Èíîñòðàííûå ÿçûêè

Water World as Another Home for the English Nation Reflected in the English Folklore

      The British are a most curious nation in many aspects. When a  tourist
from whatever continent comes to  visit  Britain  the  first  conclusion  he
arrives at is how bizarre the people living there are. The  main  reason  to
their uniqueness will certainly lie on the  surface:  Great  Britain  is  an
island that had to grow up and all the long way of its history  alone  being
separated from the rest of the world by great amounts of  water.  This  very
characteristics turned them into not only a  curious  nation,  but  also  an
interesting and special one, whose history and culture one  of  the  richest
in the world. And the water surrounding the island played not a  minor  part
in its forming. So the British people respect  and  cherish  their  “watery”
neighbour who from the earliest stages of their history up to now gave  them
food, drink, work, power, respect of other nations,  wealth  and  after  all
entertainment.  It  inspired  a  huge  number  of  stries,  tales,  poems  ,
superstitions and prejudicies and it  has  always  been  worshipped  by  the
      The field of the country’s economy connected with water was  always  a
great concern for those who  ruled  it  for  they  naturally  attached  much
importance to it. From the times when the English  society  was  being  born
and only beginning to take shape kings already would interest themselves  in
the conditions of trading across the sea. In the eleventh century Cnut on  a
pilgrimage to Rome took the opportunity of obtaining from  the  Emperor  and
other rulers he met there greater security and reduction of  talls  for  his
subjects, traders and others, travelling in  their  lands.  Already  in  the
eighth century an English merchant called Botta was settled  at  Marceilles,
perhaps as an agent for collecting goods to be sold in England.  The  Viking
rades of the late  eighth   and  ninth  centuries  disrupted  trade  on  the
Continent, but Englishmen may well have  taken  part  in  the  Baltic  trade
opened up by this time. At  least,  there  is  no  reason  to  deny  English
nationality to a certain Wulfstan who described to  King  Alfred  a  journey
taken to the Frisches Haff; he has an English name.
      On the other hand, we hear of foreign traders in  England  from  early
times. Bede speaks of London as the “mart of many nations, resorting  to  it
by sea and land”, and mentions the  purchase  of  a  captive  by  a  Frisian
merchant in London. But  the  strongest  evidence  for  the  amount  of  sea
traffic in Frisian hands is the assumption of an  Anglo-Saxon  poet  that  a
seaman is likely to have a Frisian wife:

              Dear is the welcome guest to the Frisian woman when the  ship
         comes to land. His ship is come and her husband, her  own  bread  –
         winner, is at home, and she invites  him  in,  washes  his  stained
         raiment and gives him new clothes, grants him on land what his love

      Men from other lands came also. At the end  of  the  tenth  century  a
document dealing with trade in London speaks of men  from  Rouen,  Flanders,
Ponthieu, Normandy, France; from about the same date comes a description  of
York as the resort of merchants from all quarters, especially Danes.
      The merchants and seamen plied an honoured trade. The poets speak with
appreciation of the seaman “who can boldly drive the ship  across  the  salt
sea” or “can steer the stem on the dark wave, knows  the  currents,  (being)
the pilot of the company over the  wide  ocean”,  and  it  was  at  least  a
current opinion in the early eleventh century  that  the  merchant  who  had
crossed the sea three times at his own cost should be entitled to a  thane’s
rank. The merchant in Aelfric’s “Colloquy” stresses the dangers of his lot:

            I go  on board my ship with my freight and row over the regions
       of the sea, and sell my goods and buy precious things which  are  not
       produced in this land, and I bring it hither to you with great danger
       over the sea, and sometimes I suffer shipwreck with the loss  of  all
       my goods, barely escaping with my life.

      As we see people working in the sea  or  over  the  seas  gained  much
respect in the society and were loved  by   others.  But  so  much  for  the
economical aspect. The water, as we already mentioned earlier,  was  one  of
the greatest attractions as a source of entertainment.
      Fishing, like hunting, was highly popular in England, but  these  were
pleasures reserved for the nobility. In the twelfth century, when the  kings
had normally been so strong, they had  claimed  such  oppressive  fishing  –
rights that all the classes had united in protest. One  of  the  demands  of
the rebels in 1381 was that hunting and fishing should  be  common  to  all;
not only was this refused, but in 1390 Parliament enacted a penalty for  one
year’s imprisonment for everyone who should presume to keep hunting  –  dogs
or use ferrets or snares to catch deer, rabbits, or any other game.  Fishing
and hunting, said the statute, was the sport for gentlefolk.
      So this is a scetch or  an  outline  of  reasons  explaining  why  our
ancestors valued so much the rivers, lakes, seas of their land – and  it  is
worth mentioning that their  land  abounds  in  all  that  –  and  why  they
respected the  work  of  sailors,  merchants  or  travellers.  All  this  is
important for the understanding of how it was becoming an  unseparable  part
of their culture and how it is reflected in their culture.  In this work  we
would like to pay close attention to just one   aspect  of  the  whole  rich
cultural inheritance, and that is folklore.


