From “Tales of Craven”, Churn Milk Peg seems to be Craven’s version of Melch Dick? She does the same job of guarding unripe nuts from being eaten by children…
The Short Lea Lane is linked with fairy lore, being a favourite haunt of Churn-milk Peg, a being, perhaps, peculiar to Craven.
Peg is represented as an old and very ugly hag, with a pipe in her mouth. Her job is to protect the nuts, when in the pulpy state called churn-milk, from being gathered by naughty children. All she says is:
‘Smoke! Smoke a wooden pipe!
Getting nuts before they’re ripe!’
If this rhyme does not succeed in scaring the children, then churn-milk Peg ‘tacks em!’ This creature is known in Malhamdale, where fruit-pilfering children are told to ‘tak care, or Churn-milk Peg will tak ye to t’owd lad!’ i.e., to a certain ‘old gentleman!’
I quite like the Yorkhire dragon stories, mainly because of how different they are to the dragons in stories I heard growing up. They were completely different looking animals, even from the cute dragons from Ivor the Engine…
Dragons from stories I’d heard before were like armoured giant birds – they flew around breathing fire, and were killed with difficulty because of the impenetrable scales that covered them.
Yorkshire dragons were different. The were much more serpent, or wyrm like – killing people (or sinking ships) by wrapping themselves around them, rather than swooping down from the sky and breathing fire. They might drip poison from their heads, or have regenerative powers, but why would you need armoured scales when you’re simply enormous and heal quickly?
Some might breathe fire though, as I’ve always been told a dragon lived on Castle Hill near me. I assume that is said because it’s a rare example of a vitrified iron age hill fort, where a fire raged so fiercely (around 400BC?) that stones were fused together. Sounds like a good excuse for a dragon story to me… especially as there are said to be tunnels under the hill which would make a good home for a sneaky giant serpent.