Carved – Leverett Island stories.

Up on the top of Stony Peak, there’s a rock that looks like it’s been carved. If you stand by it and look round, you can see all down the west coast of the Island. It’s probably just erosion by wind and rain, but the story my mother told me is that it was a bathing place for the little people. If you were to go up there after dark, you might see them, jumping and splashing in the water there. Midsummer Eve is the best time to see them, she said, but you must carry an iron horseshoe in your pocket to prevent them stealing you. You should never bargain with the little people, you’ll always come off worst. If you bathe a child in the little pool on May Eve, that child will  never drown, but if you go up there and there’s no water in the hollow, that’s terrible bad luck, and you shouldn’t let that child leave the Island. If you’ve a loved one lost at sea, you should go up there and leave something to call them home – something they treasure. The little people will help you if they’ve a mind to, but they can’t be depended on.

Here’s a little something for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge. Leverett Island is a place where stories grow out of the stony soil. I’m in the process of cataloguing them. 

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Leverett Island Recordings #15

You’ll have heard lots of stories while you’ve been here on Leverett? Mostly from long ago? I’ve a story that happened not that long ago – in my lifetime. I remember it. People don’t talk about it much, now, but it’s a true story.

It was the summer of ’76, that hot summer. I was 17, so a bit old for playing, but my sister was 12, and she spent most of the summer hanging round with a gang of kids, some from the island, some over on their holidays. They swam in the bay, and from the shell beach on the eastern side, and they explored the island, generally messed around. They’d be gone all day. I had a bit of work serving breakfasts at the hotel, so I’d be finished by mid-morning, and I’d go to the beach myself, with my friends, topping up our tans.

It was a Friday morning, a quiet morning, and I’d finished up early. A few of us were heading towards the shell beach with a football and some cans of beer, when there was a right commotion. A whole horde of kids came charging down the middle road, screeching and shouting. My sister was there, and I grabbed her arm, like, and pulled her out of the mass of them. It’s her story, really.

They’d been up at the Manor. Some visitors think it’s an old church, but there never was a church on the island. The Manor was where Lady Montrevor lived, and she was a terrible heathen, they say. She wouldn’t let a priest land on the island while she was alive. After she died, there was a fire there, and the place was never properly rebuilt. The family built a new place, down towards the bay, with a view out to sea, and the Manor was left alone.

The kids had gone up there, to play. It was cool in there, my sister said. They’d been playing hide and seek, scaring themselves a bit, I think, and then the boys started daring each other to do silly things – climbing bits of wall, jumping off things. I say silly – I’d been doing them myself when I was that age. One of the lads took a run towards the window, jumped from it – and disappeared! That’s what my sister said, he just vanished in front of their eyes. They were stunned for a minute, and then they decided he’d played some kind of trick on them, started calling for him, and looking for him.

They couldn’t find him, not anywhere. The ground below the window was hard, and dusty from the sun, and there were no footprints there, no sign anybody had landed. They searched, and then one of them – his cousin, I think – started to panic, and then they all panicked, came running down to the harbour.

Of course, me and my pals went up there and searched around, thinking he was just messing, but we couldn’t find him. By the end of the day, the whole village was there, and his parents – they were from the mainland – and all their mob, and none of us could find him.

His  parents stayed on. Never left. That’s why it’s not talked about, you see. They’re a nice couple, Sheila and Ted. Quiet, but, you know, they’d help you out if you needed it.

He never turned up, the boy. No sign of him. I still keep an eye out if I’m walking the dogs up that way, but I daresay I’ll never see anything. People started to say the fairies took him. Now, I can’t say I believe in fairies, but I’ve thought about it over the years, and maybe that is the best explanation. Maybe that’s what happened.

May 17, 2013.
Leverett Island.

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. I’ve revisited my stash of recordings from Leverett. This seemed to fit the photo. #writephoto

The shrine – a tale from Leverett Island

There are a number of ‘holy’ wells on the island. Several are associated with saints, but some are called ‘fairy wells’ by the locals, and have never been adopted by the church. Up towards the north west corner of the island is the well called Three Sisters. It’s a place for women – a place to go if  your baby isn’t thriving and you need to make more milk, or if your husband seems to be watching another woman’s walk, or if you want to bring him to the point. It’s a place to go if a child hasn’t come yet. You must take something white – milk, or cheese, or white flowers, or a white handkerchief. The hawthorn that grows by the well is all hung with white ribbons, mostly faded or stained green with time now. You must ask the Three Sisters for their help with whatever you want.

If you see three geese flying together on your way home, you’ll know they’ve listened to you, and they will answer your prayers. If you find a white feather, that’s lucky. Keep it.

It must be seven years ago that Danny Cumiskey was digging some roots out near the Three Sisters, when his spade hit against a big stone. He tried to dig it out, and realised it had been worked. He’s a very curious man, Danny, known for it, so he kept on digging, came back the next day with a tractor and a couple of fellows, and pulled this great stone out. See the three birds? The Three Sisters. Proof it was all true, the women of the island said. Danny set it up next to the well, and the visitors come and take photographs of it, but we know the real power of the  Sisters is in the water, not the stone.

 

It’s taken me a little while to get tot his, but this is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. 

