Not far from S Bennet Hoskyns, there was a labouring-man, that rose up early every day to goe to worke; who for a good while many dayes together found a ninepence in the way that he went. His wife wondering how he came by so much money, was afraid he gott it not honestlye; at last he told her, and afterwards he never found any more. (Aubrey)
Note: Sir Bennet Hoskyns was a seventeenth century English politician who represented Herfordshire
Some traces of Fairy superstition still linger also in Hampshire. Gads Hill or God’s Hill, near Newport, in the Isle of Wight, is remarkable for a very ancient church built on its summit, and, until lately, the old women, as they toiled up this hill to their devotions, might be heard lamenting ‘that the Fairies would not let the church bide on the plain, where it was intended to be built.’ This church, according to the tradition, was commenced on the plain at the foot of the hill, and considerable progress was made with the building in that situation. One morning, however, when the workmen arrived, they found, to their great astonishment, that the walls had completely disappeared, and at last they discovered them on the summit of the hill, precisely in the same state they had been left in on the plain the preceding evening. As it was not intended to have the church in that elevated situation, the workmen pulled down the walls, removed the bricks from the hill to the plain, and again commenced the building. But no sooner had the walls gained their former height, than they were again transported to the hill. The workmen, though less surprised than before, persevered in their intention of building on the plain, and having brought down the bricks, began for the third time to erect the church. When the walls were raised to the same height as before, they determined on watching for the persons who had so provokingly removed them to the summit of the hill, and had thus twice frustrated their intention. The weather favoured the workmen, for it was a beautiful moonlight night, and they distinctly saw innumerable little people busily employed in demolishing the walls. Although the bricks seemed considerably larger than these little creatures, yet they appeared to carry them without difficulty, and very soon completed their purpose of having the church upon the hill. Some of the workmen said that they saw them dancing in a ring on the site after having removed the bricks. Ocular proof being thus given of the impossibility of carrying on the design of building the church on the plain, it was determined to erect it on the hill, where it was speedily completed without interruption. The hill, from the church, received the name of God’s Hill, afterwards corrupted into Gads Hill; and when the building was finished, great rejoicing and shouting was heard, which was supposed to proceed from the little people making merry on account of their success. This legend I received a few months since from a friend : he had obtained it from his nurse, who was then above ninety, and with whose death he has just acquainted me.
Mr. Wilson says the fairies lie buried at Brinkburn. This mortality, unheard of elsewhere, must have been attributable to the potency of the bells. Half a century ago the bell of the parish kirk of Hounam, in Boxburghshire, fell; in consequence of which the banished fairies reassembled from the ends of the earth to resume their revelry on the green banks of the Kale. But the mischief that they perpetrated was insufferable, and as a remedy the bell was reinstated, when matters were restored in statu quo ante. This is true to the general belief about these beings. ” There is a hill near Botna, in Sweden, in which formerly dwelt a troll, a sort of Scandinavian fairy. When they got up bells in Botna Church, and he heard the ringing of them, he is related to have said:
Pleasant it were in Botnahill to dwell,
Wore it not for the sound of that plaguey bell.
It is said that a farmer having found a troll sitting very disconsolate on a stone near Tiis lake, in the island of Zealand, and taking him at first for a decent Christian man, accosted him with, ‘Well! where are yon going, friend?’ ‘Ah!’ said he, in a melancholy tone, ‘I am going off out the country. I cannot live hero any longer, they keep such eternal ringing and dinging!’ (23). (Denham 134-135)
A woman had a child that was remarkably puny. It was voracious enough, ‘but put all the meat it got within an ill skin,’ and never grew any, and there were shrewd suspicions that it was a changeling. One day a neighbour came running into her house, and shouted out, ‘Come here, and ye’ll see a sight! Yonder’s the Fairy Hill a’ alowe.’ ‘Waes me! What’ll come o’ my wife and bairns?’ screamed out the elf in the bed, and straightway made its exit up the chimney. [Denham 136]
A ploughman was once engaged with his team, consisting of two oxen and two horses, with a boy to guide them, in tilling a field at Humshaugh, near the North Tyne, which was reputed to be haunted by the fairies. While at one of the ‘land ends’ he hears a great kirnin’ going on, somewhere near him. He made another circuit, and listening, was aware of a doleful voice lamenting: ‘Alack- a-day I’ve broken my kirn-staff, what will I do?’ ‘Give it to me, and I’ll mend it,’” cries the good-natured ploughman; and on his return from the next ‘bout,’ he found the kirn-staff laid out for him, along with a hammer and nails. He carefully repaired and left it, when after making another turn he came back to the spot it was gone, and a liberal supply of bread and butter was set down in its place. He and the boy partook of the repast, and all the cattle had a share, except one ox, which resisted every effort to force the food upon it. Before he got to the next land’s end the stubborn brute dropped down dead. I have heard the story told in almost the same manner in Berwickshire. Denham 136-137
