Sunday, 28 March 2010

Ghost Stories

As in recent posts I repeat my appeal for your personal ghostly experiences in the UK city of Birmingham and the county of Staffordshire. To whet your appetite here is a taster of something I uncovered during my recent research.

A story which takes place in the oddly named road of The Compa, in Kinver. This is a very old road indeed and has been the venue for a ghostly visitor for as long as anyone can remember.
Always referred to as Old Joe, this figure is of a man aged about fifty. Always clothed in the working attire of his day - heavy work boots and cloth cap, brown trousers and matching waistocat, with the well-frayed collarless shirt - some reports give him a bushy moustache, others note no such adornment.
Nobody has any notion as to the identity of this regular visitor, who is certainly better known as a ghost than he ever was when alive. Indeed rumour has it one elderly couple were visited so regularly they took to setting a place for him at the dining table!

Should you have something for me, please drop me a line. Anonymity, should you require it, is guaranteed.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Odd Birds

Following my recent post when I looked at some alternative names for birds, I did have some interest and decided to include a few more this week.
Storm Petrel is also known as Assilag, Mother Carey’s Chicken, Alamootie, Gourder, Goylir, Martin Oil, Spensie, and Witch. Manx Shearwater is apparently also called the Manx puffin, Cockathodon, Skookie, Cleaver, and Lyrie. The Little Grebe is said to be a Crannie, Dabchick, Didapper, Small Ducker, or Blackchin Grebe. What is normally referred to as a Guillemot is also described as a Willock, Tinkershere, Tarrock, Scout, Sea-hen, Murre, Lavy, Longie, Skuttock, Tinkershire, and Weerit, depending upon where one lives. I was aware the much maligned Puffin was referred to as a Sea Parrot, but I had not heard of the Coulterneb, Tammie Norie, Sea Cockie, Bouger, Guldenhead, or Pal. A Gannet is known as a Solan Goose, Basser, Bass Goose, and Hugan. A Cormorant is also known as a Skarf, Cole Goose, Huplin, Lairblade, Lorin, Parson, or a Mulfran. The Shag is also called a Palmer Scarf, Paamer Scarf, or a Green Cormorant. The Common Tern is referred to be some as a Sea Swallow, Tarney, Pitcarney, Tarrock, Pirr, Gull-teaser, or Dip Pearl.

I am still looking for more ghost stories with some connection to both the UK city of Birmingham and the county of Staffordshire. If you don't have anything yourself but know someone who might be able to help please pass on my appeal.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Wartime Memories

While researching this week I uncovered the following which I thought I would share:

Fradley Aerodrome or RAF Lichfield, as it should correctly be called, opened in 1940 and was initially was a training base. During the earliest months of the base newly fledged pilots were not permitted to go on bombing raids but were sent with a propaganda payload. Leaflets containing messages designed to raise French spirits were dropped across northern France.
Later they were permitted to take the large Wellingtons across the North Sea and the bombing raids on Germany. Locals could not fail to be aware of these massive craft taking off and returning to the base. At over 64 feet in length, with a wingspan of 86 feet and a top speed of 235mph, fully laden they could weigh as much as thirteen tons at take off.
One night a resident was awoken by a Wellington returning from a bombing raid. Nothing unusual in this, the aircraft were so low over the roofs of these homes that the man of the house had remarked on more than one occasion of how they would ".. take the bloody roof off one night, gal.... ". Weeks passed and the man woke to a frightful noise, the spluttering, straining engines of the bomber were clearly struggling to keep the massive craft airborne. Dragging his wife from their bed and virtually throwing the two of them down the stairs, they took refuge under the kitchen table - not quite as futile as it sounds, furniture was solidly built in those days. To their disbelief the noise levels peaked and then ebbed away as the aircraft landed.
Next morning the man awakened before his wife. Off he toddled bleary-eyed and barely awake to answer a call of nature. Shortly afterwards he returned to their bedroom and woke his wife, taking her to the window he threw open the curtains. Instead of seeing the wooden privy at the bottom of the garden there was a gap in the fence and, beyond the fragments of broken wood in the field beyond. The pilot may have missed the house, but the undercarriage had ripped the tiny wooden shed from their garden and deposited the barely recognisable fragments in the neighbouring field.
Another accident had with tragic consequences. Taking off from the airfield one evening it was soon realised an engine was on fire. Abandoning the mission the four airmen, thought to be Australains, turned for home. The tight turn and lack of manouevrability made handling the craft very difficult and, as they turned it stalled. On impact the flames engulfed the fully-fuelled plane killing the crew. As the ground crew neared crash site the five hundred pound bomb they were carrying exploded, injuring four of them.
Since that time there have been a number of reports of men dressed as pilots being seen wandering around beside the busy A38 trunk road here.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A Bird by any Other Names

The research this week brought to my attention the variety of local names in England used for some of our most common animals.
I was already aware the green woodpecker had at least two other names, traditionally called the yaffle (some might recall Professor Yaffle in the children's television series Bagpuss, he was a wooden woodpecker), it is known in some parts of Lincolnshire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire as the Nicker. However there are a great deal more names for this bird including: woodspite, rainfowl, rainbird, hewhole, whetile, woodwall, witwall, popinjay, awlbird, eaqual, ecle, pick-a-tree, yappingale, galley bird. heffald, high hoe, sprite, yaffingale, and yockle.

Other common birds with odd alternative names are the nightjar, also known as night hawk, goat sucker, wheelbird, dor hawk, fern owl, night crow, jar owl, churn owl, evechurr, nightchurr, puckeridge, and lich bird; the house sparrow becomes the common sparrow, gilpan, sproug, thatch sparrow, easing sparrow, eaves sparrow, spadger, spur, and thack sparrow; while the swift is also known as the bullfit, screech martin, anchor bird, black martin, collier, srew, devilling, horse martin, Jack-a-dell, mattock, and even as a Devil’s Bitch!

I shall be delving deeper into this subject in future weeks, so watch this space.

Before I go I was pleased to receive my latest book hot of the presses this week. Northamptonshire Place Names is my nineteenth published volume to date, if anyone would like a signed copy drop me a line and we can arrange to furnish you with same for a very reasonable price.