Black Meg was a man-eating ogress who lived in a cave on the wild and lonely expanse of Ancaster Heath. She terrorised the countryside for miles around, devouring anyone she came across. Her foul, evil spells made the land barren and she used her long iron claws to maul and kill livestock.
An errant knight found himself in the vicinity of Cranwell one day. Hearing the plight of the local populace, he resolved to rid them once and for all of Black Meg’s curses. The villagers thanked him and promised that he could have his pick of any of their horses to help him in his task.
The knight was taken to a field by a pond where the villager’ horses were kept. He inspected the horses one by one and noticed one of them was blind. He was told its name was Bayard. The knight said he would take whichever horse had the keenest senses, and threw a large rock into the pond. In an instant, blind Bayard looked up from his grazing in the direction of the water. The knight vowed to ride Bayard, as he was the only horse who would not be frightened of Black Meg’s appearence. Mounting his new steed, the knight rode off to Ancaster Heath, calling a challenge to Meg as he approached her cave. She responded with an evil cackle,
“I’ll buckle me shoes,
And suckle me brood,
And I’ll soon be wi’ you, laddie!”
She soon appeared from the mouth of the cave, her face contorted in a wicked snarl and her iron claws glinting in the sunlight. The knight clasped the spurs into Bayard’s side and charged forward, slashing at the ogress’ shoulder with his sword. She howled in pain and leapt at the horse and its rider, digging her needle-sharp claws into Bayard’s rump.
The blind horse reared up onto its hind legs and leapt high into the air, taking Black Meg with it, landing a full sixty feet away and crushing the ogress beneath him. The knight stood up and, seeing that Black Meg lay dead, comforted the poor horse, which now lay bleeding to death on the ground.
The villagers were now free of the evil which had blighted them for so long, and buried Black Meg under a large stone at the crossroads with a stake through her heart to prevent her ever returning. To this day, they will proudly point out the marks, sixty feet apart, of horse prints in the rock, which blind Bayard made during his final leap.
Author: P A McHugh