‘…What lies beneath? We walk on the crust, above a hollow earth where dragons of the elder time live on…one step down are the caves that open on plains of eternal summer when the upper world is stiff with snow…’
Yes folks it’s time for the Folklore Society’s annual legendary weekend. This year the venue is my stomping ground, the Derbyshire Peak District and the theme is Underground in Legend and Tradition. The two day conference will be held on Saturday/Sunday 1/2 September 2012 at Matlock Bath, home of the Peak District Mining Museum.
The underground folklore theme is reflected in the speakers’ topics which include ‘the folklore of mining in Derbyshire’ (Dr Jim Rieuwerts), ‘Volcano and fire goddesses in Polynesian myth’ (Bob Pegg), ‘Caves in art’ (Gail Nina Anderson) and the Green Children of Woolpit (John Clark).
My talk on the Saturday will focus on the legends about mysterious subterranean tunnels that supposedly run between ancient buildings in Sheffield city centre. Tradition says the tunnels were built in the 16th century to allow Mary Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned at Sheffield Manor, to move secretly between her gaol and Sheffield Castle. I will discuss the attempts that have been made to discover these entrances to these legendary tunnels, the sightings of ghosts said to haunt them and links to other areas of personal experience and folklore.
On the Sunday the conference continues with a field trip to the haunted Magpie Mine near the Peakland village of Sheldon. In Supernatural Peak District (1999) I wrote of this place:
‘[Magpie Mine] was worked for three hundred years until its closure in 1924, and it is said there is a curse on the workings as they have been continually afflicted with floods, fires and falls. The curse may originate from the year 1833 when three men were suffocated in the lead workings, and today the place retains an eerie atmosphere. In 1946 a party of explorers in the mine reported seeing and photographing a ghost, “a man with a candle walking along a tunnel from which he had disappeared without trace.” A photograph of another member of the party on a raft in a sough at the mine showed a second man standing, apparently, on nine feet of water. The Old Man was clearly either trying to protect his ancient rights or to help the 20th century searchers find the ore, which is reported to be thick and pure in the main vein now 150 feet below the water level….’
If this has whetted your appetite for underground folklore tickets for the conference, which is the 7th in the Folklore Society’s series of legendary weekends, tickets and other details can be obtained from Jeremy Harte at Bourne Hall, Spring Street, Ewell, Surrey KT17 1UF, email JHarte@epsom-ewell.gov.uk or via the form at http://www.folklore-society.com