The wood so softly singing
In a language strange to hear
And the song it sings will find you
As the twilight draws you near


Thomas Stonehouse and The Hob

This story was told by an old labourer on the Musgrave Estate. About the year 1760 his grandfather, Thomas Stonhouse, lived at Hob Garth. He kept a flock of sheep, and perhaps a smallholding besides. He had a malicious neighbour, Matthew Bland, of Great Fryup, who one night, for fancied grievance, broke Thomas's hedge and let all his sheep loose.

Although Thomas hunted them all day, by nightfall he had collected only five out of forty and had caught so heavy a chill that he was in bed for days afterwards. Yet in the morning all his sheep were back in the field and new posts and fixings had been put into the broken hedge.The next night every one of Bland's cattle were turned loose and it was more than a fortnight before he recovered them all. 

Next day after this, all Stonehouse's sheep were again turned loose. Although his neighbours did their best to get the old man's sheep back, few were rounded up by the end of the day. But the next morning all but four were back in the field, and these were found dead, having fallen into a disused quarry. By now his neighbours were convinced that Hob was helping the old shepherd.

When he was well enough he went to the field to count the sheep and take some hay for them, as it was winter, then sat by the gate waiting for the friend who had promised to pick him up in his cart. As he sat there he was greeted by an old man of strange appearance with very long hair, very large feet, hands, eyes and mouth. He stooped as he walked with a long holly stick. He told Thomas that his lost sheep would be replaced when lambing-time came and that Matthew Bland would get what was coming to him. 

When his friend arrived in the cart he was surprised to see Thomas talking to the empty air. He thought the old shepherd's mind was beginning to wander.  When lambing-time came, though winter had returned for a brief, bitter spell, Bland lost many lambs, but Thomas lost none, in fact many of his ewes had twins. 

As the saying goes, "When t'hobman did tak ti yan, ya war yal reeght i' t' lang-run."

(R. Blakeborough, 
Wit, Character, Folklore and Customs of the North Riding of Yorkshire, 1898)

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