Category Archives: General

Creative Writing Schedule

NB.  New Time and Place.

The meeting on February 1st has been cancelled.

The next meeting will be on February 14th at 2pm in the larger room at Scout and Guide HQ.  Subsequent meetings will be at the same time and place on the 2nd Monday of the month.

Since this is in the main a discussion group, numbers are limited – however – if you are interested in joining us, please contact Joan Potter on 0151 924 6027.


                       OFF WE GO AGAIN

With the relaxing of Government rules  concerning  Covid, we can now look forward to getting back to “normal” and so we shall re commence our monthly meeting with the first one being on Thursday 3rd February at 2.00pm at Haskayne Village Hall.

Due consideration will be given to ventilation etc. and of course it is an individual choice with regards to mask wearing.

We look forward to seeing you there.



Speaker Meetings

Happy New Year everyone!

Neil Stevenson

This year’s Speaker Meetings will begin on Thursday 3rd February at 12 noon via Zoom, when Neil Stevenson will speak on the subject of Ancient Egyptian Burial Practices, and in this talk we will look at the burials in Egypt from the pre-dynastic period over 5000 years ago through to the pyramid building periods of Egypt’s Old and Middle Kingdoms. This talk is intended for anyone interested in Ancient Egypt and no prior knowledge is required.


Neil first became interested in Ancient Egypt in 1986 during a business trip to Cairo.  Since then he has made over 40 visits to Egypt, the most recent being in December 2019. He has successfully completed five continuing education courses at Liverpool University covering various aspects of Egyptology. He is a member of The Egyptian Exploration Society, a Friend of the Petrie Museum and was a founder member of Horus Egyptology Society in Wigan, one of the largest and most successful Ancient Egypt societies in the UK. He has supported the Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project for over ten years.


Neil is the u3a National Subject Advisor for Egyptology. He leads and lectures at Upholland and District u3a Egyptology Group and has run residential courses in Egyptology for U3A members.  He has led four u3a study trips to Egypt and is also a former chair of his u3a and Trustee for North West of England with 101 u3as and around 45,000 members.


If you would like to attend this talk, please email and I will send you the Zoom details.

Looking ahead, here are the talks I have arranged. These will (hopefully) be in person at 11 am at the Scout & Guide HQ, but only if the Covid situation permits.

Julia Clayton

Thursday 3rd March will see the welcome return of author and historian Julia Clayton. Julia was our first Zoom speaker last year, when she gave a most informative and entertaining talk about the Spartans. This time she will speak about The Grand Tour and its Lancashire Legacy; what did it mean for members of the Lancashire gentry to go on the ‘Grand Tour’ in the eighteenth century?  What did they expect to get out of it, and how did it continue to influence their lives when they returned home?

This talk will explore the reasons why people went on the Grand Tour, and how they used it as a means to create their own art collections, as well as looking at the economics of the Tour: the support industries (including hotels, guidebooks and souvenirs) which made it all possible.

Batoni, Pompeo; George Gordon, Lord Haddo; The National Trust for Scotland, Haddo House;

We will focus, in particular, on the experiences of three Grand Tourists from Lancashire: Charles Towneley (Burnley), Henry Blundell (Crosby) and John Foster Junior (Liverpool), looking at the impact of the artworks and the knowledge that they brought back with them from the Continent.  The talk will also include plenty of suggestions for objects and buildings which you can go and look at.

Julia Clayton is a historian and author from Southport.  Until 2019 she was the head of the Classics Department at King George V College, specialising in the teaching of Classical Art.  Since retiring from teaching, Julia has had several short stories published, all on the theme of art, architecture and archaeology: her story ‘Café Herakles’ is currently available to read for free at She is currently working on a doctoral thesis at Edge Hill University on invented artworks in fiction, especially artworks with a Classical theme.

Julia’s interest in the Grand Tour developed out of her interest in the afterlife of Greek sculpture, including the routes by which Greek and Roman sculptures ended up in museums, galleries and private collections in the UK.  She regularly posts articles on Classical sculpture – and on modern controversies relating to public sculpture – on her Classical Clayton blog at


7th April               Bill Soens – Fakes or Forgeries: is there a difference?

5th May                Sid CalderbankThe Lancashire Cotton Famine

6th June               David Hearne Sir William Brown

1st September     Tracey Collins, storytellerGeoffrey and the Gang of 20

6th October         Mike McKennaInvictus Games involvement

3rd November    Philip CaineFrom Barrow to Baghdad


Please keep an eye on newsletters, enews and website for the latest information.

Pam Ball

See Pam’s Past Speaker Meetings for info on previous events.

Please email any ideas for Future Speaker Meetings to Pam Ball, our Speaker Meeting Organiser,  at:  or phone 07974 749362.

Group Meetings Currently Cancelled or using Zoom

A number of activity groups are currently meeting via Zoom or have cancelled or temporarily suspended their in-person meetings.

The following table shows what we believe to be correct.

Group Leaders should email the webteam if the status of their groups changes so that this list can be kept up to date.

Group name Zoom January
Art Appreciation cancelled
Book Reading 2 Zoom
Bridge cancelled
Church History cancelled
Creative Writing Zoom
Digital Photography cancelled
Discussion cancelled
Film Appreciation cancelled
Folklore and Mythology cancelled
French Conversation Zoom
Gardening suspended
German Conversation cancelled
Guitars Acoustic cancelled
Health & Wellbeing cancelled
Helping Each Other cancelled
Music Appreciation cancelled
Opera Appreciation cancelled
Philharmonic Visits cancelled
Philosophy cancelled
Poetry Zoom
Science cancelled
Shakespeare Revisited Zoom
Sunday Social cancelled
Textiles and Quilting cancelled
Ukulele cancelled
Wine Tasting cancelled


15 November 2021- The Devil in British Folklore contd

In the session we continued the topic of the Devil in British Folklore in the context of the other world creatures we have been looking at.

We had previously grouped the topic, for convenience, loosely into 3 categories

  • Legends and tales linked to unusual landscape features, very similar to features attributed to giants.
  • Attacks on Christianity
  • The devil looking for human souls, making deals and pacts and collecting his dues for them.

This session we completed looking at the second category of attacks on Christianity including church buildings and then started the search for human souls.

1/.  Attacks on Christianity

There were attacks on church buildings particularly the towers and church bells.   Most of these were unsuccessful.

a/. We looked at examples of the throwing of stones/boulders.

  • The devil stone in Staple Fitzpaine Somerset where a huge boulder was thrown by the devil to try to destroy the church, the stone was left behind and shows the Devil’s claw marks. It was said there was treasure underneath it.
  • Kirby Lonsdale where the Devils’s Punchbowl is said to mark the spot where the Devil destroyed a church using a boulder,
  • Rudston, Bridlington, Yorkshire where there is a prehistoric 25 feet high standing stone in the church yard which was ‘thrown’ by the Devil.
  • Evesham, Worcestershire, the Devil twice tried to destroy the Abbey. The Bishop Egwyn, was watching and prayed.
  • Canterbury, the Devil tried to carry the entire town to hell. Canterbury was rich and sinful in medieval times
  • Mayfield, Sussex – The Devil was sent packing by St Dunstan. St Dunstan was working as a blacksmith when the Devil visited him disguised as a beautiful woman, he spotted the cloven hooves when her dress rode up and he grabbed the Devil’s nose with hot tongs.
  • Auchtermuchty Fife – the Devil tried to carry off people from the church as they were so pious. He came in the form of a Calvinist Minister but was betrayed by his hooves and was thwarted by an old man.

We discussed why there were these stories.  They show the power of Christianity, the one true faith.  Early Christianity pitted against the Devil, the Devil is relatively easily outwitted.  The Devil may be big and scary but put your faith in the Church and you will win through.  The Devil cannot compete against the church.  The power of the sign of the cross and prayer

b/.  We looked at some examples which went against the usual tales

  • Oxfordshire – The Devil helped two brothers to build churches at King’s Sutton, Adderbury and Bloxham. This featured a hardworking and honest mason Devil, who got no pay back .
  • Warwickshire – the Devil helped at man in a legal battle against a dishonest landlord. The Landlord said, ‘let the devil take me if this is a lie’ and the devil did.
  • Berkeley, Gloucestershire – a witch was taken by the devil when she died despite the efforts of the church to prevent it and her repenting, and her body being wrapped in chains. Do not get complacent, there are dire consequences of sin.  If you put yourself in the path of the devil even the best of the church cannot save you.

In these tales we learnt about the nature of the Devil, he is powerful, resourceful, endlessly scheming against the church, will take you to hell if you let him, relatively easily outwitted by the god fearing and the alert.

2/  The Devil Goes in Search of Human Souls

This is a powerful and scary Devil

  • Widdecombe, Devon. Widdecombe Jack pledged his soul to the Devil and was taken from out of the church.  This a may have been ball lightning and been a tale which evolved from a  real event.
  • Shepton Mallet, Somerset – an old woman was taken by the Devil. She had been working on Sundays.  She went to the priest to ask for help.
  • Aldbury, Herefordshire. Sir Guy de Gravada pledged himself to the Devil in exchange for the secrets of alchemy.

Next Session will look at Faust

Visit to Martin Mere – 14th December 2021

The final Bird Watching Group visit for 2021 was to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Martin Mere.  Eight members of the group enjoyed an excellent morning’s visit despite the mist hampering visibility at times and a total of 43 species were recorded.  Thanks to new group member Ken for these pictures taken at Martin Mere:

Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of species seen:

Continue reading

Visit to Pennington Flash – 30th November 2021

The weather forecast for the day had not been good with rain and heavy cloud expected and this put some of our members off but five members turned up anyway.  The rain cleared after the first fifteen minutes and conditions improved further during the morning and we were rewarded with sightings of 47 species, our highest total for group visits this year.  A particular highlight was catching a glimpse of a Kingfisher.

Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of species seen:

Continue reading

December 2021 competition

T1 Still Life  click for slideshow

T2 Green  click for slideshow

Christmas Lunch 2021

After the cancellation of the u3a Christmas Lunch in 2020 because of Covid, we were so pleased to get together once again. The Social subcommittee pulled out all the stops to arrange a lovely meal courtesy of Martins Caterers and dancing to the music of the Phil Shotton Trio with vocalist Adee Lifshitz.


Drama Group – “Death by Paintbrush”

Thank you to everyone who came to see our performances, in spite of the awful weather.  It was lovely to see so many guests had dressed in keeping with the era of the play.

The Drama Group appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you again next year.

Here are a few photos which Bill Soens kindly took for us during rehearsals.

2021 Advent Celebration

We are pleased to announce that the 2021 Advent Celebration will take place in Christ Church on Thursday 2nd December at 11 am.  Rehearsals have been going well and we hope that you will join us once again to welcome the Christmas season.  Do come along and join the Choir and the Recorder groups for a good Christmas sing.

If you are coming to the Advent Celebration on 2nd December, the Ormskirk Food Bank would be extremely grateful for donations which you can leave at the back of the church.

More info:

Donations of any of the following items would be particularly appreciated:

Instant coffee
Tinned veg & fruit
Breakfast cereal
Tinned meat
Pasta sauce

Advent Celebration

We are pleased to announce that the 2021 Advent Celebration will take place in Christ Church on Thursday 2nd December at 11 am.  Rehearsals have been going well and we hope that you will join us once again to welcome the Christmas season.  Do come along and join the Choir and the Recorder groups for a good Christmas sing.

If you are coming to the Advent Celebration on 2nd December, the Ormskirk Food Bank would be extremely grateful for donations which you can leave at the back of the church.

More info:

Donations of any of the following items would be particularly appreciated:

Instant coffee
Tinned veg & fruit
Breakfast cereal
Tinned meat
Pasta sauce

Visit to Burton Mere RSPB – 11th November 2021

The weather was mostly good for this visit which was attended by six members of the group.  The water near the reception area was disappointing with less bird species than we usually see, but as we carried on it got better.  A total mof 26 species were recorded.  The Ravens and Buzzards were particularly impressive.










Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of species seen:

Continue reading

Digital Photography Notices


If you are experienced in Photography/Photo Enhancement, please come and share your knowledge with us.

If you are new to Photography, we are a friendly group who will always be pleased to help with advice on Camera equipment and how to take better pictures.

Submitting Competition Entries – a reminder

Please ensure that your competition entries are submitted in the correct format – i.e. as JPEG files – and at a resolution of at least 1024 x 768 pixels.  Please also remember to rename the files to include your name and the competition topic, e.g. Joe Bloggs – September Topic 

 The meeting in December is our Christmas Party

We will judge the entries for the December competition and then enjoy the tasty morsels  provided,

We will then judge the Winner of Winners of competitions enjoyed during the lock down period.

Entertainment will be provided by George ???

The cost of this extravaganza is £5.00 (inclusive of normal room hire charge)

Should you wish to join in with the festivities and were not at the November meeting to add your name to the              list, please contact Alan Starkie no later than  Sunday 21st November so that we can finalize catering                             arrangements


Visit to Mere Sands Wood – 12 October 2021

We were not so lucky with the weather this month with cloud and light rain for most of the morning.  Nevertheless it was an enjoyable visit for the six members who attended.  The visitor centre and the car park have been much improved since our previous visits to Mere Sands but unfortunately several of the hides have been vandalised and only two were available for use.   A total of 21 species were recorded.

Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of species seen:

Continue reading

18 October 2021 – The Devil in British Folklore

This session we continued the topic of the Devil in British Folklore in the context of the other world creatures we have been looking at.

In the previous session, for convenience, the topic was loosely grouped into 3 categories, though there was some overlapping

  1. Legends and tales linked to unusual landscape features, very similar to features attributed to giants.
  2. Attacks on Christianity
  3. The devil looking for human souls, making deals and pacts and collecting his dues for them.

In folklore the devil is very different from the one in the bible.  We speculated on who the devil may be, the origins and purpose of these stories.

  • They are good stories, often it is known these are not why a feature is there, but it is entertaining.
  • Provide explanations of geographical features
  • Memories/echoes of pagan spirits/gods.  These were venerated at sacred sites and it has been suggested this is where these stories have originated.  In cases they may have been changed into the devil by the Christian Church.

1/. Legends and Tales Linked to Unusual Landscape Features

We recapped and finished the legends and tales linked to unusual landscape features, very similar to features attributed to giants and were used to cover unusual things in the landscape by dropping stones, threatening to destroy certain towns etc.

  • Tunstall, Norfolk:- the Devil stole the church bells.
  • Eldon Hole, Derbyshire:- the Devil’s escape route to hell.
  • Cockcrow Stone, Wellington Somerset:- prehistoric standing stone under which the Devil buried treasure.  If you were there at a specific time coinciding with the crowing of a cockerel you could dig up buried treasure
  • Callow Pit, Southwood, Norfolk:- contained an iron chest filled with gold.

There are a number of stories relating to raising the Devil

  • Cymbeline’s Castle, Ellesborough, Bucks.
  • Druid’s Stone, Bungay, Suffolk
  • Devil’s Arrows, North Yorks.
  • Longcompton, Warwickshire; North Leigh, Oxfordshire.

These had rituals involving circling the hills, stones etc for a set number of times, sometimes backwards, counter to the circling of the sun in the sky etc.

The number seven recurs in the tales

  • In Tarrington in Herefordshire the devil can be raised by walking backwards seven times round the preaching cross whilst reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards.
  • In Stoke Edith in Herefordshire the devil was said to be able to be raised by walking seven times round the church and then looking in through the keyhole.
  • In Chanctonbury Ring (an Iron Age hill fort) in Sussex the Devil could be raised by walking seven times round the hill on a moonless night

We looked at an extract from ‘Folklore, Myths And Legends Of Britain’ Geoffrey Ashe et al, 1973, covering the Horseman’s Word from Scotland.  This covered the initiation into a secret society, which when successful gave control over horses.  This was from around 1870-1930’s.  There were Celtic horse cults which may be the precursor of this.  There had to be an odd number, preferably thirteen, special knocks, oaths taken, a ‘minister’ who oversaw the ritual etc.

2/.  Attacks on Christianity

We started the second category covering attacks on Christianity and how Christianity developed his character.

We looked at several ones relating to churches including

  • Towednack Cornwall:-  the Devil stole the stones from the church tower.
  • West Walton :- The Devil flew off with the church tower but dropped it as it was too heavy.
  • East Bergholt, Suffolk:- the Devil prevented the people building a stone tower attached to the Church.

These often included church bells.  Bells have their own identity and personalities and in bell ringing they have names.  They were believed to drive away evil spirits and protect against storms.  They are also used to mark the important stages of life; birth, marriages and deaths.

u3a Open Day on 23 October 2021 – postscript

Firstly, many thanks to everyone who came along to help on a bright but cool day. Whether it was Leaders and Coordinators showcasing their groups, the Catering Team serving tea, coffee and biscuits, the Welcome Desk and Membership Teams dealing with newcomers and returning members, or music and dance groups entertaining us throughout the afternoon, it all added up to make the day a success.

There were also many others, too many to mention, who played a vital part in planning, preparing and running the event – agreeing a date and venue, inviting groups to join in, liaising with GLs over attendance and table layouts, advertising the event, producing name plates and signage, arranging tables and chairs (and putting them away).

And of course the day wouldn’t have been the same without the many members and friends who attended – we hope they enjoyed what they saw and will join more of the group activities on offer.

To accompany the Open Day, we produced a full colour Brochure, listing all the groups and illustrating a couple of groups from each of eleven ‘categories’: culture, dance, fitness and exercise, indoor games, language and literature, making things, outdoors, performance, social, sport, and technical. The idea is to open people’s eyes to the wider possibilities within our u3a than just the usual groups they attend. Thank you to all who contributed to the brochure and its production.

There are plenty of brochures now available for Group Leaders to pick up at Horizons and then hand out at their own meetings, along with a schedule of when and where the groups meet. You can also download a pdf version of the brochure here. There is also an online version of the groups schedule which is kept up-to-date.

From the Relaunch Team and the Communications Team

Indoor Meetings 2019-2020

Tuesday 1 October 2019 – Historic Graffiti

Love it or loathe it, graffiti is not a modern day phenomenon. You may be surprised where some historic graffiti has been written, and what it says, some of it in Latin. Dr. Colin Penny’s illustrated presentation of graffiti from our past will enlighten us.

Tuesday 5 November 2019 – Lancashire’s Home Front in W.W.2 plus a commemoration of D.Day.

Professor Penny Summerfield joins us with her research in an illustrated presentation about life on the home front during W.W.2. Our afternoon continues with a film recording of an emotive and dignified trip to France with a small number of D.Day veterans. The veterans share memories of the largest amphibious invasion in world history when some 160,000 Allied troops landed on the Normandy coast, 6th June 1944.

Tuesday 3 December 2019 – A Winters Day

Our seasonal meeting with Local Historian Alan Crosby.

Tuesday 4 February 2020 – Trains, Cranes and Dinky Vehicles plus the Waltzer and Sweet Treats

Les French from the Hornby Trust joins us to to talk about local man Frank Hornby’s humble beginings to his skills simplifying engineering for children.

Tuesday 3 March 2020 – Read All About It!

Reports in our local newspapers early in the 20th Century.  Kathy Donaldson will relate some of the news from the Liverpool Mercury, The Daily Post and the Echo.

We also heard some of the news of the time reported in the Ormskirk Advertiser.

Gallery of Past Walks


Monday  walkers by the canal at Rufford, September 2016


Monday walkers in Haskayne nature reserve, June 2014


Visit to Lunt Meadows – 14th September 2021

Wood Sandpiper and Dunlin at Lunt Meadows

Eight members of the group attended our first visit following the Summer break.  It was a perfect late Summer morning for this visit and a total of 31 bird species were recorded.

Highlight of the visit was seeing a Wood Sandpiper, a first ever sighting by our group of this uncommon wader on it’s migration South for the Winter.  Two of us managed to get ‘record shots’ which enabled us to confirm the identification following the visit.

Some more pictures of birds seen at Lunt Meadows:

As well as the birds lots of butterflies and dragonflies were to be seen enjoying the sunshine – here are a few that stayed still long enough to be photographed:

Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of species seen:

Continue reading


Welcome back to everyone who has managed to make it to the last two meetings in July and August.  It was wonderful to see so many of you.

In July we were delighted to welcome back the famous Bill Evans to entertain us with his video 📺and comedy 🤣😂😆clips then, with the gorgeous weather, we were able to take refreshments ☕🍪outside.

August saw Peter Gateley giving us a wonderful presentation on Garden birds which was very interesting.  Sadly the weather was not at its best but everyone was happy to continue catching up with each other over 🍪 and ☕

In September  we had a bit of variety with some poetry, a quiz,  a game or two of Bingo and homemade cakes.


Autumn – Winter 2021

 Wednesday October 20th at 1.00pm

 Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) is the most enduring ‘serious’ opera from a composer otherwise better known for his sparkling operettas. It’s not hard to see why: Offenbach’s witty and highly melodious music finds the perfect vehicle in the Romantic, richly imaginative world of the storyteller E.T.A. Hoffmann. Offenbach adapted Jules Barbier and Michel Carré’s play, in which Hoffmann is cast as the deeply flawed teller of his own tales. The composer’s death shortly before the opera’s completion has resulted in a number of alternative versions – but this multiplicity has done nothing to dull the irresistible appeal of an opera in which music and story come together in a deeply satisfying whole. 

Opera Appreciation Group  

Winter 2021/22 Programme



October 20th


Tales of Hoffman—Offenbach

A superb recording with Opera National de Lyon from 1993. It features a cast of top singers with the choir and orchestra of the Opera National directed by  Kent Nagano

 120 mins


November 17th


Don Giovanni—Mozart          (Zurich Opera)

This is a thrilling performance. It is deeply attractive on a number of levels, the stage (and screen) presence of the central male duo: ……Those two are funny and sexy, often both–delicious to listen to and to look at.

182 mins


December 15th


Der Rosenkavalier – Strauss (Der Weiner Staatsoper)

any discussion of this DVD must begin with the superb conducting of Carlos Kleiber. From the first bar of music, you know you’re in for an altogether different “Der Rosenkavalier.” His is an extraordinary approach: spirited, agressive even — and it is wholly successful. wonderful.

193  mins

January 19th


Ariodante—Handel         (English National Opera)

Without a doubt’ this is Handel at his best. A sublime score and a great production

178 mins


June and July 2021 visits

As we look forward to the Autumn and what we hope will be a full and uninterrupted programme of visits, a brief report on the June and July visits which were still affected by some Covid restrictions:

June 8th 2021 – visit to Speke Hall (National Trust)

The site was only partially open because of the pandemic with one way systems in place and no access to the Mersey Estuary shore so sightings were limited to what we could see from the grounds.   Nevertheless it was an enjoyable visit attended by eight members of the group and a total of 23 bird species were recorded.

July 13th 2021 – visit to Marshside (RSPB)

A good day for our final visit before the Summer break.  Eight members of the group attended and a total of 34 bird species were recorded.

In addition to the birds it was lovely to see this Six-spot Burnet Moth newly emerged from the chrysalis on the stalk below:

Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full lists of species seen on these 2 visits:

Continue reading

16 August 2021- The Devil in British Folklore

In the session we started a new topic of the Devil in British Folklore in the context of the other world creatures we have been looking at.

The devil in this context is different from the biblical one, he is not a fallen angel, nor is he Lucifer.

There are different origins and a vast collection of stories and legends.

For convenience the topic was loosely grouped into 3 categories, though there was some overlapping

  • Legends and tales linked to unusual landscape features, very similar to features attributed to giants.
  • Attacks on Christianity
  • The devil looking for human souls, making deals and pacts and collecting his dues for them.

We started with the first grouping

1/.  Legends linking the Devil to unusual features in the landscape covering things like hills, rocks, glacial erratics, including natural and man-made features also covering prehistoric structures.

They come from all over the country and there are a huge selection of them:-

Devil’s Night Cap, Studland, Isle of Wight.

Bronescombe’s Loaf & Bronescombe’s Cheese, Okehampton, Dartmoor.  Bishop Bromscombe was travelling to Widdecombe became lost and hungry was tempeted by bread and cheese offered by a stranger.  The bishop’s servant spotted cloven hooves and pushed the food away which flew into the air and when they landed formed the rocks known as Bronescombe’s Loaf & Bronescombe’s Cheese

Hel Stone, Dartmoor:- used by the Devil in a game of quoits with King Arthur.

Hurdlestones, Somerset:- used by the Devil in a game of quoits with the Giant of Grabbist.

Broad Stone, Tidenham, Gloucs.:- thrown by the Devil in a contest with Jack o’Kent.

White Rocks, Garway Hill, Herefordshire:- failed attempt by the Devil & Jack o’Kent to dam the weir at Orcop Hill.

Stiperstones Ridge & the Devil’s Chair, Shropshire.

Lea Stone, Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire.

Hartforth, North Riding:- Devil’s failed attempt to destroy the town.

Devil’s Arrows (prehistoric standing stones) Boroughbridge, Yorkshire:- Devil’s failed attempt to destroy Aldborough.

Hell Gill Beck, North Riding:- the Devil building a bridge across the beck.

Devil’s Apron Strings, Casterton Fell; Apronfull Stones, Settle:- stones dropped by the Devil when he was building the bridge at Kirby Lonsdale Carl Crag, Seascale, Cumbria:- formed by the Devil when he was trying to build a bridge between Cumbria and the Isle of Man.

Holes of Scradda, Esha Ness, Shetland:- formed by the Devil.

Semer Water, N.Yorkshire:- stone-throwing contest between the Devil and a giant.

Six Hills (Iron Age burial mounds), Stevenage, Herts.:- created by the Devil when he tried to destroy Stevenage.

Devil’s Shovelful (prehistoric burial mounds), Shobdon, Herefordshire:- created when the Devil tried to destroy Shobdon.

Pyon Hill & Butthouse Knapp, Herefordshire:- formed when the Devil tried to destroy Hereford.

Devil’s Spadeful, Bewdley, Worcs.:- formed when the Devil tried to destroy Bewdley.

Cley Hill, Wiltshire:- formed when the Devil tried to destroy Devizes.

Silbury Hill, Wiltshire:- formed when the Devil tried to destroy Marlborough.

Silbury Hill:- formed by the Devil when he was digging the Wansdyke.

Devil’s Ditch, Berkshire; Devil’s Dykes Cambs. & Herts; Devil’s Dyke, Sussex:- all created by the Devil.

Devil’s Churchyard (stone circle), Minchinhampton, Gloucs:- failed attempt by the people to build a church.

