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Shillhope Law



A short distance below Windyhaugh the Coquet has cut for itself a pasage through the solid rock, forming a long deep pool, known as "The Wedder Loup," famous for its big fish, but dangerously near the road that skirts its brink.

The tradition attached to this pool is, that during the later moss-trooping days, when that respectable border profession was on the wane, a "lifter" one night carried off a nice plump wedder from the flock grazing on the slopes of Shillhope Law. The daring sheep-stealer had not proceeded very far ere the loss was discovered. Immediately the owner and his men gave chase.

The "Hot Trod" proved short but decisive. Handicapped by the wedder tied round his neck, hill fashion, he was run to bay at this particular spot. To leap the chasm was his only chance of escape; therefore all was risked in one desperate bound. His feet touched the opposite bank; he clutched and struggled, but in vain - the wedder around his neck proved a very millstone to the fugitive, dragging him with his ill-gotten booty backwards into the murky depths of the pool below. Since then its name has been "The Wedder Loup."
Nah not hugely megalithic, other than the sheep came from Shillhope Law. But the story is one attached to a number of 'hangman's stones' across the country, where the struggling be-shouldered sheep (being balanced on a stone) pulls its thief to a similar doom. It's called 'Wedder Leap' on the modern map.

From 'Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland: its history, traditions, folk-lore and scenery', by D D Dixon, 1903.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st September 2010ce
Edited 21st September 2010ce

Comments (5)

This "hangman's stone" story seems to be nationally wide-spread. Do you reckon this actually ever happened, even once? Was there, somewhere, a single hapless sheep thief, the folkloric equivalent of the dog in the Chinese takeaway freezer? thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
21st September 2010ce
I guess if carrying them on your shoulder is an accepted way of lugging sheep about, then I can imagine some pretty slapstick moments have indeed happened over the years? But normally you wouldn't be tied to it (the only way I can think of how you'd strangle yourself) so you'd just let go. But thieves need their comeupance. Er that means I don't know. Even if it happened the once, and the story got right across the country (as stories are apt to do) it's funny how it gets attached to different specific locations? Guess it bolsters up your story to have something to point to. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd September 2010ce
"Hey me boys, here's the stone that Russell the Sheep Thief up and hanged hisself from! What an idiot, still, that'll larn 'un"

(Apologies for what may not be an authentic regional accent, no matter which particular stone it applies to).
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
22nd September 2010ce
How did I miss this. Nice one Rhiannon. Right at the bottom of Shillhope is a small footbridge over the Coquet named 'The Wedder Leap' which explains the name on the map, often I have wondered at the name.

More puzzling is the hill just across from Shillhope, which is named Barrow Law, yet no sign of any megalithic stuff these days.
Hob Posted by Hob
23rd May 2011ce
I'm glad you've made me think about it again, I hadn't really thought about the 'wedder' bit but on reflection it's a version of 'wether' isn't it, a ram (or a poor emasculated ram). And that's like the 'greywether' sheep / stones of Wiltshire.

In the oed it says you can call someone a 'wether head' if you think they're stupid, I thought that might make a useful insult to call on.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th May 2011ce
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