      What  is  folklore?   Funk  and  Wagnall’s  “Standard  Dictionary   of
Folklore, Mythology and Legend” (1972) offers a staggering  22  definitions,
running to half a dozen pages. In recent years definitions  have  tended  to
be all – embracing  in  their  simplicity:  folklore  is  made  up  of  “the
traditional stories,  customs  and  habits  of  a  particular  community  or
nation” says the “Collins Cobuild Dictionary” of 1987.
      More specific definitions also abound;  perhaps,  folklore  should  be
identified as the community’s commitment  to  maintaining  stories,  customs
and habits purely for their own sake. ( A perfect example of this  would  be
the famous horse race at Siena in Italy: the   p a l  i  o    attracts  many
thousands of tourists, yet if not a single outsider attend,  the  people  of
the community would still support the event year after year).
      But what about those  events  or  beliefs  which  have  been  recently
initiated or which are sustained for reasons of commercial gain or  tourism?
Many customs are not as ancient as  their  participants  may  claim  but  it
would be foolish to dismiss them  as  irrelevant.  Some  apparently  ancient
customs are, in fact, relatively modern, but does this mean they  cannot  be
termed  as  folklore?  The  spectacular  fire  festival  at  Allendale,  for
instance, feels utterly authentic despite the fact that there is  no  record
of the event prior to 1853. There are many other  cases  of  new  events  or
stories which have rapidly assumed organic growth and therefore deserve  the
status of being recognised as folklore.
      Any work covering the question of folklore must be selective, but here
we shall attempt  to  explore  and  celebrate  the  variety  and  vigour  of
Britain’s  folklore  concerning   “waterworld”   traditions,   beliefs   and
superstitions. A wide geographical area is covered:  England,  Scotland  and
Wales with some reference to Ireland and other territories.
      Entire books – indeed, whole libraries of books – have been written on
every aspect of folklore: on epitaphs and weather lore,  folk  medicine  and
calendar customs, traditional drama and sports and pastimes,  superstitions,
ghosts and witchcraft, fairs, sea monsters and many others. While trying  to
cram much into little work I have avoided  generalisation.  Precise  details
such as names, dates and localities are given wherever  possible  and  there
are some references to features that still can be  seen  -   a  mountain,  a
bridge, a standing stone or a carving in a church.
      Classic folklore belongs within the country to the basic unit  of  the
parish. Most parishes could produce at least a booklet and in some  cases  a
substantial volume on their own folklore, past and present . It would  be  a
mistake, however, to think that rural  customs,  dance  and  tale  were  the
whole picture, because there is a  rich  picture  of  urban  and  industrial
folklore as well – from the office girl’s  prewedding  ceremonies  to  urban
tales of phantom hitchhickers and stolen corpses.
      In this age of fragmentation, speed and stress, people often  seem  to
thirst for something in which they can take an active part. There is a  need
to rediscover something which is more permanent and  part  of  a  continuing
tradition. By tapping into our  heritage  of  song  and  story,  ritual  and
celebration, our lives are given shape and meaning.
      In some cases all we have to do is join in with an activity  which  is
already happening; in others it will perhaps mean  reviving  a  dance  or  a
traditional play. But however we  choose  to  participate,  as  long  as  we
continue to use, adapt and develop the elements of our folklore heritage  it
will survive.
      So this work may be regarded as an attempt to encourage us all to seek
out  the  stories  and  customs  of  country,  county,  town,  village,   to
understand and enjoy them and to pass them on.


      Not a single town or village  in  England  is  situated  more  than  a
hundred miles from the sea, except for a few places  in  the  Midlands,  and
most of those in Wales and Scotland are nearer  still.  The  coastline  lies
for thousands of miles, with  a  host  of  off-shore  islands  ranging  from
Scilly to Shetland and Wight to Lewis. It is  hardly  surprising  then  that
our long and eventful maritime history is complemented by  a  rich  heritage
of nautical stories and superstitions, beliefs and customs,  many  of  which
continue to affect our daily lives – even oil rigs, very much a twentieth  –
century phenomenon, have tales of their own.  Inland  water,  too,  are  the
subjects of stories which echoes the folklore of the coasts and seas.


      Many tales are told of submerged lands, and of  church  bells  ringing
ominously from beneath the waves. Between Land’s End and the Scilly  Islands
lies a group of rocks called The Seven Stones, known to  fishermen  as  “The
City” and near to which the land of Lyoness is believed to lie,  lost  under
the sea. There is a rhyme  which proclaims:

                                              Between Land’s End and  Scilly
                                              Sunk lies a  town  that  ocean

