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"I know I have herein made myself subject unto a world of judges, and
am likest to receive most controulment of such as are least able to
sentence me. Well I wote that the works of no writers have appeared to
the world in a more curious age than this; and that, therefore, the more
circumspection and wariness is required in the publishing of anything
that must endure so many sharp sights and censures. The consideration
whereof, as it hath made me all the more needy not to displease any, to
hath it given not the less hope of pleasing all."

VERSTEGAN, _Rest. dec. Ant._

[Illustration: JOHN ROBY]




Illustrated by Engravings on Steel and Wood

In Two Volumes


Fifth Edition.

George Routledge and Sons,
Manchester: L.C. Gent.















































The Fourth Edition of the "TRADITIONS OF LANCASHIRE" was published five
years ago, and the whole of the impression was ordered from the
publishers before it had left the printers' hands. Owing to the
difficulty in obtaining copies, it has been suggested that a re-issue,
in a cheap form, is a desideratum, and the present volumes are the
result. This is the only Complete Edition (except the Fourth, from which
it is an unabridged reprint), of Roby's Traditions - several Legendary
Tales being incorporated which were not included in any of the earlier
copies of the work.

_November_ 1871.


Roby's "TRADITIONS OF LANCASHIRE" having long been out of print - stray
copies commanding high prices - it has been determined to republish the
whole in a more compact and less costly form. This, the fourth and the
_only complete edition_, includes the _First_ Series of twenty tales,
published in two volumes (1829, demy 8vo, £2, 2s.; royal 8vo, with
proofs and etchings, £4, 4s.); the _Second_ Series, also of twenty
tales, in two volumes (1831, 8vo, £2, 2s., &c.); and three additional
stories from his _Legendary and Poetical Remains_, first published after
his death (1854, post 8vo, 10s. 6d.)[1] In the two volumes now presented
the reader will possess not only the whole of the contents of both
series, in four volumes, at one-fourth of the price of the original
publication, but also three additional stories from the posthumous
volume, with a memoir, a portrait, &c.

From deference to a strongly-expressed feeling that the work should be
printed without any abridgment, omission, or alteration, and the text
preserved in its full integrity, it has been decided to reprint it
entire; and consequently various inaccuracies in the original editions
have been left untouched. Two or three of the most important may be
corrected here.

In the tale of "The Dead Man's Hand," Mr Roby seems to have been led by
false information into some errors reflecting on the character and
memory of a devout and devoted Roman Catholic priest, known as Father
Arrowsmith. Mr Roby states that he was executed at Lancaster "in the
reign of William III.;" that "when about to suffer he desired his right
hand might be cut off, assuring the bystanders that it would have power
to work miraculous cures on those who had faith to believe in its
efficacy," and, denying that Father Arrowsmith suffered on account of
religion, Mr Roby adds that "having been found guilty of a misdemeanour,
in all probability this story of his martyrdom and miraculous
attestation to the truth of the cause for which he suffered, was
contrived for the purpose of preventing any scandal that might have
come upon the Church through the delinquency of an unworthy member."

What, then, are the facts, as far as they have been investigated? The
Father Edmund Arrowsmith who suffered death at Lancaster was born at
Haydock in Lancashire[2] in 1585, and he suffered death in August 1628
(4th Charles I.), sixty years before William III. ascended the English
throne. The mode of execution was not that of capital punishment for the
offence committed, but rather that imposed by the laws for treason and
for exercising the functions of a Roman Catholic priest. He was hanged,
drawn, and quartered, and his head and quarters were fixed upon poles on
Lancaster Castle. It was in this dismemberment that the hand became
separated, and it was secretly carried away by some sorrowing member of
his communion, and its supposed curative power was afterwards discovered
and made known.[3] Mr Roby cites no authority for this contradiction of
the original tradition. The judge who presided at the trial was Sir
Henry Yelverton of the Common Pleas, who died on the 24th January 1629.

