–ефераты. Water World as Another Home for the English Nation Reflected in the English Folklore

And the southern Cornish coast between the villages of Down Derry and Looe,

the former town of Seaton was overwhelmed by sand because it was cursed by

a mermaid injured by a sailor from the port.

MermaidТs Rock near Lamorna Cove was the haunt of a mermaid who would

sing before a storm and then swim out to sea Ц her beauty was such that

young men would follow, never to reappear. At Zennor a mermaid was so

entranced by the singing of Matthew Trewella, the squireТs son, that she

persuaded him to follow her; he, too failed to to return, but his voice

could be heard from time to time, coming from beneath the waves. The little

church in which he sang on land has a fifteenth Ц century bench Ц end

carved with a mermaid and her looking Ц glass and comb.

On the other hand, mermaids could sometimes be helpful. MermaidТs Rock

at Saundersfoot in Wales is so called because a mermaid was once stranded

there by the ebbing of the tide. She was returned to the sea by a passing

mussel Ц gatherer, and later came back to present him with a bag of gold

and silver as a reward. In the Mull of Kintyre a Mackenzie lad helped

another stranded mermaid who in return granted him his wish, that he cpuld

build unsinkable boats from which no man would ever be lost.

Sexual unions between humans and both sea people and seals are the

subject of many stories, and various families claim strange sea Ц borne

ancestry: for example the Mc Veagh clan of Sutherland traces its descent

from the alliance between a fisherman and a mermaid; on the Western island

of North Uist the McCodums have an ancestor who married a seal maiden; and

the familiar Welsh name of Morgan is sometimes held to mean Уborn of the

seaФ, again pointing to the family tree which includes a mermaid or a

merman. Human wives dwelling at sea with mermen were allowed occasional

visits to the land, but they had to take care not to overstay Ц and if they

chanced to hear the benediction said in church they were never able to

rejoin their husbands.

Matthew ArnoldТs poem УThe Forsaken MermanФ relates how one human wife

decides to desert her sea husband and children. There is also a Shetland

tale, this time concerning a sea wife married to a land husband:

On the island of Unst a man walking by the shore sees mermaids

and mermen dancing naked in the moonlight, the seal skins which they

have discarded lying on the sand. When they see the man, the dancers

snatch up the skins, become sea creatures again, and all plunge into

the waves Ц except one, for the man has taken hold of the skin. Its

owner is a mermaid of outstanding beauty. And she has to stay on the

shore. The man asks her to become his wife, and she accepts. He keeps

the skin and carefully hides it.

The marriage is successful, and the couple has several

children. Yet the woman is often drawn in the night to the seashore,

where she is heard conversing with a large seal in an unknown tongue.

Years pass. During the course of a game one of the children finds a

seal skin hidden in the cornstack. He mentions it to his mother, and

she takes it and returns to the sea. Her husband hears the news and

runs after her, arriving by the shore to be told by his wife: У

Farewell, and may all good attend you. I loved you very well when I

lived on earth, but I always loved my first husband more.Ф

As we know from David ThomsonТs fine book УThe People of the SeaФ

(1984), such stories are still widely told in parts of Ireland and in

Scotland and may explain why sailors were reluctant to kill seals. There

was also a belief that seals embodied the souls of drowned mariners.

The friendly dolphin invariably brings good luck to seafarers, and has

even been known to guide them to the right direction. As recently as

January 1989 the newspapers reported that an Australian swimmer who had

been attacked and wounded by a shark was saved from death only by the

intervention of a group of dolphins which drove off the predator.

Also worthy of mention here is another benevolent helper of seamen

lost in open boats: a kindly ghost known as the pilot of the УPintaФ. When

all seems lost he will appear in the bows of the boat and insistently point

the way to safety.

Other denizens of the deep inspired fear and terror. The water horse

of Wales and the Isle of Man Ц the kelpie of Scotland Ц grazes by the side

of the sea or loch. If anyone is rash enough to get on him, he rushes into

the water and drowns the rider; furthermore his back can conveniently

lengthen to accommodate any number of people. There are several tales

believed of the water horse, for example, if he is harnessed to a plough he

drags it into the sea. If he falls in love with a woman he may take the

form of a man to court her Ц only if she recognises his true nature from

the tell-tale sand in his hair will she have a chance of escaping, and then

she must steal away while he sleeps. Legnd says that the water horse also

takes the shape of an old woman; in this guise he is put to bed with a bevy

of beautiful maidens, but kills them all by sucking their blood, save for

one who manages to run away. He pursues her but she jumps a running brook

which, water horse though he is, he dare not cross.

Still more terrible are the many sea monsters of which stories are

told. One played havoc with the fish of the Solway Firth until the people

planted a row of sharpened stakes on which it impaled itself. Another

serpent Ц like creature, the Stoor Worm, was so huge that its body curled

about the earth. It took up residence off northern Scotland and made it

known that a weekly delivery of seven virgins was required, otherwise the

towns and villages would be devastated. Soon it was the turn of the kingТs

daughter to be sacrificed, but her father announced that he would give her

in anyone who would rid him of the worm. Assipattle, the dreamy seventh son

of a farmer, took up the challenge and put to sea in a small boat with an

iron pot containing a glowing peat; he sailed into the monsterТs mouth,

then down into its inside Ц after searching for some time he found the

liver, cut a hole in it, and inserted the peat . The liver soon began to

burn fiercely, and the worm retched out Assipattle and his boat. Its death

throes shook the world: one of its teeth became the Orkney Islands, the

other Shetland; the falling tongue scooped out the Baltic Sea, and the

burning liver turned into the volcanosof Iceland. The king kept his

promise, and the triumphant Assipattle married his daughter.