      Lyoness was said to have had 140  churches.  These  and  most  of  its
people were reputed to have been engulfed during  the  great  storrn  of  11
November 1099. One man called Trevilian  foresaw the deluge, and  moved  his
family and stock inland – he was making  a  last  journey  when  the  waters
rose, but managed to outrun the advancing waves thanks to the  fleetness  of
his horse. Since then the arms of the grateful Trevilian  have  carried  the
likeness of a horse issuing from the sea.  A  second  man  who  avoided  the
catastrophe erected a chapel in thanksgiving which stood for centuries  near
Sennen Cove.
      Another area lost under water  is  Cantre’r  Gwaelod,  which  lies  in
Cardigan Bay somewhere between the river Teifi and Bardsey  Island.  Sixteen
towns and most of their inhabitants were apparently overwhelmed by  the  sea
when the sluice gates in the protective dyke were left open. There  are  two
versions of the story as to who was responsible: in  one  it  is  a  drunken
watchman called Seithenin; in another, Seithenin was a  king  who  preferred
to spend his revenue in dissipation rather than in paying for the upkeep  of
the coastal defences.
      A moral of one kind or another will often be the basis of tales  about
inland  settlements  lost  beneath  water.  For  example  Bomere   Lake   in
Shropshire – now visited as a beauty spot was created one  Easter  Eve  when
the town which stood there was submerged as a punishment  for  reverting  to
paganism. One Roman soldier was spared because he  had  attempted  to  bring
the people backto Christianity, but he then lost his life  while  trying  to
save the woman he loved. It is said that his ghost  can  sometimes  be  seen
rowing across the lake at Easter, and that the town,s  bells  can  be  heard
ringing. There is another version of the same story in the same  place,  but
set in Saxon times: the people turn to Thor and Woden at  a  time  when  the
priest is warning  that  the  barrier  which  holds  back  the  meter  needs
strengthening. He  is  ignored,  but  as  the  townsfolk  are  carousing  at
Yuletide the water bursts in and destroys them.
      There is a cautionary tale told of Semerwater,  another  lake  with  a
lost village in its depth. Semerwater lies in north Yorkshire not  far  from
Askrigg, which is perhaps better known as the centre of  “Herriot  country”,
from the veterinary stories  of  James  Herriot.   The  story  goes  that  a
traveller – variously given as an angel, St Paul,  Joseph  of  Arimathea,  a
witch, and Christ in the guise of a poor  old  man  –  visited  house  after
house seeking food and drink , but at each one was  turned  away,  until  he
reached a Quaker’s  home,  just  beyond  the  village:  htis  was  the  only
building spared in the avenging flood that followed.
      One lost land off the Kent coast can be partially seen at  high  tide:
originally, the Goodwin Sands were in fact an island, the  island  of  Lomea
which according to one version disappeared under the waves in  the  eleventh
century when funds for its  sea  defences  were  diverted  to  pay  for  the
building of a church tower at Tenterden. The blame for that is laid  at  the
door of a n abbot of St Augustine’s at Canterbury  who  was  both  owner  of
Lomea and rector of Tenterden. However, sceptics say that Tenterden  had  no
tower before the sixteenth century, nor can archeologists find any trace  of
habitation or cultivation of the sands. Even so, the tales  continue  to  be
told; one of these blame Earl Godwin, father of King Harold,  for  the  loss
of the island. He earl promised to build a steeple at  Tenterden  in  return
for safe delivery from a battle, but having survived the battle,  he  forgot
the vow and in retribution Lomea, which  he  owned,  was  flooded  during  a
great storm. The Sands still bear his name.
      Yet worse was to follow, for scores of ships and the lives of some  50
000 sea farers have been lost on the Goodwins, and ill-fortune seems to  dog
the area. For example, in 1748 the “Lady Lovibond” was  deliberatly  steered
to her destruction on the Sands by the mate  of  the  vessel,  John  Rivers.
Rivers was  insanely  jealeous  because  his  intended  bride,  Anetta,  had
foresaken him to marry his captain, Simon Reed.  The  entire  wedding  party
perished with the ship in the midst of the celebrations, but the  remarkable
thing is that the scene made a phantom reappearance once every  fifty  years
– until 1948, when the “Lady  Lovibond”  at  last  failed  to  re-enact  the
      Another fifty -  year  reappearance concerns  the  Nothumberland;  she
was lost on the Goodwind sands in 1703 in a storm, along with  twelve  other
men – of  - war, but  in 1753 seen again by the crew of an East  Indiaman  –
sailors were leaping in to the water from the stricken vessel  though  their
shouts and screams could not be heard.
      The Nothumberland was under the command  of Sir Cloudesley Shovel,  to
whom is attached a further  tale.  Three  years  afterwards,  the  admiral’s
flagship, the Association, was wrecked on the Gilstone Rock near the  Scilly
Isles. The fleet was homeward bound after a triumphant campaign against  the
French and some maintain that the crews were  drunk.  But  the  story  which
Scillonians believe to this day is that a sailor aboard the flagship  warned
that the fleet was dangerously near the islands, and that for  this  he  was
hanged at the yardarm for unsubordination, on the admiral’s orders. The  man
was granted a last request to read from the Bible, and  turned  to  the  109
psalm: “ Let his days be few and another take his place.  Let  his  children
be fatherless and his wife a widow”. As he read the  ship  began  to  strike
the rocks.
      The admiral was a very stout man and his buoyancy  was  sufficient  to
carry him ashore alive, though very weak. However, official  searches  found
him dead, stripped off his clothing and valuables, including a fine  emerald
ring. The body was taken to Westminster Abbey for interment, and  his  widow
appealed in vain for the return of the ring. Many years later  a  St  Mary’s
islander confessed on the deathbed that she had  found  Sir  Cloudesley  and
had “squeezed the life out of him” before taking  his  belongongs.  The  hue
and cry had forced her to abandon the idea of selling the emerald,  but  she
had felt unable to die in peace before revealing her crime.
      A commemorative stone marks the place where  the  admiral’s  body  was
temporarily buried in the shingle of Porth Hellick, on St Mary’s Island.  No
grass grows over the grave.


      Many hundreds of shipwrecks have their own songs and stories. Although
the Ramilies, for example, was wrecked well over 200  years  ago,  tradition
perpetuates the event as clearly as if it had happened  only  yesterday.  In
February 1760 the majestic, ninety – gun, triple  decked  ship  was  outward
bound from Plymouth to Quiberon Bay when hurricane – force winds blew up  in
the Channel and forced the  captain  to  turn  back  and  run  for  shelter.
Sailing East , the master thought he had passed Looe Island,  and  had  only
to round Rame Head to reach the safety of Plymouth Sound. In fact  the  ship
was a bay further on and the land sighted was Burgh Island, in Bigbury  Bay.
The Promontory was Bolt Tail with its four hundred foot cliffs,  and  beyond
lay no safe harbour at all, but several miles of precipitous rocks. As  soon
as the sailing master realised his mistake the ship was  hove  to,  but  the
wind was so violent that the masts immediately snapped and  went  overboard.
The two anchores that were dropped held fast, but their cables  fouled  each
other, and after hours of fierce friction, they  parted  and  the  ship  was
driven to destruction on the rocks.
      Of more than seven hundred men on board only about two  dozen  reached
safety. Led by Midshipman John Harrold, they scrambled  up  the  cliffs,  by
pure luck choosing the one  place  where  this  was  possible.  Next  day  a
certain William Locker travelled to the scene to try to  find  the  body  of
his friend, one of the officers. Locker himself would have been  aboard  the
“Ramillies” but his lieutenant’s commission had come from the admiralty  too
late, arriving just a few hours after she had sailed. He  found  the  shores
of Bigbury Bay strewn with hundreds of corpses, their clothing torn away  by
the sea’s  pounding, their features unrecognisable. The village  nearest  to
the scene of the wreck was Inner Hope, and some there still maintain that  a
Bigbury man aboard  the  “Ramillies”  pleaded  with  the  captain  to  alter
course; but he was clapped in irons, and went down with the ship.  They  say
that only one officer survived  because others were prevented  from  leaving
the stricken vessel.
      Most of the bodies were washed ashore at Thurlestone, a few  miles  to
the west. There used to be a depression in the village  green  which  marked
the place where many of the seamen had been buried in a   mass  grave;  this
has now been asphalted to make a carpark. Then in the mid –  1960s  a  child
digging in a sand dune found a bone. He showed it to a man on the beach  who
happened to be  a  doctor  and  identified  it  as  human.  Further  digging
revealed the skeletons of ten men, small in stature and  buried  in  five  –
foot intervals  -- perhaps these had been washed up after the  mass  burial.
No scrap of clothing or equipment was found,  and  finally  the  bones  were
thrown into a lorry  and  consigned  to  a  rubbish  tip.  Even  though  two
centuries have elapsed since their deaths, one feels that  the  men  of  the
“Ramillies” deserved better. The ship still lies six  fathoms  down  in  the
cove which which has borne her name since 1760, and  Wise’s  Spring  on  the
cliffs is called after one of the seamen who scrambled ashore with the  tiny
band of survivors.


