3. Hob Hurst

And now for something completely different. I’ve recently been

listening to a CD of Jake Thackray, a Yorkshire comic and balladeer

who recorded a series of very funny stories in the folk-singing

tradition. The ballad is a simple, jaunty form with lots of rhyme,

and ideal for story-telling – so I thought I’d have a go at one, and

here it is.

Hob Hurst is the folk name for a spirit or elf who lives in the oldest

and most mysterious places in the Peak. Before archaeology came

along to investigate the burial mounds, stone circles and other

traces of prehistoric people, such landmarks were explained as the

work of Hob Hurst. Like Puck or Robin Goodfellow, Hob could be

mischievous if you didn’t stay on his good side, and was often left

a dish of cream on a farmer’s doorstep to keep him in good humour.

Amongst several sites known as ‘Hob Hurst’s house’ are the cave

at Wetton better known as Thor’s cave, and a burial mound on

Bigg Moor, near Beeley. Both were used in the Bronze Age.


Hob Hurst’s Ballad

In days when home meant an open hearth

and no-one had a wall or a door

Hob Hurst’s foot was the first on the path

and he danced all over Bigg Moor and he laughed,

he danced by moonlight on the moors.

Hob Hurst came when no-one was here

and nobody bothered him then;

he sang in the wind and he whistled in the air

and he knew they were coming but

he didn’t care, he didn’t much care for the coming men.

Hob’s house lay in a circle of earth,

for it wasn’t his way to draw lines;

and the Romans came, and they cut the turf

and they laid straight roads and cut holes in the earth

and he didn’t much care for their mines.

Hob Hurst sat on a gritstone edge

and whistled down to Wetton in the night;

and the Normans came, with their stone-arched bridge

and their monks and their knights and their castle on the ridge

and he didn’t much care for them, King or knight.

Hob danced jigs by the old cold streams

as the farmers sowed their barley and their corn;

he goosed all the goodwives and drank their cream

and sometimes popped his head up to make them scream

but he didn’t much care for butter or corn.

Hob Hurst fiddled on the high bright hills

and grinned at the sound of his voice;

and Arkwright came with his looms and his mills

and his houses and his engines till the dale was full;

and Hob didn’t much care for him.

Hob Hurst plays in a circle of stones

drumming on a skin with a pair of bones

and the latest ones come with their Barratt homes

and their stress, and their offices and mobile phones

and he doesn’t much care for us, you know

he doesn’t much care for us.