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The Irby Boggle

Laceby has no known ghosts of its own, but just in the next parish of Irby there is a ghost which over the years has become quite famous; "The Boggle of Irby Dale". So in this edition we include the various stories - the myths - the sightings - a poem - and a photograph of the Irby Boggle.

Like all ghosts, she has always been very elusive, but she was first really featured in a book published in 1890 called "Councillor Kerwood's Investment" and what came of it, by Reverend George Shaw.

Basically, the story as told by an oral tradition was:

"The conversation had been carried on in a very quiet way for some time, when a sudden gust of wind shook the window next to which they were sitting, and led Robson to exclaim, 'Bless my soul! what a gust! who would 'ave thought of it turning out like this? But I knew something was about to happen, for when I went into the stable after tea, I found my old mare quite restless, which she never is except something unusual is going to happen. 'Now, don't talk like a fool, Jabe,' said Alcock, who was on very intimate terms with the plumber, 'for none but a fool would believe that thy old mare knows anything about what's going to happen, or anybody else, as far as that goes,' he added, with a triumphant air; for Alcock prided himself on his scepticism on the subject of omens in particular, and "all other humbug,' as he termed it.

'Not know anything about what's going to happen? ' said Robson, 'but I know better than that, and thou would'st say the same if thou had't seen what I saw, and been where I was, on her back, one dark night, more than a dozen years ago now.'

'And where was that?' asked Alcock superciliously.

'Why, in Herby Dale, and nowhere else in this round world,' said Robson, somewhat testily.

'In Herby Dale!' said the landlord, unconsciously laying down his pipe, and looking at his brother-in-law with awakening interest; 'why thou surely wast not so foolish as to ride through there of a dark night?'

'Yes, I was; and I was rightly served for my folly. I'll assure you I was never so frightened in my born days.'

'Indeed!' said Alcock; 'I should think that thou hadst beenhaving a glass or two too many. '

'Nay, then thou art wrong again; and it's not the first time by a many. I had been putting a pump down for Squire Webster at Herby Grange, and as it had taken me longer than I expected, it was dark before I left. I had a good meal of beef and ham, with a pitcher of old ale, and then set off. As it was late I took the near road through the dale, and all went as right as could be, until I reached the bottom; when just as I was going through the gateway, I heard the most unearthly scream I ever heard in my life, followed instantly by a second not so loud. I was terribly frightened, though I could see nothing, but the mare did, I'm certain, for she dashed through the gateway and galloped like a mad thing through the dale, and along the high road, never slackening her speed for a moment until we came in front of the public-house just as we come into Lancby, which was lighted up, when she stopped in a moment of her own accord, trembling in every limb and covered with sweat. As for myself, I got into the house as fast as I could, and called for some brandy and water, or I must have died. The people said I looked as white as a sheet, and as scared as if I had seen a ghost.'

'And what does all that rigmarole prove?' asked the imperturbable farmer.

'Well, quite plenty, I should think, for anybody with common sense,' Robson tartly replied; especially considering what followed,' he somewhat hastily observed, and reddened with a look of sudden confusion.

'And what followed?' Alcock quickly asked, noticing his friends perplexed look, and perceiving that he had said more than he had intended.

'Well, that is my concern' observed Robson.

'Some cock-and-bull story, with no more sense in it than the other,' said Alcock.

'Come! come!' said the landlord, who perceived that things were waxing somewhat too warm, and anxious at the same time to hear more upon the subject; 'there's no need to turn frisky over the matter. Besides, I don't agree with you, Alcock, in making light of such things. It sounds wicked like to me, for I think there is something in them after all. I've met with scores of people who believe in Herby Dale ghost . Come now Robson, I should like to hear what it was that followed. I'm surprised I never heard you speak of it before - at least , I don't remember 'your mentioning it.'

'Very likely not,' said Robson, mollified by the landlord's evident anxiety to hear the story; it's a thing I never cared to talk about, not even among my own friends; but I have my opinion on the matter for all that.'

'Well, but what is it?' asked the landlord; 'I always believed there was something more than common in that Herby Dale affair.'

'Well,' said Robson, 'if you must know, it was three or four years after I had received such a fright, that I was working at a farmhouse in the same neighbourhood one day, when the farmer came in during the afternoon, and sat down without speaking, but looking as white as death.

