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Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall

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Tristan
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« on: August 25, 2009, 01:11:27 pm »

Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1
by William Bottrell
[1870]

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Tristan
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« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2009, 01:12:20 pm »

In the 19th century William Bottrell compiled three volumes of Cornish folklore, legends and historical tales. This is the first book in that series. Bottrell tells stories of giants, mermaids, and a gallery of Cornish fairies including the spriggan, bucca, and the knackers, the earth elementals who live in the tin-mines. He also describes Cornish folk magic, and folklore about witches. The style is idiomatic, and the episodic stories are told with touches of dialect and localized in specific places in Cornwall. Attentive readers will notice an incredibly politically incorrect passage where he uses language about Muslims and Africans which will leave most shaking their heads. As per our policy the book is presented uncut and unedited. However, the bulk of the stories here are great fun to read and dimensionalize this little-known Celtic byway.

PRODUCTION NOTES: Because a first edition was unavailable at this time, I used the reset Frank Graham edition of 1970. I quote the preface to that edition: 'We have not reproduced Bottrell's book in facsimile, although it would have been considerably less expensive...but we have included the whole work, except the List of Subscribers.' The pagination matches this edition, not the original. There were numerous typographic errors. It is unknown whether they were in the first edition, or introduced in the modern typesetting. Bottrell used creative spelling to reproduce Cornish dialect, including multiple variants of the apostrophe (ca'nt, can't etc.); these I have left intact. I hope to obtain a first edition at some point and redo the pagination. --John Bruno Hare, 11/6/2008.



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« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2009, 01:12:53 pm »

TRADITIONS
AND
HEARTHSIDE STORIES
OF
WEST CORNWALL
BY
WILLIAM BOTTRELL
(AN OLD CELT)

"Meantime the village rouses up the fire;
 While well attested, and as well believ’d,
 Heard solemn, goes the goblin story round;
 Till superstitious horror creeps o’er all."
                              Thompson


PENZANCE:
1870
Printed for the Author, by W. Cornish, The Library, Green Market
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2009, 01:13:20 pm »

CONTENTS

 PAGE
 
Preface
 iv
 
The Giants of Towednack
 9
 
——Carn Galva
 47
 
——Trecrobben and the Mount
 49
 
The Giant of Portreath
 49
 
——Bolster of St. Anns
 50
 
The Piskey-led Traveller's Ride over the Hills
 52
 
Uter Bosence and the Piskey
 57
 
The old wandering Droll-teller of the Lizard and his story of the Mermaid and the Man of Cury
 63
 
The White-Witch or Charmer of Zennor
 72
 
Annual Visit of the West-country folks to the Pellar of Helston to have their protection renewed
 115
 
The Pellar and Tom Treva's Cows
 121
 
—O Ghost of Stythians
 125
 
—Ghost-layer
 138
 
Betty Toddy and her Gown; a St. Just Droll
 140
 
Sketches in Penzance
 150
 
The Self-taught Architect of the Land's-end
 152
 
—School-days and Home of Pellew
 156
 
Parson Spry and his Wooden Horse
 159
 
Cornish Pulpit Retorts forty years ago
 162
 
The Ghosts of Chapel-street and St. Mary's Chapel-yard
 165
 
A Legend of Tolcarn
 168
 
Newlyn, our Jan's Brath, and the Particular Lodger
 169
 
Mousehole, Part 1; The Haunted Mansion of the Keigwins
 172
 
——2; Dolly Pentreath
 178
 
Nancy Trenoweth, the fair Daughter of the Miller of Alsia
 185
 
Lamorna Cove: The Dwelling of Chenance: Joan's Trip to Penzance on Christmas Eve
 206
 
Bosava: The Demon Mason and Lenine the Cobbler
 228
 
Trewoof, and the Old Mansion of the Levelis
 236
 
The Haunted Chamber and the Maltsman
 249
 
—Gardens of Trewoof
 252
 
—Haunted Mill-pool of Trove and the Crusaders
 266
 
Index
 
 



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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2009, 01:13:44 pm »

. iv p. v

PREFACE
Before the commencement of the present century, the district of West Penwith, to which the legends in this volume for the most part belong, was, from its almost insular position, one of the most secluded and unknown parts of England. The estuary of Hayle (by which it is bounded on the east) and the Mount's-bay approaching to within three miles of each other, sever it in some measure from the rest of the county, with which, some three score years ago, from the badness of roads and scarcity of wheel-conveyances, it had but little communication, either commercially or otherwise. Then persons, living west of Penzance, were regarded as great travellers if they had "crossed over Hayle," which, at that time, was a dangerous undertaking, on account of its shifting quicksands; and people living further east were looked on as foreigners by the west-country folks. Indeed, few persons, except those born before Buonaparte filled the country with dread of an invasion, can form an adequate idea of the singular seclusion in which the inhabitants of West Penwith existed.