In the Tradition of "The Dule upo' Dun," Mr Roby states that a
public-house having that sign stood at the entrance of a small village
on the right of the highway to Gisburn, and barely three miles from
Clitheroe. When Mr Roby wrote the public-house had been long pulled
down; it had ceased to be an inn at a period beyond living memory;
though the ancient house, converted into two mean, thatched cottages,
stood until about forty years ago. But the site of the house is in
Clitheroe itself, little more than half a mile from the centre of the
town, and on the road, not to Gisburn, but to Waddington.[4]

It only remains to add that the illustrations to the present edition
comprise not only all the beautiful plates (engraved by Edward Finden,
from drawings by George Pickering) of the original edition, which have
been much admired as picturesque works of art, but also all the
wood-engravings (by Williams, after designs by Frank Howard) which have
appeared in any former edition, and which constituted the sole
embellishments of the three-volume editions. To these is now first added
the fine portrait of Mr Roby from the posthumous volume.


[1] The First Series includes all the Traditions beginning with "Sir
Tarquin" and ending with "The Haunted Manor-House;" the Second Series
comprises all the Tales from "Clitheroe Castle" to "Rivington Pike,"
both included; and the three Tales now first incorporated are - "Mother
Red-Cap, or the Rosicrucians;" "The Death Painter, or the Skeleton's
Bride;" and "The Crystal Goblet."

[2] His mother was a daughter of the old Lancashire family of Gerard of

[3] These dates and facts will be found in the _Missionary Priests_ of
Bishop Challoner, who wrote about 1740 (2 vols. 8vo., Manchester,
1741-2), naming as his authority a manuscript history of the trial, and
a printed account of it published in 1629. His statements are confirmed
by independent testimony. See Henry More's _Historia-Provinciæ Anglicaæ
Societatis Jesu_, book x. (sm. fol. St Omer's, 1660). Also Tanner's
_Societas Jesu_, &c., p. 99 (sm. fol. Prague, 1675). Neither Challoner
nor the MS. account, nor either of the authors just quoted, says one
word of Father Arrowsmith's alleged speech about the hand.

[4] See Mr Wm. Dobson's _Rambles by the Ribble_, 1st Series, p. 137.


The late John Roby was born at Wigan on the 5th January 1793. From his
father, Nehemiah Roby, who was for many years Master of the
Grammar-School at Haigh, near Wigan, he inherited a good constitution
and unbended principles of honour and integrity. From the family of his
mother, Mary Aspall, he derived the quick, impressible temperament of
genius, and the love of humour which so conspicuously marks the
Lancashire character. He was the youngest child. His thirst for
knowledge was early and strongly manifested. Being once told in
childhood not to be so inquisitive, his appeal ever after was,
"_Inquisitive_ wants to know." As he grew up into boyhood, surrounded by
objects to which tradition had assigned her marvellous stories, they
sank silently but indelibly into his mind. In his immediate vicinity
were Haigh Hall and Mab's Cross, the scenes of Lady Mabel's sufferings
and penance - the subject of one of his earliest tales. Almost within
sight of the windows lay the fine range of hills of which Rivington Pike
is a spur. In after-life he recalled with pleasure the many sports in
that district which were the haunts of his early days, and the scenes of
the legends he afterwards embodied. While yet a child he regularly took
the organ in a chapel at Wigan during the Sunday service. He also early
excelled in drawing, and after he had commenced the avocations of a
banker the use of the pencil was a favourite recreation. His first prose
composition, at the age of fifteen years, took a prize in a periodical
for the best essay on a prescribed subject, by young persons under a
specified age. Thus encouraged, poetry, essay, tale, were all tried, and
with success. In his eighteenth or nineteenth year he received a silver
snuff-box, inscribed, "The gift of the Philosophic Society, Wigan, to
their esteemed lecturer and worthy member."