'Whatever's the matter?' asked his wife ; "has anything happened?" "Well," said he, nothing to be put out about, though I confess I'm puzzled. We were busy, were steward and I, directing some men who are straightening the road at the bottom of the dale, and shifting the gateway about two yards to the right. I took hold of a spade to dig a mark for the spot where steward thought the off-gatepost ought to be, when, to my surprise, I found the ground much softer than the rest about it, and on removing about twelve inches of soil , I came upon some bones, which seemed quite fresh like. On examination, they turned out to be a skeleton of a human being. We sent a lad off at once to the village for the doctor, who had them placed in a cart and removed to his surgery. Doctor says they are the bones of a female, who was probably between twenty and thirty years old; and that they cannot have been buried above half- a-dozen years." Well, do you know, when I heard him say that, I felt as if I should fall on the floor; and was obliged to sit down and ask for a glass of water. The terrible screams I heard that dark night and the fright of my old mare came back upon me in a moment. Talk about my oId mare not seeing anything! She saw the ghost of that poor murdered lass of Martin's, as sure as I'm a living soul.'


Reverend Shaw in his book told it thus:

"A young woman belonging to Herby was engaged to be married to a young man of the same village; but though the time for the wedding had been fixed more than once, the prospective bridegroom had postponed it on one pretence or another. At length a discovery was made which led the parents to interfere, and demand that the intimacy must either end or be consummated in marriage. The wedding was ultimately fixed for a certain day; and the young man, who had been in farm service in Yorkshire, returned a short time before the ceremony was to take place. The night preceding that event, however, the parents of the girl were surprised that their daughter, who had gone out for a walk with her intended husband, did not return. The morrow came, but nothing could be heard of either her or her lover. At length a letter was received from him, purporting to be written at her dictation from G…… to say that they were going by the boat to Hull to be married, and would stay in Yorkshire, for a few weeks. Strange as it may seem, this appears to have quieted, if not satisfied, the parents; and it was not until weeks and months had passed that inquiries were set on foot, but without avail. Nothing was known as to the whereabouts of the missing pair, or whether they were married or not . A report was indeed current that on the night of their departure, one of the villagers, returning home through the dale about midnight, had heard screams as of a female in terror or distress . No notice, however was taken of his statement, though he asserted the rumour was correct. More than two years afterwards, the young man visited the village, for the purpose of looking after some small property of which he had become the owner by the death of a relative. On being questioned respecting the female, he professed to be very much surprised, and declared they had gone to Hull together, but on their arrival had quarrelled; and the young woman left him , asserting her determination to return at once to her home. This, however unsatisfactory, was all that her friends could learn; and he was allowed to depart without anything more being discovered respecting her. It was asserted that every time he slept in the village, the most fearful screams awoke the inhabitants during the night, but ceased at daylight . Many persons, too, it was declared, continued to hear similar noises in the dale; and on moonlight nights , the apparition of a female, 'all in white ', was frequently seen, close by the gate in the bottom of the valley."

Then also in the 1800's a poem "Ghost on the Wind" was written by a Miss Jane Dixon of Irby-upon- Humber, based on the original story, but embellished. This poem was published in newspapers, but the cuttings are undated and only from the size and style of the type is it possible to guess that they appeared in the late 1800's.

THE GHOST ON THE WIND (Based on a legend of the Lincolnshire Wolds)

Old Ralph was out in the wood last night
A riding from Caistor fair
And he vows the dales' "Boggle" went past in white
and harried his chestnut mare.

It was close behind where the bullrushes grow
In that corner beside the spring
That he was aware of a wail of woe
Like a Whip-poor-will on the wing.

The full faced moon was whining down
The slope from the chalk pit edge
When a headless shape in a snow white gown
Skimmed over the tall green sedge.

Then open the five barred wood gate flew
And he shivered to see her stand
At his bridle rein all dank with dew
And a wealth of gold hair in her hand .

She passed him twice and once again
Ere ever he crossed the Dale
Whilst bristled the crest of his good mare's mane
And he felt his heart's strings quail.

For straight in his gaze by the long gold hair
She swung her weird burden on high
And the moon beams fell on a face right fair
And played on each dead cold eye.

Our parson he curls up his lip for scorn
And jeers at old Armstrong's ride
But never a man on the wold side born
Durst whisper Ralph's tongue has lied.

Young Neville the squire was an only son
He was Lord of Randall Hall
And his silvery voice the white rosebud won
From her father's vine-clad wall.

On a murky night to a mimic priest
They muttered fond vows of love
No guests were bid to the bridal feast
And none held the fair bride's glove.

There came a change on the girl's young life
A change of remorseful pain
An hour when knew she was no true wife
And grief burnt deep down in her brain.