A fairy man and woman once entrusted the up-bringing of one of their offspring to a man in Netherwitton. He received along with it a box of ointment, with which he was enjoined regularly to rub its eyes, but he was to be careful not to touch his own with it, otherwise he would incur a heavy penalty. Curiosity overcame his scruples, and he anointed one of his eyes with the ointment without experiencing any inconvenience. Having gone to Long Horsley fair, he saw both the man and woman moving about among the fair people, and thinking there could be no harm in it he accosted them. Surprised to be thus recognised, they inquired with what eye he saw thera, and he told them, whereupon they blew into his eye and it became blinded. The child was removed before his return home. (Denham 138)
A midwife in Northumberland was one night summoned by a man to go out and perform her office to a sufferer ‘in the straw,’ to which she consented. Mounted on horseback behind him, she was carried with incredible rapidity over an immense space to a cottage, where the woman was soon after delivered of a healthy child. An attendant brought to the midwife ointment in a box, with which she was to anoint the child all over, but she was to beware of putting any of it on her own eyes. Involuntarily, while executing her task, she happened to draw her fingers across her eyes to remove some obstruction of sight, and immediately her eyes were opened and she saw that she was not in a cottage at all, but in the midst of a wild waste, where all the fairy population was assembled round her. She had the presence of mind not to betray any alarm, and having done all that was required, she was conveyed back to her dwelling with the same dispatch with which she had been taken from it. Subsequently, being at a market, she observed among the crowd the man and woman with whom she had formed this singular acquaintance, as well as other agents invisible to man, passing from stall to stall and purloining bits of butter and other edibles. She addressed them and asked them their reasons for these proceedings. ” Which eye do you see us with ? ” asked they. ‘With both,’ said she; and they blow into them and both were blinded. Of this and the previous story there are many variations. Denham 138-139
A man, living in the island of Rathlin, one evening went to a well near his house, to get water to boil potatoes. His wife was suffering from rheumatic pains at the time. When he had placed the pot with the potatoes on the fire he went out again, and met a party of fairies carrying what he supposed to be a coffin. One of the wee folk, divining what he was thinking of, spoke about an herb that grew in Bona Margy church-yard that was good for pains. The man asked the fairy to show him the place where it grew. ‘Come along with us,’ they said, and they transported him to the place (six miles to the mainland). He gathered some of the herbs, and was home again in so short a time, that his wife had not missed him. Brenan 60
Robert McMullan, a blacksmith at Tievera, was accosted one day by a fairy man, who rode up to his forge and asked him to shoe his horse. McMullan answered that ‘he was unable to do so, as he only mended ploughs, and did rough smith’s work.’ The fairy replied, ‘if you lend me tools, I can shoe the horse myself;’ the smith complied, and the fairy cut off the legs of his horse, one by one, brought them into the forge and put on new shoes, fitting the legs again on his steed, and then he rode off. McMullan, thinking he might accomplish the same plan on an old horse of his own, did so, and, as may be supposed, failed. Brenan 59-60
John Campbell, a tailor, who lived in Glengarriffe, worked at his trade near Cushendall, and one Hallow-eve night, before going home, he purchased some apples in the village, and tied them up in his handkerchief. It was a stormy wet night, and when he reached Glensmaw he met a funeral partv of wee folk coming towards him. He was so surprised that he stood on one side to let them pass. When they came up to where he was they halted, and one said to the other, ‘Who will carry the corpse?’ The other said, ‘Who but Johnnie Campbell.’ The coffin was strapped on his back, and they led him across the country, and going through a thicket of shrubs his handkerchief was torn, and he lost his apples. At iast they came to an old burying-place, called Kill-na-derc, ‘the dark burying-place.’ One fairy said, ‘Who will dig the grave?’ another replied, ‘Who but Johnnie Campbell.’ They gave him a spade and shovel, and set him to work, and when the grave was dug they measured it. One said, ‘Who will go in?’ another replied, ‘Who but Johnnie Campbell,’ and he cried out, ‘Am I to be buried alive after having gone through so much hardship tonight?’ When he looked round, the funeral party had disappeared with the coffin, and he was standing opposite an open grave. Brenan 62