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However, justice overtook him in his career of wickedness; for, in some while after, he being in a riot upon London Bridge, a watchman made a stroke at him with his bill, and severed his head from his body, which head was enclosed in a box, and sent to his sister, who then lived at Wardley, where it hath continued ever since.”
A human skull is, or was, kept at an old farmstead called Bettiscombe House, in the parish of Bettiscombe, which lies about six miles from Bridport, in Dorsetshire. The peculiar superstition attaching to it is, that if it be brought out of the house, the house itself would rock to its foundations, while the person by whom such an act of desecration was committed would certainly die within the year. Various changes of tenancy and furniture have been made, but the skull holds its place. It is not known when the “ghastly tenant” first took up its abode in the place, but it has been there for a considerable period. The skull has been stated to be that of a negro; and the legend was that it belonged to a faithful black servant of an early possessor of the property—a Pinney, who, having lived abroad for some time, brought home this memento of his humble follower. We are informed that a member of the above family in recent years visited the house, but was unable to give any clue that might assist in clearing up the identity of the skull.
At Chilton Cantelo, in Somersetshire, is another skull, having connected with it a similar superstition.
In the East Riding of Yorkshire, at Burton Agnes Hall, the residence of the old family of Boynton, is a skull. It had been kept in the house from “time out of count,” but the worthy Baronet felt it ought not to remain in the hall, so some years ago it was interred in the garden. But all went wrong; no rest could be obtained in the place after the removal of the skull, so that it was brought back into the hall, and placed in a cupboard, and walled in. We learn, all went well after it had been replaced in its old abode: no longer did the servants hear the dismal cries by night, nor did accidents take place by day.
Perhaps the most notable is the skull called “Dickie,” which is kept at Tunstead, a farmhouse about a mile and a half from Chapelen-le-Frith; the place is on the north bank of the reservoir. The skull is in three parts. We find in “A Tour through the High Peak," by John Hutchinson, of Chapel-en-le-Frith, published in 1809, and dedicated to the Marquis of Hartington (afterwards the late Duke of Devonshire), that “The skull has always been said to be that of a female; but why it should have been baptized with a name belonging to the male sex seems somewhat anomalous; still not more wonderful than a many, if not all, of its very singular pranks and services. To enumerate all the particulars of the incalculably serviceable acts and deeds done by ‘Dickie' would form a wonder; but not a wonder past belief, for hundreds of the inhabitants of the locality for miles around have full and firm faith in its mystical performances. How long it has been located at the present house is not known; to whose body in the flesh it was a member is equally as mysterious, save that it is said (but what has not been said about it that is not pure fiction ?) that one of two cocheiresses residing here was murdered, and who declared in her dying moments that her bones should remain in the place for ever. It is further said that the skull did not, some years back, appear the least decayed.” It is believed if the skull be removed everything on the farm will go wrong-the cows will be dry and barren, the sheep have the rot, and horses fall down, breaking their knees and otherwise injuring themselves. The most amusing part of the superstition connected with “Dickie" is the following: When the London and North-Western Railway to Manchester was being made, the foundations of a bridge gave way in the yielding sand and bog on the side of the reservoir, and, after several attempts to build the bridge had failed, it was found necessary to divert the highway, and pass it under the railway on higher ground. These engineering failures were attributed to the malevolent influence of “Dickie,” the popular name of the skull. But when the road was diverted, it was bridged successfully, because no longer on “Dickie's” territory. The engineering failures formed the subject of the following song, by the Lancashire poet, Samuel Laycock, and appeared in the Buxton Advertiser, July 25th, 1863. The title is
" DICKIE." The name given to an unburied skull, in a window at Tunstead Farm, said to be opposed to the new line of railway from Whaley Bridge to Buxton.
Neaw, Dickie, be quiet wi' thee, lad,
An' let navvies and railways a be;
What harm are they doin' to thee ?
AN ADDRESS TO
Deod folk shouldn't meddle at o',
But leov o' these matters to th' wick ;
Dos' t' yer what aw say to thee, Dick?
What'e cost so mich labber an' thowt;
Tha shall ride deawn to Buxton for nowt ;
Get thi beef an' thi bottles o' wine,
Eawt o'th' London an' North Western line.
Awm surproised, Dick, at thee bein' here ;
How is it tha'rt noan i' thi grave ?
Or havin' a bit of a shave ?
For tha hasn't a hair o'thi yed ;
When tha’rn living up here wurt wed ?
