Thursday, 15 April 2010

Greenock by William Wordsworth

We have not passed into a doleful City,
We who were led to-day down a grim dell,
By some too boldly named “the Jaws of Hell”
Where be the wretched ones, the sights for pity?
These crowded streets resound no plaintive ditty
As from the hive where bees in summer dwell,
Sorrow seems here excluded; and that knell,
It neither damps the gay, nor checks the witty.
Alas! too busy Rival of old Tyre,
Whose merchants Princes were, whose decks were thrones;

Soon may the punctual sea in vain respire
To serve thy need, in union with that Clyde
Whose nursling current brawls o’er mossy stones,
The poor, the lonely, herdsman’s joy and pride.

Greenock – By William Wordsworth
(composed while travelling
through on his highland tour)

The Ghostly Captain of Lunderston Bay

Who has not heard the tale of Auld Dunrod, the stories of the Inverkip witches, or the haunting Bogle of Boglestone? But who among you has heard the tale of the Ghostly Captain of Lunderston Bay?

Our tale begins in 1588, when King Phillip of Spain raised an Armada and sailed against England. After a disastrous defeat at the battle of the Gravelines, the Armada found itself blown off course and scattered along the Northern coast of Britain. Only a few brave or foolhardy Captains were able to steer their ships through the dark nights and harsh storms of the North-western coast of Scotland. Among those few left was Captain Mordoba, whose ship the Salamanca became the scourge of Ports and villages along the West Coast of Scotland. The bowels of his ship became stuffed with the gold of the Scots.

Then one night, late in October, a fierce storm, much like the ones we still see this time of year, tore the sails from the Salamanca, and threw her into the Firth of the Clyde. As the wind howled and the rain battered down, Mordoba’s men scrambled overboard. But the Captain himself would not be separated from his gold. It was to be the death of him. And so it was the Captain met his fate on the rocks of the Gantocks, his ship lost the waves. Some say that the Captain himself was laid to rest in the old cemetery of Inverkip, and to this day, if you look hard enough amoung the overgrown stones, you will find a small grave marked with a simple skull and cross bones.

But what of Mordoba’s treasure, you may ask? Well it is said that in the days after the storms a young farm hand named John Carswell came across a black chest while walking along the beach at Lunderston Bay. He thought fortune had smiled on him that day. With Mordoba’s gold, Carswell was a rich man. But never a happy one. For the tale goes hat wherever he went, a shadow was always at his back. He became convinced that the Captains Ghost had returned for his gold, following him at every turn, unresting and unyielding in his haunting. And so, driven mad by the spectre, Carswell resolved to bury what little remained of the gold, and leave the cursed wealth behind. He died a penniless and miserable man, and as he went to his grave, he still muttered of the Ghostly Captain.

Just a yarn you might say. But there is a strange twist to this tale. In the 1950’s two workmen discovered a cow horn containing sixty coins while digging in Burns Road. The coins were dated to around 1580, and to this day reside in the National Museum of Scotland and the McLean Museum. The last of Mordoba’s gold? Perhaps. Or perhaps it still lies waiting to be found. Certainly there are still those today who swear they have seen the haunting spectre of the Ghost Captain stalking along the beach at Lunderston Bay, searching for his treasure.

Twice Told Tales

From ancient celtic sun worship to haunted country mansions, from the coming of the Roman Legions to the rule of the Welsh Kings, through a dark age of superstition to the red tides of war, the river has always run, bringing settlers, invaders and travellers to our shores.

Templar Knights, Irish immigrants, Nazi spies, sea serpents, exiled highlanders, Vikings, pirates, gypsies, warlocks, mystics, saints, witches, poets and revolutionaries; some passed through, some stayed forever, all of them left their mark on the Clyde and her people.

All of them have stories. Centuries of songs and stories.

And the stories never stop. Even now a black wildcat roams the hills behind our town, a semi-mythical wildman lives on the outskirts of the east end and strange lights are seen in the sky above Port'll know stories of your own...or the stories your Gran told you.

Thats what this is. Somewhere to share those stories. Mainly stories about this wee corner of the world, but folktales, stories and urban legends from everywhere always find their way across cultural and geographic divides - even more so these days.

Here's the rule...its not history...its folklore. If people are genuinely telling and sharing a good story, we're only half interested in the facts.

Here's why...

"The legends represent the imagination of the country, they are the kind of history which a nation desires to possess. They betray the ambitions and ideals of the people, and in this respect, have a value far beyond the tale of actual events and duly recorded deeds which are no more history than a skeleton is a man."
Standish O'Grady