Saturday, 21 October 2017

Fact or Folklore?

Cast your mind back to when you were a child - most of us remember long hot summer days and idyllic snow filled winters - we delete the miserable rainy days spent indoors driving our parents up the wall.  It's sort of the same with history - having written 3 books which explore the hidden histories of the region I can report that trying to separate out fact from folklore was one of the most challenging aspects.  I'm not suggesting I've now got it 100% correct, but I have managed to disprove a few popular local myths.  (I was considering calling this blog "Snopes for the Slopes", but felt that was perhaps a step too far...)

Anyway, here are 5 of my favourite busted myths.

The Bishop of Barf marks the spot where a bishop died and Keswick MR paint it



Possibly, and no.  The story behind this is that the distinctive white stones on the hillside mark the spot where the bishop of Derry (now Londonderry) died in 1783 whilst trying to win a drunken bet that he could ride his horse up and over the hill.  Turns out he couldn't.  To commemorate this the patrons of the Swan Inn at the foot of this hill where he'd been drinking, painted the rocks white and continued to do so in his memory.  When the Swan changed hands and became holiday apartments this practice stopped - someone still paints the rocks, but I can't figure out who.  Wikipedia tells me it's Keswick Mountain Rescue - but they swear it's not them.  As I say in our 50 Gems book: "The reality is it's a 7m high lump of rock in a rather inaccessible spot and painting it would require a good degree of expertise (not to mention paint!) so, if you notice anyone in the area with an abseiling kit and a couple of large bags from B&Q, do let us know."  NOTE:  Please do NOT try and walk to the Bishop - there has been a spate of strandings this year.

Rannerdale Bluebells grow from the blood of fallen Norman soldiers



No, they don't.  I particularly like this one as it can be traced to someone with credibility embroidering a story to generate pubic interest.  The story comes from a book called The Secret Valley published in 1930 by Nicholas Size.  Nicholas, a keen historian, bought the Victoria Hotel (now the Bridge Hotel) and, in an effort to drum up a little trade, published his colourful version of the valley's history involving immense and bloody battles.  His efforts were successful though he was less than popular with the local farmers who quickly got fed up of visitors tramping across their fields.

King Dunmail is buried under the pile of stones at the top of Dunmail Raise



No, he isn't.  Folklore states that King Dunmail (King of Cumberland) was killed her during an epic battle and his soldiers buried him under a huge pile of stones. Depending on which account you read eyes may or may not have been gouged out his crown hurled into Grisedale Tarn.  The truth is that there was a big battle in the 5th century between Dunmail and Edmund (King of England) and although no-one quite knows for sure where it happened Dunmail Raise has been ruled out as no graves or other evidence have ever been found there.

Jenny Brown's Point is named after a nanny who saved her charges from drowning.



No, it isn't - or at least we're pretty sure it isn't. The story goes that sometime during the 18th Century a nanny by the name of Jenny Brown heroically saved the two children in her care from the treacherous tides of Morecambe Bay.  There's a fabulous local history group called the Mourholme Society who are continually researching and discovering new things about the region.  They can't find any evidence to support the nanny story, but they have identified that a local woman named Jenny Brown was named as a beneficiary in a will in 1671 - although we still don't really know why the point was named after her, but it could just have been because she lived there.  (And if you're interested in more history on that particular area check out Andy Denwood's fabulous re-edited version of John Lucas classic book on the region.)



Devil's Bridge in Kirkby Lonsdale is named after the devil himself



Unlikely.  Unless you happen to believe in the devil appearing and making wagers with people.  It’s said that an old woman who lived on the banks of the river lost one of her cows when it wandered across to the other side and refused to come back. The Devil appeared and offered to build a bridge in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge, assuming it would be the old woman’s. When the bridge was built the old woman tossed a bun across the bridge which was chased after by her little dog thwarting and incensing the devil. This is an ancient crossing point of the River Lune and what's more likely is that the story was created to explain the presence of the large rocks (which apparently burst from the Devil's purse) back in the days before we understood all about glaciation and geology.


OUR THREE BOOKS are packed with loads more stories like these - perfect as a pressie or just to treat yourself!  Click HERE to learn more!

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