Mr Roby first appeared before the public as a poet; publishing in 1815,
"Sir Bertram, a poem in six cantos." Another poem quickly followed,
entitled "Lorenzo, a tale of Redemption." In 1816, he married Ann, the
youngest daughter of James and Dorothy Bealey, of Derrikens, near
Blackburn, by whom he had nine children, three of whom died in their
infancy. His next publication was "The Duke of Mantua," a tragedy, which
appeared in 1823, passed through three or four editions in a short time,
and after being long out of print, was included in the posthumous volume
of _Legendary Remains_. In the summer of that year he made an excursion
in Scotland, visiting "the bonnie braes o' Yarrow" in company with James
Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. The literary leisure of the next six years
was occupied in collecting materials for the _Traditions of Lancashire_,
and in weaving these into tales of romantic interest. In this task he
received the most courteous assistance from several representatives of
noble houses connected with the traditions of the county; particularly
from the late Earl and Countess of Crawford and Balcarres, and also from
the late Earl of Derby.

The _first_ series of _The Traditions of Lancashire_ appeared in 1829,
in two volumes (including twenty tales), illustrated by plates. The
reception of the work equalled Mr Roby's most sanguine expectations; and
a second edition was called for within twelve months. The late Sir
Francis Palgrave, in a letter to Mr Roby, dated 26th October 1829, thus
estimates the work: -

"As compositions, the extreme beauty of your style, and the skill
which you have shown in working up the rude materials, must entitle
them to the highest rank in the class of work to which they
belong.... You have made such a valuable addition, not only to
English literature, but to English topography, by your
collection - for these popular traditions form, or ought to form, an
important feature in topographical history - that it is to be hoped
you will not stop with the present volumes."

The _second_ series of the "Traditions," consisting also of two volumes
(including twenty tales), uniform with the first, was published in 1831,
and met with similar success. Both series were reviewed in the most
cordial manner by the leading periodicals of the day; while they were
more than once quoted by Sir Walter Scott, who characterised the whole
as an elegant work. In the production of these tales, Mr Roby's practice
was to make himself master of the historical groundwork of the story,
and as far as possible of the manners and customs of the period, and
then to commence composition, with Fosbroke's _Encyclopedia of
Antiquities_ at hand, for accuracy of costume, &c. He always gave the
credit of his style, which the _Westminster Review_ termed "a very model
of good Saxon," to his native county, the force and energy of whose
dialect arises mainly from the prevalence of the Teutonic element. "The
thought digs out the word," was his favourite saying, when the exact
expression he wanted did not at once occur. In these "Traditions" his
great creative power is conspicuous; about two hundred different
characters are introduced, no one of which reminds the reader of
another, while there is abundant diversity of both heroic and comic
incident and adventure. A gentleman, after reading the "Traditions,"
remarked that for invention he scarcely knew Mr Roby's equal. All these
characters, it should be stated, are creations: not one is an idealised
portrait. The short vivid descriptions of scenery scattered throughout
are admirable. Each tale is, in fact, a cabinet picture, combining
history and romance with landscape. Mr Roby excelled in depicting the
supernatural; and one German reviewer declared his story of Rivington
Pike to be "the only authentic tale of demoniacal possession the English

In 1832, Mr Roby visited the English lakes, and recorded his impressions
in lively sketches both with pen and pencil. In the spring of 1837, he
made a rapid tour on the Continent, the notes and illustrative sketches
of which were published in two volumes, under the title of _Seven Weeks
in Belgium, Switzerland, Lombardy, Piedmont, Savoy, &c._ In 1840, Mr
Roby again visited the Continent by a different route, making notes and
sketches of what he saw. At the close of the year, he was engaged in
preparing a new edition of the "Traditions," in a less expensive form.
It was published in three volumes, as the first of a series of Popular
Traditions of England; his intention being to follow up those of
Lancashire with similar legends of Yorkshire, for which he wrote a few
tales, which appeared in Blackwood's and Eraser's Magazines.