The lost wings

This is a story my granny told me. She heard it from Maggie Molloy, who lived down by the pier, and where she heard it from I don’t know.

Many years ago, there was a master glass blower, who had been away to study his trade, and now was coming back to see his old mother, and set up a workshop here on the island. He’d travelled far and wide, and it was time to settle down. The ferry brought him late one evening. The moon was full, and the night was bright, and he decided to walk round by the shore for old time’s sake. He passed a group of young folk, splashing and swimming in the water, and they called to him to join them, but he laughed and shook his head and walked on. A little further on, he came upon a little heap of things he took for glass. He picked one up and looked at it closely. He’d never seen anything finer, and the craftsman in him was delighted with it. They didn’t seem to belong to anyone: tiny wings made of fragile glass that shimmered in the moonlight. He couldn’t resist one particularly pretty pair, and put them carefully in his pocket book, and walked on to his mother’s house.

Next day, after breakfast, he strolled back down to the shore, but there were no shimmering glass wings there now, just a beautiful girl, shivering and crying. The craftsman in him was delighted with her, she was so finely made, but the man in him felt pity for her, and took her back to his mother’s house, where she was warmed, and dressed, and fed on bread and honey in front of the fire. She couldn’t say who she was, or where she was from, but she was so pretty and dainty that of course he fell in love with her, and it wasn’t long before they were married.

There were two calls on the glass-maker’s heart – his pretty wife, and the tiny glass wings he had found. He spent his days making glasses and jugs and bowls, and his wife packed them carefully in straw to be sent to the mainland. In the evenings, he spent his time blowing the finest glass possible, and making tiny glass wings, just for his own delight, until he had a whole chest full of them in his workshop. At night, he listened to his wife singing, or watched her brushing her long hair, and thought he was the luckiest man alive. His mother grumbled, of course, that between the workshop and the wife she saw so little of him that he might as well never have come back.

Months passed, and then years, and the glass-blower and his wife had 3 pretty sons, and one beautiful daughter and they passed their days and nights happily enough, until one day the daughter went to explore her father’s workshop. She looked at his tools, and the lumps of glass he would make into airy bubbles of light, and eventually looked in the great chest in the corner of the room. Inside were hundreds of tiny glass wings. She couldn’t resist – maybe she had a craftsman’s heart, too – and picked out a pair.

Later that day, the wife found the daughter playing with something, and asked to see it. When she saw the little wings, she started to cry, and then she got the daughter to show her where she’d found them. With tears rolling down her cheeks she sorted through the chest, through the hundreds and hundreds of delicate wings, each finer than the last. Right at the bottom was that first pair, and she clutched them to her, crying all the while.

There was a full moon that night, too, and if you’d watched the house you’d have seen it lost in a whirling cloud of moths, and bees, and wasps, and flying ants. Every kind of flying insect swarmed around it, until those inside couldn’t see out, and those outside couldn’t see in. And in the morning, the wife was gone, as if she’d never been there, leaving nothing but three pretty sons and a beautiful daughter.

 

This is for Jane Dougherty, who asks for a folk tale about wings, inspired by flying termites who lose their wings after their first flight. This is a little long for flash fiction, I guess, but there you go. 

Leverett Island transcripts #22 – for Jane Dougherty

So, you’ll have heard plenty of stories from the island now. It’s a shame my mother isn’t still with us, she had a fund of stories. To hear her talk, the island was a dangerous place in past times, what with fairies in the hills and sea-folk down by the shore.

This is a story she swore was true. When she was a young girl, 16 or so, her best friend was Jeannie. Jeannie was the prettiest girl on the island, and maybe would have been the prettiest girl on the mainland, too, if she’d ever gone there. The two girls would often walk down by the shore, and out to the little headland where the sea-pinks grow. They would sit and talk, like girls do, about the man they’d marry and the lives they’d lead.

Only didn’t one of the sea-folk fall in love with Jeannie, for her yellow hair and her blue eyes? He’d stick his head out of the water and call to her:

“Come and be my bride, Jeannie, I’m dying for love of you!”

“Come and be my bride, and be queen of the sea folk!”

“I will drape you in pearls and crown you with white lilies, and you’ll never have to work again!”

And Jeannie would tell him to be off, her mother was waiting for her back home.

Still he called, and still she went to be called to, until he told her one day he had a magic pearl she could pop under her tongue, so she could breathe under the water.

Well, Jeannie waded out to him. My mother swears she watched her, and saw the Sea King pop something small and shiny into her mouth before they disappeared. My mother ran back  to the house, shouting and wailing, but there was nothing to be done.

Of course, nobody knows what happened next, but not a soul saw Jeannie for seven days. And then her poor body washed up on the strand, all crowned in white lilies, and draped in pearls. He’d told the truth about that. But my mother said everyone that saw her whispered she could only have drowned that day, and not before, so where she’d been and what had happened, I couldn’t say.

They buried her in her crown of lilies. I don’t know what happened to the pearls. If you go to the graveyard, out by Steadman’s place, you’ll see the grave. White lilies flower there every year.

This is a short (not quite micro) story for Jane Dougherty, who offers this beautiful prompt, a painting by John Bauer. The italics in the story are the adjustment I made at Jane’s suggestion. She’s always worth listening to…

sjoekungens_drottning_by_john_bauer_1911