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The Maid of the Golden Shoon

The featured photo shows Turkey Nab overlooking the tiny village of Ingleby Greenhow,

Ingleby is the scene of a charming folk tale from the pen of Richard Blakeborough featuring witches, fairies, maidens fair, knights in shining armour, dragons, along with baby snatching and cross dressing, and much, much more if you read between the lines.

Perfect for a Disney movie.

The story was published in two parts the Whitby Gazette in May, 19061BLAKEBOROUGH, RICHARD. ‘TALES OUR GRANDMOTHER TOLD.’ | Whitby Gazette | Friday 04 May 1906 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001103/19060504/066/0003> [accessed 30 August 2022]:

The Maid of the Golden Shoon


In grateful recognition, the following legend is dedicated to the memory of William Scorer, to whom the writer is indebted for much of his knowledge of the lore, superstition, and customs of the North Riding. Born Basedale Abbey, 1800; interred Masham, 1896. He was a grand type of a Yorkshireman of the old school.

For years he was my valued friend.
And every day through those long years.
The same match lighted both pipes.
I questioned him of days long past.
On how they lived? and what they did?
And thought And he, and only he
‘Mongst all my friends these secrets knew.
And loved to talk of old syne.

A few words as to the history of the legend. About the year 1840, more than eighty years of age, died Mistress Bessy Ellis, of Appleton-le-Moor, who, for many years, resided in Lastingham. At the age of eight (1771), Bessy went to live with her grandmother, at Ingleby Greenhow, with whom she stayed for seven years. It was whilst living with her granny that Bessy learnt the story of the Golden Shoon2Shoon, PI. of ‘ Shoe.’ DIALECT GLOSSARY OF Over 4,000 WORDS and IDIOMS NOW IN USE IN THE North Riding of Yorkshire, RICHARD BLAKEBOROUGH, 1912. Page 128.. How such story came to be thus localised, at present there is nothing known which admits of even a probable conjecture. Most probably, the only connection the village of Ingleby has with the legend is that given to it by the grandmother of Bessy Ellis, when the old dame recited the story. Doubtless she told her little grandchild, with the intention of giving the story deeper interest, that the incidents all happened in that village. The writer, however, has no desire to remove any claim which Ingleby may have to this story being its own. It is one the village may justly proud of, and, let hope, in future years, it may witness representation of the story of the Golden Shoon. But to return to Mistress Ellis. Calvert, in his MSS3Manuscripts., more than once refers to this old dame, for she was past middle life, when he was collecting all the oddments he could in 1820, as being one who knew more of the past than any dame knew, and to whom he seems to have appealed in all cases of difficulty. Dame Ellis was an intimate friend of Mr. Scorer’s mother, and, once at least, every year, she paid a visit to Basedale Priory. The distance of twenty miles between her home and the priory she always walked, and that, too, when turned her sixtieth year. When we remember that there are not, or, at that day, were not, many houses within a radius of eight or ten miles, and when we are told that the young folk of the neighbourhood gathered round the Scorer’s hearthstone to listen, with rapt attention, to the oldtime stories which, it seems, Bessy so well remembered, and knew how recite, well, it tells us much of the delight experienced the young folk, who would come so far afield to listen to them; and they did come.

When staying with the Vicar of Lastingham, in 1897, the writer made enquiries concerning certain points in the following story. Unfortunately, but one old chap could be found who still retained even memory of the story. His information did not go beyond the fact that he remembered hearing an old body tell the story many long year since. This old lady had, at one time, been in the service the Misses Blacklocks, both of whom were dead before his day; at least, he had no recollection of them. He did call to mind hearing her say she had learnt the story from Bessy Ellis, whom he remembered very well as an old dame when he was a “bit bairn.

