Last year I researched the local fairy & folklore of Preston, coming across the story of the ‘Fairy Funeral’ based by St Marys church and Penwortham woods. This was included in the lecture I gave at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery for the ‘Enchanted Worlds’ fairy tale exhibition, and performed as a shadow theatre piece (see previous blogs July-Aug 09)
One bright Spring Sunday, I went to explore the area and follow the trail along the River Ribble and walk in whats left of the Penwortham Woods. The area of woods would of once covered a much larger area, and there were stories of little men with red caps climbing trees and sighted as recently as June 1964.
Bowkers 1883 account of a funeral in Penwortham records that two men were walking home very late on a moonlit night from the Black Horse Pub by Penwortham woods. They heard the bells of St Marys church tolling for a funeral. It rang 26 times, the same age as Robin, one of the pair. They saw a group of small figures, dressed in black but wearing redcaps, carrying a little coffin. It contained a dead fairy that looked just like Robin! He cried out in alarm, but the procession vanished. Robin became depressed and a month later he fell off a haystack and died.
Warning – never look at a fairy funeral!