Devil’s Den (prehistoric chambered tomb) Fyfield Down, Wiltshire.

This version of the devil had a lot in common with the stories about giants.

  • Large and very strong.
  • In some tales easily outwitted often by a cobbler.
  • Throwing things and missing the intended target leaving large hills or holes
  • The devil did a lot of dropping of things from his stonemason apron, apron ties breaking, this comes up all over the country.
  • Some amusing stories.
  • Earth moving civil engineering type stories
  • Whilst he may not be friendly with humans he is not obviously evil, cunning, nor greatly feared

There are a lot of stories around the River Severn and the boatmen may have been carrying the story as they travelled.

Next time we’ll finish this grouping, and speculate on who the devil may be, the origins and purpose of these stories.

Then we’ll move on to the second category and look at how Christianity developed his character.

18 July 2021- Giants in British Folklore and Mythology contd

In the session we discussed the role of the mythological heroes taking over from the gods in their constant battle against the giants.

Gilgamesh from Sumerian and Babylonian myths fought the giant Humbaba, the guardian of the cedar forest. Humbaba was friendly with the gods and was installed as forest guardian by Enlil (the father of the gods). Enlil cursed Gilgamesh for killing his guardian. Possibly we could put Humbaba in the same category as the co-operative giants from the early creation myths?

Fionn MacCumhaill from the Irish Celtic myths was held captive by the Giant of Lough Our on the eve of Samhain, but then later released in a weakened state. Possibly this is a version of the cycle of the season mythology, with the Giant representing winter, and Fionn as the sun god, released in time for spring?

We moved on then to see the way in which the hero versus giant myths filtered down into folklore, with stories of local folk heroes who also killed their giants- King Arthur, Jack the Giant Killer, the humble widow’s son who killed the Red Ettin and rescued the King of Scotland’s daughter.

Drama Group – update

We’re delighted to tell you that we now have new dates for “Death By “Paintbrush” – 26th and 27th November at Aughton Village Hall.

All tickets have now been sold but if you would like to add your name to the waiting list for cancellations please get in touch with Megan and John Tomlinson on 01695 578207.

21 June 2021- Giants in British Folklore and Mythology contd

The meeting continued looking at how giants connect to the natural world and feature in the landscape in British folklore.

The Role of the Giants in Folklore:-

1/.  So far in the topic the giants we have looked at have been relatively benign and involved in engineering type projects, providing an explanation for the landscape and large buildings or structures.

We recapped Wade’s Causeway, North Yorkshire:- constructed by Wade and his wife Bel.

Churches at Putney & Fulham, London, were built by two giantess sisters who only had one hammer so threw it across the river which according to vulgar tradition was the source of the place names, they called out instructions to each other ‘put it nigh’ and heave it ‘full home’ when they wanted the hammer.

The Wrekin, Shropshire:-

(a) created by two quarrelling giants

(b) created by a Welsh giant who intended to destroy Shrewsbury but was outsmarted by a cobbler who met him on his way to do the deed.  The cobbler had with him a large number of worn out shoes in need of repair and told the giant he had worn  them out walking from Shrewsbury and it was too far for the giant to get to.  The Wrekin is the large shovelful of earth the giant was carrying to dump on Shrewsbury and left behind when he abandoned his trip.  There a lot of tales of cobblers and tailors outsmarting giants.

2/. Some tales of giants have origins in real people and the tales grew over time, they were larger than life characters

Llowes, Powys:- the castle at Hay-on-Wye was built by a giantess called Moll Walbee.  Matilda/Maud de St Valery:- the real life counterpart of Moll Walbee; married to William de Braose who built Colwyn Castle and Painscastle in the time of King John.   She was a very shrewd woman who successfully defended Painscastle against the Welsh.  She features in Welsh folktales as a giantess and her husband a giant.

Piers Shonks:- in real life the Lord of the Manors of Brent Pelham & Barkway in Hertfordshire; according to folktales (a) he was a giant (b) he killed a dragon.

Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke:- possibly the real life counterpart of Jack o’Legs , a giant who was said to live at Weston, Hertfordshire.

3/.  Some giants were not so well respected or benign

St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall:- a giant stole the people’s cattle, sheep & hogs, the giant would wade across the causeway and seize them and tie them round his waist.

Portreath & Godrevy Point, Cornwall:- a giant called Wrath captured and ate fisherman and sank ships.  He lived in the sea.

Blackgang Chine, Isle of Wight:- a giant named Chale captured, roasted children over a charcoal fire and ate them.  This continued until both he and the Chine were cursed by a holy man.   There is no giant there now but it remains a forbidding place.

Nether Stowey & Stogursey, Somerset:- giants who lived under a huge mound of earth terrorised the local people, grabbed cows and the like and then developed a taste for human flesh.  They were eventually overcome but people were always wary of the area, a dangerous place to be around.  It is suggested that these sort of tales were harking back to creation mythology; chaos and destruction being overcome.

3/.  Heroes and Giants

These tales go all the way back to Babylonian myths, Odysseus and the cyclops etc.  It can be traced into folktales but on a more modest scale.

Jack:- killed the giant who lived on St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall by digging a pit, a stone was put over the hole.  The giant stood on the stone and fell into the pit.  There are a lot of stories of Jack the giant killer.

Sir Bevis of Hamtoun (Southampton):- according to a C13th romance killed a dragon and fought a giant. He spared the giant’s life and accepted him as his servant. In some accounts, Sir Bevis was a giant himself.  This tale includes a horse called Arundel, which may have originally been Hirondelle which was a popular name for heroes horses.

Tom Hickathrift:- an enormous man who killed the giant who lived on the Smeeth at Tilney, Norfolk.  There is an enormous stone in the church yard reputed to be his grave.  He was dull and lazy at school, grew to a great height, he was 6ft tall when he was 10 years old and ate five normal children’s food.  When he grew up, he took a job in a local brewery transporting barrels of beer.  There was a giant in Smeeth who robbed and killed all who trespassed on the area.  Tom had to take a long detour to avoid him.  Being lazy he decided to take the direct route, ended up fighting and killing the giant.  The giant had lots of gold and silver so Tom was rich for the rest of his life.  This tale may have had its origins in the rights to land disputes.

Sir Guy of Warwick:- according to a C13th French romance, in Saxon times Sir Guy fought a giant called Colbrand who was the champion of a Danish force encamped at Winchester. Guy killed the giant and saved the people from the Danish threat.  He went to the Holy Land and was so affected by his experience  when he returned home he lived as a hermit and begged for food from his wife who did not recognise him.  She died not long after he did and they were buried in the same grave.


Next Session.  We shall complete the topic of giants and then move on to the Devil in Folktales

Friday 17 June ECD Zoom

This Friday we enjoyed the following dances:

Portsmouth / Star of Kintra (Trevor Monson) / The Lovers’ Knot (Jim Kitch) / The Gypsy Round (Eric Leber)

The Recruiting Officer / The Haymarket (June Jones) / Rostillion

7 June 2021 – Giants in British Folklore and Mythology

The meeting considered how giants connect to the natural world and feature in the landscape in British mythology and folklore.   We started by looking at creation myths and then how they featured in folklore.

1/. The Role of Giants in Creation Mythology:-

1.1/. Irish Book of Invasions:-

We started by looking at Irish Celtic creation myths.  In Celtic myths the world has always been there but they do cover the first beings.  There are a number of written sources which have survived.  The book of Invasions is from 11 Century and uses earlier written and oral sources.  In these myths Ireland was invaded by a succession of races from the Otherworld.  Starting with the Race of Partholon, then the Nemedhians, the Fir Bholg, and then the Tuatha de Danaan. They all tamed and cultivated the land and fought the Formorii who were huge, evil deformed beings who lived in the air or under the sea.  It could be argued that the Formorii is the chaos in creation so fighting these giants is something to keep the universe safe.

1.2/. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain”, 1136:-

It is assumed the Welsh myths are the same but no written records remain.  However the topic is covered in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain” which was written around 1136.  He made use of earlier transcripts and oral sources.

In his account the first humans were Trojans.  Britain was first settled by Brutus who was descended from Aeneas, Prince of Troy.  Brutus accidently killed his father and was expelled from Italy.  It had been prophesied that Brutus would settle on an island in the western sea inhabited only by giants.  After a long adventure he landed in Totnes.  Brutus drove out most of the giants who were living there, leaving only a few in Cornwall and divided the land between his followers.

Corineus was Brutus’ right-hand man who liked to fight giants for sport.  Brutus set up a fight with the Cornish giant Gogmagog.  During the fight Gogmagog broke three of Corneus’s ribs.  Corneus became enraged and picked up the giant, took him to the coast and threw him into the sea.  The sea was stained red with the giant’s blood and his body was broken into a thousand pieces.

This can be seen as part of the gods/heroes working against the forces of chaos so the land can be settled.

1.3/.  Germanic & Scandinavian Creation Mythology:-

These myths give a slightly different picture.  The universe has a definite beginning.

In the oldest myths the giants worked alongside the gods to create the universe.  The universe was created by the Sky God working with the giant Nokkvi, the helmsman to the moon as it sails across the sky.

The Sky God gave chariots to the giants Night and Day and sent them into the heavens to drive around the Earth.

Ymir the Giant was the first being, made from the meeting of fire and ice in a void.  He fathered the first of the Frost Giants and produced the first man and woman from the ooze under his left armpit.

Audumla the cow fed Ymir on her milk and licked Buri, the first of the gods, out of the ice.

Bor, the son of Buri, married the Frost Giantess Bestla and fathered the gods Odin, Villi & Ve with her.

Odin, Villi and Ve had no liking for Ymir and eventually attacked and killed him.  His blood drowned all but two of the giants who escaped on a boat on the flow of the blood, these giants constantly looked for revenge.  Ymir’s body made the world, his flesh made the soil, his bones the mountains, his blood the seas and the lakes and so on.

2/. The Role of the Giants in Folklore:-

The folklore mirrors earlier myths, some portray giants as being good and others as being bad.  They were generally big and strong and neutral towards humans, sometimes friendly and destructive by accident.  Figures of fun and the centre of amusing tales.

  • Norway, St Olaf entered into an agreement with a giant to build him a church, with the sun and the moon or St Olaf himself as payment if the giant completed the task according to the agreed terms.  St Olaf found out the name of the giant and called his name out to him which so surprised the giant he fell from the roof of the church and was smashed into pieces.  Knowing the name of something gives power over it.

A number of folklore tales involve giants in building projects and as explanations for things in the landscape.  There are lots of tales on this topic and there are lots of them from Cornwall.

  • In St Levan, Cornwall the Iron Age hill fort Treryn Dinas was built either by a giant who conjured it out of the sea, or by the giant Dan Dfynas and his wife An Venna.
  • At Carn Galva, Zennor, Cornwall a giant set up the famous logan (rocking) stone.  This was a nice giant who liked to build up a pile of rocks and then knock them down.  He fought other giants to protect Zennor.  He only killed a human once and that was by accident when he playfully tapped them on the head with his finger tip.  The giant died within 7 years with a broken heart.
  • In Mounts Bay, Cornwall the giant Cormoran and his wife built a stronghold.
  • Lerrin, Cornwall a linear defensive ditch is called the Giant’s Hedge.
  • St Agnes’ Beacon, Cornwall the Bolster Bank linear earthwork was reputed to be built by a giant called Bolster.
  • Norden Hill & Hanging Hill, Dorset were created as the result of a stone throwing contest between two giants.
  • Colwall, Herefordshire a stone by the crossroads was said to have been thrown there by a giant, however it was well known that it was brought from a quarry.
  • Kinver Edge, Staffordshire the stone known as the Bolt Stone was thrown by a jealous giant who had a beautiful wife and saw another giant kissing his wife and threw a long thin stone at the other giant, which is still there today.
  • At Turton, Lancashire the Hanging Stone was thrown from Winter Hill to Turton by a giant.
  • Wade’s Causeway in Yorkshire is a Roman road which linked four Roman camps.  It is said to have been built by a giant called Wade out of stones brought by his wife Bel in her leather apron.  The apron gave way and heaps of stones were left.

There are a number of reasons for the tales.  In some stories the real reason things were in the landscape was already well known and the tale told for amusement or entertainment.  In some cases the knowledge may have been lost and made up by less educated local people.  Others hold echoes of past mythology.

Next time we shall look at more tales of giant, some not well disposed to humans.

17 May 2021 – Otherworld Folklore Creatures Associated with Water

The session completed the topic looking at Seal People (Selkies), Sea Trows, Water Cattle and Kelpies.

1/.   Seal people’s (Selkies):-

In tales from the West of Ireland and Scotland their normal environment is the sea, they can shed their skin and take on human form.  This happens at dawn and dusk and on special days.

People used to claim they were descended from Selkies who bred with human men whilst in their human form.

One tale was of a young crofter/fisherman who saw a Selkie in the act of turning into a woman, he stole her skin so she could not revert and go back to the sea.  He took her home to be his wife and they lived together and had children.  She always wanted to return to the sea and one day found the skin the young man had left and went back to the sea and was never seen again.