Mr. Scorer informed me that Bessy always prefaced this particular story saying:— “The tale I am bown for to tell you, is ’at mah grandame used for ti tell us young ’uns. Ah can’t say hoo lang sin’, an’ her grandame larnt her it.” Now, when it is remembered that Bessy was turned sixty when Scorer last heard the old dame tell the story; that was about 1820, and she would be born about 1760. Her grandmother, therefore, would listen to its being told between the years 1690-1700. It embraces all those features which those of bygone age so loved to find in their stories; magic and mystery, the probable and the altogether impossible, the fight of evil, and the conquering finally of all temptations, are here wonderfully intermixed. To those who can read between the lines, much may be learnt. It teaches a highly moral lesson, though, perhaps not quite in the way such lesson would now taught. In the good old days, they had a plain way of calling spade a spade, but they were none the less sincere. The good dalesfolk hated sin, and scoffed at sham. In including these prefatory remarks, let us do in the words of an old Yorkshire definition of prude;—
A prude is varra off’ns a young Miss wheea to’ns up her snoot i’ public at what sha gloats i’ private.


Many a long, long, year ago, the little hamlet of Ingleby Greenhow was stirred to its very core. There were angry looks, mingled with great fear, stamped upon every face; deep sorrow, too, was there. There were also low, deep, fierce mutterings of vengeance heard on every hand, as the good folk whispered one to another when they met. The one question upon every lip was, “What could it mean? Another gone!” And, of a truth, there was good reason for all this excitement, fear, sorrow, and an undying thirst for vengeance, and this was the reason of it all. During the last five months, five of their little loved ones had most mysteriously disappeared, one each month, every one of them before they could walk. The night before this eventful day, a young mother, a widow, had lain down by the side of her little one, the only link she possessed which bound her to an all too brief happy wedded life, the pledge of their love, and born after its father’s death. She had awoke in the night to find her baby gone, and not a trace or it could be found. She, poor soul, was broken-hearted. Kindly neighbours did what they could to comfort her, but that was, indeed, but little, and the whole village was filled with fear and sadness.

That morning, there was no merry ring upon the blacksmith’s anvil. Certainly, from, force of habit, the young smith had donned his leather apron, rolled up his shirt sleeves, revealing the well-developed muscles of an arm which would not have disgraced Vulcan himself, but no “ting, tang,” or roar of his big bellows was heard, for his fire, as yet, remained unlighted. As was the custom, there was gathered about his open door a group of men, but no ordinary village gossip to-day occupied their minds. The anxious looks upon every face spake eloquently of great trouble. Now and again, some one of the group would make some pertinent remark, but, after all, only in half-hearted way. The reason for this lay in the fact that they were all waiting the arrival of old Robby Eskletts, to whom a most urgent request for his help in their dire necessity had been sent. They felt sure he would come. He always did come to their aid when there was real need that he should do so; at other times he was almost a hermit.

A seat had been set for the old man near to the door, so that all might hear what he had to advise. Presently, word was brought that Robby was coming along the church everyone present, for Bobby always spake with great caution, and never made idle promise. “But, my friends” he continued, “as a secret sits uneasy on many tongues, I would advise that that which I have to say should only fall upon the ears of two or three. Therefore, Smith, choose three or four from these, our good neighbours, and we will confer together. The rest will not take this ill, as it is for the common weal. They be asked to return home with the news that brighter days are in store.

When the chosen few were left alone in the forge, Robby said, “Now, hearken unto what I say, which may mean much or nothing, for one never can tell whether it be that vision is given us by good or evil spirits, but, if we haste not, if we strive with patience to discover the right, so that walk, and, but few moments later, he took the seat in the chair set for him.

A sad day! a sad day, my friends, and sadder deed,” said the old man, laying his two sticks crosswise at his feet. You sent for me when the other poor bairns disappeared, but I heeded not your call, because, then, I had neither help nor advice to give you. The time for interference had not come. Now, I think and hope it has.” As these words fell from the old fellow’s lips, a sigh of relief and real comfort was given by may be just to all, then we shall know whence come our visions of the night. It was thus. I either dreamt, or my spirit was taken from my body on the moor. I know not which, and it matters not. In a moment, I was taken to a spot I once well knew, but whither I have not been now gone forty years. There were the three ragged larches: they may still stand, or time may have laid them low. I cannot say.”