Fair Rosamund's spirit was hot and proud
And her lover was hard and bold
Her words were bitter and wild and loud
And his taunts were keen and cold.

And the gall of hate o'er flowed in his breast
For he wooed a high born dame
And his ruthless soul could find no rest
While Rosamund breathed his name.

So he lured anew with his Judas face
And his accents soft as balm
Into Irby Dale the old trysting place
In the peaceful twilight calm.

To the reedy well he was seen to stray
With Rosamund Guy by his side
But never again in the gloaming gray
The lovely frail Rosamund hied.

In the eerie heart of that night's mid hour
There was heard one harrowing cry
Over hill and dale like the spirit's power
In a mortal 's agony.

Full seventy years have the wintry snows
Come down from the wintry sky
Since the Woldsmen smiled on a fair white rose
The beautiful Rosamund Guy.

And still you may see some age bowed crone
Point out by the deep Dale's well
With finger wasted to skin and bone
The grave of the Woldside belle.

Oh! she was fickle as she was bright
The rose had the rose tree's thorn
She would smile at eve on a simple wight
And flout at early morn.

She dazzled and wrought like a fairy charm
But the wise and gentle prayed
God keep our sweet Rosamund Guy from harm
God shield the dear mirth-loving maid.

The dawn flushed red but the rose was lost
She was lost and never was found
Yet oft at night on the wind's wing tost
That shriek rang the green dale round.

Young Neville the Squire left his father's home
And died in some far off land
For he sailed away on the salt sea foam
With a curse on his red right hand.

It is seventy years ago and yet
Like a nameless haunting thing
That if once you hear you may not forget
That shriek round the Dale doth ring.

It rings through the midnight and none can find
Whence cometh that wailing cry
Hark they whisper in fear 'tis the ghost on the wind
The ghost of fair Rosamund Guy.

Written by Miss Jane Dixon



From time to time , newspapers and magazines have printed the story in various versions -

Grimsby News , 1955 "Irby Boggle will appear no more"
Grimsby News 1970 "If you go down to the woods today"
Evening Telegraph 1976 "Enough to make the mind boggle"
Forget Me Not News, Lincoln 1972 "The Irby Boggle"
Laceby & Irby Parish News 1970 "The Irby Boggle"
A short history of Irby-upon-Humber 1977
Haunted East Anglia - by Joan Foreman Page 58
Lincolnshire Life March 1982 Page 38


So the myths grow, but people have been disturbed by something as they pass near the alleged spot of the murder - the big Beech Tree at the south west corner of Irby Dale woods .

A policeman on his beat at night in 1930 at Skell Hill - "A rustling went past him . He said 'goodnight ' , but there was no reply. He admitted being scared, and his hair stood on end. "

Another "sighting" was at dusk, again on Skell Hill , when the narrator stated, "I heard a rattle of bones behind me, and hit out with my stick. I saw something white in the corner of my eye , then took to my heels . "

On the bridle path alongside the wood, horses have been known to shy away near the gateway into the wood.

Another man, whose motor cycle broke down at Skell Hill in the 1920's saw "a white dress vanish through a hedge."

And the story of a Methodist Preacher, who was a teetotaller. He was walking from Irby to Swallow one Sunday night, when a large animal, about the size of a Hall-grown calf, came from the hedge at Skell Hill, stopped and looked at the preacher, then walked slowly to the other side of the road and disappeared. The preacher looked for it , but could see nothing. The animal could not be identified, and it had terribly large eyes.


There is an entirely different version of the whole tale as well.

"A maid from Swallow Vale Farm was courted by a young man from Irby, and they were in the habit of meeting at a certain tree between the two places .

They had an argument, and the man stabbed the girl, who struggled back to the farm and expired on the front door step. The young man wandered around the woods, and was later found hanging from the tree where they met. The farm and woods were reputed to be haunted by their spirits searching for each other, and could be heard calling to each other."


There is no documentary evidence at all to support any part of the "Ghost of Irby Dale", but it would seem that by chance a photograph has been taken of her.

In the summer of 1960, a man from Humberston was out walking in the Irby Dale Wood. He knew nothing of the legend. Near the Beech Tree in the south west corner, he was taken by the effect of the sun streaming through the trees, and took a photograph of the effect. When the print was developed, he saw what appeared to be a woman in an old fashioned white dress, standing in the foreground.

He forgot about the photograph until in 1978, he visited a History of Swallow exhibition at Swallow Church Hall, and read for the first time the legend of the Irby Boggle. He recalled the photograph he had taken. That photograph is reproduced here. Can you see the lady in white? The Irby Boggle.