There was another tale of the Selkie Bride from long ago on the coast of Scotland where a beautiful human form Selkie was left behind by her own kind when they were startled by a man.  He kept her skin even though she begged for it as he had fallen in love with her.  She was trapped and had no option but to agree to live with him.  He kept the skin in a crook in the chimney.  They were married and he truly loved her and she grew to love him too and they had 7 children.  She pined for the sea and the children would sometimes see their mother on the beach.  One of the children asked her why and she replied that she was born in the sea and your father has hidden my seal skin.  The child knew where the skin was and moved by his mother’s distress brought the skin to her.  She put the skin on and went into the sea.  The fisherman’s heart broke in two and he realised how wrong he had been.  They missed her for the rest of their lives, they often saw a seal close to the shore and they never went hungry as every time they went fishing, they had a net full of gleaming fish.

2/.  Sea Trows from Shetland:-

These looked like human beings, they were mortal and very beautiful men and women with super natural powers.  They lived in the sea down below any fish.  The only way they could come up was by putting on the skin of an amphibious creature, once on shore they could take the skin off but they could not return if they lost the skin.

Samuel Hibbert in his book ‘A Description of the Shetland Isles’ says these were fallen angels who took refuge in the sea but records show these stories were there before Christianity.

They were fond of the Skerries and would revel in the moonlight protected by the turbulent water around the islands.

There are connections to Celtic Mythology, from the other world, using water as a way to cross over and shape-shifting

3/.  Water Cattle:-

These are stories from the Celtic parts of Britain, Scotland, Wales and Coastal Ireland.  In the Highlands of Scotland and Wales they are fairy cattle whose real homes are under the water and belong to the fairy folk.  They are brown with no horns.  One tale was of a fairy cow which was bred with a normal bull.  When it had come to be of no further use they were about to butcher it when it was called home by a green woman, the cow sped away and took all her offspring with her.

4/.  Horses/Kelpies:-

Kelpies were most often horses but they could also take on human form.  Old men, young men, young women.  They would go courting and could be recognised by the waterweed in their hair.  They haunted fords and rivers especially at night in storms and when the rivers were full.  They were dangerous and malevolent beings.  They delighted in the drowning of men, distress of sailors as a ship went down.

The White Horse of Spey was ready saddled with reins dangling to lure tired travellers to ride it, then would gallop off into the water.

When the Conon River in Ross-shire was in flood it would appear as a woman or as a horse.  The woman was described as being very tall and dressed in green.  Her face was distorted by a malignant scowl.  They would leap out from the water beside travellers and beckon them into the water.  The traveller couldn’t resist and could not be saved.  One tale covers a man being saved from drowning and taken to a church but later found face down in a trough.  It was his fate.

Such was the belief in Kelpies that on one occasion some people were stuck on a sandbank in the Solway Firth and the people on land did not try to save them as they assumed it was kelpies and they could not be saved.

There were lots of these stories, with the majority resulting in mutilation with fingers being chopped off to loosen grip on reins in order to escape or drowning.  On occasion the Kelpie could be outwitted.

These stories were a way of explain natural phenomenon.


Next time we shall start a new topic of Giants.

Visit to Yarrow Country Park – 18th May 2021

Eight members of the group attended the first visit that has been possible for more than a year.  Twenty five species were recorded including a very interesting group of Dippers and a number of Grey Wagtails.  We were also able to get close to a juvenile Nuthatch.

Thanks to Peter Gateley for these photographs taken on this visit.

Click ‘Continue reading’ for the full list of species seen:

Continue reading

Spring clean May 2021

Those of us who have opted for ZOOM Solo Country Dancing are still dancing each Friday with June’s excellent guidance. Looking forward to seeing all of you that couldn’t  join us, in June.

I am handing on the Group Author mantle, so look forward to a new slant on Posts from July onwards.


Past Operas 2020

March 18th 2020

Girl from the Golden WestLa Fanciulla del West – Puccini

Puccini’s Wild West opera has the California gold rush as its dramatic backdrop for a story in which Minnie, the only woman in a mining camp, gambles on her one chance of happiness. Lorin Maazel conducts a fine cast in Jonathan Miller’s 1991 production of the compelling and evocative opera, which Puccini himself considered his best work.

This DVD of La fanciulla del West presents Jonathan Miller’s atmospheric production for La Scala, with sets by Stefanos Lazaridis and costumes by Sue Blane. The cast is strong, and Lorin Maazel proves a warmer, more idiomatic Puccinian here than he generally was in his audio recordings for CBS/Sony. His direction makes one marvel afresh at the imagination and colour in this score, distinct from other Puccini operas in its obsession with the whole-tone scale.

Jonathan Miller, Placido Domingo

Synopsis: click here.

February 19th 2020

CosiCosi fan tutte – Mozart 

La Scala; Riccardo Muti

Daniela Dessì and Delores Ziegler lead the cast in Mozart’s brilliant and witty opera, as the two women whose faithfulness in the face of romantic love is ruthlessly tested in Da Ponte’s comic tale.

This is one wonderful production of what many feel is Mozart’s most nearly perfect opera. Riccardo Muti is in the pit and his Scala orchestra play like angels for him. The sets are beautiful (and much more so than the somewhat Pop Art-ish Glyndebourne sets). The backdrops overlook the Bay of Naples and the sky and water are blue, blue, blue. The foregrounds are fairly simple – a few columns, some tables, benches, stairs, drapes. When Ferrando and Guglielmo go off to join their military unit they are picked up by a rather nice three-masted ship that sails in from the wings and then carries them off. Costumes are also traditional, typical 17-century trappings with wigs, period-specific military uniforms for the men, lovely gowns for the women. I was amused that the hat worn by Despina when she appears as the magnetic Doctor in Act I looks like a pilgrim hat, but I guess that’s not really anachronistic, just a little funny-looking to an American viewer.

Synopsis: Click Here

Wednesday January

Lo frate ‘nnamorato –

Pergolesi – La Scala

Rare recording of Pergolesi’s second opera, a comic and colourful tale of tangled love in which three girls resist their arranged marriages in pursuit of the same young man. Rediscovered by conductor Riccardo Muti, this forgotten jewel sparkles in its 1989 period production.

Vacant slots at the S&G HQ

This is a list of vacant slots at the S&G HQ during the period up to September 2021.

If a Group Leader wishes to book a slot, the best way is to email Group Support.

Please note that established lunchtime activities mean that:

Morning sessions in the large hall on Monday, Tuesday and Friday must finish by 11:45.
Morning sessions in the small hall on Thursday must finish by 11:45.

Dated 22 August 2021:

  2nd Monday Morning small hall vacant
2nd Monday Afternoon small hall vacant
3rd Tuesday Morning large hall vacant
  3rd Tuesday Afternoon large hall Table Tennis
  3rd Tuesday Afternoon small hall vacant
  4th Wednesday Morning small hall vacant
  4th Wednesday Afternoon large hall vacant
  5th Thursday Morning large hall vacant
  5th Thursday Morning small hall vacant
  6th Friday Afternoon large hall vacant
  9th Monday Morning small hall vacant
  9th Monday Afternoon small hall vacant
  10th Tuesday Morning large hall vacant
  11th Wednesday Morning small hall vacant
  12th Thursday Morning large hall vacant
  12th Thursday Morning small hall vacant
  13th Friday Afternoon large hall vacant
  16th Monday Morning small hall Guitars
  17th Tuesday Morning large hall Creative Writing
17th Tuesday Afternoon large hall Table Tennis
  17th Tuesday Afternoon small hall vacant
  18th Wednesday Morning small hall vacant
  18th Wednesday Afternoon large hall vacant
  19th Thursday Morning large hall vacant
  19th Thursday Morning small hall vacant
  20th Friday Afternoon large hall vacant
  23rd Monday Morning large hall vacant
  23rd Monday Morning small hall vacant
  23rd Monday Afternoon large hall HEOG
  24th Tuesday Morning large hall vacant
  24th Tuesday Afternoon large hall Table Tennis
  25th Wednesday Morning small hall vacant
  26th Thursday Morning large hall vacant
  26th Thursday Morning small hall vacant
  27th Friday Afternoon large hall vacant
  30th Monday Morning small hall vacant
  30th Monday Morning large hall vacant
  30th Monday Afternoon small hall vacant
  31st Tuesday Morning large hall vacant
  31st Tuesday Morning small hall vacant
  31st Tuesday Afternoon large hall Church History
  31st Tuesday Afternoon small hall vacant
  1st Wednesday Morning small hall vacant
  2nd Thursday Morning large hall vacant
  7th Tuesday Afternoon large hall Derrick Fewings
  8th Wednesday Morning small hall vacant
  9th Thursday Morning large hall Derrick Fewings
  27th Monday Morning small hall vacant
  28th Tuesday Afternoon large hall Table Tennis
  29th Wednesday Afternoon large hall vacant
  30th Thursday Afternoon small hall vacant
OCTOBER [No bookings being taken until August]
  29th Friday Afternoon large hall vacant

Derrick Fewings

19 April 2021- Otherworld Folklore Creatures Associated with Water

The session looked at mermaids and church bells and then other creatures.

1/.  Legends Concerning Mermaids & Church Bells:-


  • Llyn Cerig Bach, Anglesey:- around 140 Iron Age metal objects discovered in the lake in 1943
  • Llyn Fawr, Rhondda Valley:- Bronze & Iron Age metal objects found in the lake in 1911.
  • Bosham, Sussex:- church bell said to have been looted by the Vikings and then lost in the harbour.

These legends were common and may have had their origins in the old folklore of water spirits, goddesses.  They hark back to pagan beliefs and old religions.  The legends concerning church bells obviously come about with Christianity and are perhaps related to the struggles to get Christianity accepted.  Metal is linked to the old beliefs and church bells may be dim memories of offerings in the past.  Several the stories pick up on the theme of virtue and sin.  Although it is set within a Christian context a number of the stories involve wise men and pagan like rituals which must be strictly adhered to or they will fail.

2/. Sea-Living Mermaids:-

There are a lot of these stories.  They probably started as water spirits and had the mermaid label attached later, with Celtic mythology roots.  Water being the portal between this world and the other world.  They often had long blonde hair.  The sea living mermaids had a range of supernatural powers, some could shape change shift, if they married a human they became a human.  If the mermaid was treated well you would have good luck, if treated badly you would be cursed.  Human husbands would live with them for all eternity.  Some mermaids lived in the sea and also had farms on land.

We looked at a number of examples

  • Orkney Fin Folk:- human form but covered in scales instead of skin.
  • Lizzard Point, Cornwall:- in return for his kindness to her, a mermaid taught an old man from Cury the art of charming. She also offered to make him young again if he would go with her, but he declined.
  • Conwy, North Wales:- the town was cursed by a mermaid after the townspeople refused to help her.
  • Padstow, Cornwall:- a sandbank that blocked the harbour was the result of a mermaid’s curse.
  • Isle of Man:- the thick mists that often descended on the island where the result of a mermaid’s curse.
  • The Black Rock, Mersey Estuary:- a mermaid lured sailors to their doom.
  • Mermaid’s Rock, Lamorna, Cornwall:- a mermaid lured fishermen to their doom.
  • Zennor, Cornwall:- a mermaid lured a local man away to be her husband.

3/. Water Fairies:-

Some mermaids were called water fairies and there is a blurred line in their definition.  The water fairies also have their origins in water spirits, Celtic mythology and appear a lot in Welsh folklore.  These would have towns on the beds of lakes, involve magic, time passing at a different rate, aversion to iron.

We looked in detail at

The Fairies of the Mountain Lake:-

“The people who lived near to Beddgelert in Snowdonia used to watch the Fairies dancing in the moonlight on the shores of a certain mountain lake. One night a young man fell in love with one of the Fairy women and he took her off and locked her in his house. She agreed to act as his servant, and then she married him. They had two children and lived together happily for some years. Then one day, when she was helping her husband to catch a horse, an iron bit struck her on the shoulder, iron being anathema to all Fairy Folk, and in an instant she vanished. However, on the Fairies’ mountain lake there was a floating island that was blown about by the wind, and from time to time, the Fairy wife would appear in this island and she would talk to her husband while he stood on the shore.”  Janet & Colin Bord, “Atlas of Magical Britain”, 1990.

and at

The Lake Island in Llyn Cwm Llwych:-

“At the foot of Corn Du in the Brecon Beacons is the tiny lake of Llyn Cwm Llwych which is reputed to be bottomless. In ancient times, it was believed that there was a door in a rock which gave access to an island in the centre of the lake, which was invisible to those who stood on the shore. People who went to the island were hospitably received by the Fairies who lived there, but one day the Fairies were angry with a guest who took away a flower. They closed the door and for hundreds of years it could not be found.

One day some local people decided to drain the lake to see if the Fairies had left any treasure behind. They dug a deep trench and just when they had got to the point where another blow with the pick would have broken the bank and let out the water, there was a flash of lighting and a peal of thunder. From the lake rose a gigantic man, who warned them that if they disturbed his peace he would drown the valley of the River Usk, starting with Brecon town.”


The Poet Southey on the Subject of the Fairies’ Enchanted Island:-

“Of these islands or green spots of the floods, there are some singular superstitions. They are the abode of the Tylwth Teg, or the Fair Family….They love to visit the earth, and seizing a man enquire whether he will travel above wind, mid-wind, or below wind: above wind is a giddy and terrible passage, below wind is through brush and brake, the middle is a safe course…In their better moods they come and carry the Welsh in their boats. He who visits these islands imagines on his return that he has been absent only for a few hours, when in truth whole centuries have passed away.  If you take turf from St David’s churchyard and stand upon it on the sea shore, you behold these islands. A man once who thus obtained sight of them immediately put to sea to find them, but his search was in vain. He returned, looked at them again from the enchanted turf, again set sail and failed again. The third time he took the turf into his vessel and stood upon it until he reached them.”  Chris Barber, “Mysterious Wales”, 2000.


