Mark’s-e’en watch

A warm, beautiful morning but very hazy, not conducive at all for distant landscape photographs. All the colours end up being washed out. It must be all this Sarahan sand. Tomorrow, April 25, is the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist which makes today St Mark’s Eve when it was the custom to sit quietly in a church porch for an hour either side of midnight when the wraiths of those who will die during the forthcoming year would be witnessed passing into the church.

In the photo is the Church of St Hilda where the Canon J.C.Atkinson was the vicar for forty years in the late 19th-century. He wrote of an old woman of his parish who was well known locally for keeping the “Mark’s-e’en watch” and thus was able to foretell the deaths for the coming year. One year she announced her own death: “And, when I dee, for dee I s’all, mind ye carry me to my grave by t’ church-road, and not all the way round by t’ au’d Castle and Ainthrop. And mind ye, if ye de’ant, I’ll come again“.

The old woman lived in Fryup, the next dale east, and the church-road went past her house and up and over Danby Rigg to St Hilda’s church. It is known as the Old Hell Road and can be seen in the photo descending Danby Rigg. The shortest route but involving a steep climb and descent. Well, the old woman did die as she predicted but in the midst of winter when a heavy snowfall had made the crossing of the rigg very arduous. The coffin bearers though, fearful of not adhering to the old woman’s wishes persevered and carried her on her final journey to her grave where she has rested in peace.
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