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Review from Dave Sutherland

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE FOLK TALES by Pete Castle

Improbable stories from Nottingham? Well there was the one about two chaps who met while playing football for Middlesbrough A.F.C. and through their passion for the game they went into management and some time later they washed up at Nottingham Forest who were an average second division club, coasting along in mid-table and not attracting significant crowds. Yet within four years these two men had transformed them into double European Champions – no hang on a minute; that actually happened!
So are there any more tall tales from the Queen of the Midlands? With Pete Castle employing the same diligent research as went into his “Derbyshire Folk Tales” he now balances things up with his second book “Nottinghamshire Folk Tales”
The book paces its self nicely in the early chapters introducing us to various, familiar flesh and blood characters such as The Wise Men of Gotham, Jack Musters, Bendigo and John Nevison (the highwayman Swift Nick) giving us a concise history of each person or group prior to recounting some of the more outlandish and fanciful yarns surrounding them.
It gathers pace as tales of love, betrayal, the fairy world, the supernatural and the folklore of the countryside are featured, taking place in such well known localities as Mansfield, Blidworth, Edwinstowe, Bilborough, Kinoulton, Southwell, Newark and of course in the City of Nottingham its self where we encounter such familiar icons as Goose Fair, Mortimer’s Hole, Nottingham Castle and The Trip to Jerusalem.
We meet other local heroes whose fame exists in the ballads and stories of the county such as The Rufford Park Poachers, John Cockle, Bendigo would be equally at home here too, but above all the person most celebrated in this genre is, of course, Robin Hood who warrants an entire section devoted to him. This is by far the most riveting part of the book as Pete strips away the Hollywood glitz and provides us with a most believable history of the man before launching into a series of tales concerning the myth of the country’s greatest outlaw. However Pete does make a very valid point, and it echoes a statement that I heard at a ballad workshop given by the folklorist Peter Nalder some forty years ago, stating that for all our Robin is the great hero, in the ballads he doesn’t fare so well when in conflict where he is in a one to one situation. He either concedes defeat to his opponent or relies on his band of Merry Men to get him out of his embarrassing situation – even when faced with a fearsome an opponent as The Bishop of Hereford! One can only conclude from these tales that Robin must have been an astute campaign planner or a master technician of guerrilla warfare to maintain the confidence of his band of outlaws.
A well researched and well presented collection of truth and fantasy from the acceptable to the outrageous which will be read and enjoyed by all age groups and leaves us with one question to ponder; in which direction will Pete Castle next set off,
Lincolnshire or Leicestershire?

Dave Sutherland, Tigerfolk, Long Eaton

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE FOLK TALES by PETE CASTLE

‘Folk tales bring us the wit, wisdom and imagination of past generations. Pete Castle's collection demonstrates this perfectly. (Roy Harris, folk singer, storyteller and Forest fan!)

ISBN 978-0-7524-6377-3

Passed down from generation to generation, many of Nottinghamshire’s most popular folk tales are gathered here together for the first time.
In the popular imagination, Nottinghamshire means Sherwood Forest, outlaws, wicked sheriffs, wild beasts and Robin Hood. All these feature in this selection of folk tales compiled by storyteller Pete Castle, but there are also stories of the Men of Gotham; of fairies, witches, ghosts and vampires; as well as noble lords and thwarted lovers.
These captivating stories of love, loss, heroes and villains have been written to recreate the oral tradition that made these anecdotes popular, and are brought to life through unique illustrations and vivid descriptions that have survived for several generations.
Pete Castle is a professional folksinger and storyteller with over thirty years experience. He is the author of Derbyshire Folk Tales and, for the last ten years, has been editor of Facts & Fiction, the UK’s only storytelling magazine.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

ONE: THE WISE MEN OF GOTHAM
The Men of Gotham and the Cuckoo
The Men of Gotham Drown an Eel
The Men of Gotham and the Sheep
The Men of Gotham and the Cheese
The Man of Gotham and His Horse
The Men of Gotham and the Hare
The Men of Gotham and the Candle
The Men of Gotham Cross a River
The Women of Gotham
The Men of Gotham: the Truth (Allegedly)

TWO: STORIES ABOUT GOOSE FAIR
How Goose Fair Began
The Young Man’s First Visit to Goose Fair
The Bachelors of Derby go to Goose Fair
Old Jackey Peet: the Greediest Man in Nottingham

THREE: NOTTINGHAM FIGHTERS
Bendigo the Boxer
Fighting Noblemen—Jack Musters and Sir Thomas Parkyns

FOUR: WORKING CHILDREN
Edward Pepper
Robert Blincoe

FIVE: FAIRY TALES
The Little Watercress Girl
Jack and the Buttermilk
The Witch and the Buttermilk
The Weaver’s Wife and the Witch
The Witch and the Ploughman
The Bewitched Horses
The Wizard of Lincoln
The Good Magpie
The Good Fairy and the Bad Fairy

SIX: LOVE STORIES
Lover’s Reunited
The Legend of St Catherine’s Well
Love Across the Divide
The Shoemaker of Southwell
The Fair Maid of Clifton

SEVEN: TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE
The Gypsy Boy
A Tale from the Great North Road
Swift Nick Nevison
The Stranded Travellers
The White Lady of Newstead Abbey
The Haunted Car
The Black Dog of Crow Lane
The Bessie Stone
Beware the Devil Throwing Stones!

EIGHT: IN THE GREENWOOD
The Rufford Park Poachers
The King and the Miller of Mansfield

NINE: THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD
Robin Becomes an Outlaw
The Archery Contest
Robin Hood and Little John
Robin Meets Will Scarlet
Robin Meets Friar Tuck
Robin Hood and Maid Marian
Robin Hood and the King
The Death of Robin Hood

TEN: NOTTINGHAM CASTLE
The Legend of Mortimer’s Hole
The Trip to Jerusalem

ELEVEN: The Endless Tale

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