Our house is fuelled by all things spooky. Amanda’s favourite holiday (apart from her birthday, which is a month-long celebration and has an often-referenced countdown clock available throughout the year) is Halloween. We watch a huge amount of scary movies together: some excellent (we went to see ‘It Follows’ this weekend), but some absolutely atrocious. Both categories are acceptable and eagerly sought out.
A companion piece to this is Amanda’s quest for scary and strange stories and she has spent some time looking at urban legends close to us in south London. This inspired me to look up some legends from my home town, Scarborough: The Jewel of the Yorkshire Coast.
Scarborough is just down the coast from Whitby which has all-things-Dracula as one of it’s main attractions. Close by is a lovely village called Robin Hood’s Bay. Now, the legend here is that Robin Hood was in the area and managed to fight off a roguish bunch of French pirates who were attempting to pillage the local fishing fleet. He fought them off (single-handed, probably) and returned the booty to the local poor. Now, whether ‘Robin Hood’ was ever actually there is in doubt, but it makes a great story. I’d love to have a place named after me for some derring-do. Sam Town: a hero’s home.
This brings me to Scarborough because it shares a brilliant legacy with Robin Hood’s Bay; both were notorious havens for smugglers.
In the 18th century you could get pretty much anything on the Yorkshire coast and all at cheap rates thanks to the smugglers. They’d sneak in tea, gin, brandy, tobacco and the smuggler’s favourite tipple, rum, from the Netherlands and France. It would be brought in at night and smuggled ashore to avoid the inspectors looking to charge duty on goods brought into the country.
Smugglers were seen as heroic men, celebrated in the town and aided in their escape by the locals who benefited from their cheap contraband. Robin Hood’s Bay especially must have been a paradise for smugglers. It’s built on a cliff edge and is full of winding pathways and secret alleys – many of the houses are linked by subterranean tunnels which the smugglers used to escape.
My favourite Scarborough seaman that I found was called Copper Jack who apparently had the strength of two grown men. He was a gentle giant who avoided fighting at all costs. A legend of a man, and a local hero, he died at sea in the 1830s during a hurricane and his headless corpse was washed up on a nearby beach.`
What are some of your local legends?
*As you can tell, this post was written for me by Sam (out of the kindness of his heart) because I was feeling unwell*
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