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Betty Chidley The Witch


Below is the story of Betty Chidley, originally published in Miss C. S. Burne’s ‘Shropshire Folk-Lore’ and then again in ‘English Fairy and Other Folk Tales’ by Edwin Sidney Hartland [1890].

A FAMILY of the name of Ambler occupied a farm at Wilderley, near Pulverbatch, and in a little cottage in a neighbouring dale lived an old woman, commonly called "Betty Chidley from the bottom of Betchcot," who was much in the habit of begging at the farmhouse, and generally got what she asked for. One day Betty came on her usual errand, and found the farmer's wife mixing some "supping" for the calves. She watched the good meal and milk stirred together over the fire, took a fancy to it, and begged for a share. Mrs. Ambler, rather vexed, spoke sharply, and refused to give her any.

Betty only said in a meaning tone: "The calves wenna eat the suppin' now."

Little notice was taken of her speech at the time, but when the maid carried out the pail of carefully-prepared "suppin" to the calves, they utterly refused to touch it. Three times over was the attempt made to give it them, but in vain.

Then Betty's ominous words were called to mind, and as quickly as might be she was sent for to the farm, and desired to bless the calves. "Me bless your calves!" she said; "what have I to do with your calves?" but at last she yielded to their entreaties, and said: "My God bless the calves." But the creatures still refused to eat. Then Mrs. Ambler begged her to leave out the word "my."

After much pressure she gave way, and consented to repeat the simple words: "God bless the calves." Mrs. Ambler then herself took the "suppin'" to the hungry calves, and to her delight they came to meet her at the door of their house, and ate their food with hearty appetite. The story has been handed down in the family ever since, and was related to the present writer by a great-grand-daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ambler, who had it from her great-aunt, one of their daughters.


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