A PASS­ING HAUNT

This England - - Cornucopia - DAVID BEN­NETT

Each day, thou­sands of mo­torists travel along the main Mans­field to Not­ting­ham road un­aware of the macabre hap­pen­ing to a young girl on July 7, 1817, near the vil­lage of Pap­plewick, Not­ting­hamshire.

The event is com­mem­o­rated by a stone in a ditch at the side of the road. It is in­scribed with the words:

This stone is erected to the mem­ory of EL­IZ­A­BETH SHEP­PARD of Pap­plewick who was mur­dered when pass­ing this spot by CHARLES ROTHER­HAM, July 7th 1817, aged 17 years.

El­iz­a­beth Shep­pard said good­bye to her mother at her home in the vil­lage and set off to walk to Mans­field to seek em­ploy­ment as a do­mes­tic ser­vant.

In the early evening her mother left home to meet her daugh­ter and started to walk to­wards Mans­field.

See­ing her daugh­ter some dis­tance up the road and be­liev­ing her daugh­ter would catch her up, she started to walk slowly home. But her daugh­ter never re­turned.

Her mother went in search, but it was get­ting dark.

Next morn­ing, work­men on their way to work found a half­penny on the ground and went on to look for more coins. Hor­ri­fied, they found the man­gled body of the girl and a blood-stained hedge post. At this time a gig was pass­ing by and the man and woman oc­cu­pants rode off to fetch the po­lice.

Sus­pi­cion fell on Charles Rother­ham, who on the pre­vi­ous night had been try­ing to sell a pair of shoes – the ones the girl had been wear­ing.

The po­lice widened their search and a con­sta­ble found Rother­ham stand­ing on a bridge over a canal on the Lough­bor­ough Road. He con­fessed to the mur­der and was hanged on July 28, 1817, for his crime.

It is said that if the stone is moved “Bessie” will come back and haunt the site. When it was moved twice due to road­works it was re­ported by passers-by that a ghostly fig­ure was seen.

The ash tree was treated with great­est re­spect in many parts of the coun­try up to mod­ern times. Even some of the leaves were be­lieved to have had mag­i­cal prop­er­ties. This was es­pe­cially true when one sought luck in love. The best ac­counts we have are from Cam­bridgeshire and the West Coun­try.

You needed to find an ash leaf with an even num­ber of leaflets. To find one brought good luck, but to find the ideal part­ner you needed to make a spell.

This ex­am­ple was recorded in Cam­bridgeshire in 1865.

On Mid­sum­mer Eve it was said you must pluck an even ash leaf and, putting the leaf in your hand, say: “The even ash leaf in my hand, The first I meet shall be my man.” Then put it into your glove and say: “The even ash leaf in my glove, The first I meet shall be my love.” Fi­nally put it into your bo­som say­ing: “The even ash leaf in my bo­som, The first I meet shall be my hus­band.” Soon af­ter you com­plete the spell your fu­ture hus­band will make his ap­pear­ance!

These be­liefs were so well known that the phrase “even ash leaf” was like the use of “four-leaf clover” to­day.

Be­lief in the tree’s heal­ing prop­er­ties was strong, too, and it was used to treat rick­ets, whoop­ing cough and epilepsy.

In­deed, the ash tree is more im­por­tant in early medicine than one might think. They were also used in the cure of rup­tures. A split was made in a young tree and was later bound up. As the tree healed so would the pa­tient.

Ed­drup wrote in 1885 in a book on Wilt­shire about an old woman who worked in the vicarage and how her son was cured. He was found to be rup­tured at birth but was not treated till he was old enough (a year old).

Pro­tec­tion against witch­craft was an­other ash tree be­lief and in Wales a child’s first nail trim­mings were col­lected and buried be­neath the tree where folk­lore said this en­cour­aged him or her to grow up a fine singer!

If there is a short­age of ash trees, it is said to fore­cast ill luck to the monar­chy or coun­try – or even a change of govern­ment!

“We are led to be­lieve it be­gan with Eve Who be­ing a madam Took a bite of an ap­ple And tempted Adam!” In lore, lit­er­a­ture and ev­ery­day life, an ap­ple is an ob­ject of con­se­quence, charisma and sig­nif­i­cance.

It can be used as a bribe – “an ap­ple for the teacher” – and ap­ple crum­ble and cream to me is the ul­ti­mate comfort food! And they do say that “an ap­ple-pie with­out cheese is like a kiss with­out a squeeze”!

“An ap­ple doesn’t fall far from the tree” has more than one mean­ing – usu­ally un­com­pli­men­tary – un­like “the ap­ple of one’s eye”. “One bad ap­ple in the bar­rel” wreaks havoc and con­se­quently it’s used as an ex­pres­sion to de­scribe a rot­ter or a “bad lot”.

It wasn’t an orange that Wil­liam Tell placed on his son’s head for tar­get prac­tice, but an ap­ple to be split in two by his ar­row. It was a piece of poi­soned ap­ple which lodged in Snow White’s throat and sent her to sleep un­til the dwarfs awoke her.

An ap­ple fall­ing on Isaac New­ton’s head in­spired his the­ory of grav­ity, and would the won­der­ful “Cider With Rosie” have been writ­ten with­out the plea­sure of that fruit’s golden brew? Or Dy­lan Thomas “young and easy un­der the ap­ple boughs?”

“Stay me with flagons, comfort me with ap­ples” the lovesick Solomon sang, and Drinkwa­ter’s “moon-washed ap­ples of won­der” bring to mind Sa­muel Palmer’s stud­ies of moon­lit ap­ple or­chards. Where would we be with­out ap­ples? Ap­ple bob­bing at Hal­lowe’en, a cook­ing ap­ple in­side the Michael­mas goose, and roast pork with a dish of ap­ple sauce on the side – mem­o­ries and fra­grances which stay with us for a life­time.

This was writ­ten on my Ap­ple Mac lap­top with which I e-mail and Skype with the Big Ap­ple!

A tree of high stand­ing – the ash was revered in the past for its mag­i­cal prop­er­ties.

Carol Ellin’s paint­ing “Ap­ples And Au­tumn Colours, White Lodge” cap­tures the beauty of her ap­ple tree and the sea­son.

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