As Tickleford Gully's annual Tadger Fayre gets into full swing let's take a moment to find out about the Tadger, the mythical figure whose behaviour is somewhere between that of a mischievous elf and Satan's older, meaner brother depending who you talk to.
The Legend of the Tickleford Tadger is older than the hills with the first reference being a well known cave painting at Lashskow Hill, one of the oldest pieces of art in Britain.
Cave painting of the Tadger, photo by Mick Reid
Legends of the Trickster abound in all cultures. He goes by many different names, Loki, Eris, Weasley, Livingrock Olatunde; he may be a fox, like Reynard, a raven or coyote, a bunnyman, Brer Rabbit or Bugs Bunny, Batman's Joker, Lear's Fool or Charlie Chaplin's Tramp. His wrongs tend to be malicious rather than evil, often shining a light on the foibles of the powerful, the supposedly wise, the elite.
There are many tales about the Tadger but as with other legendary figures like King Arthur, the Rose Queen and Robin Hood it is not clear which are true and which have been appropriated from other sources.
aerial photo of River Tickell from Time Team tv programme
it is widely believed that the Satan represented on the Louvin Brothers' 1959 album Satan is Real is based on the Tickleford Tadger
The Crickleford Woodcut pictured above has been dated between 1400 and 1475 (note the absence of cross hatching) although the bonnets suggest it may be later. The Tadger can be seen disrupting the harvest, encouraging two of the farmhands to forget their duties.
If you look closely Tadger can be seen in both these photographs, taken 20 years apart, one at St Titus Church, the other in the back garden of Spiro Constantine, retired European porn star, and his lovely family. Shortly after the Constantine photo was taken the oak tree next door fell crushing the shed and destroying Spiro's much admired video collection. This was variously attributed to a storm, the lorry which reversed into the tree, or damage to the roots caused by boll weevils but Spiro knew it was because he forgot to Salute when crossing Tadger's Bridge.
Two of Tickleford's pubs are named after the Tadger: the prosaic Tadger's Inn and the Lamb and Tadger. Many of the myths surrounding Tadger relate to farming life, reflecting the pastoral nature of the village. The lamb in question is said to have come to a sticky end after giving Tadger some lip about representing renewal, gentleness, tenderness and innocence. Little Larry ended up as Herb crusted lamb chump, liquirice comfit lamb neck served with caramelised fennel, capers and "spice of angels".
Although the youngsters of the village, with their hippity-hop, ram raiding and old spice cigarettes might not think much of the local legends some of the more senior residents still hold to the old superstitions and chalk a corn poppy beside their front doors to ward off the Tadger.
Every year since Time Out of Mind there has been a Tadger Fayre. The programme of events has varied over the centuries. At one time lambs were thrown into a pit of fire to appease the Tadger but that tradition has evolved into the Lambaqueue, with a lamb spit roasted to remind villagers of the importance of respecting Tadger. There is maypole dancing with all its phallic symbolism, facepainting - another evolution, from masks and masquerades to washable face paint - the Rose Queen and her King, symbolising The Right Way of Doing Things and the ducking stool, a reminder for those who forget The Right Way.
In Ingoldsby's Tickledford Legend, published in 1842, the tale is recounted of Mary-Anne's capture by the Tadger. The innocent Mary-Anne, nowt but a young girl, was bound by "wire as fine as mandolin string glittering in the sun, strong as an oxer whose fun is done " and kept in Tadger's Castle until her rescue by Bloody Jack, or Broody Jack, sometimes Blobby Jack, sometimes Bloudie Jack, occasionally Onyer Jack.
The wire is as thin as a thread, Bloody Jack
The wire is as thin as a thread
Though slight is the chain
Again might and main
Cannot rend it in twain
Bloudie Jack, Thomas Ingoldsby
Each year the story is reenacted at the Tadger Fayre,right down to the part where Mary-Anne, aided by Jack, escapes down the tower by tying one end of the unbreakable wire to the window frame and then climbing out the window, round and round the tower, shedding the wire as she went. Poor Jack was cut to pieces, hence his nickname Bloody Jack.
there's the world as it is
and the world as we want it to be
All credit for photos to Mick Reid
unless otherwise indicated
unless otherwise indicated
and 1954 posters, from the author's private collection