Sunday, November 23, 2008

Love Can Build A Bridge

Beggars Bridge, Glaisdale, Yorkshire. Click to enlarge.

A good friend of this blog
once wrote the story of how his parents came to be married. His father was a working man, a miner, below the station of his mother and her father intimated it wouldn't be wise to ask for her hand in marriage until he had made something of himself financially. Working in the mines just wouldn't do. The story of how he traveled the world and found his fortune was very interesting to read. In the end, he won the fair maiden and our friend was one of the results of this happy ending.

A similar story unfolded four hundred years ago, in Yorkshire instead of Wales. Poor man loves girl in wealthier family and her father is not keen on her lover. Lover makes good and comes back and marries her.

Like Relax Max's puppeteer, this young man's name was also Tom, so there is a secondary interest here. There is a legend that the poor boy, on the eve of his departure to seek his fortune, went to tell the young lady he was going, but was unable to do so because the river Esk was at flood stage and he couldn't cross. Well, this legend neglects to mention there was a bridge not far from the spot, Duck's bridge, but legends of love sometimes require the suspension of mere facts; so let's forget the other bridge and just say the unfortunate suitor couldn't get across the raging river that night.

Later, when he returned to Glaisdale a much wealthier man, he not only married the fair maiden, but also built a bridge across the Esk at the spot he had been unable to cross that night. So goes the legend.

This was in 1619. The young man's name was Tom Ferris, his love's name was Agnes Richardson, and the name of the bridge he built (some say rebuilt) was (and is) called Beggars Bridge (or Beggar's Bridge, depending on which story you read.) It is not far from Whitby, of earlier post fame on this blog.

Whitby, Glaisdale, Beggars Bridge, Yorkshire. And our friend's blog name, whose true story at the beginning of this post inspired this little account, is Soubriquet. His very interesting blog is highly recommended reading.


  1. Enchanting stories! Don't be too hard on Tom, there could be all sorts of reasons he couldn't make it to Duck's Bridge that night. I'm always unnervingly drawn to romantic stories with happy endings. But the happy ending is a must.:)

  2. It was not my parents but my maternal grandparents. Other than that the story is correct.
    My mother had decided, along with a friend, to visit Dublin, in Ireland for their easter holiday. Unfortunately, all the hotels they contacted were fully booked. So the two girls asked the ferry booking office at the railway station in Swansea, South Wales, if they had any suggestions. "You might like the Isle of Man", the clerk said, showing them pictures of a pleasant hotel, "And if you like dancing, there's the Joe Loss Orchestra over easter". (Joe Loss was a sort of english successor to Glenn Miller).
    They decided on the Isle of Man there and then.
    And, whilst sitting beside the dance floor, her friend caught the eye of a handsome young man, and went off to dance. The young man's friend chatted with her, and she laughed a lot,and was charmed. The two girls and the two young men then met up every day, travelling around the island, dining, dancing, and laughing. She knew it would soon be over, he lived in the north of England, she in South Wales, travel just after the second-world war was expensive and difficult. But a couple of weeks later, there was a knock on the door and her mother called her, (yes, that same mother who'd married the adventuring square-rigger, cape-horner sailor), and at her door was the smiling young man from Yorkshire, with a huge bunch of flowers.
    Two years later they married. They had four children, of which I am the second, and lived happily together for the following sixty years. And though he is now dead and gone, she still taps his picture as she passes, and speaks to him.

  3. Lovely bridge, by the way, just no picture of it on your blog..
    Well, not in my Firefox, anyway, I cansee it if I open the page in ie tab.
    Works in Google chrome too, just not in Firefox 3.

  4. Unless there are more than one, I can see a picture of a bridge, using Firefox 3. It looks like a postcard.

    Who knew there was such life on the Isle of Man!

  5. What wonderful stories! And I love that bridge. I want to play Pooh Sticks from it.

  6. @a. - Right. Now if someone would just tell me how England ended up with three Yorkshires, and what their differences are, I would be even more enchantedly happy. I will venture a guess they were all one big happy Yorkshire at one time. But I am usually wrong.

    @Soubriquet - So sorry for the confusion. And I knew that, too. I will use my usual excuse: I am only an American. :)

    I do like the story of your parent's meeting as well. The tradition sort of puts the onus on you though: did you have to travel the world to make your own fortune before you were allowed to marry as well? Hell, I don't even know if you are married or if you've made your fortune yet. I personally could sure use some more. (Fortune, not marriage.)

