Hidden high on the Derbyshire heather moorlands is a tiny, steep-sided grassy valley with a pretty little babbling brook. I spent many summer Sunday afternoons there as a young child picnicking with my parents, and relatives. My cousins and I would roll down the grassy banks, play ‘Tag’ and build dams. But the best game in the entire world was the one we named ‘Peg Powler’. There was really nothing much to it. It basically involved standing on the bank side, counting to three and then running as fast as possible backwards and forwards through the ankle deep water whilst splashing and shouting 'Peg Powler' as loud as we could. We would play this game for hours!
It was invented the day my elderly Aunt Lottie, who had grown up on the banks of the River Tees in Teesside, joined us on our picnic. As we ate, she told us the tale of the hag called Peg Powler who inhabited the River Tees. With her crooked green hand she loved to grab the ankles of naughty children that wandered too close to the edge of the river, dragging them down under the water and drowning them.
With wide eyes, we were all absolutely enthralled as she told us about how, as a young child she had once nearly been caught by Peg. Having just argued with her mother, she had stomped off and was sulking on the riverbank when a hand suddenly reached out of the Tees and grabbed her ankle. She had screamed and fought and finally beaten off the crooked hand with a stick as it tried to pull her towards the water. When the gnarly fingers finally released their grip, she had ran home as fast as her legs would carry her, promising to always be good and never again give Peg Powler a reason to grab her again.
The ‘Peg Powler’ game was enjoyed for many years. I find it absolutely amazing how something so simple could entertain for so long!
As I grew older, I realised that the telling of the green hag story in Teesside was actually just a way for parents to scare their children enough to keep them from playing in the fast flowing river and therefore out of danger from drowning. With teenage defiance instead of running through the tiny brook, I would enjoy just calmly standing in the middle of the trickling stream. This was partly to enjoy the feel of water running over my feet, and partly to prove that as I was now a teen, the green hag would no longer be interested in grabbing my ankle as I stood there. It was also partly for me to smile at the realisation that if Peg Powler had ever really existed, she would be living in the large River Tees and would never be found in a tiny Derbyshire brook.
As an adult, I went on holiday to Teesside for a few days and In the village shop I overheard an elderly couple talking about a local man who had unfortunately, recently drowned.
“I see Peg Powler's been at it again.”
“Yes but it’s come as a really big surprise to me because I thought he was such a lovely, honest man.”
“That’s what I thought, too, but Peg knows everyone’s secrets, you know!”
“True, true, and it just proves what I’ve always said; it’s not just the children she grabs!”
That evening as I walked across the bridge and took a quiet stroll along the banks of the River Tees. I nervously eyed the fast flowing water for any sign of an old green gnarly hand, reaching out, and decided that although I would really love to splash in the river and shout 'Peg Powler' as loud as I could, It would be wiser to just kept that little bit further away from the water’s edge – just in case.
last chance LJ Idol, Topic 2 - 'Crossing the T's'
This is my entry for therealljidol, 'last chance' topic 2 - 'Crossing The T's'.
The River Tees (pronounced as T's) is in northern England. It rises on the eastern slope of Cross Fell in the North Pennines, and flows eastwards for 85 miles (137 km) to reach the North Sea between Hartlepool and Redcar near Middlesbrough. The Peg Powler is a hag from English Folk law with green skin, long hair and sharp teeth and is said to inhabit the River Tees. She grabs the ankles of those who wander too close to the water's edge, especially naughty children, and pulls them under the water and drowns them.
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