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Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, [1873], at

The Fairy Tribes.

BELIEF in fairies is far from being extinct in Cornwall, though our country folks never call them by that name.

A few days since, a woman of Mousehal told me that not long ago troops of small people, no more than a foot and a half high, used—on moonlight nights—to come out of a hole in the cliff, opening onto the beach, Newlyn side of the village, and but a short distance from it. The little people were always dressed very smart; and if anyone came near them they would scamper away into the hole. Mothers often told their children that if they went under cliff by night the small people would carry them away into "Dicky Danjy's holt."

Another kind called spriggans, which simply means sprites, are believed to guard treasures buried in cliff and hill castles.

Not long since a tinner of Lelant dreamt, three nights following, that a crock of gold was buried in a particular spot, between large rocks within the castle, on Trecroben hill. The next clear moonlight night he dug up the ground of which he had dreamt. After working two or three hours he came to a flat stone which sounded hollow; whilst digging round its edges, the weather became suddenly dark, the wind roared around the earns, and looking up, when he had made a place for his hands to lift it, he saw hundreds of ugly spriggans coming out from

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amidst the rocks gathering around and approaching him. The man dropped his pick, ran down the hill and home as fast as he could lay foot to ground; he took to his bed and was unable to leave it for weeks.

When he next visited the castle he found the pit all filled in, with the turf replaced; and he nevermore dug for the treasure.

Piskey still leads benighted people astray; this sprite wanders alone and is always spoken of in the singular. It is somewhat remarkable that a green bug, frequently found on bramble bushes in autumn, is called by this name. After Michaelmas, it is said, that blackberries are unwholesome because Piskey spoils them then.

Places frequented by goats are believed to be the favourite haunts of fairies.

It is uncertain whether Bucka can be regarded as one of the fairy tribe; old people, within my remembrance, spoke of a Bucka Gwidden and a Bucka Dhu—by the former they meant a good spirit, and by the latter an evil one, now known as Bucka boo. I have been told, by persons of credit, that within the last forty years it was a usual practice with Newlyn and Mousehal fishermen to leave on the sand at night a portion of their catch for Bucka. Probably from this observance the common nickname of Newlyn Buckas was derived. An old rhyme says:—

"Penzance boys up in a tree,
 Looking as wisht as wisht can be;
 Newlyn buckas as strong as oak,
 Knocking them down at every poke."

From this it appears that Newlyn boys once considered it a matter of pride to be called by the name of their ancient divinity.

The knockers of the mines—that some class among fairy tribes—are simply believed, by our tinners, to be the spirits of those who worked the 'old bals' in ancient times.

Mine spirits
Click to enlarge

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