Of golden cups and fairy hills........ the legend of Willy Howe.
I like it at Willy Howe. It's a lovely place to visit on a sunny summers day. And it has some lovely stories attatched to it too.
willy howe in winter
First things first.......Willy Howe is a prehistoric barrow on the wolds about 10 miles south of Scarborough in north yorkshire, uk. Its not an enormous hill but it is quite prominent on the flat countryside around, and is a local landmark. It is what is known as a 'round barrow', and classed by the rather unimaginative officialdom of archaeology as a 'burial mound', although 'burial mounds' served as much more than places to bury the dead, being neolithic and bronze age temples where worship and rites took place. (Westminster abbey has burials inside it but it obviously wasn't built as a tomb. Besides which Willy howe apparently had no burials until long after it was built ).
Anyway, It's one of a group known as the 'Great Yorkshire Barrows', and as i said has some very nice legends attached.
The following 2 stories are taken from 'the modern antiquarian'.........
"A countryman went to call on a friend staying in the next village. Late at night he started the return journey and he was rather drunk. Well, suddenly from a nearby mound (I have seen it often; it is about 1/4 m from the village) he heard the voices of people singing, like the members of a Festal banquet. Wondering who would break the silence of the dark night with ceremonial rejoicings in that place, he decided to investigate more closely into this mystery, and, seeing an open door in the side of the mound, he drew near and looked inside; he saw a spacious building, well lit, filled with people reclining at tables, as many men as women, apparently there for a ceremonial meal. Now one of the attendants seeing him standing at the entrance offered him a cup. Taking it, he deliberately refrained from drinking, but threw out the contents, kept the cup, and went off with it at top speed. Uproar broke out at the banquet over this theft of the goblet, and when the guests pursued him, it was through the speed of his beast that he escaped and took refuge in the village with his remarkable booty. In the end this goblet of unknown material, unusual colour, and unfamiliar shape, was bestowed on Henry the Elder, King of the English, and after him it was delivered over to the Queen's brother David of course King of the Scots. It was kept many years in the Treasury of Scotland, and some years ago (as I hear from a reliable source) was transferred to Henry II by William King of the Scots."
one of the fairies who lived in Willy Howe had rather a crush on a local man. She wanted to help him, so she told him that if he came to the top of the Howe early every morning he would find a guinea waiting for him. However, he must never tell anyone where he got his money from. For some time he did exactly as she said, and as his money grew he was able to live comfortably (and finally maybe a bit too comfortably). His friends were surprised and suspicious at his new found wealth, and couldn't understand why he was so secretive about its source. Eventually one night the man could keep his secret no longer and told one of his friends. In the morning he took his friend to the hill to show him the guinea that would be there. Of course there was no money at all. He 'met with a severe punishment' and was beaten up by invisible fists. For ever after that he found he had lost his luck.
A few miles south is Rudston Monolith. It's the tallest standing stone in Britain, and the church in whose cemetery it stands will tell you that the stone got here because it was thrown by the devil to destroy the church, but the devil missed, and there it is. This obviously conveniently tells people that the church was here first, another one of their lies, as the stone was erected around 3600 years ago.
The early christians built their churches on sites already regarded as sacred to 'take over' the sites as places of worship. Rudston is an obvious example of this. There is another smaller standing stone in the churchyard which is usually over-looked by the casual visitor.
The whole area around Rudston is dotted with ancient remains, all of which have their stories..............(to be continued).