleeing fairies or, just possibly, a completely unrelated individual. The point is that even Bradbury and, perhaps more strikingly, the quintessential Dalesman Wrigley got confused over Shantooe Jest.
It can be noted, in passing, that the giant Todmore is the least convincing of all of the supernatural creatures in the poem: he is clearly derived from a learned or popular etymology of the town of Todmorden to the north of Saddleworth. Yet it seems unlikely that Shaw invented Todmore. Shaw, after all, fails in the poem to note that Todmore was of greater than normal size, and merely alludes to his sorcery (§22-25). It is only in a note to a later poem, “A Question of Arithmetic,” that he states that Todmore was a giant (Poems 172). Of course, none of this is to say that Shaw did not change traditions in Shantooe Jest. He may, indeed, have done so, as storytellers often “improve” or adapt the traditions that are passed down to them. What should be clear from the preceding discussion is that, on three counts, Shantooe Jest appears to be reporting authentic traditions: the poem includes traditions attested by other writers; it includes fairylore details that Shaw would have been unlikely to invent; and it is allusive in such a way that suggests shared traditions in the local community.
Thomas Shaw was faithful to the traditions that were handed down to him. Yet one cost of his loyalty was that he wrote a difficult poem which could likely not be understood of his own locality; in fact, he was only read in Saddleworth and parts of east Lancashire in the nineteenth century. But what perhaps made Shantooe Jest unattractive in Victoria’s reign is precisely what makes that work so exciting today. This was a poem written by a man who “lived at a time when wizardry was abroad in the land, and went with a man to his work in the morning, and was common hearthstone talk at night in most houses” (Wrigley, Saddleworth Superstitions 16), and who crucially belonged to that world and was not an occasional visitor from outside. In Shantooe Jest, Thomas Shaw describes a Saddleworth storyteller, Robert Dillrume, but, in writing the poem, he had become a literate tradition bearer. And how often can we talk of a “literate tradition bearer” in nineteenth-century England?
I would like to acknowledge the very kind help of Neil Barrow of the Saddleworth History Society, who corrected several errors, and John Billingsley, Jerome Clark, Bob Rickard, Martin Shough, Aidan Turner-Bishop, and Chris Woodyard.
1. Two nineteenth-century works that employ English (and Scottish, Irish, Welsh, and [page 20] international) fairylore extensively and that also illustrate a positivist, middle-class mindset are Thomas Keightley’s The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Lands (London: George Bell & Sons, 1884) and Edwin Sidney Hartland’sThe Science of Fairy Tales: An Inquiry into Fairy Mythology (London: Walter Scott, 1891). For the comparison of a traditional and scientific mindset, two south-western writers, William Bottrell and Robert Hunt, make for excellent foils; see further Simon Young, “Five Notes on Nineteenth-Century Cornish Changelings,” Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall (2013), 87-116, at 106-113.
2. Joseph Bradbury, Saddleworth Sketches (Oldham: Hirst & Rennie, 1871). Ammon Wrigley has several references to Shaw spread through his opus but the most important are in The Wind among the Heather: A Book of Dalesfolk, the Old Firesides and the Old Inn Corners of Bygone Saddleworth (Huddersfield: Alfred Jubb & Son, 1916) and Saddleworth Superstitions and Folk Customs (Oldham: W.E.Clegg, 1909). Note, however, that Bradbury’s chronology for Shaw is hopelessly off: Bradbury has Shaw die in 1828 (84)!
3. Wrigley tells another story of how an uncle left Shaw three pounds and a pig in his will and Shaw sold the pig for a pound and then went and spent all the money immediately on ale, despite the protestations of his aunt (The Wind 69-70).
4. It is difficult to know what to make of this, though this habit might reflect his alcohol consumption.
5. For references to Burns, see “Editor’s Preface” (Recent Poems iii), notes on “Castle of Crowlen” (39) and “Self-Detection, or The Roguish Blunder” (63), and the author’s note appended to his series of epitaphs (183); the poem written in dialect is “The Husht-House Customers” (232-233). Burns is very likely behind the mysterious name Shantooe Jest.
6. See “Summer” (Recent Poems 22) for botany.
7. The earliest substantial description of the boggart comes in William Thornber, The History of Blackpool and Its Neighbourhood (Poulton: Smith 1837), 38, 99-104 and 329-334. Other nineteenth-century folklorists touched on the boggart, particularly Charles Hardwick, Traditions, Superstitions and Folklore (Chiefly Lancashire and the North of England) (Manchester: Ireland & Co, 1872), 124-142. John Harland and T.T.Wilkinson, Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports &c (London: George Routledge and Sons 1873), 10-12 and 141-142. John Harland and T.T. Wilkinson, Lancashire Folk-lore (London: Frederick Warne & Co. 1867), 49-62 and James McKay, “The Evolution of East Lancashire Boggarts,” Transactions of the Burnley Literary & Scientific Club 6 (1888), 113-127. There are two important collections of stories. The first is John Roby, Traditions of Lancashire, II vols (London: Routledge 1872), I, 375-384, II, 137-171 and James Bowker, Goblin Tales of Lancashire (London: W.Swan Sonnenschein & Co 1883), 27-36, 52-58, 63-72, 77-82, 131-139, 152-158, 174-188, 212-220 and 238-242. There is an early twentieth-century collection, which was only printed in the 1990s, H.L.Morton All About Boggarts (York 1994). See also Alisdair Alpin MacGregor The Ghost Book: Strange Hauntings in Britain (London, Robert Hale Limited 1955), 63-64 and 163-164; Katharine Briggs included some very modest comments on boggarts in her writings, e.g. Abbey Lubbers, Banshees and Boggarts: A Who’s Who of Fairies (London: Kestrel Books 1979), 32-33; Jessica Lofthouse, North-Country Folklore: In Lancashire, Cumbria and the Pennine Dales (Robert Hale, London 1976), 24-43; there is also Aidan Turner-Bishop, “Fairy and Boggart Sites in Lancashire,” Lancashire’s Sacred Landscape, (Stroud: History Press, 2010), 94-107; Kai Roberts, The Folklore of Yorkshire (Stroud: History Press 2013), 95-105 has an interesting chapter, 95-105; and John Billingley, Folk Tales from Calderdale: Place legends and lore from the Calder Valley (Mytholmroyd: Northern Earth, 2007), 69-74. See also Simon Young, “What Is a Boggart Hole?’ Nomina 37 (2014), 73-107. [page 21]
8. Note that John Higson was an important Lancashire antiquarian of the nineteenth century, the author of many books. For more on Higson and his corpus, see Simon Young, “Boggart Literature: A Handlist for the Lancashire Dialect Tradition,” forthcoming in Tradition Today.
