A PASSING HAUNT
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.