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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2009, 01:13:53 pm »

And even this small district comprises two very dissimilar regions, the inhabitants of which are also distinguished by peculiar traits of character. Bordering on the northern shore, barren moor-lands and rock-strewn hills, topped with granite cairns, mark a tract rich in tin and copper, but, except in some few places, unproductive on the surface, and almost worthless for the purposes of agriculture. These wild moors and hills were, for the most part, inhabited by a class of old-fashioned tinners, happily not yet extinct, who, as is usual with the industrious miners of Cornwall, varied their ordinary underground labour by breaking-up and clearing of stone small patches of the heathy moorland or furze-covered hills. * Many hundreds of acres have thus been brought under cultivation by men of this stamp, who,


p. vi

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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2009, 01:14:06 pm »

notwithstanding their want of education (few indeed learned to read even), were often found to be very intelligent, and to possess a good store of mother-wit, sharpened by their hazardous under-ground occupations, and by a communication and exchange of ideas, facilitated by their working in company.

This primitive race of the hills knew next to nothing of any occurrences beyond their immediate neighbourhood, and being, like all the Celtic race, of a loquacious turn and sociable disposition, their chief resource for passing the eventide, and other times of rest, was the relation of traditional stories or, as they say "drolling away the time" in public-house or chimney-corner; many old legends have thus been handed down and kept alive. No doubt the adventures in these wild tales are often embellished by the droll-teller's fanciful invention. From the dwellers in the lonely hamlets of the northern parishes have been obtained all the giant-stories and many weird legends belonging to this wild district; which, for the most part, are very unlike the more cheerful drolls told by folks living on the warm rich land of the southern coast. An old tinner of Lelant (one of the comfortable class who worked best part of his time "to bal and farmed a few acres out of core") has often related to me the long giant-story with which the volume begins. It generally took him three of four winter's evenings to get through with the droll, because he would enter into very minute details, and indulge himself in glowing descriptions of the tin and other treasures found in the giant's castle; taking care, at the same time, to give the spoken parts literally as he had heard them from his ancestors.

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« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2009, 01:14:12 pm »

About a century and half, or two centuries, ago, a comparatively refined and opulent class dwelt on the lands of West Penwith, on which the earliest vegetables are now raised for the London markets. The ancestors of many families of note (now removed to other parts) then resided in various old mansions, west of Penzance, the remains of which are now in a ruinous condition and occupied as farmhouses. Many legends associated with these forsaken seats have been told me by aged relatives of my own, and

p. vii

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« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2009, 01:14:24 pm »

other old people of the West County. My thanks are due to several others, however, who take an interest in our ancient traditions, for the more recent communication of old stories, some of which will be found in the present volume.

In most cases the stories are given as related by the droll-tellers, except where our local dialect might be unintelligible to the general reader, or when (as is frequently the case) they indulge in a plainness of speech which the fastidious might regard as indelicate. On this account it became necessary to curtail and alter some stories in order to make them presentable.

It may be well to observe that, in a great number of our legends, the Devil is a prominent personage; yet the mythical demon or "bucca-boo" of our drolls has but few of the malicious traits of his Satanic Majesty, and the Old One is generally described as being outwitted in the end. When the same old tale occurs in different forms, care has been taken to preserve the most interesting version.

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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2009, 01:14:33 pm »

A word as to the arrangement. It was first intended to commence with the most ancient legends and to place the giant-stories, fairy tales, &c., in separate sections: but, this being found inconvenient, the plan adopted is to give the stories as they relate to various localities, proceeding from Hayle westward. Particular stories, however, and other subjects deemed of special interest, may be easily found by a reference to the Index.

In a very few years these interesting traditions would have been lost, unless they had been preserved in some such form as the present volume is intended to supply; since modern customs, and the diffusion of the local news of the day, are superseding, in even the most remote districts, the semi-professional droll-tellers who were formerly welcomed at all firesides, fairs, and feasts for their recitals of the old ballads and stories in which they abounded, and of which their audience rarely tired.

p. viii

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« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2009, 01:14:43 pm »

As some of the stories, related since the prospectus was issued belong to Places beyond West Penwith, it was thought proper to alter the title to that of "Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall."