Wirt Sykes, “Goblins”, 1880:-

“Sailors on the coasts of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire still talk of green meadows of enchantment which are visible sometimes to the eyes of mortals, but only for a brief space of time. In former years, some sailors went ashore on the Fairy islands, not knowing they were such, until they returned to their boats and were filled with awe at seeing the islands disappear from their sight, neither sinking into the sea, nor floating away upon the waters but simply vanishing.”  Chris Barber, “Mysterious Wales, 2000.


Next time we shall continue with Seal People (Selkies) could shed their seal skins and assume human form, and Water Cattle/Kelpies


Message From Your Retiring Science Group Management Team

We wrote to all Science Group members towards the end of March to advise that the existing Science Group leaders would be retiring and the group would need new leaders to continue. Thank you to all who replied, many with very complimentary messages, for which we are truly grateful. We ourselves have greatly enjoyed our 12-year tenure in charge and hope we have brought both pleasure and mental stimulation to all who attended the talks, visits, short courses, quizzes, competitions and experiments.

We also thank everyone for their attendance over the years – that is the reason we kept going for so long, and it was always rewarding to see so many turn up.  The average 60 attendees for the last 20 meetings prior to Covid-19 shows remarkable determination to keep up an interest in science whatever the weather, and whatever the topic. Members questions helped enliven the sessions and kept the speakers on their toes; indeed, the speakers always left with a very positive impression of our u3a.

Special thanks are due to all those who have played an active part in the monthly meetings, whether in organising and serving refreshments, putting chairs and tables out and tidying them away again, making sure everyone signed the register, or made sense of the microphone system!  And we can never forget the many members who planned, researched, rehearsed and delivered such a wide spectrum of talks, whether full length single topic ones, or sharing a platform on “my favourite element” sessions. Without all these contributions, we couldn’t have done it, and our members wouldn’t have enjoyed it!  So thanks to all once again.

A new team, comprising Bill Hale, Bill Soens, Peter Gateley and Colin Redwood, has volunteered to lead the group, on an interim basis, from September until Christmas. We wish them every success, and hope that Science Group members will give them their full support.  Indeed, they will no doubt appreciate any offers of help which can be given in this venture.

With very best wishes to you all – stay safe, get your vaccinations and believe in science!

From Jack Brettle, Patsy Colvin, Marguerita McBride, Alan Nolan

29 March 2021- Supernatural and Other World Beings

The session started looking at a selection of creatures associated with the natural world covering mermaids, water spirits, seal people, kelpies, all with watery connections.

Mermaids in Inland Water:-

By late C12th in western art the mermaid had acquired all her familiar features.  In western Christian imagery she was a symbol of lust & desire.

In British folklore, mermaids were associated with water, love, marriage, procreation , danger and also wisdom.

Examples looked at in the session were:-

Atargatis:- venerated in ancient Near East; associated with the River Euphrates; personified the light & aspects of love; by C2nd AD depicted as half woman/ half fish.

Aphrodite:- Greek goddess of love (Roman Venus); born from the foam of the sea: in Roman times depicted as rising from the sea holding a looking glass.

Sirens:- in Greek mythology lured sailors onto the rocks with their beguiling song; depicted as half woman/ half bird.

Child Ercall, Shropshire:- a mermaid guarded treasure at the bottom of her pool.

Rostherne Mere, Knutsford, Cheshire:- a mermaid swam from the River Mersey to the mere every Easter Sunday (by way of an underground channel) and rang a bell at the bottom of the mere.

Marden, Herefordshire:- a mermaid appropriated a church bell that fell into her river.

Black Mere, Staffordshire:- a mermaid lured unwary travellers to their deaths.

East Anglia:- mermaids haunted the fens and inland pools.

River Kinder, Derbyshire:- a mermaid with the gift of immortality appeared in a pool at dawn on Easter Day.

Loch Benachally, Tayside:- the Laird of Lornty escaped a mermaid in the loch.

Girvan Water, Strathclyde:- a mermaid cursed the Lord and Lady of Knockdolian.

Dalbeattie Burn, Galloway:- a mermaid took revenge on a Christian woman.

Monmouthshire:- Nicky Nicky Nye dragged unwary children into rivers.

Fordham, Cambridgeshire:- a mermaid dragged unwary children into her pond.

Rendlesham, Suffolk:- a mermaid dragged unwary children into her pond.

Lancashire, Cheshire, Shropshire:- Jenny Greenteeth dragged unwary children into weed-filled rivers, ponds, lakes.

Piercebridge, County Durham:- Peg Powler lurked in the River Tees.

Frig/Nerthus:- Germanic/Scandinavian Earth Mother.

Rivers Tweed, Dart, Till, Derwent, Ribble:- “demanded” a certain number of lives each year.

There was a discussion on the possible origins of Mermaids in Inland water sources

  • They could have been the goddesses or water spirits who guarded the pools and rivers in the pagan past when these sites were regarded as sacred places. Possibly the legends and tales may contain some dim “folk memories” of the rituals once performed at these sites.
  • On a more mundane level, the mermaid legends would also serve as warnings, to keep adults and children away from dangerous water.

We will have more to say about the mermaids and church bells in our next session (19th April).



15 February, 1 March and 15 March 2021 – Fairy Folk

The sessions continued and completed the subject of the Fairy Folk/Good People:

For ease of discussion we grouped the tales into 4 categories:-

  • 1/. Stories where they benefit from human kindness and offer a reward.
  • 2/. React to unkindness and disrespect.
  • 3/. Changelings, fairy left in place of a human baby
  • 4/. Adult humans wander into their Fairy Land or are abducted there.

1/.  In the previous session we looked at a number of tales about the first group of The Good People.  There are lots of stories about these and often involved farmers and their wives and their help would be rewarded with little loaves, pats of butter or cheeses.  These stories occurred all over Britain and continental Europe.

2/.  This second group had a less benign flavour to them.  Great care had to be taken to show respect or there could be dire consequences.  Giving way to greed, arrogance and abusing hospitality were often fatal.  They may have been used as morality tales, and perhaps in later versions reflected Christian mores.  They attribute supernatural causes onto natural events, for things at the time there was no obvious explanation such as wasting diseases.

The Midwife at Garth Dorwen

We looked in detail at the story of The Midwife at Garth Dorwen.  Human midwives were often summoned to fairy births to help fairy mothers or assist human women who had been abducted.

An old man and his wife who lived at Garth Dorwen, near Llandwrog went to Caernarfon to hire a servant at the Fair. They hired a girl with yellow hair who was standing a little apart for the others.

The girl, Eilian, would go out into the meadow to spin by the light of the moon.  Here the Tylwyth Teg (the good people) used to come to her and sing and dance. One day in Spring, she ran off with the Tylwyth Teg and no more was heard of her.

The old woman at Garth Dorwen helped women in childbed, and some time after this, a gentleman on horseback came to the door one night when the moon was full, to fetch her to his lady. The old woman rode pillion behind him and they came to Rhos-y-Cowrt. In the centre of the rhos (moor) was an old fortification. Here they entered a large cave and came to a room- and it was the finest place the old woman had seen in her life- where the wife lay in bed.

When the baby was born, the husband gave her ointment to anoint its eyes, warning her not to get it into her own, but one of her eyes happening to itch, she rubbed it with the finger she had used to anoint the baby’s eyes.  At once she saw with that that the fine chamber was a cave, the bed a ring of stones lined with rushes and withered bracken, and the gentleman’s wife none other than her servant girl Eilian; yet with the other eye, she still saw the grandest place that ever she had seen.

Not long afterwards, the old woman went to Caernarfon market and there she saw the husband. “How is Eilian?”, she asked. “She is pretty well, thank you”, he said, “but which eye do you see me with?”. “Well this one”, said she. At once he took a bullrush stem and poked it out.

In this tale Eilian has unusually coloured hair which would make her attractive to the good people.  They were thought to need human blood lines to strengthen theirs.  The spinning, moonlight, full moon, caves, old forts, travelling at night are common themes.  Grand fairy abodes were often revealed to be very modest.  Again there was a great consequence for disobeying, a warning not to cause even accidental offence.

Tom Monahan and the Hurley

We also looked in detail at the tale of “Tom Monahan and the Hurley”, as recorded in Galway in 1945.

Tom Monahan from Doonlaun was one of the finest players of hurling in the district. One bright moonlight night, he was on his way home, and as he passed a field that sloped down from a wood, he was surprised to see two teams of men playing hurling in the moonlight, and as he watched the game, he realised that they must be the Good People. They played wonderfully well and after a time, Tom became so excited that he let out a yell, which alerted the Good People to his presence.

“Would you like to join in?”, they asked. “Indeed I would”, said Tom, and “Have you a hurley?” They handed Tom the finest hurley he had ever seen, and he played as he never had before, and his team won.

“I’ll tell you who we are, now”, said the Good People. “We are from the churchyard beyond, and we are in a great fix, for we have to play our old rivals from Knockmar on this night week, and they have a mortal, the red-headed Paddy Ruadh, to play for them, and he is the best hurler in County Mayo. Will you play for us, to even things up?’ “Indeed I will”, said Tom, ‘but can I have the same hurley?” And it was agreed.

So a week from that night, Tom crept out, telling no-one where he was going, and he found the two teams and his hurley waiting for him. They played and played, and in the end, Tom’s team won. “What would you like now?” said the Good People, “and we’ll give it to you.” “I’d like the hurley that I played so well with”, was the reply. “You’ve asked for the one thing we can’t do. Tis fairy property and we couldn’t give it away.” “Well I want it”, said Tom. “Well you can’t have it”, said the Good People. “Well I must”, said Tom, and with that he walked away, taking the hurley will him.

Well Tom was hardly home before he began to sicken. His mother could do nothing for him, and the doctor could do nothing for him, and all the time, he grew worse and worse. And when he knew that he was going to die, Tom asked them to bury the hurley with him in his coffin. Sure they did it, so maybe he’s still winning matches for Doonlaun now.”

The common themes let us know early in the tale that the good people are involved, moonlight, reference to red hair, the finest hurley, from a church yard, and with this Christian morality.  He paid a high price for breaking the rules of hospitality.

3/.  The third group, Changelings, have a very dark tone to them, especially in the early stories.  The origins of these may have come from disabled babies, sudden illness, congenital disorders and defects, and infanticide.  The changelings survive for a while.  In the later stories, the human parents sometimes get the children back and the fairies don’t abandon their own.

There was a view that changelings were taken to strengthen the fairy stock.  Boys with fair hair and rosy cheeks were prized, they were taken, treated well and in due course took a fairy bride.  Something would be left behind in their place such as a magic block of wood or one of their own.

A changeling could be recognised as they were ugly and wizened, unnaturally knowing, becoming weak, grizzling, moping, and failing to thrive.

Precautions could be taken to protect a child from being taken.  Iron and steel were well known to be repugnant to fairy folk, salt, rowan twigs, crucifix and rosary beads were protective.  These are a mix of pagan and Christian beliefs co-opted into the stories later.  In rural Ireland boys were dressed as girls to protect them from coming to the notice of the fairies until they were old enough to be safe.

These tales were from all over the country with examples from Ipstones, Staffordshire, Fermanagh, Ireland, Kington, Powys, Scotland and Llyn Ebyr, Wales.  The people recounting the tale were often well-regarded members of the community and therefore viewed as reliable.  A way to get the changeling to show itself was to act in an unexpected way, in the tale from Llyn Ebyr eggshell stew was served to the workers.

4/.  The fourth group are those where adult humans wander into the fairy realm or are abducted.  There were numerous examples of these.

These had echoes of the Celtic other world.  Involved journeys near water, at night, at length, through caves, underground, through gaps in rocks, through a door, getting lost.  You were safe if you did not eat or drink.  The passage of time was different.  Behaving oddly or bringing something from this world could be used to escape or rescue a person.  Some tales left the protagonists caught between worlds where they could be heard from time to time outside cave entrances, in the wind etc..

The other world could be recognised because it was beautiful, vibrant and splendid.  In Irish culture it was often the land of youth and health.  It was often shown to be enchantment and not real.

The Fairy Dwelling on Selena Moor

We looked at this tale in detail, it has many of these elements.

A Farmer called Noy once took a short cut on Selena Moor in Cornwall and he became lost.  After wandering for many miles over country that he could not recognise, he came upon a house, outside which hundreds of people were either dancing, or sitting drinking at tables. They were all richly dressed, but they looked to the farmer to be very small, and the tables and cups were small as well.

The farmer was astounded when he recognised a young woman who was serving drinks. She was his former sweetheart Grace, and as far as everyone was concerned, she had died three or four years before.  Grace beckoned him aside, into the orchard that surrounded the house, and told him that she had also become lost on the moor, while searching for a lost sheep.  What her friends found on the moor, what they thought was her body, was in fact a changeling, a stock, put there by the Fairies.  In fact she had wandered around for hours until she came to an orchard where she could hear music playing.  Although the music sounded near at hand, she could not get out of the orchard to find it.

