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Murphy's Lore

Number Forty-four of the regular HebWeb column from local writer and story-teller, George Murphy.

Murphy’s Lore 44 - Monday 28 October 2019

Thought for the day

How greedily the bloated world consumes our dreams.
Painstaking and ponderous, the earnest artist's brush
And writer's pen try to resurrect the worlds
Dreams flared to life - palpable and true -
Our beating heart’s soon extinguished fantasies.

(Better get up then)

Le Grand Depart

Le grand depart

At The Fleece in Haworth it seemed appropriate to sing Le Grand Depart.

All t’ lamp posts wor bending wi’ bunting
And skies wor all cloudless an’ blue
An’ yellow bikes hung from shops fronting
On t’ streets where big bike race wor due

An’ Mrs Veronica Pomfret,
Casting off her widow’s kit,
Frenchified her pub menu
For passing French men who
Might fancy their Cod piece on a bed of Pomme frites


You’ll be surprised to learn that I never did French at school. In fact, compared to the learned Editor of this site - rumoured to sing Non, J’ ne regrette rien in the bath every morning, in immaculate French - I am a linguistic dunce.

Therefore, I dedicate this song to anyone who has tried to explain to a French pharmacist, by use of Franglais and hand signals, that his wife has a certain uncomfortable maladie. I happen to know a chap who did that. He finally left the shop with a tub of yoghurt.

His wife was itching for his return.


The Old Chamber Witch

Paul Degnan

Here’s Paul Degnan at Shaggy Dog telling a scary tale. This time of year, storytellers get asked for halloween tales. Here’s one …

A legend survives of a curse on Old Chamber, up on Erringden hillside. At first, when it was just cats that died in the house and barn, a witch was enlisted to tie a charm around the neck of a kitten. The kitten grew up into a healthy creature.

That wasn’t the end of it, unfortunately. Soon afterwards, the farmer’s cows and prize bull died in excruciating pain. Then an old horse, recently retired from working down a pit, fell down dead outside his stable.

So the good witch, a master of spells, was asked to discover the evil witch who had cursed the farmstead. He kindled a fire in the middle of the barn-floor, and hung over it, suspended from a beam, a charmed phial. Round the fire he drew a circle, and placed within it such of the family as chose to witness the scene. He cautioned them not to mention the name of God, and setting the barn doors wide open, he commenced his incantations.

The wind rose, and a withered old woman was seen hobbling down the barn-fold, with both hands on a stick, apparently in the most violent agitation. The farmer’s wife forgot the injunction of the Spell Master and shouted, “May God preserve us!” The witch was immediately released from the power of the spell, and scampered away as fast as she could to her lonely dwelling among the hills.

A Mr Dearden, of Hebden Bridge, who reported these events, said he had heard it verified by one of the servants at the house. So it must have been true.

Grim Grimm

GrimmShaggy Dog storytellers are performing Grimm fairy tales at Gibson Mill on Friday, 1st November,

From time immemorial, people told stories and people heard stories and people passed stories on in their own way. Then the Grimm brothers went round and about and heard those tales and wrote them down. They are wonderful tales, but it’s not a crime to change them - as storytellers have always done.

The trick is not to lose the magic.

Butter Up Award

BagJean from Liverpool has dropped me a line to ask what happened to last week’s Butter Up Award? So, by popular demand (and because she’s family) I’ve reinstated it.

Oh Print Bureau, for so many years I have traipsed the streets posting your posters. I know you’ll always be there for me.

Hang on - you’ve moved with Shepherds, down past the surgery, away from the flood plain. Despite this flit, this week’s toast award goes to Print Bureau - butter side up, of course. They print on garments and bags too. Here’s one they did for a prestigious local publisher.

The word on the street

A friendly and patient customer in the Bridge End bookshop was answering questions from an elderly tourist. “Round here was mainly weaving and Lancashire was spinning. A lot of the workers went deaf. Saturday was mill fire day, when business was slowing down, we came to expect them. Mill fires were always on a Saturday.”

I bumped into Roger, an artist, who has an exhibition coming up in April. He’s just moved to Todmorden. “Tod’s like Hebden was 30 years ago. You could draw a line across Burnley Road and after that the houses are £50,000 cheaper.’”

In the park, cocker spaniels with poodle fur were sniffing each other in a very familiar way, considering they’d just met. Their owners seemed quite oblivious of this (and of me trying to sidle past), as one invited the other to meet up with fellow owners.

If it wasn’t bad manners, I’d have said, “So is it strictly a Cocker Doodle do?”

Book Festival Opening Night!

After Grimm fairytales at Gibson Mill, even the sight of Boris Johnson in a ditch won’t delay me from driving to Kava Cafe to perform late night poetry with Calder Poets: ‘verse as light and sharp as an arrow,’ rounding off the opening night of Todmorden Book festival. Our gig’s on straight after the Poet Laureate’s.

I might include The Todmorden Triangle in our set. As if to prove that Tod’s long been the UFO capital of the UK, someone posted a photograph of this space ship, which used to park in Tod way back in the 70s.

Flying saucer

Then I found the sketch made by a policeman who was abducted by aliens in the 1980s. I seem to recall he drew this under hypnosis.



Pumpkin festival

I couldn’t help noticing how agitated the pumpkins looked this year. Perhaps their creators’ angst about Brexit has rubbed off on them.


If you would like to send a message about this piece or suggest ideas, email George Murphy

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