|The Devil was crossing this area when a high wind tore at his apron strings and he dropped all the stones he was carrying. Well if this hadn't happened, the bridge at Kirkby Lonsdale might have been wider..
You see, an old woman's cow had strayed over the River Lune. By the time she realised and went looking for it, the river was in spate and she couldn't get across. As she stood there cursing under her breath, the Devil appeared. Being a very considerate creature, he offered to build her a bridge by the morning. Great! How generous. Ah, but there was a price - he would take the soul of the first living thing that crossed the bridge. The old woman nodded. So the Devil started work. He took off his collar as it was a bit tight. You can see this if you look down the river - it's on the right bank between the old bridge and the new bridge, apparently. You can also see his fingernail marks on a coping stone in the second recess on the right of the bridge when heading towards Casterton. And of course at some point he had to get some more stones - which is what you see at 'The Devil's Apron Strings', or the Apron Full of Stones.
Well the next morning dawned and the bridge was ready. The Devil rubbed his hands together as he saw the old woman approaching. She appeared to be alone. But as she walked up she suddenly produced a bun from her bag and lobbed it across the bridge. The Devil barely had time to gasp 'Eh?' before a tiny dog leapt from inside the woman's shawl and started legging it towards the bun.
The Devil couldn't bear to watch. He couldn't even be bothered to collect the dog (which was by this time stuffing itself with bun) and turning on his heel, left in disgust.
(This story mentioned by the Rev. John Hutton of Kendal in 1870 - I read it in Marjorie Rowling's 'Folklore of the Lake District' (1976)).An older version:
The bridge at Kirbylonsdale was built by an architect of high antiquity: the legend of it relates, that the devil one very windy night was crossing the high mountain on the side of the Lune, with an apronfull of stones; either the blast, or the weight of the stones, broke the string fo the apron, and out fell half the load; with the remainder Old Nick proceeded to the river, and with those stones built the bridge; but not having the whole of his burden, the bridge could not be erected higher than it is. The spilt stones still lie in a heap on the mountain top.A Companion, and Useful Guide to the Beauties of Scotland, p27, by Sarah Murray (1799).
Posted by Rhiannon
18th July 2006ce
Edited 10th September 2007ce