Guernésiais & Guernsey Folklore
Guernsey is steeped in a folkloric history, and thanks to the dedicated work of researchers such as Edgar McCulloch, Mrs Edith Carey and Marie de Garis we have a record of that oral history. Starting with McCulloch's 600-page book Guernsey Folklore in 1903, just a cursory read of some of Guernsey's folk-tales shows how our language is interwoven into the place names and the superstitions of our ancient people.
Creux es Faies - Fairies' Cave
Near Lihou Island is a prehistoric passage grave known as Les Creux es Faies. The Island has many prehistoric monuments known as 'dolmens' and a folklore story is woven around each one. Edgar McCulloch relates the following story about the activities on and around this site:
"Two men were at work in a field near L'Eree, when suddenly their plough stopped. As they looked about them they saw an iron kettle, such as was formerly used for baking bread and cake on the hearth.
On approaching it they noticed that it contained a bit which had been broken out of the side, and a couple of nails. On stooping to lift it, they heard a voice desiring them to get it mended, and when done to replace it on the same spot where they had found it. They complied with the request, went to the nearest smith, and on their return to the field with the kettle, which they replaced as directed, continued their work, the plough moving as readily as before.
They had completed several furrows when a second time the plough remained stationary. On this occasion they observed a bundle neatly tied up lying near them, and, on opening it, found it to contain a newly-baked cake, quite warm, and a bottle of cider. At the same time they were again addressed by their invisible friend, who bade them eat and drink without fear, thanked them for the readiness with which they had attended to his wishes, and assured them that a kind action never goes without its reward "
The Pea Stacks
Off Jerbourg Point in St Martins there are a set of rocks known as the 'Pea Stacks'. Up until very recent times fishermen would doff their hats to 'Androu' - part of the rock is uncannily statuesque and human like so that it resembles a monk. Mc Culloch writes:
"The Pea stacks are four large rocks one of which, from the seaward side resembles a cowelled monk known as " Le Petit Bon-Homme Andriou."
The children in the neighbourhood used to have a rhymed saying :"Andriou, tape tout," which may be translated "Andriou, watch over all"
La Rocque Qui Sonne - The singing rock
In Vale school playground is a ruined dolmen where only the cap stone and one or two upright remain. As the story goes, Mr Hocart who owned the land wanted to use the stone from the dolmen to build himself a new house. The locals, highly suspicious of anyone touching these ancient structures, warned him against it. Mr. Hocart ignored the warnings and ordered his men to break up the stones. As the masons tried to break the stones it is said the noise could be heard from as far away as Vale Church. Mr Hocart built his house, but it burned down within the year killing two maids. Some of the stone was shipped to England, but the boat sank. Mr Hocart had another of his houses burn down and was finally killed in a bizarre accident aboard a ship. The monument is now protected.
La Pied au Boef - Ox foot
On the Eastern border of L'Ancresse Common is a hill known locally as Hougue Patris. Before it was quarried the hill had a 'sacred' which has long since disappeared, but what still remains is the depression in the stone known as La Pied au Boef. It is said that this is a hoofprint left by the Devil as he was driven out of Guernsey by a local Saint.
Rouge Rue - Red Road
Guernsey has been threatened with invasion on and off for the last 2000 years or more; before the Germans came Napoleon, before him came French knights, Welsh Mercenaries and the Vikings. Legend says we've also been attacked by Fairies. History becomes mixed with folklore, so a known historical invasion by Owen of Wales in 1372 could be the origin of the story that the King of the fairies led an invasion to capture Guernsey's women. The Rougue Rue is said to have been the scene of the final battle between Guernseymen and the Fairies, when the road ran with the blood of the slain.
Is any of this true?
It seems that in the dark past, when something could not be explained, a story would grow around the place; a sticking up rock becomes a saint, a dolmen is a fairy haunt, anywhere dark and damp is haunted and if it collects water it is holy. Only the foolish ignore these legends.
There are a number of books and articles on Guernsey's folklore, and all can be found in Guernsey's libraries. A quick search on Google will point you in the right direction. There are also some articles on the internet, but these are not always reliable.
View Guernsey Folklore in a larger map