In November, I had the pleasure of hearing storyteller Alan Lamb telling some local tales. As part of his performance he extended the tale of The Mystery of the Whirlin' Cakes with a couple of anecdotes from Arthur Randell.
The first of these anecdotes, included in Randell, Arthur (1966) Sixty Years a Fenman pp81-82, was alleged to have been told to Arthur by Bricky Gathercole and reads as follows:
“I can remember a gale round here that was just as bad. It happened like this: It was years ago, one sunny afternoon, and the missus and I were going to chapel. As it was so hot she had her sunshade up and all of a sudden a whirlwind blew up, caught her long skirts and carried her right up to the top of a great tall poplar tree. There the old gal was, hanging on to a branch with one hand and waving her sunshade in the other: I tell you, bors, I didn't know what to do. Then, luckily, a chap from the farm nearby happened to come along and seeing what had happened he said he'd go and fetch a couple of ladders so I could lash them together and climb up to get my old woman down. Well, before he could fetch those ladders another whirlwind came along, and, believe it or not but it's true, it lifted the missus right out of the tree and she floated down as gently as a piece of thistledown and landed just by where I was standing.”
Randell then went on to quote a tale told by an old lady:
"Well, that's all very interesting, I'm sure,' she said, 'but what I'm going to tell you is perfectly true, though it's not about a gale. It happened one Sunday evening when I was a gal of nineteen, and that's a long time ago now. I'd been to church and had come out just before the service ended so I could get home before it got really dark; I had to cross two fields, you see, and I didn't care to do that all alone unless there was still a bit of daylight. Well, as I was going across the first field I had to step over a deep sort of hollow in the long grass and as it was half dusk I never noticed that Wimpey's old donkey was lying at the bottom of the hole. Anyway, as I stepped over I probably scared the donkey for it got up suddenly and I found myself straddled across its back and my clothes over my head. I hung on, though, and that old donkey started galloping off back towards the church and got there just as the people were coming out and the parson was standing in the porch to say goodbye to them. Now it so happened that he'd given us a sermon that evening all about the Devil and when he saw me on Wimpey's donkey he must have thought it really was Old Harry himself, because he called out at the top of his voice: ' "Lord have mercy on us!" and fell down in a dead faint, while the donkey set up a loud braying and the congregation, scared out of their wits, tore down the churchyard path as fast as they could go."