      Great pains are taken when first launching a vessel so  as  to  ensure
good fortune, and one of the most important portents is  the  ritual  bottle
of champagne which must break first time ( the liquid may  be  a  substitute
for the blood of a sacrifice ). It is interesting that the various ships  to
bear the name “Ark Royal” have always  been  lucky;  for  example  when  the
World War 11 vessel sunk there was minimal loss of life. The  original  ship
dated from Elizabethan times and had a crucifix placed beneath the  mainmast
by the captain’s mistress; this apparently secured the good fortune for  all
her successors. On the other hand there are vessels which  seem  perpetually
unlucky, some even jinxed and quite incapable of escaping misfortune.
      Brunel’s fine ship the “Great Eastern”  was  launched  in  1858  after
several ominously unsuccessful attempts. She ruined the man  in  whose  yard
she was built, and caused a breakdown in Brunel’s  health  –  he  died  even
before her maiden voyage. And despite her immense technical advantages,  she
was never successful as the passenger  - carrying vessel.
      In 1895 she was in port in Holyhead. When the “Royal  Charter”  sailed
by, homeward bound from Australia, the passengers expressed a desire to  see
her and their captain was only too pleased  to  oblige.  However,  the  ship
strayed off course and a wild storm blew up.  The  ship  was  wrecked,  with
great loss of life. Some of the trouble was attributed to  the  story  of  a
riveter and his boy who were said to have been accidentally  sealed  to  the
famous double hull. Unexplained knockings were heard at  various  times  but
although searches were made, nothing was found. When the vessel  was  broken
up at New Ferry, Cheshire, in 1888  it was rumoured that two sceletons  were
discovered, their bony fingers still clenched round the worn – down  hammers
which had beaten in vain for rescue.
      The “Victoria” was commissioned on Good Friday, the thirteenth of  the
month – and if this were not ill-luck enough, the fact that her  name  ended
in ‘a’ was considered another bad sign. In 1893 she sank with  heavy  losses
after a collision during the manoeuvres in  the  Mediterranean  off  Beirut,
and interestingly, various things happened  which  indicated  calamity:  two
hours earlier a fakir had actually predicted disaster, and at  the  time  of
the collision crowds had gathered at the dockyards gates in Malta, drawn  by
an instinctive apprehension of impending  doom.  At  the  same  time  during
lunch at a Weymouth torpedo works the stem of  a  wine  glass  had  suddenly
cracked with a loud retort; and in London’s Eaton Square the ship’s  Admiral
Tryon was seen coming down the stairs at his home. He  was  in  fact  aboard
the “Victoria”, where he survived the impact but  made  no  effort  to  save
himself. As he sank beneath the waves he is said to have lamented:  “It  was
all my fault” – and so it was, for he had given the  incorrect  order  which
led to the collision.

      Generations after her loss  the   “Titanic”  is  still  a  byword  for
hubris. In 1912 the “unsinkable  ship”  struck  an  iceberg  on  her  maiden
voyage and went down with  1 500  passengers and crew. Again, a  variety  if
omens anticipated the disaster: a steward’s badge  came  to  pieces  as  his
wife stitched it to his cap, and a picture fell from the wall in a  stoker’s
home; then aboard the ship a signal  halliard  parted  as  it  was  used  to
acknowledge the ‘bon voyage’ signal from the Head of Old Kinsale  lighthouse
– and the day before the collision rats were seen scurrying aft,  away  from
the point of impact. After the calamity Captain Smith, who  went  down  with
the ship, is rumoured to have been seen ashore.
      One cause of the “Titanic” disaster is said to have  been  an  unlucky
Egyptian  mummy  case.  This  is  the  lid  of  an  inner  coffin  with  the
representation of the head and upper body of an unknown lady of  about  1000
bc. Ill-fortune certainly seemed to travel with the lid – first of  all  the
man who bought it from the finder had an arm shattered by an accidental  gun
shot. He sold, but the purchaser was soon afterwards the  recipient  of  the
bad news, learning that he was bankrupt and that he  had  a  fatal  disease.
The new owner, an English lady, placed the  coffin  lid  in  her  drawing  –
room: next  morning  she  found  everything  there  smashed.  She  moved  it
upstairs and the same thing  happened,  so  she  also  sold  it.  When  this
purchaser had the lid photographed, a leering, diabolical face was  seen  in
the print. And when it was  eventually  presented  to  the  British  Museum,
members of staff began to contract mysterious ailments – one even  died.  It
was sold yet again to an American, who arranged to take it home with him  on
the “Titanic”. After the catastrophe he managed  to  bribe  the  sailors  to
allow him to take it into a lifeboat, and it did  reach  America.  Later  he
sold it to a Canadian, who in 1941 decided to ship it back to  England;  the
vessel taking it, “Empress of Ireland” , sank in the river St  Lawrence.  So
runs the story, but in reality the coffin lid  did  not  leave  the  British
Museum after being presented in 1889.
      The former prime minister, Edward Heath, in his book “Sailing”  (1975)
revealed that he too had experienced  the  warnings  of  ill  omen.  At  the
launch of the “Morning Cloud 1” the bottle twice refused to  break,  and  at
the same ceremony for the “Morning Cloud 111”   the wife of  a  crew  member
fell and suffered severe concussion. This yacht was later  wrecked  off  the
South coast with the loss of two lives,  and  in  the  very  same  gale  the
“Morning Cloud 1” was blown from the moorings on the island of  Jersey,  and
also wrecked. Meanwhile, the Morning Cloud 11”  had  been  launched  without
incident and was leading a trouble free life with  the  Australian  to  whom
she had been sold.
      As recently as December 1987 a strange case came to light as a  result
of a Department of Health and Social Security enquiry into why members of  a
Bridlington  trawler  crew  were  spending  so  much  time  unemployed.   In
explanation, Derek Gates,  skipper of the “Pickering”, said that putting  to
sea had become impossible: on board lights would flicker on and off;  cabins
stayed freezing cold even when the heating  was  on  maximum;  a  coastguard
confirmed that the ship’s steering repeatedly turned her in erratic  circles
and  in  addition,  the  radar  kept  failing  and  the  engine  broke  down
regularly. One of the  crewmen  reported  seeing  a  spectral,  cloth-capped
figure roaming the deck, and a former skipper, Michael  Laws,  told  how  he
repeatedly sensed someone in the  bunk  above  his,  though  it  was  always
empty. He added: “ My three months on  the  Pickering”  were  the  worst  in
seventeen years at sea. I didn’t earn a penny  because  things  were  always
going wrong”.
      The DHSS decided that the  men’s  fears  were  a  genuine  reason  for
claiming unemployment benefit, and the vicar of Bridlington,  the  Rev.  Tom
Wilis, was called in to conduct a  ceremony  of  exorcism.  He  checked  the
ship’s history, and concluded that the disturbances might be connected  with
the ghost of a deckhand who had been  washed  overboard  when  the  trawler,
then  registered  as  the  “Family  Crest”,  was  fishing  off  Ireland.  He
sprinkled water from stem to stern, led prayers, and called  on  the  spirit
of the dead  to  depart.  His  intervention  proved  effective  because  the
problems ceased, and furthermore the crew began to  earn  bonuses  for  good