They stand yet,” murmured one or two.

‘Tis well. I found myself near to a boulder I well remembered, as a boy, having walked three times round and wished. There I found myself seated, and a voice from some unseen fairy or spirit whispered my ear, ‘Be still, stir not, watch and mark well everything both hear and see.’ As I thus sat and watched, there came from amongst the brackens a great number of hagworms. Seizing each other by the tail, they formed themselves into a great ring round the stone. Immediately following them, there came immense flock of ravens. they settled upon the ground, they, too, formed themselves into a great ring round the stone. Immediately following them, there came an immense flock of ravens. As they settled upon the ground, they, too, formed themselves into a ring, enclosing the hagworms. This they did by touching their extended wings. No sooner was this second ring formed than many owls came thither, instantly making a third ring beyond the ravens. Lastly a flock of night-jars came about them, forming a like ring, which was the outermost. The moment these things of evil omen had thus arranged themselves, several evil-looking elves sprang into the centre ring. From whence they came I know not, but they set about their business without delay. Upon the boulder they lighted a fire. No sooner did the dense black smoke begin to curl upward than I heard, in the air above head, the chattering and screeching of several night-hags. As the smoke cleared away, I beheld three of the dames of ill-deed circling astride of their broomsticks. In a few moments they alighted upon the stone. Two of them I did not recognise, but the third I knew to be she whom the lads in this village cry ‘Black Meg’ after. For long I have thought that Meg was yielding to the working of evil deeds, and the maker of black charms. I observed one of the hags carried in her hand the skin of newly-flayed black cat, whilst Black Meg carried her arms a little child. In my vision, I saw the three hags carefully wrap the little child within the skin of the cat. This accomplished, each of the dames, holding some portion of the enclosed child, began to dance round the fire. The instant they commenced to move, the hagworms set themselves in motion, writhing themselves round the ring in a truly fearful manner. In an opposite direction the ravens, with their wings still extended, hopped round, the owls and night-jars likewise, each taking an opposite direction. I cannot describe to you now fearful it all seemed, the croaking of the ravens, the tooee-hooeing of the owls, and the hoarse cries the jars. Add to these unearthly noises the laughter and screeches of the three hags, and the hellish yells of the elves, and you will better imagine the scene than I can describe it. By-and-by, the fire shot into a lurid flame, casting deep shadows all around, and lighting up their evil faces. Then it was that the hags, in concert, commenced to chant their wicked incantation. (Not one word of this incantation is now remembered). The faster they danced, so did the birds and the louder they sang, the louder rose the unearthly din from all the others, in concert. At last, the child, wrapped in the cat’s skin, was flung into the flames, from which it instantly sprang a living cat. As it did so, Black Meg seized it. Even she did so, the three hags bestrode their broomsticks and rode away. The rest all vanished in the twinkling of eye.

Now, mark my words, it may that several other black cats which Meg keeps about her hearth are the other poor bairns who have been thus charmed into the form of cats by these evil hags, and thus live held by magic spell.

Wa’ll ring Meg’s neck afore the sun gans doon,” said one.

Stay thy hand, my friend. Haste not to take life. Forget not, though any fool may send seven souls into eternity, it is beyond the power of the wisest man to recall one of them. Besides, what would ye gain by the committal of such an act? Leave Meg alone, until such times the lost bairns are not only found, but restored to their rightful forms, and safe within the arms of their bereaved parents. The wicked witch, for such I feel assured she now is, must not even be alarmed, least she leave the village by stealth, taking her cats along with her. To-morrow go ye to the three larches, taking with you a two-feathered arrow, which has been fashioned by the three of you. Go thither to-morrow at noon, and give your shaft three flights, each of you, in turn, standing where it falls. Should it pierce the ground the third flight, draw it not forth; the omen worketh for good. When night cometh on apace the three of you will haste to the spot. There you will lay seven stones in wide circle round the shaft. This done, one of you shall stand within the circle, and repeat this charm. (Not a word of the charm has been handed down to us). Then, some few yards distant, make yourselves each a seat, and hold yourselves in patience for what may follow. When you return, come to me, before you cross your own doorsteps, when I will further advise you, according to that which you have witnessed. At present, this is all that may be done.” Saying which, the old man gathered his sticks and departed.

