On Saturday I received a mysterious little package wrapped in brown paper and tied up with stout twine. Upon opening the curious parcel I was greeted with another odd missive from Messrs Les Taret and Eric Nullbrigg, both great stalwarts of keeping Soddenham’s illustrious past alive.
Those who are unfamiliar with the tiny village of Soddenham and her ways should seek out more information from their humble website which is located hereabouts on the internet.
Back to the contents of the package; I was holding a small pamphlet in my hands entitled “Soddenham Children’s Rhymes” which contains a number of rhymes, songs and sayings used by the local children in play during the distant past of the village. Soddenham has a great oral tradition, not to mention a prodigious pamphlet output so it’s great to see another booklet swelling the ranks.
Each rhyme is accompanied by an odd little woodcut which increases the feeling of slight unease felt when reading these lines. The cover clearly depicts a woman hanging by her neck from a tree – punishment for supposed witchcraft in the area?
The poem which begins “Candle smoke, candle smoke…” shows what can only be a scene taken from the witch trials as a woman is thrown into the fast moving river from a bridge. This is undoubtedly an early rendering of Candlesmoke Bridge over the river Leam. It makes one shiver to see such startling images next to children’s innocent words.
Here are a few more of my favourite rhymes with accompanying woodcuts;
The final poem does not have an illustration and I’m somehow glad that it does not. It is short an innocent upon first reading but then gets under the skin and a sinister tone seeps into the words causing the imagination to run riot.
Still, it’s a beautiful pamphlet and I’m very happy to have been sent a copy by Les and Eric whom I’d like to thank greatly for sharing these words with me and keeping another little piece of Soddenham’s heritage alive.
Well done to you both, now it’s off to the Teat for a few pints of Witches Brew with you, I wish I could join in your celebrations dear fellows.