Everyone was aware of the reputation accorded the family known as the Doones, who in the mid seventeenth century lived somewhere on the moors. Most could or would not say exactly where. They were reputed to be a family of Scots freebooters who had somehow lost favour with the Scots kings and fearing retribution had decided to move down to the wastes of Exmoor.
The area was well known to the Scots, as in an attempt to make the wasteland profitable to it’s owners, thousands of hardy sheep had been driven down from the highland areas together with shepherds and their families. Encouraged by the higher wages and security of tenure offered for re-settlement there had been a flood of volunteers.
The head of the clan was a striking gentleman called, Sir Ensor, and packing up all the family belongings they had moved down to settle beside a stream known as Badgeworthy Water, a river that rose high up on the hills forming a tributary of one of the Lyn rivers further down towards the coast. The ground was so rough that at that time it was impossible to thrive by farming so they had turned to rustling and plunder. Confining their raids to the hours of darkness all other dwellers on the moor lived in fear that at some time Sir Ensor and his sons might come a’calling, often with awful consequences if they encountered resistance.
They were mainly remembered for the callous way that they would treat their victims. On one occasion a young child had run screaming in terror close to one of the clanmembers and he swept the young girl up in his arms with a smile. Then in cold blood he dashed the child’s head against the wall of the farmhouse. As he cast the bloodied, lifeless corpse back to the stone floor of the yard he was heard to say, “If anyone asks who killed thee, tell’em ’twas the Doones of Badgery. This was the act that guaranteed their downfall as shortly afterwards the authorities decided that they needed to act against this virtual private army. The milkmaid who had heard these words reported it in her testimony to the magistrates at the ensuing trial.
The Doones form a colourful part of Exmoor history. It is highly probable that the famous novel Lorna Doone, a firm favourite over generations was inspired by the old tales told of them. The idea forming in the mind of the author as he entertained his neighbours in the small village of Oare on Exmoor. The picturesque little church forming the setting for the famous wedding scene of the hero and heroine of the tale.
It appears that the name Doon is often associated with strange tales for as an adjunct to the story I would like to introduce a gentleman called Reverend Kirk of Aberfoyle who was born in 1644 and is known for his book, “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies.” Reverend Kirk died in 1691 of unknown circumstances when he went to Doon Hill, an area reputed to be the realm of the fairies or a gateway to the otherworld, during the night and collapsed. Some people found him there and brought him home where he died. It is most likely that he suffered a heart attack. Others said that he had been carried off by the fairies. It would be an exercise to find a connection with the, “Doones of Badgery,” an almost mythical Scots clan. Perhaps they originally hailed from that very area.
About the author
Originally from North Devon I moved to a place I was not even aware of located in the Heart of England. I found, to my surprise a beautiful county where all the things in which I was interested were within easy reach thus giving me inspiration to indulge my numerous hobbies and provide nutritious fodder for my writing attempts. Notes and ideas picked up and jotted down whilst walking to and around our wonderful panoply of sacred sites, places of beauty and country pubs provide ample inspiration. My camera, notebook and pen my constant companions. I have an eclectic taste in music and literature and each day is charted for me by a daily personal Tarot spread. Every week I read and enjoy the posts of my followed writers and one day hope to emulate their fascinating works of the word-conjuror’s art.
How did your granny predict the weather? What did your great uncle Albert tell you about the little green men he saw in the woods that night? What strange creature stalks the woods in your area?
So many of these old stories are slipping away for want of being recorded. legendary creatures, odd bits of folklore, folk remedies and charms, and all the old stories that brought our landscape to life…
Tell me a story, share memories of the old ways that are being forgotten, share the folklore of your home. I am not looking for fiction with this feature, but for genuine bits of folklore, old wives tales, folk magic and local legends. Why not share what you know and preserve it for the future?
Email me at email@example.com and put ‘Living Lore’ in the subject line. All I need is your article, bio and links, along with any of your own images you would like me to include and I’ll do the rest.