The smith and two others at once set about the making of the two-feathered arrow, and the following day, at noon, and again the evening, carried out Robby’s commands.

Silently, they remained seated, but they were not kept long in suspense as to what should take place. Soon they noticed many bright-coloured, rainbow lights begin to flicker and dance over and within the circle of the seven stones which they had laid about the arrow. Gradually, these covered the whole space with a lovely, soft, sheeny-hued carpet. Then a cloud of glow-worms lighted upon the ground, forming themselves within the circle into many and lovely devices, thus making a wonderfully beautiful outer border. No sooner were they thus arranged than vast a concourse of fairies appeared, from whence, the three watchers knew not. Some carried tiny, silver musical pipes, others stringed instruments, and, behind these, there came a dozen sturdy little hobmen, bearing a stretcher, upon which lay a book. This they set down, near to the arrow. In a great circle, the fairies gathered round the book, and; presently, they began to chant from its open pages.

The first part of their song fully set forth the evil times which had fallen upon the village. Then the tune changed, from mournful strain to one of anger, they sang of the one who had lately given herself to evil works, thereby bringing untold sorrow and sadness to many a mother’s heart, and into many a home. Then again, the music changed to one of livelier strain, and, whilst one band raised their voices in jubilation, the remainder danced for very joy, as the singers told of a coming gladness, of a day, quite near at hand, when there should appear amongst them maiden lovely beyond compare, and she, they sang, should work out their deliverance. There would no mistaking this fair damsel, for she would wear upon her feet shoon of the brightest gold. And thus the fairies sang :—

“It shall be that a maid to the village shall come,
She shall come when the sun, at noon,
Shines far overhead most clear and bright.
She shall succour you bring in your sorest plight.
Shall this maid of the Golden Shoon.
Let no one pry, from whither she be.
Or how long she think fit to stay;
But serve your best food and rest.
Let not then your turvestones cool
From your rafter string let your havver cake hing.

The song went on to explain how the fates had ordained that the only way which the wicked spells and the power for evil of the three witches could broken, and overcome. was that the maid of the Golden Shoon must don the armour of some brave knight who had remained unblemished either in his soul or his shield. It must be the armour of one who had never wilfully caused the blush of shame to rest upon either the face of maid or wife. As these demands fell upon the ears of the three listeners, they began to fear there was but little hope of escape from the evil spells of the wicked hags, unless the fates who were going send tnem the maid of the Golden Shoon did not also send this wonderful knight along with her. The stronger grew this feeling as they continued to take note of what the fairies sang. Their further commands were:—

Then seek ye place in the thickest part
Of the wood, where it darkest be.
There build you a bower, so that sun nor moon,
Shall shine on the maid of the Golden Shoon,
When she hies to her privacy.

It was not the building of a lady’s bower which troubled the trio, but that which followed in the song. The fairies sang, “to this bower the maid and the knight would retire, and, whilst there, change their attire, the knight playing the double part of squire and maid to the damsel.

When the fairies had ceased their singing, they drew forth the arrow, and laid upon the book, thereby signifying that the listeners to take it along with them, for future guidance. The rainbow carpet then began to rise, like pearly mist, hiding the fairy band from sight, and, when it slowly dispersed, all the little folk were gone, the glow-worms had instantly, and if on a given signal, extinguished their tiny lights, and nothing remained to betoken that that which they had witnessed had been real, and not some trick of Imagination, but the arrow and the book.

Not a moment did they waste, but, gathering up both book and shaft, returned, with all speed, to Robby’s humble dwelling.

