The Boggart and the knot-hole

This is a story about a Boggart (or Hob) from The London literary gazette and journal of belles lettres, arts, sciences, etc.,  1825, no. 430, pages 252,253. It has similarities at the end with another Boggart / Hob story I have, but the rest is quite different!

One day, a Boggart took up residence (why and how, I never discovered) in the house of a quiet, inoffensive farmer, George Gilbertson. Once there, it seemed to decide that it was the rightful owner and caused a good deal of annoyance. They never saw it of course, as a Boggart is rarely visible to the human eye, though it is frequently seen by cattle and horses. (A Yorkshire term for a ‘shying horse’ is one that has ‘taken the boggle’.)

It seemed to take a particular dislike to the children, tormenting them in various ways. Sometimes their bread and butter would be snatched away, or their porringers of bread and milk be capsized by an invisible hand; at other times, the curtains of their beds would be shaken backwards and forwards, or a heavy weight would press on and nearly suffocate them. The parents had often, on hearing their cries, to fly to their aid.

There was a kind of closet, formed by a wooden partition on the kitchen-stairs, and a large knot having been driven out of one of the deal-boards of which it was made, there remained a hole. Into this one day the farmer’s youngest boy stuck the shoe-horn with which he was amusing himself, when immediately it was thrown out again, and struck the boy on the head. The agent was of course the Boggart, and though the first time was terrifying, it soon became their amusement (which they called laikin’ wi’ Boggart) to put the shoe-horn into the hole and have it shot back at them. This seemed to goad the Boggart into more disruptive behaviour.

At night, heavy steps were heard clattering down the stairs, like someone wearing clogs. Sounds like earthernware and pewter dishes smashing against the kitchen floor were heard, though the dishes were intact on their shelves in the morning.

The Boggart at length proved such a torment that the farmer and his wife resolved to quit the house and let him have it all to himself. This was put into execution, and the farmer and his family were following the last loads of furniture, when a neighbour named John Marshall came up—”Well, Georgey,” said he, “and soa you’re leaving t’ould hoose at last?”—”Heigh, Johnny, my lad, I’m forced tull it; for that damned Boggart torments us soa, we can neither rest neet nor day for’t. It seems loike to have such a malice again t’poor bairns, it ommost kills my poor dame here at thoughts on’t, and soa, ye see, we’re forced to flitt loike.” He scarce had uttered the words when a voice from a deep upright churn cried out, “Aye, aye, Georgey, we’re flitting ye see.”—”‘Od damn thee,” cried the poor farmer, “if I’d known thou’d been there, I wadn’t ha’ stirred a peg. Nay, nay, it’s no use, Mally,” turning to his wife, “we may as weel turn back again to t’ould hoose as be tormented in another that’s not so convenient.”

I believe they did turn back, and seemed to come to a better understanding with the Boggart, though it continued it’s trick of firing the horn from the knot-hole. I remember an old tailor, who used to visit the farmhouse on his rounds, told me the horn was frequently pitched at his head, many years after this first took place.

The Farndale Hob

I love this little story about a hob. These seem to have dozens of names depending on where you are in the country, hobs being creatures that can be helpful, but that you really don’t want to offend. I like the cheekiness of the hob in this story.

Barn, slightly tumbledown, surrounded by fields.

In days past, when fairy folk were more commonly found than today, a farmer called Jennifer lived in Farndale with her husband.

One night she was fast asleep in her bed, when a thumping sound woke her. At first she felt she must be dreaming, but the thumping continued, and she became convinced it was coming from the barn.

The whole family gathered downstairs, unsure what to do, but there was such a racket coming from the barn, no-one dared investigate. Instead they made sure the doors were all locked securely and waited until the morning, so they could check in daylight.

Dawn broke, and the family cautiously opened the doors. Jennifer tiptoed up to the barn and carefully peered through a crack in the door. She was amazed at what she saw! The thumping noise was corn being threshed. In one night, more corn had been threshed than they could have done in a week.

The next night the noise started again, but they felt a little safer after seeing what had happened the night before and slept a little better too. By the morning, all the corn they’d harvested had been threshed.

The helper returned again a while later, shearing all the sheep in one night the next summer, and mowing the hay another time. The family got used this, and felt thankful that a hob had moved in to offer his unseen help. They didn’t know how to show their thanks, however, as hobs and fairies can be a tad funny in their dealings with people, especially if offered clothes to wear.

So they tried leaving a bowl of cream out at night for the hob, as a treat to show him how much they appreciated him. Sure enough, the cream was gone the next morning and the bowl was clean. For the price of a bowl of cream each night, Jennifer and her farm had gained the best farm worker they’d ever had.

The good times didn’t last forever though. One winter, her husband became sick of the fever and died. She remarried after a while, but her new husband was a mean and jealous man. He resented the best cream being left out for the hob each night and told her she was wasting it on cats and rats who would be helping themselves to it each night.

One day, Jennifer knew she’d be working late, so asked her new husband to put the cream out for the hob in case she didn’t return in time. Instead of the cream, however, he put out the thin whey left over cheesemaking instead.

For the first time in years, the farm was silent that night. No corn was threshed, no sheep sheared, no spinning done. There was to be no help any night from then on. Instead, everything started to go wrong on the farm. The butter wouldn’t churn, the cheese went black with mould, and foxes killed the chickens. Every week, there were new disasters on the farm, and they struggled to make ends meet.

Strange noises and screams were heard at night, and things moved mysteriously around the farm, scaring the rest of the farm workers away. Gates were left open, allowing animals to wander off, and candles blew out at the darkest point of night.

With the farm going to rack and ruin, Jennifer decided they must move on and leave the angry hob behind. They loaded all their possessions onto a cart and said goodbye to the farm.

As they road along the lane, one of their neighbours came out to see what was happening.

‘How do, Jennifer. Has it really come to this?’, he asked.

‘Aye, George’, she replied. ‘It really has come to it, we’re flitting.

At that point they heard another voice…

‘Aye, we’ve flitting.’

Sat there top of their cart was the strangest, hairiest little creature you’ve ever seen. He chuckled as they turned to him

Jennifer knew she was beaten and turned the cart around to head back to the farm. ‘We were flitting, but if you’re flitting with us we may as well flit back. For I see now that for us there is no hope.’

Sad to say, she was right. So if you hear strange noises in the night and think you may have a hob living with you, make sure you reward it well and don’t annoy him, otherwise, you’ll always regret it.