The Mermaid of Mapplewell
A local story of lost love
I seem to have the unofficial position of general archivist in our family.
For some reason, I have many family documents and photographs - it seems that have so many that when I go through them, I almost always find something I've never seen before. This tells about one of my recent - and very fascinating - discoveries.
When I was growing up in Yorkshire, our rural lives were confined to four small hamlets called Staincross, Mapplewell, Darton and Haigh.
These were the tiny villages in which we and our relatives lived.I recently came across the documents you'll see below. They were tied up with string and labelled The Mermaid of Mapplewell.
When I saw this, it rang the smallest of bells. Surely I had heard that phrase when I was a child?
Eagerly, I looked at the documents. In rhyming form, they told the story of a lost love. See them below.
Now this is fun!
Images from Wikimedia Commons. Documents created by me unfortunately.
This is the first sheet. I was intrigued. It doesn't exactly make it clear whether these events took place in 1842, 1742 or even earlier, but I suspect 1842.
You see, my mum came from a strict Methodist family and a relative was such a strident lay preacher that he was nicknamed the Bishop of Darton. Ah, this is why we had these papers in our family. Seeing the connection, I moved onto the next installment.
Blimey, creatures with tails - mermaids and mermen. It was all coming back to me.
The villages were on the River Dearne and I vaguely remembered stories I'd heard in my childhood about a family of merfolk who, one flood-prone year, travelled up from the sea and had been seen in the river.
Of course, I remembered more. I remembered hearing, so many years ago, about the young lord of manor who had mysteriously disappeared in days gone by.
The manor house was called Birthwaite Hall and the family there were the Fountains. Yes, I had heard that one of them had disappeared off the face and the earth ... and now I was holding the story in my own hands.
The name of the mysterious and beautiful mermaid was, appropriately:Lady Fairpools
It seems that the mer-family were originally from France.
This is an engraving of the merman who was reputedly Lady Fairpools' father.He was known as Aydoll of Paris and his daughter seems to have inherited his fearsome gaze. His wife was the famed beauty Lady of Polaris.I have heard that the family had to flee their home area when it became flooded.
I know this seems strange for people who live in the water but the floods brought so much garbage into the waters that they were no longer habitable. These dreadful rapids were called the Paliray Floods of '39.Ever since then, the family had been on the move, seeking a new home. It appears that Mapplewell wasn't it because although the ghost of the young lord can be heard, the mer-people were never seen in the area again.
There are so many businesses in the county of Yorkshire that take this mythical creature as their name.
I have lost count of the number of fish and chip shops I've seen called The Mermaid.
Of course, there's a bit of a relationship there but I've also come across guest houses, pubs, bookstores and even a shoe store (how weird) bearing the name.The creatures have engendered many local legends and stories, most of which are tales of doom.
But sometimes, these creatures are seen more like fairies - in a benevolent role.I have to say though, she doesn't look too friendly here - although I do see that she has charms that might attract a young man.
Learn more about these creatures. I never saw the Mapplewell versions myself - it happened many, many years before I was born. But the stories about them must have entered my subconscious mind because for quite a few of my childhood years, being a mermaid was my greatest ambition.
This was closely followed by desire to be Ginger Rogers but I think that was just the frocks, the shoes and the music. However, fishy tales and fishes tails won the day.
The great county of Yorkshire holds many fascinating secrets and stories. It's sad but true that the story of the Mermaids of Mapplewell is entirely created by my own imagination.
However, there are many genuine stories about the weirdness and oddness of our wonderful county. This is a great compendium of tales.
© 2014 Jackie Jackson