At last, worn out with hunger and thirst, she plucked a golden plum from one of the trees and began to eat it.  At once the fruit dissolved into bitter water in her mouth and she fell into a faint. When she revived, she found herself surrounded by a crowd of little people, who were very pleased to have acquired such a likely looking girl to bake and brew for them, and to look after their human babies.

Farmer Noy asked her about the little people, and she told him that their lives seemed unnatural and sham:- “They have little sense or feeling; what serves them in a way as such, is merely the remembrance of whatever pleased them when they lived as mortals, maybe thousands of years ago.”

 Farmer Noy asked if Fairy babies were ever born, and Grace replied just occasionally, and then there was great rejoicing.  Every little Fairy man, however old and wizened, was proud to be thought its father:- “For you must remember that they are not of our religion, but star-worshippers (pagans). They do not always live together like Christians and turtle doves; considering their long existence, such constancy would be tiresome for them.”

When Grace was called back to her work, she warned the farmer not to touch any fruit or flower in the orchard “for your very life”.

Farmer Noy thought that he might find a way to rescue them both; so he took his hedging gloves out of his pocket, turned them inside out and threw them in among the Fairies. Immediately everything vanished, including his lady-love, and he found himself standing alone beside a ruined cottage on the moor.

He was found some time later, dazed and bewildered, by the friends who had come out search for him. When he recovered his senses, he was much surprised to discover that he had been missing for three days.


Origins of the Fairy Folk in British Folklore:-

At the end of the topic we looked at the possible origins of the Fairy Folk.  These tales stand out as being a distinctly different set of stories and there are a great many legends concerning them.

(i) they may have been used to illustrate examples of proper behaviour in stories designed to have a teaching function for children and adults.  With Christian morals co-opted into them in later versions.

(ii) they may have been the existing inhabitants of Britain displaced when either the Bronze Age people or the Iron Age Celts arrived and they were pushed to the margins.  The fairies didn’t like iron and the Celts had iron weapons.  However, it is now thought that these peoples were blended together.  There may be echoes of human origins in the long distant past.

(iii) they may have been linked to a cult of the dead, cult of the ancestors.  Glastonbury Tor, Somerset:- St Collen met Gwyn ap Nudd (King of the Fairies, Lord of Annwyn) in his palace inside the Tor.  Fairy Folk and the realm of the dead.

(iv) they may represent a survival of Celtic mythology: originally they may have been Celtic gods & goddesses.   Aine:- wife of the Celtic sea god Manannan Mac Lir; wife of the sky horse Echdae; strong associations with the Earth Mother/ Great Goddess; in Munster venerated at Cnoc Aine as goddess of the dawn and also as Queen of the Fairies.


Next time we shall continue with supernatural in the natural world and landscape including the sea and mermaids.

Lockdown Projects – Various

Lockdown Projects – Christmas Items

Lockdown Project – Easter and Items for other Religious Occasions

Lockdown Project – NHS Support

Members’ Stories

We are very fortunate, this year, to be treated to a series of tales written by members following an initiative from Sue Watkinson, Trustee and  member of Communications Subcommittee. Here are the initial examples, already published in one of the monthly enews of 2021.

Many thanks to Sue for having this idea in the first place and then promoting it.  And, of course, the efforts of the authors are applauded and much appreciated.

If you have a suitable tale to tell ie one in which you have some direct or indirect involvement and you would like to share it with us, please contact

Albert – Short story


29th January 1945, Nottinghamshire

In the dark night sky above the village of Hoveringham a Lancaster bomber circled, its engine spluttering. It was a training flight, and on board was a crew of 7 British and Canadian airmen, including the Flight Engineer, Albert Mercer, aged 23. As horrified villagers watched, the aircraft burst into flames and exploded, scattering pieces of burning fuselage across the surrounding fields. None of the crew survived.

30th January 1945, Southport

Olive made her way home from the station in the cold, blackout darkness of the January night. She was happy and excited, thinking about the handsome young man she had met on the train to Liverpool a few weeks earlier. As she turned into Chester Road and walked towards the house, she became aware that something wasn’t right, and as she turned her key in the lock she realised that there were no lights on, no smell of cooking, no voices to be heard. Heart thumping, she made her way into the living room to find Mum, Dad and 14 year old brother Billy, huddled round the fire. Billy turned, tears streaming down his cheeks: ‘Albert’s crashed’.

Hoveringham, 60 years later

Janice had almost given up hope of finding anyone in the village who remembered the crash. She had always known about Albert, her mother’s older brother, who had been killed in an air crash during the war, but no details had ever come to light. Why did the plane crash? Was he killed instantly? Had there been an investigation? The last door she knocked on was opened by an elderly gentleman. ‘Oh yes, I was only a child at the time but I remember it well …’

Hoveringham, 2009

Walking across the fields adjacent to her home with her brother David, a former RAF pilot, Helen was anxious to try out the metal detector she had been given for Christmas. Within minutes they discovered several pieces of jagged metal, which David identified as aeroplane fuselage. Intrigued, they made enquiries locally, and found eye witnesses, children at the time, who had seen that fatal crash in January 1945. One gentleman also mentioned a lady who had knocked on his door some years earlier, and who had left a name and phone number.

Olive was my Mum, Janice my sister and Albert my uncle, although I never met him as he died 5 years before I was born. He loved music, motor bikes and horses and by all accounts was the life and soul of any party. Growing up, we knew that Albert had died in a plane crash during the war, and we had visited his grave in Southport’s Duke St Cemetery. The events described above might have been the end of the story, but Helen discovered that there was not just one crash, but two, within weeks of each other in January 1945, in which 14 young men from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had perished. Over the next 12 months she managed to make contact with the families of all but one of them, and in May 2010 we were all invited to the dedication of 2 memorial stones, erected on the land where the aircraft crashed. Helen also wrote a book: ‘The Courage of the Small Hours’, describing each individual airman, the wartime background and the role played by Bomber Command during the war. Finally, the huge and tragic sacrifice made by those young men so long ago had been recognised.

Uncle Albert would have been 100 in August 2021.

Helen later wrote:

The Lancasters were based at RAF Syerston and both crews were on their final training flights. The aircraft crashed for different reasons, but reading the accident reports, it would be fair to assume structural or engine failure played a part as crews in training were given ‘beaten up’ old aircraft to learn in, which had been retired from active service. They frequently suffered structural disasters.

Of the 125,000 young men who served as aircrew in Bomber Command, nearly half were killed (55,573). Of that number, roughly 8,500 died in training accidents. There were 15 aircraft crashes in the local area around Hoveringham during the war, mostly heavy bombers, and around 100 young airmen died in the skies above and in the fields around us in this quiet corner of Nottinghamshire.

February 2021

A Mystery Monolith

Mystery monolith in sand dunes near Hightown!

The photo is of our son, Michael Ingman, next to the monolith that appeared mid January in Hightown Dunes.

The first monolith was discovered in the Utah Desert mid November 2020 after being seen by a pilot from a small plane. It then disappeared with no trace after a few weeks. Since then over 170 similar monoliths have been viewed around the globe and within days of being discovered have vanished like the first one.

The mystery of why and how these monoliths came to appear for short periods around our Planet has given vent to various ideas. It has been likened to an alien life form as imagined in the 1968 film of “A Space Odyssey.” The appearances and disappearances have both added in equal forms in the attempt to discover a realistic explanation.

In the meantime different artists have come forward to claim credit and the term “Land Art” has been used to describe these metal monoliths. How appropriate, though, for one to appear in such close proximity to Anthony Gormley’s, ‘Another Place’ within a mile further down the coast.

There is, I believe, sadly no mystery over this one’s disappearance within a week, as by all accounts Sefton Council have it in storage, to prevent visitors damaging more of the dune area where conservation projects are ongoing.

As yet though, my understanding is that no-one seems to have claimed this monolith! So could there still be a mystery to be discovered?

Judy Ingman February 2021.

Request from Edge Hill University for Help with Research Project

We have been contacted by researchers in the psychology department at Edge Hill University requesting help with a project to examine the influence of cognitive and social factors on memory for events.  They are currently recruiting older adults for this study.  More details are given below:

  • Participants should be fluent in English and aged between 65-80 years old
  • The first part of the study will be administered online and will look at how a person’s age and level of contact with other age-groups may affect memory of events.
  • Participants will be asked to view short film clips and complete some questionnaires. This should take approximately 40 minutes to complete.
  • For the second part of the study participants will be asked to complete a short routine memory questionnaire over the telephone.
  • Participants will receive a £5 Amazon voucher for their time following completion of participation.
  • The study is being conducted by researchers from Edge Hill University (Dr. Joyce Humphries) and the Open University (Dr Catriona Havard) and has been funded by the British Academy.

This project is being organised by Dr. Emily Breeze from Edge Hill and if you are interested in taking part please contact her directly by email at to receive more information and a link to access the online part of the study.

The Census is coming! 

As everyone knows, the Census comes once every 10 years.

And this year, it’s on 21st March.

If you have questions such as Why do I have to complete the census? What information do they want? or Is it used for more than just family history research? you can get the answers from Lauren Mullen, the Census Engagement Manager for West Lancashire, who has offered to talk to us via Zoom.

If you wish to join this Zoom session, please email and we will send you an invitation to a Zoom meeting now arranged to take place at 10:30 am on Wednesday 17 March.

See also Lauren’s email about the Census.

Diana’s Funeral

Diana’s Funeral by Margaret Kitchen

Journalists go out on assignments with the intention of observing, questioning and reporting. We don’t go with the idea of expressing our personal opinions.

So when, the day before Princess Diana’s funeral, I was boarding the London bound train, I was ambushed by a local TV company asking for my views, I was taken aback. In the maelstrom of the hysterical days since August 31st I had been busy reporting on the situation and had not had much time to consider what I thought.

Continue reading

Signs of Spring

Since entering social isolation started early last year, we have covered the times and seasons in various website ‘galleries’ filling them with items sent in by our talented members.

The first lockdown started in March 2020, so we missed late Winter and early Spring. This new Gallery, on the theme of  ‘Signs of Spring’ aims to fill that gap. We hope too that it will give members cheer that warmer and brighter weather is on its way, new life is returning to the world and there is renewed hope for a safer and more carefree future.

Many, many thanks to all contributors so far. Scroll down the Page to see the latest sections. This Gallery Page is work-in-progress.  If you have snapped any other ‘Signs of Spring’ in your garden or on your walks in February or March, please do send them to us at  As well as flowers, bushes and trees, we particularly welcome relevant images pics of birds, bees, butterflies and other insects, new life in farm or field such as lambs, and country and garden wildlife awakening from winter slumbers.

Moving Forward into Spring

(Click on any picture to move through the slideshow.)

* Note – According to Wikipedia, the Green Man is a “legendary being primarily interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of new growth that occurs every spring.”

Many of the first photos sent in were of snowdrops.  So here is a poem from Judy. Although written a few years ago, it is particularly pertinent to 2021.

The Snowdrop

Leading us into a warmer direction
Taking us forward away from the snow
Away from the wind and the cold that will go.
As we see Spring colours starting to brighten
And the days grow longer in order to lighten
Projecting the warmth that will help us to cope
We will all move forward into seasons of hope.

Judy Ingman, Jan. 2018.

Early Spring Bulbs and Flowers


Early Buds and Greenery

 After the Snowdrops

Colouring the Street

Victoria Park, St Helens Road, Ormskirk

All of these flowers were on display in mid April, making an oasis of colour between two major roads in the town.

Previous Lockdown Galleries

To refresh your memory of the lovely and interesting 2020 Galleries, do revisit:

  • West Lancs in Bloom – galleries set up following a request, early on in the first lockdown, to members for photos taken when  pottering in the garden or out on their daily walk.
  • Gardening Group Gallery – a cornucopia of beautiful summer blooms.
  • West Lancs in Autumn  – gallery of great photos (plus a poem) with a seasonal theme.
  • Christmas Card Gallery – a seasonal webpage contains a miscellany of festive contributions sent in by our talented members.  It started off as photos of cards designed by members to convey greetings within our u3a, then expanded to include crafts, a poem and short stories.

Zoom Support

Spurred on by social isolation from friends and family, many Aughton & Ormskirk u3a members have entered into the world of videoconferencing.  A favourite platform is Zoom.  A good number of our A&O Groups have already been running successful remote meetings for a while now.  See Our Virtual u3a.

If you too would like to give Zoom a go, then you may be asking one of the following questions.  Skip those that don’t apply to your query and current level of expertise.

FAQs relating to Zoom

  1. As an A&O Group Leader, how can I use Zoom to arrange remote meetings with my Group Members?  A&O u3a has two Zoom licences which enable group and other  meetings to run without a restriction on duration. Refer to the Zoom Sessions Calendar to book a slot.
  2. How do I create and use a Zoom Account so that I can set up and / or join  Zoom sessions for my own use?  Check out on the National u3a Office website for How-to-Guidance Notes to find out how to create a personal Zoom account for use on your Mobile Phone, Tablet or Desktop Computer.  National u3a also runs very professional and informative Tutorials on using Zoom for various circumstances.
  3. I have been invited to a u3a Zoom meeting. Can I join in without downloading the Zoom app? Yes, just use the browser link provided on the invitation eg to a Speaker Meeting or a Group Event.  (You do not need to logon to Zoom using the username and password mentioned on the invitation.) If you do not wish to download and install the Zoom App, you can join a Zoom meeting direct from your browser – for details see either of the following:
  4. I would like to try out Zoom for the first time, but don’t feel confident in following the routes mentioned above.  Can anyone provide me with more individual assistance?  The Monday and Tuesday Computer Helpers are still around offering personal IT support to members remotely.   We can set up a practice  zoom session with you, guiding you through by email and phone and then Zoom itself. See IT  Support Contact details below.