      Sailors used to be very superstitious – maybe they  still  are  –  and
greatly concerned to avoid ill-luck, both  ashore  and  afloat.  Wives  must
remember that  “Wash upon sailing day, and you will  wash  your  man  away”,
and must also be careful to smash  any  eggshells  before  they  dispose  of
them, to prevent their being used by evil spirits as craft in which  to  put
to sea and cause storms.
      Luck was brought by:
          - tattoos
          - a gold ear-ring worn in the left ear
          - a piece of coal carried
          - a coin thrown over the ship’s bow when leaving port
          -  a  feather  from  a  wren   killed   on   St.   Stephen’s   Day

          - a caul
          - a hot cross bun or a piece of bread baked on a Good Friday

      The last three all preserved from drowning. David  Copperfield’s  caul
was advertised for sale in the newspapers “for  the  low  price  of  fifteen
guineas”, and the woman from the port of Lymington in Hampshire offered  one
in “The Daily Express” as recently as 23 August 1904. One Grimsby  man  born
with the caul has kept it to this day. When he joined the Royal Navy  during
World War 11 his mother insisted that he take the  caul  with  him.  Various
other sailors offered him up to L20 – a large sum for those  days  –  if  he
would part with it, but he declined.
      For over two hundred years now a bun has been added every Good  Friday
to a collection preserved at the Widow’s Son  Tavern,  Bromley  –  by  –Bow,
London. The name and the custom derive from an eighteenth  –  century  widow
who hoped that her missing sailor son would eventually come home  safely  if
she continued to save a bun every Easter. Some seamen had their own  version
of this, and would touch their sweetheart’s bun (pudenda)  for  luck  before
      Other things had to be avoided because they brought ill-luck.
      For example:

      -      meeting a pig, a priest or a woman on the way to one’s ship
          - having a priest or a woman aboard
          - saying the words: pig, priest, rabbit, fox, weasel, hare
          - dropping a bucket overboard
          - leaving a hatch cover upside down
          - leaving a broom, a mop or a squeegee with the head upwards
          - spitting in the sea
          - whistling
          - handing anything down a companionway
          - sailing on a Friday
          - finding a drowned body in the trawl (in the  case  of  Yorkshire

      Although many of these beliefs are obscure in origin,  others  can  be
      For example, the pig had the devil’s mark on his feet – cloven hoofs –
and was a bringer of storms; furthermore the drowning of the Gadarene  swine
was a dangerous precedent. Then the priest  was  associated  with  funerals,
and so taking him aboard was perhaps too blatant a challenge to  the  malign
powers – if he were to be designated in  conversation  he  was  always  “The
gentleman in black”. The pig was curly tail,  or  in  Scotland  “cauld  iron
beastie” since if it were inadvertently mentioned the  speaker  and  hearers
had to touch cold iron to avoid evil consequences;  if  no  cold  iron  were
available, the studs to one’s boots would do. The other  four  animals  were
taboo because they were thought to be the  shapes  assumed  by  witches  who
were notorious for summoning storms.
      Perhaps women were also shunned because they were considered potential
witches, although a good way to make a  storm  abate  was  for  a  woman  to
expose her naked body to the elements. Bare  -  breasted    figure  –  heads
were designed to achieve the same result. Nevertheless, during HMS  “Durban”
’s South American tour in the 1930s the captain allowed  his  wife  to  take
passage on the ship. Before the tour was  halfway  through  there  were  two
accidental deaths on  board,  besides  a  series  of  mishaps,  and  feeling
amongst the crew began to run high. At one port  of  call  a  group  of  men
returning to the ship on a liberty boat were freely discussing  the  run  of
bad luck, attributing it to “having that  bloody woman on board”.  They  did
not realize that the  captain  was  separated  from  them  by  only  a  thin
bulkhead and had overheard the whole conversation.  But  instead  of  taking
disciplinary action, he put his wife ashore the next day; she  travelled  by
land to other ports,  and  the  ship’s  luck  immediately  changed  for  the
      Fridays were anathema – “Friday sail, Friday fail” was  the  saying  –
since the temtation of Adam, the banishment from the  Garden  of  Eden,  and
the crucifixion of  Christ had all taken place on a Friday. One  old  story,
probably apocryphal, tells of a royal navy ship called  HMS  “Friday”  which
was launched, first sailed and then lost on a Friday; moreover  her  captain
was also called Friday. Oddly enough, a ship of this  name  does  appear  in
the admiralty records in 1919, but the story was in circulation  some  fifty
years earlier. This fear of Friday  dies  hard.  A  certain  Paul  Sibellas,
seaman, was aboard  the  “Port  Invercargill”  in  the  1960s  when  on  one
occasion she was ready to sail for home from New Zealand at 10pm  on  Friday
the thirteenth. The skipper, however, delayed his departure  until  midnight
had passed and Saturday the fourteenth had arrived.
      Whistling is preferably avoided because it  can  conjure  up  a  wind,
which  might  be  acceptable  aboard  a  becalmed  sailing  ship,  but   not
otherwise. Another way of getting a wind was to stick a knife  in  the  mast
with its handle pointing in the direction from which a blow was  required  –
this was done on  the  “Dreadnaught”  in  1869,  in  jury  rig  after  being
dismasted off Cape Horn.
      In 1588 Francis Drake is said to  have  met  the  devil   and  various
wizards to whistle up tempests to disrupt the Spanish Armada. The spot  near
Plymouth were they gathered is now called Devil’s Point. He is also said  to
have whittled a stick, of which the pieces became  fireships  as  they  fell
into the sea; and his house at Buckland  Abbey  was  apparently  built  with
unaccountable speed, thanks to the devil’s help. Drake’s drum  is  preserved
in the house and is believed to beat of its  own  accord  when  the  country
faces danger.


