Saturday, 23 August 2008

1980: Bogles In Beckindale...

It all began in the autumn of 1980. Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) was doing a spot of taxi driving for Jim Blake, and one of his fares this particular night was Amos Brearly (Ronald Magill), co-proprietor of The Woolpack Inn, Beckindale. The car engine had been behaving erratically throughout the journey but, finally, on a lonely road by Bogle Bog, it conked out.

Seth suggested that they should walk back to Beckindale...

... but Amos was having none of it. They couldn't walk back it was dark. The Hotten Courier had hired the cab to get Amos home after a function, the taxi proprietor was legally bound to do just that, Amos was ex-artillery - he knew his rights, Seth must go back to the phone box they'd passed earlier and phone the taxi firm from there and demand another vehicle be sent out to them. And whilst he was at it he must also phone Mr Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) - it was late and he'd be wondering where Amos had got to.

Seth asked him if he was afraid of Bogles (more about them later) but Amos hotly refuted the idea.

Seth went. Amos clicked on the car radio. Beneath all his bluster he was actually quite afraid, being out there alone at that time. It was around midnight. The newsreader provided little comfort - just a tale about a man trapped on a ledge of rock in the Lake District by a freak storm. Amos changed channels, to find a dreadful winky-wonky instrumental version of Smile Though Your Heart Is Breaking...

He was listening to an equally winky-wonky version of Amazing Grace when he saw it. A light, moving around and going on and off in the sky over Bogle Bog...

Amos stepped out of the taxi. Instinctively, he thought Seth was to blame, playing one of his daft tricks. But when Seth returned, coming from the opposite direction, Amos knew he was wrong. Seth didn't see the light and doubted Amos' word. The Woolpack landlord was a barmpot anyway. How could there be a light out there? That was Bogle Bog...

What is a "Bogle"? Well, according to my trusty old dictionary, it's a spectre or goblin, a scarecrow or bugbear.

The word is claimed to be of Scottish origin - although Emmerdale Farm had a strong Yorkshire flavour in the 1980s, and I fail to see how a word that originated from Scotland would be deeply embedded in Beckindale folklore. I wonder if the word is in reality simply Northern British - perhaps derived from the Vikings.

Much is made of various colloquialisms being strictly Scots/Welsh/English - but the simple fact is that this is a tiny island and national borders (and indeed county) are entirely artificial. It's next to impossible to be entirely sure - and things often overlap. The Welsh fancy that the quaint phrase "round by here" is Welsh is another uncertain claim - I've also heard it just across the border in England.

Bogles, it seems, can manifest themselves as lights in the sky. Boggy areas are often renowned for this phenomenon - and names for it differ in various parts of the UK. "Will O' The Wisp" is another. Variants on the "Bogle" name in Beckindale included "Boggarts" and "Bog-A-Boos".

The logical scientific explanation is that the lights are created by marsh gases.

Amos, of course, was neither logical nor scientific, and thought he had seen an alien space craft. UFOs were very big in 1980 - the BBC radio serial Waggoners' Walk had contained a UFO story line in its closing months, Close Encounters was just three years before, The Empire Strikes Back was debuting at cinemas, and ET was a couple of years ahead. The pop group Hot Chocolate scored a major hit in 1980 with their excellent UFO ditty No Doubt About It.

Amos took to studying the skies over The Woolpack...

... and was quite alarmed when a crash helmeted young man called at the pub for a drink, stating that he came from a long, long way away. Was he an alien? The man was very interested in Bogle Bog and was camped out near there.

As it turned out, the young man was called Ned and he was at Bogle Bog with a metal detector, searching for Roman artifacts. He had some success, and told Amos about a legend he had read whilst doing his research: Romans fleeing from a villa in the locality during the Boadicea era, had seen a strange light over what was now Bogle Bog - and attributed it to an evil Bogle!

So it wasn't an alien space ship Amos had seen, it was a Bogle. Well, at least that's what our Mr Brearly thought!

He phoned Mr Tyler, editor of The Hotten Courier, and told him he was going to research the subject of Bogles and write an article.

This he did, although he had moments of uncertainty. What if Bogles read The Courier and were upset by what he wrote? Mr Wilks was amused. That was assuming that Bogles could read, let alone that they read The Courier, he told Amos.

Amos was going well over the top in 1980. The arrival of Seth as a Woolpack regular and Walter (Al Dixon) seemed to be making him pottier than ever. He told Mr Wilks that The Courier was the only local paper they could read - there was only one!!

I agree with Amos - it's likely that any self respecting Bogle would be keen to keep abreast of local news!

The article was published. Towards the end of 1980, Amos had cause to upbraid Mr Wilks about the inconsiderate nature of his relatives. Alice Wilks (Hazel Bainbridge), Mr Wilks' cousin, had announced she would like to visit him with very little notice, and Mr Wilks had agreed.

But if Mr Wilks' relatives were inconsiderate, Amos' were even more so: his Auntie Emily (Ann Way) turned up out of the blue in her old fashioned car, almost colliding with the Emmerdale land rover before she reached Beckindale.

Sam Pearson (Toke Townley) commented that Amos Brearly had been in Beckindale for around twenty years. In all that time, Sam hadn't even known that Amos HAD an auntie! Matt Skilbeck recalled that Amos had been expecting a visit from an aunt some years before - but she hadn't actually turned up.

Auntie Emily was a large eyed, somewhat bird-like woman in appearance, who bossed Amos around, sat in the bar with her knitting, and was decidedly different to your average relative. It was easy to tell she was a Brearly. Mr Wilks actually wondered if she might be a Bogle!

Mr Wilks' cousin, Alice, was relaxed and charming. Very much a Wilks. She and Auntie Emily managed to fall out and gently tiffed for a while, but a party at Emmerdale Farm, thrown by Annie Sugden in honour of the visitors, lessened the tensions.

Then came the day when Auntie Emily got herself into a state of "high dungeon" as Amos called it: she saw the article Amos had written about Bogles in The Courier and told him he should never have done it. Such things as "Bog-A-Boos" should be left strictly to themselves.

She told Mr Wilks that she hoped she would meet him again, although she would not be returning to The Woolpack, and left in a great flurry, telling Amos he should have The Woolpack exorcised.

Amos' loss of interest in Bogles was immediate.

And, as far as I know, the lights in the sky were never seen again. Auntie Emily returned in 1983 however.


  1. Anonymous1.8.09

    In Scotland a scarecrow is a tattie-bogle.

  2. Yes, I know. It's based on the concept of a Bogle being a scary vision and scrarecrows being tatty!

    However, this is not the origin of the bogle word.