The principal literary occupation of the next four years appears to have
been the preparation and delivery of lectures on various subjects in
connection with literary and mechanics' institutions. In 1844, his
health gave way, and for years he suffered severely. As a last resource
he tried the water-cure at Malvern in the spring of 1847, and with
complete success. In the summer of 1849, he again married - the lady who
survived him, and to whose "sketch of his life" we are largely indebted
in this brief memoir. In the two short years following this
marriage - the two last of his life - he was busily engaged in writing and
delivering lectures, visiting places which form the scenes of some of
his latest legends, and in the composition of a series of tales intended
to illustrate the influence of Christianity in successive periods, a
century apart. Deferring that for the fourth century, he wrote six,
bringing the series down to the close of the seventh century; when he
determined on visiting Scotland. With his wife and daughter he embarked
at Liverpool on board the steamer _Orion_ for Glasgow, which ill-fated
vessel struck on some rocks about one o'clock in the morning of the 18th
June 1850, and went down. Mrs and Miss Roby were rescued after having
been some time in the water, but of the husband and father only the
corpse was recovered, and his remains were laid in his family grave in
the burial-ground of the Independent Chapel, Rochdale, on Saturday, the
22d of that month.

Mr Roby was not more remarkable for his numerous and varied talents than
for his warm and affectionate heart, rich imagination, great love of
humour, and deep and earnest piety. He was a facile versifier, an
elegant prose writer, an able botanist and physiologist. Possessing a
fine ear, rich voice, and great musical taste, he not only took his
vocal share in part-song, but wrote several melodies, which have been
published. In one species of rapid mental calculation, or rather
combination of figures - giving in an instant the sum of a double column
of twenty figures in each row, or a square of six figures - he far
excelled Bidder, the calculating boy. He was a skilful draughtsman, a
clever mimic and ventriloquist, an excellent _raconteur_, an
accomplished conversationist, ever fascinating in the select social
circle, and always "tender and wise" in that of home. He was a man of
genuine benevolence, a cordial friend, an affectionate husband and
father, and a humble and devout Christian. His family crest was a garb
or wheat-sheaf, with the motto, "I am ready;" and in his case - though
his death was sudden and unexpected - illness and bereavement, mental and
physical suffering - in short, the chastenings and discipline of life,
had done their work. His "sheaf" was "ready for the garner."

_October_ 1866.


[5] This Memoir has been almost wholly derived from the "Sketch of the
Literary Life and Character of John Roby," written by his widow, and
occupying 117 pages of the posthumous volume of his _Legendary and
Poetical Remains_.


A preface is rarely needed, generally intrusive, and always
tiresome - seldom read, more seldom desiderated: a piece of egotism at
best, where the author, speaking of himself, has the less chance of
being listened to. Yet - and what speaker does not think he ought to be
heard? - the author conceives there may be some necessity, some reason,
why he should step forward for the purpose of explaining his views in
connection with the character and design of the following pages.

In the northern counties, and more particularly in Lancashire, the great
arena of the STANLEYS during the civil wars - where the progress and
successful issue of his cause was but too confidently anticipated by
CHARLES STUART, and the scene especially of those strange and unholy
proceedings in which the "Lancashire witches" rendered themselves so
famous - it may readily be imagined that a number of interesting legends,
anecdotes, and scraps of family history, are floating about, hitherto
preserved chiefly in the shape of oral tradition. The antiquary, in most
instances, rejects the information that does not present itself in the
form of an authentic and well-attested fact; and legendary lore, in
particular, he throws aside as worthless and unprofitable. The author of
the "TRADITIONS OF LANCASHIRE," in leaving the dry and heraldic
pedigrees which unfortunately constitute the great bulk of those works
that bear the name of county histories, enters on the more entertaining,
though sometimes apocryphal narratives, which exemplify and embellish
the records of our forefathers.