      With the mirror and comb, her ling hair, bare breasts and  fish  tail,
the mermaid is instantly recognisable,  but  nowadays  only  as  an  amusing
convention. However, she once inspired real fear as well as fascination  and
sailors firmly believed she gave warning of tempest of calamity.
      As recently as seventy years ago, Sandy Gunn, a Cape  Wrath  shepherd,
claimed he saw a mermaid on a spur of rock at Sandwood  Bay.  Other  coastal
dwellers also recall such encounters,  even  naming  various  landmarks.  In
Corwall there are several tales invilving mermaids: at Patstow  the  harbour
entrance is all but blocked by  the  Doom  Bar,  a  sandbank  put  there  by
mermaid, we are told, in relation for being fired at by a man of  the  town.
And the southern Cornish coast between the villages of Down Derry and  Looe,
the former town of Seaton was overwhelmed by sand because it was  cursed  by
a mermaid injured by a sailor from the port.
      Mermaid’s Rock near Lamorna Cove was the haunt of a mermaid who  would
sing before a storm and then swim out to sea –  her  beauty  was  such  that
young men would follow, never to  reappear.  At  Zennor  a  mermaid  was  so
entranced by the singing of Matthew Trewella, the  squire’s  son,  that  she
persuaded him to follow her; he, too failed to  to  return,  but  his  voice
could be heard from time to time, coming from beneath the waves. The  little
church in which he sang on land has a  fifteenth  –  century   bench  –  end
carved with a mermaid and her looking – glass and comb.
      On the other hand, mermaids could sometimes be helpful. Mermaid’s Rock
at Saundersfoot in Wales is so called because a mermaid  was  once  stranded
there by the ebbing of the tide. She was returned to the sea  by  a  passing
mussel – gatherer, and later came back to present him with  a  bag  of  gold
and silver as a reward. In the  Mull  of  Kintyre  a  Mackenzie  lad  helped
another stranded mermaid who in return granted him his wish, that  he  cpuld
build unsinkable boats from which no man would ever be lost.

      Sexual unions between humans and both sea people  and  seals  are  the
subject of many stories, and various families  claim  strange  sea  –  borne
ancestry: for example the Mc Veagh clan of  Sutherland  traces  its  descent
from the alliance between a fisherman and a mermaid; on the  Western  island
of North Uist the McCodums  have an ancestor who married a seal maiden;  and
the familiar Welsh name of Morgan is sometimes held to  mean  “born  of  the
sea”, again pointing to the family  tree  which  includes  a  mermaid  or  a
merman. Human wives dwelling at sea  with  mermen  were  allowed  occasional
visits to the land, but they had to take care not to overstay – and if  they
chanced to hear the benediction said in  church  they  were  never  able  to
rejoin their husbands.
      Matthew Arnold’s poem “The Forsaken Merman” relates how one human wife
decides to desert her sea husband and children. There  is  also  a  Shetland
tale, this time concerning a sea wife married to a land husband:

            On the island of Unst a man walking by the shore sees  mermaids
       and mermen dancing naked in the moonlight, the seal skins which  they
       have discarded lying on the sand. When they see the man, the  dancers
       snatch up the skins, become sea creatures again, and all plunge  into
       the waves – except one, for the man has taken hold of the  skin.  Its
       owner is a mermaid of outstanding beauty. And she has to stay on  the
       shore. The man asks her to become his wife, and she accepts. He keeps
       the skin and carefully hides it.
                The marriage is successful,  and  the  couple  has  several
       children. Yet the woman is often drawn in the night to the  seashore,
       where she is heard conversing with a large seal in an unknown tongue.
       Years pass. During the course of a game one of the children  finds  a
       seal skin hidden in the cornstack. He mentions it to his mother,  and
       she takes it and returns to the sea. Her husband hears the  news  and
       runs after her, arriving by the shore to  be  told  by  his  wife:  “
       Farewell, and may all good attend you. I loved you very well  when  I
       lived on earth,   but I always loved my first husband more.”

