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DRAGON LEGENDS

Doubtless to the prevalence of serpent worship in very early times we owe the existence of the numerous stories, all of which bear some resemblance to the classical myth of Andromeda and Perseus or the early Christian myth of St. George and the Dragon. Several instances of such legends are given in Mr. Parkinson's "Yorkshire Legends and Traditions", and others are given below, as it is desirable that such stories should not be lost sight of. It will be seen that whether occurring in Gloucestershire in England, or in Forfarshire in Scotland, they bear a strong resemblance to each other.

(1) The Dragon of Deerhurst, Gloucestershire

"The story is that a serpent of prodigious bigness was a great grievance to all the country about Deerhurst, by poisoning the inhabitants and killing their cattle. The inhabitants petitioned the king, and a proclamation was issued out, that whosoever should kill the serpent should enjoy an estate on Walton-Hill in this parish, which then belonged to the crown. One John Smith, a labourer, engaged in the enterprise and succeeded : For having put a quantity of milk in a place to which the serpent resorted, he gorged the whole, agreeable to expectation, and lay down to sleep in the sun, with his scales ruffled up. Seeing him in that position, Smith advanced, and striking him between the scales with his axe, took off his head. The family of the Smiths enjoyed the estate, when Sir Robert Atkins compiled this account, and Mr. Lane, who married a widow of their family, had then the axe in his possession.'-Rudder's History of Gloucestershire, pp. 402, 403.

(2) The "Worm" of Linton, Peeblesshire.-

"A piece of rude sculpture still visible on one of the walls of the church, above the principal door, represents a horseman in complete armour, with a falcon on his arm, in the act of driving his lance down the throat of a nondescript fierce animal. An inscription is affirmed to have run thus:

" The wode Laird of Lariston
Slew the worm of Wormes glen,
And wan all Lintoun parochine,"

in allusion to a traditionary exploit of Somerville of Linton, the founder of the Scottish branch of that family in 1174." - See Memories of the Somervills, p. 45 ; Origines Parochiales, vol. i. pp. 431-432, vide Pennecuik's Description of Tweeddale, p. 158, etc.

(3) Arbuthnot, Perthshire

" In the church is a stone effigy said to be a memorial of a certain "Sir Hugh the Blond," who killed a dragon which infested the district. There is a carved monster at the feet of the knight, such as is often met with in mediaeval tombs. This may have given rise to the tradition."

(4) The Dragon of Strike Martin, Forfarshire.

About three miles north from Dundee, in the hollow of Strath Dighty, and close to the little stream bearing the latter name, are a few houses called Strath Martine, locally denominated Strike-Martine. It appears that, long long ago, a wealthy farmer occupied an adjoining farm called Pittempan, who was blessed with a family of nine bonny daughters. Coming from the labours of the field one sultry summer evening, he desired his eldest daughter, as he was fatigued, to bring him a draught of cool water from the well. . . . As she did not return . . . the second was sent on the same errand, and so on until the whole nine sisters were sent. There being no appearance of any returning, . . . he went himself to learn the cause. . . . On coming to the spring he beheld the nine girls lying weltering in their blood within the folds of an enormous dragon. He alarmed the neighbourhood, and a large concourse of people gave chase to the monster, among them a young man named Martin, a lover of one of the maidens. Coming up with the monster as it was crossing the Dighty, making for the hills, he attacked it with a club - the crowd exclaiming "Strike, Martin !" About two miles north from this the monster was killed ; the spot is in one of the fields of the farm of Balbeuchly, and is marked with an ancient-looking stone covered with a representation of the reptile. In the eastern gable of one of the buildings in a row of old ruinous farm-buildings on the north of Strathmartine Church, an old monument is built bearing the figure of a man with a head having some resemblance to a swain, and on his shoulder he is carrying some kind of implement or weapon. A short distance from this, at the gate of the school-master's garden, there is another monument upon which two serpents are sculptured. These two monuments, in connection with the one on the farm of Balbeuchly, are traditionally believed to have reference to the tragical event. The fountain is still known as "the Nine Maidens' Well," and the following doggerel has been handed down from time immemorial :

" It was tempit at Pittempan,
Draggelt at Ba-Dragon
Stricken at Strike-Martine,
And killed at Martin Stane
" (p. 158).

-Abridged from Rambles in Forfarshire, by James Myles. Dundee, James Myles, 1850.

 

The above tales (1)-(4) were published in "Northern Notes and Queries or The Scottish Antiquary, Vol 3 p. 85-87., 1888."

Visitors can see Glasgow Zoopark's own collection of dragons, or lizards, though we'd rather you didn't charge them with lances, or clubs.