    Sorry about Firefox. As I use a Mac I have given up on them. The touted FF3 won't even let me make a blog post without signing in again every time I change pages. And the fact that it has been several months now since the release tells me how much Mozilla cares about its Mac customers. Me, I use Apple's Safari. And I recommend you at least try the PC version. Or not. As you please. But if you want to see pictures... :)

    @Janet - I'm a little embarrassed to ask, but tell me about Pooh Sticks, please. :) I mean, I know who Pooh is and all...

  7. @a. - Actually it is a turn-of-the-(last) century hand colored print. I am being more mindful of copyright as of late. It does look like a postcard. Perhaps it was.

  8. Right. I'll leave your Yorkshire expert to tell you about the Ridings of Yorkshire, and your Pooh expert to tell you about Pooh sticks. I am neither, but I did play Pooh sticks as a child. In Ireland, so it didn't count.

  9. i used to play pooh sticks too, both as a child and as an adult.

    I also went to university in West Yorkshire, but I am not an expert.

    I do like the story though.

  10. There is, of course only one Yorkshire. But because it was the biggest county in England, and Eofor, (a proto-Arthur?, -a long gone chieftain gave his name to a Wic, or settlement where the river Foss met the river Ouse. Viking ships could navigate the river to trade here, and Eoforwic's settlement began to grow. The country around it, under Eofor's chieftancy became known as Eoforwics-scir, scir being an administrative are which turned to Eofor as its 'ge-refa', or Greve. Modernish equivalent is a Count. (still exists in Swedish titled aristocracy) So Eofor was the Count of Eoforwic's Scir. His duty was to administer the lands for the king, collect taxes, settle disputes, arrest wrongdoers, raise armies...
    But not "Count", but its ge-refa. (or g-reeve) He was the scir-ge-reeve... In later years the settlement named Eoforwic morphed to Jorvik, Jor'ik, York. And Scir- ge-refa, to Shire-reeve, to Sheriff. (yes, you western folk, that iconic figure with the five-pointed star owes his title to the norse warrior chieftains of northern britain.)
    Eoforwic's Scir became Yorkshire.
    It was a growing country, it stretched almost coast to coast- much of modern lancashire was in Yorkshire once. It was so big it had to be divided into three parts, or 'thyrdings' to administer, sub-sheriffs held courts, and when the issue was too great for them, they would take the matter to the court in the great walled county town of York, which was the capital of Yorkshire, but was itself undivided, and not part of any of the three thyrdings, later called ridings. Other counties in England were similarly sub-divided into thirds.
    (My friend Roger's ancestor was sheriff of Lancaster in about a.d.1180, by the way).
    In the early 1970s the then government reshuffled administrative boundaries and created new county authorities, but these have not erased the Ridings. They exist as a historical entity, and in the hearts and in the bones of those who are descended from the people of Eofor's lands.

  11. That is a lovely story Soubriquet, and makes you heart warm when you hear about adversity in love and overcoming all obstacles to live a long and happy life together.

  12. @Caroline - Ah. But you won't tell me what pooh sticks are either. :) West Yorkshire? I knew that. But then I have stalked you too long not to know that. Kidding. I don't stalk people. It was a nice little story, wasn't it?

    @Soubriquet - This is going to sound strange, but oddly I understand what you are saying. :) So why the heck do they show three of them on the map of English counties instead of just one big one? It's ok to show the subdivisions on a map of the county itself, but not on a national map. I say. Or maybe I didn't understand you after all. You are so deliciously oblique in your explanations that I sometimes forget what the original question was. Don't stop. :)

    @Sage - ditto that. I love his stories.

  13. Max, I have borrowed an idea from you and it will be up on my place tomorrow.. hopefully all will become clear.

  14. I specialise in digression and diversion. Thank you for the kind remarks, let me see if I can be almost concise for a change.

    Counties... Newer maps of England show the "Administrative Areas" rather than the ancient counties.

    "The new county boundaries are administrative areas, and will not alter the traditional boundaries of counties, nor is it intended that the loyalties of people living in them will change, despite the different names adopted by the new administrative counties.'
    (Government statement 1974.)"

    The ridings are not shown on county maps because they were not, in their own right counties, but parts of a county.

  15. @Sage - Thank you for that! I am learning more things Pooh every day!

    @Soubriquet - Thank you for the clarification and for the links. You have probably guessed that I am in the process of learning about English culture, county by county, now, so you can expect a few more unfathomable posts from me. Yorkshire was only the first, and I am not done with it. Stay tuned for more American bewilderment. :)



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