On October 31, Halloween is marked, a time of year when the weird, the wonderful and seriously spooky goings-on capture our attention. To coincide with Halloween and the frighteningly scary tales at this time of year, RH History Uncovered looks at the mysterious monstrous local legend, the Buckland Shag.
Buckland is home of the Shag Brook, which local legend states is home to a monstrous horse, or, according to some versions of the legend the beast appears as a gorilla, called the Buckland Shag.
The creature was said to be four-footed and covered in a shaggy coat and it would drag travellers from the nearby coaching road and devour them on the shag stone, a large boulder found in the brook.
According to legend, in 1757, Rev Willoughby Bertie, Rector of Buckland had the shag stone removed from the brook and transported to the West Country before it was thrown from a cliff in Devon. From that point on the Buckland Shag then disappeared from common local folklore. The legend of the Buckland Shag, however, has been revived by a local morris side, The Buckland Shag Morris Men.
Local morris side, The Buckland Shag Morris Men was formed in late 1986 and has reignited interest in the legend of the Buckland Shag. The group’s first meeting saw experienced dancers and musicians and others just curious join forces – the group’s name was chosen by a vote of members, and the group’s first performance coincided with sunrise on May 1, 1987 – the group has repeated this each year since.
Each Boxing Day since 1987, the group has performed the Buckland Mummers Play featuring the Buckland Shag at the Skimmington Castle Pub. The original play uses scripts from traditional plays and incorporate the legend of the Buckland Shag into the story. The traditional Mummers Play features St George fighting against a Turkish knight, being killed and then brought back
to life by a quack doctor.
The Buckland Shag Morris Men has added a fight between St George and the Buckland Shag with the scary beast ultimately being exorcised by Willoughby Bertie. The script evolves year-on-year with the occasional topical reference being thrown in, the event attracts a big crowd each Boxing Day lunchtime.
The group’s interpretation of the Buckland Shag is a horse, black with pointed teeth and bulging eyes.
By Jacob White