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Cateran Hill

Cave / Rock Shelter


[Originally in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle newspaper?] A. Scorer writes, "There is a cavern on Bewick Moor called the 'Cateran's Hole,' which has not been fully explored, although tradition mentions an adventurer proceeding so far that he heard supernatural visitants dancing round the Hurlstone."

John Slobbs, London, says, "I suppose this will be a version of a story I heard in the far north many years ago. It was of a cavern, somewhere, and nobody knew where it went to, or where it ended. An adventurous wight made up his mind to solve the difficulty and win renown in his own rustic circle.

He therefore took seven years' meat and seven years' candles, or seven days' meat and seven days' candles - I cannot say which exactly, but either will do - and started on his journey. And as happens in all such cases, he travelled and travelled and travelled. And he travelled until he had only one-half of his meat and one half of his candles left. Then he began to consider that if he travelled much further, and did not reach the end of his journey, or an opening to get out of some way, he would neither have meat nor candles to serve him on his road back, and consequently must die there and never more be heard of.

And so it happened that whilst he was studying what to do, and quite at a loss to know whether to return or proceed, he heard a voice saying -
'Jee woah agyen
Turn back the stannin' styen.'
And he took it as a warning, and returned to his home and kindred." The writer's impression was that the cavern he had heard of was on Greenside Hill, near Glanton.

J. Swinhoe, writing on the same subject, relates: "It was always believed that there was a subterraneous passage clear all the way from Cateran's Hole, on Bewick Moor, to Hell's Hole (more frequently called Hen's Hole), a wild ravine at the foot of Cheviot Hill, and that in the olden, troublous times of Border warfare it was frequently used both for purposes of offence and defence, for concealment of person and property, and as the means of transporting rieving bands of hostile borderers from the one locality to the other.

An adventurer, our wight, made up his mind to test the truth of its existence, and took provisions and candles - whether for seven years or seven days, I cannot exactly tell either - but he travelled on and on until the consumption of half his stock suggested the necessity of returning; and just when he was wondering where he might be, and what he should do, he plainly heard overhead the voice of a ploughman, saying to his horses:
"Hup aboot and gee agyeen,
Roond aboot the Whirlstyen." "

He states that an acquaintance recently explored the cavern on Bewick Moor, and it ended in something less than forty yards; in no simple obstruction, but solid rock.

There was a different tradition about the termini of this supposed underground passage in Horsley's time. He says that "at Hebburn," which is near Chillingham, and by the crags under which lie Hebburn Wood, behind which stretch wastes of peaty moor, connected with the moorlands that stretch to Bewick, "is a hole called Heytherrie Hole, which people imagine to be an entrance into a subterraneous passage, continued as far as Dunsdale on the west (north rather) side of Cheviot Hill, where there is another hole of the same kind called Dunsdale Hole." *
*Materials for a History of Northumberland.

It is told of "Eelin's Hole," which lies far up among the rocks on the east side of the Henhole Ravine, that a piper having once entered it to explore it, his music continued to be heard for half-way across the interval betweixt it and Cateran's Hole, on Bewick Moor. Like other pipers in a similar predicament, his tune terminated in --
"I doubt, I doubt I'll ne'er win out."
Inspired by Hob's photos of this strange place, I found this in the Folklore Society's reprint of the Denham Tracts (vol. 2), 1895.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
30th January 2010ce
Edited 3rd February 2010ce

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