Go ye home,” said the seer—for such indeed he was—”and quietly gather the old folk together, and make known unto them that there will, presently, come amongst ye a lovely maiden, wearing upon her feet golden shoon. Bid them set their sons and daughters about building a bower for her, and let them build it according the commands given by the fairies, and here written down. It must be woven together in the darkest part of the wood, and, when finished, not a ray of light must find its way therein. But, before ye do anything in this matter, or make a word known of what has happened, let the smith go to her cottage, and, standing upon her doorstone, and, with her bobbin in your hand,—but be mindful you raise not her sneck—repeat this charm, and, with charcoal, make this sign upon her doorstone, hiding it with sand —(neither the words of the charm, nor the figure or the sign, are remembered)—so that, when Meg comes forth in the morning, she may fail to observe it. Watch for her crossing her threshold for the first time. If she turns not back, the omen worketh well. When she is well away from the cottage, go to the back garden, and, under a stone at the root of her pear tree, will find hidden the back-door key. Waste not a moment, enter, and bring away the five cats you will find seated round her fire. Re-lock her door, replace the key, and, for security, place the cats in the belfry. There, they are secure from all spells and charms; no witch or evil spirit may come at them.”

It was not until these commands had been successfully carried out, that the wonderful news was made public, and it spread like fire through the village. A fitting place in the densest part of the wood was selected, and, as “many hands make light work,” a charming bower was quite ready by nightfall for the Princess of the Golden Shoon, for report had soon decided that the coming damsel was nothing below a royal maiden. So closely were the boughs woven together, so cunningly were the creepers intertwined, both inside and out, and so thickly surrounded was the bower by the heavy foliage the many huge trees now in full leaf, that it became impossible for the brightest ray of the noon-day sun to cast within the faintest glimmer of light. Three days did they spend in beautifying and perfecting the maiden’s bower. Its interior decorations and arrangements had been left entirely in the hands of the village maidens, and well they performed their task. If its decorations, and the many articles required to fulfil the various needs of toilet, were the humblest, they were, at least, scrupuously clean, and the best the village possessed. It was on the fourth day, when a bevy of village maidens were returning from the bower, whence they had been with bunches of sweet-smelling towers and herbs, that they discovered a poor, beggar girl, in almost a fainting condition, sitting upon a fallen tree. A most pitiful tale she told them. She looked both weary, ill, and famishing. As to her looks, they hardly even guess, as her face was almost swathed in rags. Some thought she was quite young, others past middle age. These doubts were freely discussed they hastened the village to summon aid, having bade her remain where she was, and they would soon return with food, and friends, whom they, felt quite sure would afford her the present help she stood so much in need of. As they hastened on their errand of mercy, they told her sad plight to those they saw through their open doors, and they snatched up, one food, another some wonderful cordial, another this, and another that, and, throwing on their hoods, hastened to succour the ailing one. But when the young smith appeared upon the scene, with a heart as big and tender as his arms and hands were strong, he just picked the poor lass in his arms, saying, ‘’Come along, my dear, let me carry you to Dame Wilson’s; she will give you every comfort.’‘ But, as he raised her from the ground, if she were but little child, her cape fell over his shoulder, thus disclosing to all the by-standers an arm plump, and round, and white, as a baby’s. They saw, too, it was encircled with a band of gold, set with precious jewels. Speechless they stood, amazement and mystification keeping them dumb. Wider and wider, with growing wonder, their eyes opened, for one and all saw dangling beneath her ragged skirt two tiny feet and they were shod in golden shoon. Once these were seen, so loud became the whisper, “Why, this is the Maid of the Golden Shoon!” that the whisper almost, with one accord, grew into shout. Then the smith stopped, and set his burden upon her feet. In blank amazement he stood, utter bewilderment pictured upon his good-looking, honest face; but, when and they who were present watched the whilom beggar cast off her rags and bandages, shake down her tucked-up silken gown, toss her wealth of golden hair from her plump white shoulders, and then burst into a hearty peal of good-natured laughter, then, when they witnessed this wonderful transformation, their admiration and astonishment was full and complete. “And to think that I dared to pick you up! ” gasped the smith, in a tone of doubt, but full of honest apology for his innocent mistake.