I beg to tender my most sincere thanks to subscribers for having countenanced and encouraged my efforts; and should the public receive this collection with favour, a second series, containing other legends of the West, will be published.

WILLIAM BOTTRELL

St. Clare Street,
January 1st, 1870.



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« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2009, 01:14:56 pm »

Footnotes
v:* The work of Mr. Thomas, Mine Surveyor, informs us that from 2,000 to 3,000 tons of stone was frequently cleared from a single acre.



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« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2009, 01:15:22 pm »

p. 9

Legends of the West-Country Giants
The Giants of Towednack

            "Of Titan's monstrous race
Only some few disturb’d that happy place.
Raw hides they wore for clothes, their drink was blood,
Rocks were their dining-rooms, their prey their food,
Caverns their lodging, and their bed their grove,
Their cups some hollow trunk."

Ancient traditions tell us that, long before monks or saints set foot in Cornwall, a mighty race of Titans dwelt in our hills, woods, and carns, who were anciently the masters of the world and the ancestors of the true Celtic race, and who, as they exceeded all other people in health and strength of body, were looked upon as giants. One of this potent race, called the giant Denbras, long dwelt among the hills of Towednack, until one Tom, who lived somewhere about Bowjeyheer, slew him in fair fight and got possession of his treasures, which were the making of many old high-country families, who keep fast hold of some of the riches, thus acquired, to this day.

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« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2009, 01:15:36 pm »

When Tom was a young man he was always going about with his hands in his pockets, and never cared for doing much except rolling the big rocks from over the fields into the hedges for grounders. About such work as that, he said, he could feel his strength, and get the cramp out of his joints. He was not a very big man to look at for those times, when men in general were twice the size they are now. He was no more than eight feet high, but very broad-backed and square-built—full four feet across from shoulder to shoulder, and the same width all the way down to his cheens (loins), with legs and arms like iron for hardness. Tom's old mammy was always telling him to go and do something to earn his grub, because he would eat a pasty at every meal big enough to serve any two ordinary men. To please her he went over to Market-jew one morning to look for a job. He first called at the old public-house near the road to the Mount, kept by one Honney Chyngwens, who was a famous tin-dealer, brewer, and mayor as well,—and there never was a better mayor of Market-jew. Whenever any of the townfolks had a dispute he would make them fight it out, or drink it out, and if they did not speedily settle the matter he would belabour them with his stout thorn stick until they were sworn friends. There never was such another notable mayor of Market-jew until the first was elected of the mayors who always sat in their own light.

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« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2009, 01:15:51 pm »

The brewer told Tom that he wanted to send a load of beer over to St. Ives, and would be very glad if Tom would drive over the wain-load

p. 10

of beer. "With all my heart," says Tom, who soon got three or four yoke of oxen fixed to the wain, and the brewer put on an extra barrel for Tom to drink and to treat folks he might meet on the road. Down by Crowlas a dozen men or more were alongside the road, trying, without being able, to load a dray with a tree which they wanted to take away to build a church. "Stand clear," says Tom, as he came along, and, putting a hand on each side of the tree, lifted it into the dray without so much as saying "Ho" to the oxen. A little farther on the old road from Market-jew to St. Ives (wherever that road was) Tom found that a giant who lived thereabouts had built the walls of his castle-court right across what used to be the high road. "Well," says Tom to himself, "I don't see what right the old villain of a giant has got to build his hedges across the king's highway, and to enclose the common lands, any more than I or anybody else have: the road belongs to go straight through here where he has placed his gate. They say he is a monstrous strong fellow; well, so am I, and which is the best man we will soon try. He waent eat me I s’pose. My old mammy never told me I should come by my death that way at all. I be cuss’d if I don't break down his gates and drive right through." Tom ran full tilt against the giant's gates, smashed them open, and entered, calling out to the oxen, "Come along Spark and Beauty, Brisk and Lively, Wilk and Golden, Neat and Comely;—yo hup; come hither ho." As the wheels rattled over the caunce of the castle-court out came a little yelping cur of a dog, that with his barking waked up the giant, who came out a minute after—stretching himself, rubbing his eyes, and looking at a distance, before he saw Tom and the wain near him.

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