A Monologue About A Bog

Early in our history/When everyone spoke Welsh/It should be no mystery/They’d 20 words for ‘Squelch’/For when thick mist descended/Folks sometimes went off course/ And they’d be found upended/In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors.

But t’ Romans hated roamin’,/They just walked in straight lines./Happen they weren’t at home in/Our ‘Northern Appenines’,/For, marching through our region/They wouldn’t Take detours/That’s how they lost t’ 9th Legion/In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors!

Unknowndb4_GoblinSubracesBack when times wor chivalrous,

T’ Authorities didn’t quibble,

If boggarts, most carnivorous,

Sometimes had a nibble.

A traveller strayed from springy heath,

Then heard demonic roars…

Soon his bones lay underneath,

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors.


But when a Lord wor exercisin’

His favourite hunting horse,

An’ t’ Boggart, materialisin’,

Ate a double course,

Nobles said, in consternation,

‘We’ll have to write new laws.

T’ Boggart’s bit above his station,

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors!’


When an Alternative Witch,

By name Morgan La Fay,

Wi’ spells for Bog and Ditch,

(She lived down Hebden way),

Said, ‘Probiotic yoghurt

An’ other natural cures,

Will pacify that boggart,

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors!’


T’ Boggart – all crepuscular –

At twilight left his lair,

Returnin’- big an’ muscular –

Found Morgan sat in t’ chair.

‘Ah knows tha needs, old Butch,’ quoth she,

‘My Supper!’ he guffaws.

‘No, what tha need’s a Woman’s Touch,

In t’ blanket bogs on t’ moors.’


And then that Witch Contrarian,

Through Spells and Incantations,

Turned him vegetarian –

But don’t tell his relations.

T’ next Spell she cast for ‘Heavy Sleep’,

(Some say they’ve heard his snores),

Used t’ clever trick o’ countin’ sheep,

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors.


An’ right through t’ next millennium,

A thousand shears of fleece,

Wi’ pleasant dreams about his mum

He slept through war an’ peace.

Till underground he heard a sound

Of revving’ four by fours,

And his disturbance wor profound,

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors.


For bulldozers wor digging gunge,

On t’ orders o’ t new boss.

‘This bog is like a massive sponge,

Let’s burn off sphagnum moss!’

But, after burning, loss of heat,

And t’ Boggart knew what caused

Him having frozen hands an’ feet

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors.


And to t’ new owners of our moors

T’ Government gave Great Wealth.

‘For improving The Great Outdoors,

In time for The Glorious Twelfth.’

An’ some o t’ bog wor burned an’ drained,

But fear made t’ workers pause.

An t’ Boggart’s warren still remained

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors.


But rain on t’ tops now hurried down,

An’ soon wrought devastation!

Folks down in all t’ valley towns

Received an inundation!

First one flood an’ then another

Broke through each water course.

An’ Boggart stayed down under cover,

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors.


Now, generations as tha knows,

In mills an’ houses an’ shops,

Had allus dealt wit’ overflows

With extra supply of mops.

But with this global warming’,

T’ floods filled valley floors.

So minds turned – Non Conforming’ –

To t’ blanket bog on t’ moors.


But, just as sense o’ grievance nagged,

Folks heard o’t record kill:

A Shootin’ Party t’ Boggart bagged,

High up on t’ Boggart’s Hill!

Most said, ‘It’s what t’ hunters deserved.’

And t’ Boggart felt no remorse.

For each hunter wor well preserved…

In t’ blanket bog on t’ moors!


As t’ Inspector said, at t’ local station,

(T’ hunters’ families to sweeten),

Except in terms of education,

None of them wor eaten!*

An’ then laughter he stifled –

A credit to t’ Local Force –

When asked where t’ Boggart shoved all t’ rifles,

An’ did he shout, ‘Up yours!’


An’ don’t dismiss this fantasy

Because folk lore an’ mystery

Connect us to our history.

An’ back down t’ hill each Jack an’ Jill – 

Shopkeepers wi’ empty tills,

Homeowners wi’ insurance bills

An’ waiters who’d stopped earning’ –

Said, ‘That’s our bog they’re burnin’!’

An’ Scientists wi’ detailed log,

An’ you an’ I are going’ to dog

All those who desecrate our bog!


* The Inspector has subsequently taken early retirement!


Note on the Text

In an unusually prescient fashion, I wrote to HebWeb in June 2012 to alert locals to the desecration of moorland above the Upper Calder Valley, based on a report by George Monbiot. Monbiot detailed how the Government had dropped court proceedings against the moorland owners, the Bannisters (owners of Boundary Mills), instead opting to pay them millions of pounds to help to ‘preserve the moors’. There followed a couple of letters for and against, with one chap writing, ‘Farmers have always burned back the heathland. Live and let live, I say.’ Showing a confusion in the writer’s mind over heathland and bog. But soon this trickle of letters became a surging river, when the Calder Valley was duly flooded on Midsummer’s Day. On 12th August a Mass Trespass was made of the moor. I was in Whitby at the time and these events caused me to write A Monologue About a Bog. I’d long been interested in the connection between the northern English folk lore of Boggarts and the Norse mythology of Trolls. Although English Boggarts are often typified as miniature, mischievous, shape shifting creatures, who can take on human form, I decided that these Little People had been ousted from their original habitats and subsequently adapted their activities along with their stature. Legends around Morgan La Fay from Cheshire and Lancashire also seem to suggest this interpretation. In Yorkshire it is contended that saying a Boggart’s name brings bad luck – so I’ve avoided that! As well as helping to reinstate some almost lost northern folk lore, I thought it was useful to use the art of storytelling to support polemic. I was invited to perform the piece for the first time at a meeting of tenant farmers and local activists from organisations such as Treesponsibility at Hebden Bridge Trades Club that autumn. They were sitting widely apart as I got up on stage, hopeless for any performer. I’m glad to say I managed to move them together. It was a start.


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