IT Support Contacts



Local members can refer to the A&O u3a February 2021 enews for Computer Helper names and phone numbers

1 February 2021- Black Dog in Folklore continued

The session:

Followed on the theme of Black Dogs and Boggy beasts with other similar beasts by completing the flitting with the boggart and starting with the Good Folk and the Fairy Folk.

1/.  Flitting with the Boggart .  Sometimes the helpful or mischievous boggart would become so troublesome a family would seek to move .  We followed a detailed tale of a boggart attached to a family.  This tale was designed to entertain.

We looked at the development of a story recorded in two different locations.  The story we started with was from Yorkshire recorded in Literary Gazette April 1825, quoted in Katharine M Briggs British Folktale and Legends: A sampler London Paladin/Granada 1977 p122.  The family were being troubled by an unseen Boggart who tormented the children.  This Boggart lived in a closet which had a knot hole in the door.  The children would poke things through, and they would be violently thrown out.  Eventually the family resolved to move out and leave the Boggart behind.  The Boggart hid himself in a large churn and spoke to them as they were travelling to the new home.  The family decided to return to the house they had just left.

This tale bears a remarkable likeness to that recorded by John Roby in ‘Traditions of Lancashire’.  This had some added details such as a worthy old lady recounting the tale but elements of it were almost verbatim.  This was set in Lancashire and is thought to be a more recent version.

These tales often have little gems of old traditions and ancient beliefs.  Knot holes were thought to be a way of seeing things you could not otherwise see, portals.  Holes in stones were believed to be protection from witches.

2/.  Fairy Folk/Good People

They are very much the superior elite of household beings.  These are not the fairies from children’s story books and are more sinister, tricksy, and dangerous and need to be treated with respect.

They would spend most of their time in their own realm but would visit our world for their own purposes or to encounter humans.

Care had to be taken in interactions with them.  Humans had to play fair with them, not be mean-spirited with them, not be disrespectful, not spy on them, not talk openly about them.  They are addressed as ‘Good People’, ‘Hidden People.  Using their names is disrespectful and there is power in using a name.  It was a widespread and ancient belief that using a name gave you power over them.  This is something which comes up in other tales such as Odysseus, Rumpelstiltskin.  It also features in modern day story-telling in films such as Beetlejuice and Candyman.

If they were offended, they would take swift and nasty retribution.

Stories often like morality tales

The lifestyle of the Good Folk was similar to humans and they had a social hierarchy.

There was an aristocracy with a king and a queen.  They would come to this world to hold their feasts, ride or hunt.

There were also ordinary Fairy folk who were small about the size 3-year-old children who looked human like.  They too enjoyed feasting, but they also had to work as farmers and bakers etc..  As part of their work, they would visit markets in the human world.  They could extract money from human farmers’ pockets without their knowledge.

Good people were masters of magic.  They could give gifts which appeared to be of little or no value and turn them into gold etc.  They could not fly using wings but used some magic device such as a cap, belt or spell.  They could appear and disappear at will.

The best time to see them was at dawn or dusk, bright star or moon lit nights.  Out of the corner of your eye between one blink and the next.  Also if you held a 4 leaf clover or had a holed stone.

There are lots of tales and legends which fall into 4 categories:-

  • Stories where they benefit from human kindness and offer a reward.
  • React to unkindness and disrespect.
  • Changelings, fairy left in place of a human baby
  • Adult humans wander into their Fairy Land or are abducted there.

We looked at a number tales about the first group of The Good People and these included :-

  • Scottish Borders:- a poor shepherd rewarded for helping a Fairy Woman and her child
  • Galloway:- Sir Godfrey Mac Cullough rewarded for diverting his drains
  • Lochmaben, Dumfries & Galloway:- a woman prospered after obliging the Fairy Folk
  • Deunant, Aberdaron:- a farmer prospered after redesigning his house to accommodate the Fairy Folk
  • Airlie, Tayside:- cakes baking at the fire were sometimes taken by the Fairy Folk

A common theme was finding Fairy underground homes under houses, tree roots etc.  This may link back to prehistoric workings which had chambers underground and may have been seen as an explanation of that.  There were also memories of offerings made in the past linking back to ploughing and rites to ensure a good harvest.

We looked in detail at Paddy O’Gadhra’s Fairy Shilling Malin Glen, Donegal:- where a Fairy rewarded his help carrying a heavy basket with a shilling which kept reappearing in his pocket even after he had spent it.  Eventually, he started to fear his wonderful gift so he went to the priest in Glencolumcile and told him what had happened. The priest put his stole around his neck and made the sign of the cross on the shilling, and it vanished.  This tale shows rewards for a good deed and the response to Christianity.

We also looked at the Broken Fairy Peel (ref Westwood & Simpson, “The Lore of the Land”):- A peel is a wooden shovel for the removal of bread from the oven.  This was set at Burlow Castle, Ardlington, in Sussex which was well known for fairies, and nobody liked to go by it after dark for fear of them.  One day, a man called Charles was ploughing a field alongside the earthwork, together with a mate called Harry, when they heard a noise under the ground, which was a Fairy, calling for help because she was baking bread and had broken her peel.  “Put it up and I’ll try and mend it”, said Charles, and up through a crack in the dry ground came a little peel, no bigger than a cheese knife. Charles was careful not to laugh at the tiny thing, but mended it and laid it back in the crack. Harry had his back turned during this and when Charles told him about it, he refused to believe it, saying it was nonsense and there were no fairies nowadays.

Next day they were working in the same field and stopped for their lunch, Charles heard the voice again, and saw standing close by the crack, a little bowl full of “summat that smelled a hell and all better than small beer.” He drank it up eagerly and meant to keep the bowl to show Harry, for he was elsewhere again, but it slipped out of his hands and smashed to pieces, so Harry only laughed at him.  But Harry was paid out.  He fell ill and could no longer work, and pined away ’til he was only skin and bone. The doctor could do nothing for him, and he died a year later, at the very same day and hour that the little voice was first heard and when he spoke against the Fairies.

This tale picks up a number of the recurring themes.  A place where you did not venture after dark, located close to ancient earthworks, with the fairy living under ground. A reward for a good turn and showing respect.  Dire punishment for being disrespectful.

Next time we shall continue with Fairies.

18 January 2021- Black Dog in Folklore continued

The session:

Followed on the theme of Black Dogs and Boggy beasts with other similar beasts.  Completing mischievous creatures and then looking at helpful ones.

1/.  We finished off the Hedley Kow.  Kow being the North Country name for a Boggart/Boggle.  This was known for playing tricks, could shape shift and would cause torment.  It could appear at the birth of a child, mocking and taunting those involved.  This was a special time where when new life is brought about and seen as a time where the boundaries between this world and the other were blurred.  It took many forms not all of them animal.

The origins of this type of being go back into history and have been embellished over time.  Tales of shape shifting goes back into Celtic Myths and legends.

2/.  We then had a look at a large number of examples of helpful creatures, these were found all over the country and included:-

  • Brownie of Strathmiglo Castle, Fife, Scotland:- helped the people of the Tower of Cash with the farm work in return for food.
  • Puck:- helped at Old Daniel Burton’s farm at Levenshulme, Lancashire until the farmer criticised his work; left for good when the farmer called down God’s blessing on him.
  • Hobthrust of Manor Farm, East Halton, Lincolnshire:- left after the farmer substituted his usual reward of a linen shirt with one made of hemp
  • Hob Hurst at Dore, Sheffield:- made shoes for a poor shoemaker until the man became too curious and too greedy.
  • Abbey Lubbers:- haunted abbeys where the monks were too fond of their food and drink.
  • Boggart of Wolf Hall, Chipping, Lancashire:- troublesome boggart was laid by a priest under a yew tree by the farm gate.
  • Boggart of Hothersall Hall, Lancashire:- laid under the roots of a laurel tree at the end of the house.
  • Boggart of Syke Lumb Farm, Blackburn, Lancashire:- helpful if treated well, or mischievous if treated with disrespect.
  • Flitting with the Boggart:- boggart attached himself to the family, rather than to the house. Boggart of Boggart Hall and Boggart Hole (Hall) Clough, Blackley, Lancashire. This will be looked at further in the next session.

3/.  There was a sort of common set of rules/themes when dealing with these creatures:-

  • They needed to be treated with respect.
  • Invoking God’s word would offend and cause them to leave.
  • They should not be exploited in what they do for humans, they were willing workers but there were always conditions attached
  • Sometimes they were easily offended by things like the offer of payments as they were nobody’s servant.  We discussed why they may be offended by the offer of clothes.  If they were poor quality this showed a lack of respect, the rules of hospitality said the best quality should be given, and it could be seen as disrespectful to their natural state, these creatures were often described as small hairy men.

4/. Origins

The origins of this folklore lie far back in time and they may have provided a consequence and a reason for things that happened that could not otherwise be explained.  There could have been a teaching purpose behind them.  They may have provided a moral framework as they were willing to help decent humans and this may have been developed as Christianity grew.

References to trees in the tales links back to Norse mythology, Yggdrasil was the tree which held the various worlds together and offerings of milk would be given to nourish it.  Holly is regarded as protective against things evil.

Next session Flitting with the Boggarts and then moving on to The Faery Folk or The Good Folk.


English Medieval Cathedrals 2021 series

As you know, from looking at the 2020 programme, things did not go as planned last season.  At present (3rd February 2021) it is still impossible to say when meetings in the usual venue will be able to resume.  As soon as there is any clear news of when we can resume, there will be a notification via Beacon.

Of the planned sessions for 2020 only the presentations for Canterbury and Rochester actually took place.  Assuming we can start again some time this Summer it is planned that we continue from where we left off, with the presentations on Chichester Cathedral, St Alban’s, St Paul’s and finally Westminster Abbey.  We don’t expect that the two planned visits, to Lancaster and to Beverley, will take place in 2021, but should be able to proceed in 2022, if there is still continuing interest by that point!

After these four presentations all the major medieval English cathedrals will have been covered.  However, all the Peters have been discussing possible subjects for 2022 and beyond, for example there are other cathedrals, more-recent foundations in England as well as ancient cathedrals in Wales and Scotland.  Another possible route would be the great store of remains of medieval abbeys and other religious houses, or surviving large medieval churches and minsters, no decisions are yet made.

In the meantime we look forward to seeing you all again for the Chichester Cathedral presentation, whenever that may be, and hope that you are staying safe and well.

Peter, Peter and Pete

A day I will never forget

Marine AFC crestU3A member David Wotherspoon had “a day I will never forget” when Marine, the Crosby team he has followed for over 70 years, took on Tottenham Hotspur in the 3rd round of the FA Cup on January 10th this year. The team lost 0-5 but that was hardly surprising, says David, as Spurs had nine full internationals in their starting line-up.

David was taken to watch Marine as a child by his father who had been a player before the war and then a committee member and later president. “The first game I really remember was also in the FA Cup in 1947 against New Brighton, then in the Football League. We lost 0-4 and I cried all the way home on the ferry”. He lived all of his early life in Crosby; attending Merchant Taylors’ with compulsory rugby on Saturday afternoons meant a rush to get to Marine games.

He joined the Marine committee in the late 1960s and served on it for over 30 years before becoming president himself. “We are the only father and son so far on the presidents’ board. I am very proud of what the club achieved in that period. We had a rundown ground and two wooden sheds. Now we have an excellent stand and terracing all round the ground as well as a large clubroom complex.”

David edited the match programme for over 20 years and wrote the centenary history of Marine “The Mighty Mariners”.

“The Spurs game was undoubtedly the club’s greatest ever. I was fortunate to be able to go as one of the small Marine contingent as Covid forced the game to be played behind closed doors. It was more the tie that caught the imagination and put a smile on faces in this terrible time all around the world. I had messages from people I had not heard from for years and the social media support for the club was amazing.”

Marine lost out through having no crowd but the cup run of eight matches gave them a good income from FA awards and TV rights. “When we learnt it was behind closed doors someone came up with the idea of selling virtual tickets at £10 which would also go in a raffle for a variety of prizes.

“We thought we might get 600 but it quickly passed 6,000 and finished up in five figures. All of that was very welcome as lockdown had virtually ended all our normal sources of income.” The main thrust of that came from Spurs’ supporters and David is full of praise for the Premiership club and their followers. “They treated us with warmth and respect. For example, Covid stopped the normal exchange of shirts after the game but Spurs gave our players a complete new set of kit so each one could have a named shirt as a great souvenir”.

Marine also has a strong community operation which has been involved in delivering meals to pensioners in the lockdown as well as a host of other activities including the players coaching in schools. Various Tottenham groups gave considerable support to these efforts to mark the tie.
David hopes the game and the TV coverage watched by 6.7 million viewers will give people a better idea of what a club like Marine is about. “It is very like u3a with people coming together to enjoy something special. It welcomes families and creates lifelong friendships. It relies on a group effort”

He reckons he has seen around 4,000 Marine games, still travelling away on the team coach until Covid struck. “I suspect the virus has put an end to this season for non-league clubs but the memory of that Sunday will keep me going for a long time to come.”