      As we know from David Thomson’s fine book  “The  People  of  the  Sea”
(1984), such stories are still widely  told  in  parts  of  Ireland  and  in
Scotland and may explain why sailors were reluctant  to  kill  seals.  There
was also a belief that seals embodied the souls of drowned mariners.
      The friendly dolphin invariably brings good luck to seafarers, and has
even been known to guide  them  to  the  right  direction.  As  recently  as
January 1989 the newspapers reported that  an  Australian  swimmer  who  had
been attacked and wounded by a shark  was  saved  from  death  only  by  the
intervention of a group of dolphins which drove off the predator.
      Also worthy of mention here is another  benevolent  helper  of  seamen
lost in open boats: a kindly ghost known as the pilot of the  “Pinta”.  When
all seems lost he will appear in the bows of the boat and insistently  point
the way to safety.
      Other denizens of the deep inspired fear and terror. The  water  horse
of Wales and the Isle of Man – the kelpie of Scotland – grazes by  the  side
of the sea or loch. If anyone is rash enough to get on him,  he rushes  into
the water and drowns  the  rider;  furthermore  his  back  can  conveniently
lengthen to accommodate any  number  of  people.  There  are  several  tales
believed of the water horse, for example, if he is harnessed to a plough  he
drags it into the sea. If he falls in love with a  woman  he  may  take  the
form of a man to court her – only if she recognises  his  true  nature  from
the tell-tale sand in his hair will she have a chance of escaping, and  then
she must steal away while he sleeps.  Legnd says that the water  horse  also
takes the shape of an old woman; in this guise he is put to bed with a  bevy
of beautiful maidens, but kills them all by sucking their  blood,  save  for
one who manages to run away. He pursues her but she jumps  a  running  brook
which, water horse though he is, he dare not cross.

      Still more terrible are the many sea monsters  of  which  stories  are
told. One played havoc with the fish of the Solway Firth  until  the  people
planted a row of sharpened  stakes  on  which  it  impaled  itself.  Another
serpent – like creature, the Stoor Worm, was so huge that  its  body  curled
about the earth. It took up residence off  northern  Scotland  and  made  it
known that a weekly delivery of seven virgins was  required,  otherwise  the
towns and villages would be devastated. Soon it was the turn of  the  king’s
daughter to be sacrificed, but her father announced that he would  give  her
in anyone who would rid him of the worm. Assipattle, the dreamy seventh  son
of a farmer, took up the challenge and put to sea in a small  boat  with  an
iron pot containing a glowing peat; he  sailed  into  the  monster’s  mouth,
then down into its inside – after searching  for  some  time  he  found  the
liver, cut a hole in it, and inserted the peat . The  liver  soon  began  to
burn fiercely, and the worm retched out Assipattle and his boat.  Its  death
throes shook the world: one of its teeth  became  the  Orkney  Islands,  the
other Shetland; the falling tongue scooped  out  the  Baltic  Sea,  and  the
burning liver  turned  into  the  volcanosof  Iceland.  The  king  kept  his
promise, and the triumphant Assipattle married his daughter.

      Perhaps, the most famous of all water monsters is that of  Loch  Ness,
first mentioned in a life of St Columba written in 700 AD.
      Some 150 years earlier one of the  saint’s  followers  was  apparently
swimming in the loch when the monster “suddenly swam up to the surface,  and
with  gaping  mouth  and  with  great  roaring  rushed  towards  the   man”.
Fortunately, Columba was watching and ordered the monster  to  turnback:  it
obeyed. The creature (or its successor) then lay dormant for  some    1  300
years, for the next recorded sighting was in 1871.
      However, during the last fifty years there have been frequent  reports
and controversies. In1987 a painstaking and and expencive sonar scan of  the
loch revealed a moving object of some 400  lb  in  weight  which  scientists
were unable to identify. Sir Peter Scott  dubbed  the  monster  “Nessiterras
Rhombopteryx”, after the diamond – shaped fin shown on  a  photograph  taken
by some American visitors; the Monster Exhibition  Centre  at  Drumnadrochit
on Loch Ness describes it as “The World’s Greatest Mystery”.  Tourists  from
all over the world flock to visit Loch Ness, monster and centre.


      The seas will always be potentially dangerous for those who choose  to
sail them and most seafarers tried hard to  avoid  incurring  the  wrath  of
Davy Jones – they once  were  sometimes  reluctant  even  to  save  drowning
comrades lest they deprive the deep of a  victim  which  would  serve  as  a
propitiatory sacrifice though the dilemma could be resolved by throwing  the
drowning man a rope or spar. This was  a  much  less  personal  intervention
than actually landing a hand or diving in to help and therefore less risky.
      Various shipboard ceremonies were observed and maintained religiously:
at Christmas a tree would be lashed to the top of the mast  (the  custom  is
still followed, and on ships  lacking  a  mast  the  tree  is  tied  to  the
railings on the highest deck). At midnight as New  Year’s  Eve  becomes  New
Year’s Day the ship’s bell is rung eight times for the old  year  and  eight
times for the new – midnight on a ship is normally eight bells – the  oldest
member of the crew giving the first eight rings, the youngest the second.

      “Burying the Dead Horse”  was  a  ceremony  which  was   continued  in
merchant ships until late in  the  nineteenth  century,  and  kept  up  most
recently in vessels on the Australian run. The horse was a  symbol  for  the
month’s pay advanced on shore (and  usually  spent  before  sailing);  after
twenty-eight days at sea the advance was worked out. The  horse’s  body  was
made from a barrel, its legs  from  hay,  straw  or  shavings  covered  with
canvas, and the main and tail of hemp. The animal was hoisted  to  the  main
yardarm and set on fire. It was allowed to blase for a short  time  and  was
then cut loose and dropped into the sea. Musical accompaniment was  provided
by the shanty   “Poor Old Horse”:

      Now he is dead and will die no more,
      And we say so, for we know so.
      It makes his ribs feel very sore,
      Oh, poor old man.
      He is gone and will go no more,
      And  we say so, for we know so.
      So goodbye, old horse,
      We say goodbye.
      On sailing ships collective work at the capstan, windlass,  pumps  and
halliards was often accompanied by particular songs known as shanties.
      In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries big,  full-rigged
vessels were bringing cargoes of nitrate, guano and saltpetre to Britain  to
South America ports. When a ship was loaded and ready  to  sail  round  Cape
Horn and home, the carpenter would make a large wooden cross  to  which  red
and white lights were fixed in the shape of the constellation known  as  the
Southern Cross. As this was hoisted to the head of the  mainmast,  the  crew
would sing the shanty “Hurrah, my boys, we’re homeward bound”, and then  the
crew of every ship in harbour took turns to cheer the departing vessel.

