My research indicates that:
- Marie Clothilde Balfour resided in the village of Redbourne in the Ancholme Carrs of North Lincolnshire from 1887 to 1889, having been born in Edinburgh, and having spent her early years in New Zealand before residing in Scotland and England prior to the collection of the stories.
- In 1890 Balfour sent Coat of Clay, a tale from the Lincolnshire Carrs to Andrew Lang. This was published first in Longman's Magazine (No. 15, March 1890 pp 554-558) and then secondly in Folk-Lore (the journal of the Folkllore Society)( Vol. 1 (3) September 1890 pp 305-310). The story received a favourable reaction from the Folklore Society and this prompted Balfour to send the collection known as the Legends of the Carrs to be included in Folk-Lore in 1891. An advertisement for the publication described them as fine examples of Lincolnshire dialect stories.
- Balfour had moved to Northumberland by 1891 where she collected folklore from printed sources for the County Folklore series. She also continued to collect folk tales but chose not to send these to Folklore, preferring instead to send them to Joseph Jacobs for inclusion in his More English Fairy Tales.
- There was no payment for submissions to Folklore by the Folklore Society, and athough Balfour was acknowledged in the journal, the tales did not gain widespread recognition or fame for their collector. However, though Balfour may have benefited from the contacts made through the Society in her pursuit of a literary career, she did not gain materially from the collection of the Legends.
The content of the stories, and the lengthy introduction by Balfour, reflect a commonly held interest by nineteenth century folklorists, in the survival of primitive culture and traditions.
- In 1954 Licolnshire Folklorist, Ethel Rudkin unquestionably accepted the folkloric content of the Legends to support a paper which she read to the Folklore Society. A decade later both Professor Richard M Dorson and Katharine Briggs referred positively to the Legends.
- The folklore contained within the Legends, whilst much of it could be found in various parts of Britain, is in the main linked to Lincolnshire, particularly the North, and Yorkshire. The excessive use of opium within the Carrs (and other malaria afflicted parts of Britain) may also have contributed to the inclusion of some of the darker elements within the tales.
- Similarly the dialect, particularly the vocabulary and grammar, indicate the same origins, and lead to the assumption that Balfour had a good ear for dialect and phraseology but an inconsistent approach to recording such sound. A number of people from North Lincolnshire, who are familiar with the sound of the spoken word using dialect, are able to read the untranslated Legends.
- The words used in the Legends were analysed using Laurence Anthony's AntConc programme. This showed a diversity in the styles and vocabulary used by the different tellers, particularly the higher frequency of Norse and dialect words used by the elderly woman teller of Tiddy Mun.
- There are clues within the Legends and the introductions to enable the tracing of the tellers of Tiddy Mun, The Dead Moon (and Sam'l's Ghost) and Yallery Brown. This information has been included within my thesis for which I hope to find a publisher.
- The Legends are full of features which indicate that they are from the oral tradition, namely performative strategies, simple sentences, narrative phrases, repetition, poetic devices, onamatopoeic words. These features have enabled the tales to be easily picked up from collections by revival storytellers (those that tell stories rather than read them).
- Balfour, whilst she became a published writer after the collection of the Legends, does not appear to have been very successful in this career. She wrote a number of short stories, most of which were set in France, and which are low on dialogue and bear no resemblance to the Legends. The only piece of writing that can be compared to the content collected in the Carrs is a small section in her novel The Fall of the Sparrow which was partially set in a fictitious village in the Carrs. This novel includes storytelling within the vicarage and passages from the Dead Moon.
- But why have the stories not been found elsewhere, you may ask...Well, Sam'l's Ghost and Fred the Fool (the latter of which did NOT appear in any later published collections) are united in the tale The Wandering Toadmen, collected a few decades ago, by Polly Howat from an elderly woman in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, who had heard it from her grandfather. Of the other tales, many of them are about supernatural beliefs which are not easily shared with others. Similarly, my research shows that they were perculiar to a flat landscape and were shaped at the time of heavy opium addiction in the early nineteenth century, at a time when the telling of stories was dying out.