Those of you who are regular reads of my blog will know that history is something I’m very passionate about. Since moving to Skegness some 13 years ago I have steadily involved myself in the study not only in the history of our local area but also Lincolnshire as a whole. History is in my opinion not all as some may think all about dates and the facts associated with those dates it is much wider than that. It concerns people and how they live and there traditions, once we start looking deeper into how people have lived though out history it’s inevitable that you will also enter into the realm of Folklore. Folklore falls somewhere between history and hearsay and it’s often very difficult to measure how much fact and how much hearsay is a part of the tale, here are just a couple of examples.
The county of Lincolnshire is full of wonderful sounding place names. Whenever I’m driving back from Boston through East Kirby there are two road signs that are guaranteed to put a smile on my face. I speak about the signs that direct the traveller to Old Bolingbroke and Mavis Enderby. I always have the picture in my mind of an old couple who are devoted to each other rather than as the really are two villages close together. How many more people just like myself have associated these names in the same way and I often wonder if there are any songs out there about this fictional couple, I am reminded of the tale of a road sign just outside one of the villages that read ‘To Old Bolingbroke and Mavis Enderby’ and someone had written underneath ‘A gift of a son. The Oxford dictionary of British place-names states that Enderby was the farmstead or a village that belonged to a man called Eindrithi and adds the prefix mavis is a reference to the Malebisse family that lived in those parts. But in spite of this know fact I would rather imagine that Mavis was a real person and speculate on story’s about her.
My second example concerns an article in this weeks local paper. It seems a number of red lights seen above Skegness and the paper asked had any one else witnessed them. Many had speculated that they were merely Chinese Lanterns but of course some would rather believe that there was a more sinister reason behind the lights. I wonder what will be made of them in say a hundred years time when future local historians look back on events of this week.
This recording of the red lights over Skegness reminds me of the story of ‘Clays Light.
Halton Hillgate is just a mile away from Spilsby, it had a Churchwarden called Thomas Clay and they still refer to him today when they talk of Clay’s Light. The local tale is that the light warns of an imminent funeral. Thomas clay was a man who lived alone by the ‘Fen’ – a mile away from the church. He was Churchwarden in the years 1658, 1661 and 1662 and apparently he would walk to church for service in the evening every Sunday, but he would not use the road, walking over rough ground instead. He asked that is own coffin be carried on that same difficult route and thoughtfully left some cash to pay the unfortunate pall-bearers to do this.
Understandably the general feeling was that such a task was a waste of time and so he was taken but road instead. But on the evening of the day when the funeral was to take place, a light was seen moving on the churchwarden’s favoured route to church; the light then settled on the church tower. Since that day, the story goes, when someone is to pass away the light shines out over their home.
In this edition of my blog you have read tales of a historical nature as well as tales steeped in folklore. History and folklore often combine and it can at times be difficult to separate them. It can often fall on the person, for instance a journalist/historian who records the historical fact on how much can be classed as accurate facts. Figures like Hereward the Wake and Robin hood are steeped in folklore but how much is fact.
I will be delving into some curious tales from Lincolnshire and surrounding area over the coming months ahead and hoping to find some entertaining nuggets that I can share with you.