November 6th, 2012

"Hundred years be nothing to They."

R.L. Tongue, 'Watching Folklore Grow' (1964):

'Hinckley Point, on the Severn Coast, where an Atomic Power
Station has been built within the last few years, was considered for
centuries to be fairy-haunted land. The neighbourhood is full of
pixy tales and beliefs, and the Quantock people are quite outspoken
in their expectation of disaster for the intruding Power Station. It
has had, and is still having, a more than reasonable number of
setbacks. There have been some bad accidents which are freely
ascribed in the countryside to its being built where it is. Usually,
West Somerset people will not discuss their still-remembered
fairy-beliefs, but in this case their speech is suggestive and indicates
a full knowledge of the tradition.

...I received many hints of
disaster in the years preceding the Station's erection, but decided
to remain quiet and listen, until in 1963 I have heard such beliefs
openly voiced in several localities. The elderly, and not so elderly,
find a ghoulish pleasure in recounting the accidents and dangers
attendant on its building. One or two grim watchers have tallied
up deaths and near-deaths at one a year since the beginning of the
desecration. Of these they say, "Ah! They won't stop till there's
seven." Are these victims to placate the River Severn or the vengeful
pixy-people? An answer to modern boasting about the triumphs
of science is: "You and I won't be here come a hundred years time.
But They'll have 'en! Hundred years be nothing to They. They
can bide."

The same belief in ancient places resenting the rush and racket
of modernity is quite widely held among hill-people. The unparallelled
winter of 1962/3 was attributed by some to the anger
of nature-spirits. At Crowcombe, there was fifteen feet of snow,
and the village was cut off by road for several weeks. Deer, sheep
and ponies were fed by helicopters. One old farmer said to me,
looking out over the western hills, with the rash of holiday camps
and bungalows over their feet, and the curve of the Severn coast
broken by the Hinckley Point Power Station: "The hills is getting
angry. These may still be about in a hundred years - if that! The
hills, they've been a standing vor thousands, and they don't care
about being disturbed by noisy ways. They'll put up with we so
long as we'm quiet-minded, but they vulish lot as is allus in a girt
hurry-push, they'll all have to go."