My Experience as an Oxford Vaccine Trial Volunteer

This very interesting and informative letter was sent in by one of our members:

My Experience as an Oxford Vaccine Trial Volunteer

As with most people it has been a switchback ride for me ever since the first national lockdown last March. Even before then I stumbled across the YouTube channel of health expert John Campbell who calmly anticipated the pandemic as early as January and I felt a mounting anxiety turning to disbelief with the slow response in the UK. Looking back on those times I realise how depleted my current energies are since the days of sourcing face masks and making hand sanitiser out of rubbing alcohol and sending out thermometers to those I thought were vulnerable.

Continue reading

Pre-pandemic 2020

26 January 2020

We had a splendid  ‘cabaret’ of sketches, songs🤣🎤, and all-round entertainment provided by our Drama group!   Refreshments 🍪 midway,  of course.

23 February 2020 

We held a  special ‘Quiz on Ormskirk’ ✍  courtesy of Bill & Sue Watkinson, then a presentation by Peter Gateley on ‘Trips by the U3A Bird  🐦🕊🐤Group’

4 January 2021- Black Dog in Folklore continued

The session:

Followed on the theme of Black Dogs and Boggy beasts with other similar beasts.

1/.  These occur all over the country and vary from being extremely scary and dangerous, through mischievous, to being helpful.  Although they have similar features to black dogs they are considered as different creatures and occur in the same areas.  They tend to be more than sightings, with more of them having detailed folktales attached.

2/.  We looked at a wide range of examples.

These included:-

  • Monstrous creatures called the Baobhan Sith:- which were vampire like, in the form of beautiful women; haunted lonely countryside in the Scottish Highlands; trapped unwary men and drank their blood.
  • Boggle:- amorphous glowing shape; haunted a lane at Orton, Kirkby Stephen, after dark
  • Buckies:- haunted lonely roads at night in Lowland Scotland
  • Madame Pigott:- haunted lonely lanes around Chetwynd, Hereford & Worcester, jumping up behind horsemen and strangling them with long boney fingers.
  • “The White Bucca and the Black” folk tale from Cornwall where a feisty old Cornish woman gets the better of someone playing tricks upon her. A good example of an entertaining story.

Common themes occurred in the tales and characteristics of the beings.  Long boney fingers, shape shifting.  Locations were frequently lonely, dark, late at night, near to water, abandoned castles, scary places.  They often preyed on travellers.

3/. Ignis Fatuus (Foolish Fires)

Includes: – Lantern Man, Shiner, the Shiners, Jack O’ Lantern, Will o’ the Wisp, Hobby Lanthorn, Kit with the Canstick.  These used false lights to tempt travellers off the paths and into marshes, bogs & other dangerous countryside.  These were linked to marshy places and had a very direct link to the geography of the area so frequently occur in Dartmoor, The Somerset Levels, East Anglia.  Originating as explanations for the ignition of marsh gases before these were understood.

In Northern Europe bogs were special places, seen as the boundary between this world and the other world.  Beautiful Bronze and Iron Age artefacts have been found in bogs and are thought to be offerings.  There is also a history of bog bodies.

We looked in detail at the folk tale of the dead moon, the story can be found in ‘British Folk Tales and Legends: A Sampler Katharine M Briggs London, Granada/Paladin, 1977 pp 21-23’.  We discussed the rituals they had to perform for protection and in order to free the moon.  This tale took place by boggy water a dark and scary place.  The moon is personified as a beautiful woman.

4/.  We started looking at an example of a mischievous being.  The Hedley Kow:- a hob that appeared in various forms and pestered people in Hedley, Northumberland.  This was a shape shifter frequently playing tricks on servant girls in farmhouses whilst they were away from their tasks tangling their knitting, letting the cat at the milk and similar tricks.

Next time we shall continue with more on the Hedley Kow and mischievous creatures and household creatures which are friendly to humans if treated properly.

Planet Earth: A User’s Guide

The 2020 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures featured three eminent scientists from different fields presenting a unique ‘user’s guide’ to Planet Earth. Their programmes unravelled astonishing global systems and remarkable natural wonders that combine to keep life on Earth alive.

And they explored how human activity has become an overwhelming geological force – disrupting the finely tuned systems that have kept our planet running smoothly for billions of years. We learnt how we can each help repair the damage we’re doing and live more sustainably, as Earth’s population increases.

All three episodes are available on the BBC iPlayer until December 2021!

Each of these world-famous Lectures from the Royal Institution bring to life one aspect of Earth’s inner workings:

Episode 1 – Professor Chris Jackson travels back into deep geological time, charting the Earth’s climate as it swings from hothouse to ice house and back again. With the help of spectacular volcanic eruptions and giant snowballs, he shows us how our planet’s oldest rocks and fossils provide evidence of radical climate changes throughout its history.

Chris reveals that what drives these changes is the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. For billions of years, volcanic activity increased CO2 levels, and mountain building reduced them. But in the last 100 years, a new kind of geological force is tipping the balance – human activity. For the first time, it is we who are changing the planet Earth’s climate, and at a rapid rate, with dangerous consequences unless we act quickly.

Episode 2 – Dr Helen Czerski unpicks the ocean’s heating and plumbing systems, showing how whale poo, waterfalls beneath the sea and zooplankton are all vital parts of an engine that distributes heat and nutrients around our planet.

Helen voyages from the cities of the ocean to its deserts, from its deepest depths to its surface, via an alien inner structure that is home to so much of the Earth’s life. This planetary life support system plays a critical role in generating weather, providing food and connecting trade routes. The ocean is an underappreciated resource. Helen tells us what we need to know to be good citizens of an ocean planet.

Episode 3 – Dr Tara Shine takes a deep breath and marvels at something we all take for granted: oxygen. She demonstrates how Earth produces a never-ending supply of this gas – the raw material for all complex life – and investigates what else is in the air that we breathe. One critical component is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that’s causing a dangerous rise in atmospheric warming.

Tara looks at the carbon footprint of a loaf of bread and how hydrogen might be the answer for heating and transport. From developing exciting new technologies to protecting wetlands and forests, the solutions are everywhere. Our ideas and ingenuity can create a better, cleaner and more sustainable future.

21 December 2020 – The Black Dog in Folklore continued

The session:

Continued the topic of the black dog in Folklore.

1/.  Black Dogs as Guardians

We looked at many examples across the country.  Guiding people across difficult terrain, protecting from thieves, saving them from cars.  They appear and disappear mysteriously.

2/.  In Classical and Celtic Mythology

Dogs acted as hunting companions to the gods and were also protectors and healers.  Celtic healing shrines have been found with images of dogs.  Dog licks have been associated with healing.

3/.  Black Dog and Bogey Beasts

These are always mischievous, malicious, scary or dangerous.  They have little or no regard for humankind.  They are not always black.

They occurred in forms other than dogs, most often an animal but not always.  They are sighted across the country and are often seen in places which are subject to misty, gloomy conditions.  Again the common themes for these were sightings at bridges, crossroads, graveyards etc. which are mystical crossing points to the otherworld.

The other forms include a cross between rough-coated dog and monkey, a donkey and monkey, a small horse, a headless duck, a bag of soot, white rabbit.

They can be shape shifters.  We looked in more detail at the Pelton Brag County Durham and that was reported to have taken more than one form: like a bushy tailed calf, a white sheet, a naked man without a head, a galloway.  (ref Westwood & Simpson, “The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends, Penguin Books, 2006)

Some of the stories start as legends and become folk tales with detailed back stories. One such example is The White Rabbit of Crank from Lancashire.  (ref Terence Whitaker, “Lancashire’s Ghosts and Legends” Robert Hale Ltd ,1980)

It is possible that the references to rabbits may originally been hares, as rabbits were introduced by the Romans.


Next time we shall continue with boggarts.



Christmas Card Gallery

A huge Thank You to all members who have contributed to this festive webpage. It has now expanded from the original idea of a gallery of  ‘Christmas Cards’ to include seasonal short stories (and a poem) and some relevant links to the National u3a website.  Read on!

Continue reading


The group has begun zoom sessions on the 3rd Monday morning of every month. The next meeting will be on 21st December, when we will be talking about Black Dogs, Boggarts and other supernatural creatures in British folklore. For further details, please contact June Jones by email at

7 December 2020 – Black Dogs in Folklore

The session:

Started the topic of the black dog in Folklore, these occur all over Britain and Continental Europe.   Some just have sightings and some have stories added.

1/.  Black Dogs as Portents of Death and Disaster

We looked at many examples including Formby Merseyside, Bunbury Cheshire, Portland Dorset, Norfolk, Ely and more.

The common themes for these were sightings at bridges, crossroads, graveyards etc. which were places associated with being the boundaries between the world and the afterworld, places of transition which feature heavily in Celtic Myths.  In Greek Myths Cerberus is a hound which guards the gates of hell to stop the dead from getting out.    Mythology bleeding into folklore.

The black dogs all have a similar appearance, they are large, shaggy, black and have big eyes.  They are portents of death or disaster.  Many people believed ordinary dogs could predict death.

2/. Black Dogs with Mischievous/ Scary/ Malign Intentions

Examples were from Beetham in the old Westmorland, Manchester Old Church, Peel Castle, IOM and more. Not all the examples were from quiet places, some were in the centre of cities.

These dogs are not portents of misfortune but are scary, may make physical attacks and there is a need to keep a distance from them.  They have more in common with the supernatural bogey which appears in many forms.  They may let the horses out, are mischievous, cause you to go off the path.  They may have no links to the first group of black dogs.

3/.   Black Dogs linked to the Devil

We looked at a case from Bungay, Suffolk of an attack by the Devil in the form of a black dog in 1577.   A this can be found on the internet by looking for ‘A Straunge and Terrible Wunder’ by Abraham Fleming.  It manifested itself inside the church during a terrific thunderstorm, killing two people, injuring others and causing strange damage.  On the same day there was also an incident in Blythburgh and the claw marks remain on the church door there.  Here is a link to online article with photograph of the Blythburgh church door:-

This could be an explanation/interpretation of ball lightning from the severe storm.

Next time we shall look at Black Dogs being examples of supernatural creatures such as bogles and as harmless or guardians.

References:-   Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson ‘The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends, from Spring-heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys’.


Updating Country Dancing news December 2020.

🎄Well here we are in December, no dancing since mid March 2020.

Some of us have managed to stay in touch with a WhatsApp group, cheering us up and covering diverse topics.

However GOOD NEWS. A few weeks ago June started solo Zoom English Country Dancing sessions, in our regular dance slot of Friday mornings at 11.00.

It’s not as scary as it may sound and is getting to be enjoyable. Seeing fellow dancers for a chat and a tea break, we never had one of those before. Hearing the familiar tunes, dancing the dances. No need to worry if you make a wrong turn or forget how to do a Grimstock Hey, you can’t upset anyone, there is only you to dance as freely as you wish.

June has posted details on the recent November u3a enews and she can be contacted if you would like to join us. (June’s email address is in the enews and her phone number is in the main Country Dancing Group Page.) 🎄

🎄Stay safe and hopefully Covid-19 vaccine will enable us to meet up in the Village Hall in 2021.

Good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

November 2020 – Scandinavian Mythology

Reconvened remotely after a long break due to Covid-19.

The session:

Completed the topic of Scandinavian Mythology

1/.  Recapped the last topic from March covering the origins of Thor and his accessibility to both the gods and ordinary people.

2/.  Freya the Bride – Another battle of wits with the Frost Giants which started with the Mjollnir (Thor’s hammer) which was held for ransom for the hand of Freya.  This involved Thro dressing up as Freya and Loki dressing as Freya’s bridesmaid.  A tall tale where Thor in the guise of Freya eats an ox, eight salmon and drinks barrels of mead.  Thor eventually gets Mjollnir back and slays the giants.

3/.  Thor’s Visit to Utgard.  Another confrontation with the Frost Giants.  A tale you could imagine being spun around a roaring fire.  Whilst on a peacemaking visit to Utgard, Loki and Thialfi and Thor are challenged to contests in eating, running and drinking which are not what they first appear.  At first it seems that they have failed but they have not.  The eating contest was against fire, the running contest against thought and the drinking contest was an attempt to drink the sea.  Far from failing Thor had caused the sea levels to drop and the first ever tide.    The Frost Giant respected them for their efforts and there was a guarded truce.

4/.  The Lay of Hymir – starts with a crisis in Asgard as they have run out of ale and mead.  To brew the ale and mead they need a vast cauldron.  Tyr, part giant, with a father with a cauldron five miles deep travels with Thor to get it.  Cunning is used and great feats of strength.

5/.  In a number of creation myths the forces of chaos are pushed to the edges during creation.  These are represented by the Frost Giants in the Scandinavian myths.  Thor’s role is in keeping this chaos at bay.  There is a need to be alert as chaos could return.  The myths are larger than life but always presented in an understandable way.  The magic and mysticism are low key.

6/.  Discussed what our next topic should be.  We decided for our next topic we should shift away from far away places, “big” mythology and gods & goddess, to folklore that is closer to home.   We shall be looking at Black Dogs and other similar supernatural creatures, including boggarts, bogles, bugganes et al.  Legends and folktales concerning these creatures are common all over Britain, and it will be interesting to speculate as to why they were so widespread. We can also think about possible origins and meanings behind the stories.

The sessions are now taking place remotely and will be the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month at 10:00.  If you would like to be involved, please contact June Jones