9. Did Bowker receive the poem from his friend Higson?
10. An overview of Saddleworth can be found in the Saddleworth Historical Society’s Saddleworth Villages by Neil barrow, et al (Saddleworth, UK: Saddleworth Historical Society, 2003).
11. Joseph Bradbury also notes that “His ‘Hunting Dog’ was once a general favourite” (84).
12. Samuel Bottomley Greenfield: A Poem (c.1820). According to a mid-century news report, Bottomley died in 1814 and the work was published by his brother in 1816: (A Young Mountaineer, “Notabilities of Saddleworth” Huddersfield Chronicle [9 July 1859], 3). However, for the genuine death date, 1795 see Robert Poole’s “Introduction” (xii) to James Butterworth’s An Historical and Topographical Account of the Town and Parish of Richdale, in Lancashire, and also of the Parochial Chapelry of Saddleworth, in the County of York (Saddleworth, UK: Saddleworth Historical Society, 2006).
13. See Edwin Waugh, “The Grave of the Grislehurst Boggart,” Sketches of Lancashire Life and Localities (Manchester, James Galt and Co, 1855), 213-234 (ambiguous reference to an ash); John Higson, Historical and Descriptive Notices of Droylsden: Past and Present (Manchester: Beresford & Souther, 1859), 66-71; William Dobson, Rambles by the Ribble (Preston: W. and J. Dobson, 1864), III, 18-19; John Harland and T. T. Wilkinson, Lancashire Folklore, 56-59; Fletcher Moss, Didisburye in the ’45 (Manchester: Cornish 1891), 33-34; and “Tansy Tuft,” “Bits o’ Owd Lanky: Ghosts!,” The Blackburn Weekly Standard and Express (19 May 1900), 12.
14. For example, in one of Bottomley’s poems, Greenfield: A Poem, Saddleworth near Manchester (Uppermill: Moorland Books 2012), the fairies attack only fleeing when the “village cocks proclaimed approaching day” (60).
15. Many legends have fairies fleeing from gunpowder, railways, mills and, yes, bells: see Simon Young, “Fairies and Railways: A Nineteenth-Century Topos and its Origins,” Notes and Queries 59 (2012), 401-403.
16. Harland and Wilkinson, Lancashire Folklore, 56.
17. There is a long tradition of witches being magically summoned to the houses of their victims. One instance appears in Thomas Newbigging’s History of the Forest of Rossendale (Rawtenstall: J.J. Riley, 1893), page 274; there is a striking nineteenth-century case from nearby Hebden Bridge, in William Dearden’s The Star Seer (Halifax, Longman & Son 1837), pages 135-137.
18. For an example of an amorphous piskey, see Joyce Chadwick’s “Fairies Are not Dead!” in John O’London Weekly (21 March 1936),: “But no, he went on being a tiny man–until he changed into a quite indescribable thing… something with the appearance of a long, furry black roll, which gambolled about on the grass and then disappeared” (986). See also the spiritual “visions” of individuals as in Geoffrey Hodson, Fairies at Work and at Play (London: Thesophical House, 1930), where fairies “materialize.” Note that this quality of amorphousness and shape-shifting is something typically associated with boggarts in the North-West, e.g. “Chip,” “Cuttock Clough Boggart” The Blackburn Standard (24 September 1887), 2.
19. The author, in an email exchange, wrote that she learnt this story from her father: thanks to Martin Shough for this reference. I have looked more extensively at this problem in “The Mysterious Rolling Wool Bogey,” Gramarye 8 (2015), 9-17. [page 22]
20. For fairies and red head-wear generally, see Katharine Briggs, A Dictionary of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies and other Supernatural Creatures (Routledge 2011), 108-109.
21. Bradbury here quotes George Shaw (1810-1876) on a story that goes back to “poor John” and the early nineteenth century. There is some resemblance between “Old Red Cap” and a Cluricaune introduced by Thomas Crofton Croker, Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, I-III, (London: John Murray 1825-1828), I, 138. Croker was much read in nineteenth-century England.
22. Bradbury puts this section in quotation. Either he or his source is paraphrasing Shaw’s poem: see the use of “espouse” and “derive” in the poem and this passage. Note also that Moss seeks out Todmore when the bells begin to ring: Todmore does not seek out Moss.
23. Always assuming the two are incompatible! Is a fairy hermit easier to imagine?
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MLA citation (print):
Young, Simon. "Shantooe Jest: A Forgotten Nineteenth-Century Fairy Saga." Supernatural Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, 2016, pp. 9-22.