An' dunna be lookin' soa shy ;
Aw shall say nowt abeawt it, not I !
I can do thee no harm if aw tell.
Aw've a woife an’ some childer mysel'.
Heaw's business below-is it slack ?
Dos' t' yer ? aw'm noan chaffin' thee, mon ;
Tha'll do me o' th' hurt as tha con.
For aw'm freeten'd to death very nee,
Iv aw wur to happen to dee !
Aw'm inclined, very often, to boast;
But aw don't loike to talk to a ghost.
An' aw trust it'll find thee o' reet;
An' tha’ll greatly obleege me-Good Neet ! P.S. -Iv tha’rt wantin' to send a reply,
Aw can gi’e thee mi place ov abode.
At thirty-nine, Cheetham Hill-road.
Aw'm awfully freeten'd, dost t' see,
Or else aw'd invite thee to come,
So aw'd rayther tha'd tarry awhoam. We must thank Mr. J. C. Bates, editor of the Buxton Advertiser, for notes respecting “ Dickie.”
The historian of Eyam, the late William Wood, in his “ Tales and Traditions of the High Peak” (published by Richard Keene, in 1852), devotes an interesting chapter to “The Miraculous Skull.”
RUSSIA IN CENTRAL ASIA.
These persona ne odhalesia in Central Asia are of opinion that
HOSE persons who have paid most attention to the question of
it has been, on the whole, a great benefit to humanity and to civilisation. For a more cruel people than the tribes of Turkestan, whom Russia has partially conquered, can scarcely be imagined, except it be the Turks of Europe, an offshoot of the same degraded race. All kinds of massacres and tortures appear to delight the inhabitants of Turkestan. However, Russia has made some considerable progress in substituting her own orderly rule for the chronic bloodshed of these Mohammedan tribes. Afghanistan still intervenes, like a treacherous quicksand, between Russia and India. But even if the Russian frontier was contiguous to that of British India, the danger to the latter would be actually less than it is at present, owing to the wily, plotting duplicity of all the Mohammedan states, whether Afghan, Turkestan, Turkish, or Persian. Hence, England should co-operate heartily with Russia in her efforts to foster civilisation and commerce in Central Asia. Sir George Campbell, M.P., in his recent work on Turkey, shows, however, that, at most, the progress of Russia there must be very slow indeed. He says: “Russia has no tolerable means of communication in Turkestan, and her military position is really very weak there ; while so far from paying, as India does, that country is, and must continue to be, a very heavy drain on the resources which Russia urgently requires for European purposes. I think it very doubtful if she will care to, or if she can, spend the money necessary to entitle her to establish herself
thoroughly in Turkestan, for generations to come. I am sure she cannot do so for many years.” Sir George thus joins the ranks of those observant and travelled men who have so effectually exploded the bug-bear of “Russian aggression," raised periodically by a few panic-mongers, both in England and in India. Russian progress in Asia, so far as it has gone, has been a benefit to that continent, whereas all the Mohammedan countries of Central and Western Asia are, more or less, real sources of danger to India.
REPORTS ON THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE.
ASTRONOMY.-BY THE REv. T. W. WEBB, M.A., F.R.A.S.
THE_tardy progress of astronomical
discovery, which has been re
HE tardy progress
marked through the earlier portion of the year, has continued to its close. We have—with one exception, to be specified hereafter --no unusual phenomenon to record. The atmosphere, especially of late, has been of the most adverse character; and the few propitious intervals have afforded little worthy of notice.
Venus, notwithstanding her brilliancy
“ Under the opening eyelids of the morn,” has still kept her true features veiled from the inquiring gaze: the other planets (with the exception of Neptune, an object far too difficult for ordinary telescopes) have been unfavourably situated for European latitudes :* the rapid increase in number, which at one time called attention to the planetoids, has not preserved the same rate : lunar observation must necessarily advance with very gradual steps, when the larger features are comparatively so well known, and the traces of change, of whatever nature, are only to be looked for among minute details : and no comet has drawn near from the expanse of outer space, fraught with materials for spectroscopic investigation. The paucity, indeed, of conspicuous comets has been a remarkable characteristic of many past years. The sole exception—that of Coggia in 1874—was so situated as not to draw
* Our readers are requested to forgive an inadvertent repetition in the reports for May and September of some facts relating to the satellites of Uranus, which was not discovered in time for correction.