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A640 Buckstones Ghost

The following article by Phil Clay entitled ‘The Buckstones Ghost’ appeared in the Saddleworth White Rose Society (in the county of York) Newsletter (2000) and details his experience with an apparition whilst serving as a Police Officer in Saddleworth whilst it was part of West Yorkshire.

I am certain there are numerous police officers who have professed to see ghosts during their nocturnal roaming around graveyards, churches and ancient houses, occupied and derelict, and I am no exception. For years the following has remained a mystery which I am sure has a logical explanation. If someone reading this has an answer I would be interested to hear it. But on reflection it may be that I would rather have it remain unexplained to preserve my belief in the occult.

The year was 1968; I was serving in the West Riding Constabulary, attached to the Road Traffic Division at Huddersfield. My beat stretched from Huddersfield Borough boundary to the Lancashire boundary at Saddleworth, a part of Yorkshire, which encloses a group of villages. To one of those, Uppermill, I had the good fortune to be posted.

The season was autumn, it was a fine but windy night with a full moon scudding between the clouds and a myriad of twinkling stars in the clear parts of the sky. I was working alone and everything and everybody was at peace, even the sheep and cattle were dozing behind a sheltering wall. I decided to visit Huddersfield Divisional H.Q. to kill time and to engage in some intelligent conversation with the night reserve man, who was also alone and would be grateful for a little company for an hour or so.

We settled down with large mugs of steaming tea, lit up a Capstan full strength and got stuck into the usual topics of conversation, the failings of the judicial system, football and politics not necessarily in that order. After we sacked all the Judges, the reason being that none came up to the standard set by Judge Jefferies, the hanging Judge, picked the team for Huddersfield town's Saturday fixture and done a hatchet job on the serving government, our discussion turned to ghosts, the supernatural and U.F.O's. For an hour or so we mulled over the pros and cons. Those that could be explained, such as the time that I had seen a flying saucer over Elland which, on obtaining a pair of binoculars, turned out to be pigeon's wings caught in the sun as they circled their loft. Those that could not be explained, for example, the strong smell of tobacco that wafted down the landing on a friend's old house every evening, even though no one smoked. The story was that some previous occupant who had departed his mortal coil had been known to have a last pipe before retiring. Eventually we concluded that we had open minds as to the possibility that there may be some truth in the appearance of certain manifestations. We parted company at one in the morning and as I still had some time to spare before retiring from duty I decide to return to Uppermill the long way round, along the A640, a moorland road which crossed the high Pennines. This route would take me via the Nont Sarah's Hotel, across Buckstone's moor, past the isolated and derelict Buckstone's Lodge and then eventually into the small village of Denshaw. After passing Nont Sarah's there wasn't any occupied building on the road until reaching Denshaw, some 12 miles distant.

Nights like this, when crossing the moor, always brought back memories of my school days and my favourite poem that had to be learned and recited, 'The Highwayman' by Alfred Noyes.

"The wind was a torrent of Darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over, the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding,
And the highwayman cane riding up to the old inn door".

To fully enjoy this scenario I switched my headlights off, driving only on sidelights only. I travelled about a mile beyond the Nont Sarah's Hotel when I saw, in the moonlight, coming towards me, four horses, three with riders. My first thoughts were why should equestrians be out at this time of night without stirrup lights. As they got closer the second verse of the poem came vividly back to me as the first two riders fitted the description to a "T".

"He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin, A coat of claret velvet and breaches of brown doe skin, They fitted with never a wrinkle, his boots were up to his thigh, And he rode with a jewelled twinkle, his pistol buts a twinkle, His rapier hilt a twinkle, under the jewelled sky".

The third rider was in the dress of a serf, rough homespun shirt and trousers, leggings, leather doublet, and neckerchief, and he was leading a heavily laden packhorse. I slowed down as I passed them but they appeared oblivious to my presence. I stopped the car some hundred yards beyond the rider's turned round and overtook them, again there was no indication that they were aware of my interest. I turned the car round a second time and approached the group with the full intention of stopping to have a pleasant conversation with the riders to find out the reason for their presence on this isolated road in the middle of the night while dressed in such colourful costumes. As I slowly approached, the leading horseman acknowledged me by bowing as he touched his right hand to the brim of his hat. At this point a cold shiver ran down my spine and I decided that discretion was the better part of valour. There was no way I was going to stop within striking distance of their swords or pistols and so I pushed my foot down on the accelerator and made a rapid departure towards civilisation, home and safety.

The following morning I contacted the news desk at the "Huddersfield Examiner" and related my sightings of the apparitions with a view to solving the mystery, also to suggest it my make an interesting little story. As I was rather ashamed of the way I had made my escape I substituted an unknown motorist to be the craven coward who had fled the scene.
I was later told that they, the newspaper reporters, had been unable to find any record of sponsored rides, fancy dress parties or anything else that would have caused three riders to cross a lonely moorland road in the dead of night, dressed in the style of clothing that would have been appropriate in the reign of King Charles.

I have travelled on the same road on hundreds of occasions since that day but never again did I see anything resembling those riders. It was probably coincidence the supernatural had been discussed just before my experience, but then again, was it? There must be many a tale to be told about the mysteries of those lonely moors and the people who have crossed them over the centuries.

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