Billy Biter and Filey Brigg

This story crops up in a few places with slight variations, I stuck a couple of them together to make the short tale below. I thought it was appropriate to start with seeing as the first post had a pic of the Yorkshire coast on!

A girl sat on a dragon skeleton's head in a sandpit
My daughter drowning a dragon in a sandpit (at Wentworth Castle).

A couple of hundred years ago, a huge dragon, nearly a mile long, lived in the waters near Filey. It had a habit of lying in the gulley, a tidal inlet, where it was partly hidden, and making itself a snack of any unsuspecting boats that ventured near.

Ralph Parkin, known as Billy Biter to his friends, for reasons too obscure to go into here, lived in Filey all his life, working as a tailor in the town. One day, he went down to the beach for a breath of fresh air and to eat some of the cake his wife had made him.

The dragon was getting restless, however, and its nostrils flared as the smell of the cake drifted over from Billy’s hand. It was the sticky gingerbread style cake made in Yorkshire from plenty of oatmeal and treacle, and it made the serpent’s stomach growl with hunger.

It heaved its huge bulk up from the water and scared poor Billy half to death. In a panic, he threw the whole cake at the dragon, who chomped down in satisfaction. It was too sticky and rich for the dragon, however, who was used to crunchier and meatier snacks, and its teeth got stuck together. It thrashed around in the water, trying to unstick its jaws, repeatedly dunking its head in the water to wash the cake away.

Billy saw his chance, and jumped onto the dragon’s head while it was just under the surface of the water. He called to his friends to do the same, and their combined weight drowned the dragon.

To this day, the sticky ginger cake is known as Parkin after the family who made the cake that killed the Filey dragon. The bones of the great serpent still lie where he died, jutting out to sea, and are now known as Filey Brigg.

2 thoughts on “Billy Biter and Filey Brigg

  1. You have left out all the best bits with Hepzibah henpecking him and making a huge round parkin which stuck up the dragon’s teeth. As a fellow librarian and researcher of folktales I would have hoped you would produce a meatier tale.


    1. There seemed to be loads of versions, so tried to pull one together that focussed on the dragon – though this does include of course the parkin sticking up the dragon’s teeth! There also seemed to be two different sets of names – I like the idea that he was called Ralph Parkin which is a name that comes up several times (and Billy Biter was a nickname). There are records of a Ralph Parkin marrying Mary Brumfitt in Filey in 1794, so it tickles me to think he was a real person who was a bit of a lad and told tall tales down the pub on an evening, including how he once killed a dragon…
      I think the one that called Billy’s wife Hepzibah was a retelling of it from somewhere down in the SW? Though it’s a while now since I dug around it all…
      I ended up trying to write something up where the stories seemed to overlap, so it is shorter than some variations of it 🙂


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