And may I never rest against a heart less true than thine, good smith,” said she, quickly adding, “but this is no time for compliments; a proclamation has been issued, far and wide that the first truly honourable knight who shall fulfil my gage4Gage — a valued object deposited as a guarantee of good faith. shall claim me as his bride. For the present, with my hand, good smith, I dub ye as my squire.

Towards evening, there came galloping into the village a doughty knight and his several retainers; these boldly made known upon the village green that their Lord and master

Would break a lance or bend a sword
With any knight who held his word
To be not worth the trusting.

The smith at once stepped forward, making answer. “My Lady Winifreda’s gage is not one of battle, but she will speak for herself.

Then Winifreda accosted the knight, bidding him towards midnight to meet her near the outskirts of the wood, whither the smith would guide him. And then she retired to her bower for prayer and meditation. When the knight and damsel met at the place and time appointed, she made him acquainted with all the evil which the wicked witches had wrought. How she had been shown in a vision, thrice repeated, that she, a simple maiden, must submit herself to an exceedingly trying ordeal, which, if successful, would lead to the slaying of the wicked trio. But, before this desirable end could be attained, he must attire himself in certain garments of her’s, and then assist her to don his armour. But, for her to be successful, the armour she wore must that of a true knight. “One,” and at this point Winifreda spoke very gravely, “who has never wilfully brought a blush of shame upon the cheek of either maid or wife. Sir Knight,” she questioned, in that same low, grave voice, “can you truly say you have never done so?

The knight drew forth his trusty blade, and, kissing both hilt and blade, boldly swore. Said he, “Fair lady, I swear to ye that such I be, and by my patron saint, the Lady Ethelburga, I swear never has word or action of mine caused either maid or wife to blush.

Still, although thus assured, before leading the knight to her bower, Winifreda again cautioned him, ere too late, to weigh well that which he was about to do. Said she,

” Be true, brave sir, to thyself this night.
Then thou’ll’t be true to me.
Art thou strong as thy heart’s desire?
Canst thou sleck with thy will fierce passion’s fire?
Whilst my maid and my squire thou be?
If thine heart doth quail that thou mightest fail,
Enter not my bower with me.
For be ‘t through thine eye or thy hand thou fall
Thy life shall be forfeit. There will come to my call
One who will vanquish thee.”


How the knight failed and fell, or in what manner or by whom he was vanquished, none but himself and the maiden knew. The villagers were certain of but one thing. Within a-quarter-of-an-hour after entering the bower with Winifreda, he came forth, leaving his armour behind him, a broken and dishonoured knight.

No buckler, sword, or plumed head-piece,
No coat of mail he wore.
With hanging head, slouched that doughty knight.
In his buckskin shirt, in a worry plight,
” Oh, curse me yon maid !” he swore.

(Concluded on Page 2).

  • 1
    BLAKEBOROUGH, RICHARD. ‘TALES OUR GRANDMOTHER TOLD.’ | Whitby Gazette | Friday 04 May 1906 | British Newspaper Archive’. 2022. Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001103/19060504/066/0003> [accessed 30 August 2022]
  • 2
    Shoon, PI. of ‘ Shoe.’ DIALECT GLOSSARY OF Over 4,000 WORDS and IDIOMS NOW IN USE IN THE North Riding of Yorkshire, RICHARD BLAKEBOROUGH, 1912. Page 128.
  • 3
  • 4
    Gage — a valued object deposited as a guarantee of good faith.







One response to “The Maid of the Golden Shoon”

  1. […] day before yesterday I wrote about ‘The Maid of the Golden Shoon‘ which Blakeborough suggested originated as a ‘Mell Act‘, performed in connection […]

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