Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Things that go bump in the night! (2)

Continued from - Things that go bump in the night! (1)

Things that go bump in the night, is the penultimate line in a traditional Scottish poem and a bedtime prayer that I remember from my childhood.  Strange children's rituals, like good night, sleep tight, hope the bed bugs don't bite!

From ghoulies and ghosties;
And long-leggedy beasties;
And things that go bump in the night;
Good Lord, deliver us!

Of ghoulies and ghosties I have written before. The canals have their own set of wierd characters with boggarts such as the Ghost of Harecastle Tunnel the Kidsgrove Boggart also known as Kit Crewbucket.

There are a number of variation upon a theme, of the origin of Kit Crewbucket. This is a typical one, which carries more of a ring of truth to it, than some of the other versions.

It is said that many years ago, in the early years of the canals, a young lady was travelling from Liverpool to meet her husband in London who had recently taken up work there. He had sent a guinea to her to enable her to pay for her transport, and she was carrying all the goods she owned with her in trunks. After a long ride on a cart that was taking corn to the mill at Hardingswood, she stopped to take rest at the Canal Tavern, a lock side pub in Kidsgrove.  She was trying to arrange her further passage south by road, with no offers.  

Three boatmen promised her they would give her transport to London on their canal barge.  The men had all been drinking, they took a pint of porter and then set off with the woman through the Harecastle Tunnel. At the mouth of the tunnel, one of the boatmen took the pony up the track to Boathorse Road, and the other two set off into the tunnel with their passenger.The barge emerged at the other side carrying the boatmen but no woman. In the hope that she had riches in her luggage, they had murdered her and hid her body in the underground culvert to Goldenhill Colliery, known as Gilbert's Hole. She was found some days later in the tunnel, without her head.

The boatmen were tried and executed for murder, but it has been said over the years that the Kidsgrove Buggart has been heard wailing in and around the tunnel and along Boathorse Road. This is the road that runs directly above the tunnel where the tow-ponies used to walk when the barges were being legged through the tunnel.
As for the long-leggedy beasties we all get the occasional visitors. They give away their presence in the dark by dangling from the roof on gossamer threads usually at face height. The unwanted crew members are usually escorted off the boat, inside a small towel only to be released onto the bank side. There are other associated bits of canal folklore. Including one about chestnuts having the power to keep spiders at bay.

For the boater there is a time when 'things do go bump in the night'. In the form of ducks that will peck at any weed on the boats hull. Or a Swan that will tap on your windows, wanting to be fed. Coots that like to squabble amongst themselves. Moorhen that can make calls, that are so shrill that the noise seems to penetrate into the boat.  This cacophony can happen at any time, but most often it disturbs us of a night. 

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