A native of Lancashire, and residing there during the greater part of
his life, he has been enabled to collect a mass of local traditions, now
fast dying from the memories of the inhabitants. It is his object to
perpetuate these interesting relics of the past, and to present them in
a form that may be generally acceptable, divested of the dust and dross
in which the originals are but too often disfigured, so as to appear
worthless and uninviting.

Tradition is not an unacceptable source of historical inquiry; and the
writer who disdains to follow these glimmerings of truth will often find
himself in the dark, with nothing but his own opinions - the smouldering
vapour of his own imagination - to guide him in the search.

The following extract from a German writer on the subject sufficiently
exemplifies and illustrates the design the author has generally had
before him in the composition and arrangement of the following
legends: -

"Simple and unimportant as the subject may at first appear, it will be
found, upon a nearer view, well worth the attention of philosophical and
historical inquirers. All genuine, popular Tales, arranged with local
and national reference, cannot fail to throw light upon contemporary
events in history, upon the progressive cultivation of society, and
upon the prevailing modes of thinking in every age. Though not
consisting of a recital of bare facts, they are in most instances
founded upon fact, and in so far connected with history, which
occasionally, indeed, borrows from, and as often reflects light upon,
these familiar annals, these more private and interesting casualties of
human life.

"It is thus that popular tradition, connected with all that is most
interesting in human history and human action, upon a national scale - a
mirror reflecting the people's past worth and wisdom - invariably
possesses so deep a hold upon its affections, and offers so many
instructive hints to the man of the world, to the statesman, the
citizen, and the peasant.

"Signs of approaching changes, no less in manners than in states, may
likewise be traced, floating down this popular current of opinions,
fertilising the seeds scattered by a past generation, and marking by its
ebbs and flows the state of the political atmosphere, and the distant
gathering of the storm.

"National traditions further serve to throw light upon ancient and
modern mythology; and in many instances they are known to preserve
traces of their fabulous descent, as will clearly appear in some of the
following selections. It is the same with those of all nations, whether
of eastern or western origin, Greek, Scythian, or Kamtschatkan. And
hence, among every people just emerged out of a state of barbarism, the
same causes lead to the production of similar compositions; and a chain
of connection is thus established between the fables of different
nations, only varied by clime and custom, sufficient to prove, not
merely a degree of harmony, but secret interchanges and communications."

A record of the freaks of such airy beings, glancing through the mists
of national superstition, would prove little inferior in poetical
interest and association to the fanciful creations of the Greek
mythology. The truth is, they are of one family, and we often discover
allusions to the beautiful fable of Psyche or the story of Midas;
sometimes with the addition, that the latter was obliged to admit his
barber into his uncomfortable secret. Odin and Jupiter are brothers, if
not the same person; and the northern Hercules is often represented as
drawing a strong man by almost invisible threads, which pass from his
tongue round the limbs of the victim, thereby symbolising the power of
eloquence. Several incidents in the following tales will be recognised
by those conversant with Scandinavian literature, thus adding another
link to the chain of certainty which unites the human race, or at any
rate that part of it from which Europe was originally peopled, in one
original tribe or family.

A work of this nature, embodying the material of our own island
traditions, has not yet been attempted; and the writer confidently hopes
that these tales may be found fully capable of awakening and sustaining
the peculiar and high-wrought interest inherent in the legends of our
continental neighbours. Should they fail of producing this effect, he
requests that it may be attributed rather to his want of power to
conjure up the spirits of past ages, than to any want of capabilities in
the subjects he has chosen to introduce.

To the local and to the general reader - to the antiquary and the
uninitiated - to the admirers of the fine arts and embellishments of our
literature, he hopes his labours will prove acceptable; and should the
plan succeed, not Lancashire alone, but the other counties, may in their
turn become the subject of similar illustrations. The tales are arranged
chronologically, forming a somewhat irregular series from the earliest

Online LibraryJohn RobyTraditions of Lancashire, Volume 1 (of 2) → online text (page 1 of 47)