      Seafarers crossing the equator for the first time – and sometimes  the
tropics of the polar circles – are often put through a sort  of  baptism  or
initiation ceremony. The earliest recorded reference to such a ritual  dates
back to 1529 on a French ship, but by  the  end  of  the  following  century
English vessels were involved in the same custom, which  continues  to  this
day in both Royal Navy and merchant service.
      One of the crew appears as Neptune, complete with crown,  trident  and
luxuriant beard; others represent Queen Amphitrite, a barber, a surgeon  and
various nymphs and bears. Neptune holds court by the side of a large  canvas
bath full of sea -  water, and any on board who have not previously  crossed
“the Line” are ceremonially shaved with huge wooden razors, then  thoroughly
ducked. Finally, the victim is given a certificate which protects  him  from
the same ordeal on ane future occasion. Even passengers are  put  through  a
modified form of the proceedings, though women  are  given  a  still  softer
version of the treatment.

      When a naval captain leaves his ship he can expect a ritual  farewell.
Even Prince Charles was unable  to  escape  when  in  1976  he  relinquished
command of the minesweeper, HMS “Bronington”;  he  was  seized  by  white  –
coated doctors (his officers), placed in a wheelchair  and  “invalided  out”
to the cheers of his crew members who held up a banner  inscribed:  “Command
has aged me”.
      Other marines departed in a less jovial manner. When a man died at sea
his body would be sewn into canvas, weighted, and  committed  to  the  deep.
The sailmaker was responsible for making the shroud, and  would  always  put
the last stitch through the corpse’s nose, ensuring that there was  no  sign
of life and that the body remained attached to  the  weighted  canvas.  This
practise was followed at least until the 1960s, the  sailmaker  receiving  a
bottle of rum for his work. Nowadays the bodies are  seldom  buried  at  sea
but are refrigerated and brought back to land.  However, those consigning  a
body in this way still receive the  traditional  bottle  of  rum  for  their


      We have had a look at some samples of  well  and  carefully  preserved
British folklore that tells about the British “waterworld”. But  a  question
of our time no less important is whether the people with such  an  affection
for their land try to preserve it from the harm that may cause  our  age  of
highly developed machines, ships, tunkers, etc.
      Britain’s marine, coastal and inland waters are generally clean:  some
95% of rivers, streams and canals are  of  good  or  fair  quality,  a  much
higher  figure  than  in  most  other  European  countries.  However   their
cleanliness cannot be taken for granted, and so continuing steps  are  being
taken to deal with remaining threats. Discharges  to  water  from  the  most
potentially  harmful  processes  are  progressively  becoming   subject   to
authorisation under IPC.
      Government regulations for  a  new  system  of  classifying  water  in
England and Wales came into force in May 1994. This system will provide  the
basis for setting statutory water quality objectives (SWQO), initially on  a
trial basis in a small number of catchment areas where  their  effectiveness
can be assessed. The objectives, which will be  phased  in  gradually,  will
specify for each individual stretch of water the standards  that  should  be
reached and the target date for achieving them. The  system  of  SWQOs  will
provide the framework to set discharge consents. Once  objectives  are  set,
the enterprises will be under a duty to ensure that they are met.
      There have been important developments in controlling the sea disposal
of wastes in recent years. The incineration of wastes at sea was  halted  in
1990 and the dumping of industrial waste ended in  1992.  In  February  1994
the Government announced British acceptance  of  an  internationally  agreed
ban on the dumping of low-  and intermediate  –  level  wastes  was  already
banned. Britain had not in fact dumped any  radioactive  waste  at  sea  for
some years preveously. Britain is committed to phasing out  the  dumping  of
sewage sludge at sea by the end of 1998. Thereafter  only  dredged  material
from ports, harbours and  the  like  will  routinely  be  approved  for  sea
      Proposals for decommissioning Britain’s 200 offshore installations are
decided on a case – by –  case  basis,  looking  for  the  best  practicable
environmental option and observing very  rigorous  international  agreements
and guidelines.

      Farm Waste

      Although not a major source of water pollution  incidents,  farms  can
represent a problem. Many pollution incidents result  from  silage  effluent
or slurry leaking and entering watercourses; undiluted farm  slurry  can  be
up to 100 times, more polluting than raw domestic  sewage.  Regulations  set
minimum construction standards for new or substantially altered  farm  waste
handling facilities. Farmers are required to improve existing  installations
where  there  is  a  significant  risk  of  pollution.   The   Ministry   of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food  publishes  a  “Code  of  Good  Agricultural
Practice for the Protection of  Water”.  This  gives  farmers  guidance  on,
among other things, the planning and management of  the  disposal  of  their
farm wastes.  The Ministry also has  L2  million  research  and  development
programme to examine problems of farm waste and to minimise pollution.

      Britain is a signatory to the 1992  North  East  Atlantic  Convention,
which tackles pollution from land – based  sources,  offshore  installations
and dumping. It also provides for monitoring and assessment of  the  quality
of water in the convention’s area. In order to  minimise  the  environmental
effects of offshore oil and gas operations, special conditions  designed  to
protect the environment -–set in consultation with  environmental  interests
– are included in licences for oil and gas exploration.
      Pollution from ships is  controlled  under  international  agreements,
which cover matters such as oil discharges and disposal of garbage.  British
laws implementing such agreements are binding  not  only  on  all  ships  in
British waters, but also on British ships all over  the  world.  The  Marine
Pollution  Control  Unit  (MPCU),  part  of  the   Coastguard   Agency,   is
responsible for dealing with spillage of oil or other substances from  ships
in sea.
      So great care is being taken to manage to preserve all  that  precious
that Britain has. Keeping the waters in a  good  conditions  would  help  to
keep the traditions connected with it as well, and to pass them on to  other

ñìîòðåòü íà ðåôåðàòû ïîõîæèå íà "Water World as Another Home for the English Nation Reflected in the English Folklore"