Perhaps, the most famous of all water monsters is that of Loch Ness,

first mentioned in a life of St Columba written in 700 AD.

Some 150 years earlier one of the saintТs followers was apparently

swimming in the loch when the monster Уsuddenly swam up to the surface, and

with gaping mouth and with great roaring rushed towards the manФ.

Fortunately, Columba was watching and ordered the monster to turnback: it

obeyed. The creature (or its successor) then lay dormant for some 1 300

years, for the next recorded sighting was in 1871.

However, during the last fifty years there have been frequent reports

and controversies. In1987 a painstaking and and expencive sonar scan of the

loch revealed a moving object of some 400 lb in weight which scientists

were unable to identify. Sir Peter Scott dubbed the monster УNessiterras

RhombopteryxФ, after the diamond Ц shaped fin shown on a photograph taken

by some American visitors; the Monster Exhibition Centre at Drumnadrochit

on Loch Ness describes it as УThe WorldТs Greatest MysteryФ. Tourists from

all over the world flock to visit Loch Ness, monster and centre.


The seas will always be potentially dangerous for those who choose to

sail them and most seafarers tried hard to avoid incurring the wrath of

Davy Jones Ц they once were sometimes reluctant even to save drowning

comrades lest they deprive the deep of a victim which would serve as a

propitiatory sacrifice though the dilemma could be resolved by throwing the

drowning man a rope or spar. This was a much less personal intervention

than actually landing a hand or diving in to help and therefore less risky.

Various shipboard ceremonies were observed and maintained religiously:

at Christmas a tree would be lashed to the top of the mast (the custom is

still followed, and on ships lacking a mast the tree is tied to the

railings on the highest deck). At midnight as New YearТs Eve becomes New

YearТs Day the shipТs bell is rung eight times for the old year and eight

times for the new Ц midnight on a ship is normally eight bells Ц the oldest

member of the crew giving the first eight rings, the youngest the second.

УBurying the Dead HorseФ was a ceremony which was continued in

merchant ships until late in the nineteenth century, and kept up most

recently in vessels on the Australian run. The horse was a symbol for the

monthТs pay advanced on shore (and usually spent before sailing); after

twenty-eight days at sea the advance was worked out. The horseТs body was

made from a barrel, its legs from hay, straw or shavings covered with

canvas, and the main and tail of hemp. The animal was hoisted to the main

yardarm and set on fire. It was allowed to blase for a short time and was

then cut loose and dropped into the sea. Musical accompaniment was provided

by the shanty УPoor Old HorseФ:

Now he is dead and will die no more,

And we say so, for we know so.

It makes his ribs feel very sore,

Oh, poor old man.

He is gone and will go no more,

And we say so, for we know so.

So goodbye, old horse,

We say goodbye.

On sailing ships collective work at the capstan, windlass, pumps and

halliards was often accompanied by particular songs known as shanties.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries big, full-rigged

vessels were bringing cargoes of nitrate, guano and saltpetre to Britain to

South America ports. When a ship was loaded and ready to sail round Cape

Horn and home, the carpenter would make a large wooden cross to which red

and white lights were fixed in the shape of the constellation known as the

Southern Cross. As this was hoisted to the head of the mainmast, the crew

would sing the shanty УHurrah, my boys, weТre homeward boundФ, and then the

crew of every ship in harbour took turns to cheer the departing vessel.

Seafarers crossing the equator for the first time Ц and sometimes the

tropics of the polar circles Ц are often put through a sort of baptism or

initiation ceremony. The earliest recorded reference to such a ritual dates

back to 1529 on a French ship, but by the end of the following century

English vessels were involved in the same custom, which continues to this

day in both Royal Navy and merchant service.

One of the crew appears as Neptune, complete with crown, trident and

luxuriant beard; others represent Queen Amphitrite, a barber, a surgeon and

various nymphs and bears. Neptune holds court by the side of a large canvas

bath full of sea - water, and any on board who have not previously crossed

Уthe LineФ are ceremonially shaved with huge wooden razors, then thoroughly

ducked. Finally, the victim is given a certificate which protects him from

the same ordeal on ane future occasion. Even passengers are put through a

modified form of the proceedings, though women are given a still softer

version of the treatment.

When a naval captain leaves his ship he can expect a ritual farewell.

Even Prince Charles was unable to escape when in 1976 he relinquished

command of the minesweeper, HMS УBroningtonФ; he was seized by white Ц

coated doctors (his officers), placed in a wheelchair and Уinvalided outФ

to the cheers of his crew members who held up a banner inscribed: УCommand

has aged meФ.

Other marines departed in a less jovial manner. When a man died at sea

his body would be sewn into canvas, weighted, and committed to the deep.

The sailmaker was responsible for making the shroud, and would always put

the last stitch through the corpseТs nose, ensuring that there was no sign

of life and that the body remained attached to the weighted canvas. This

practise was followed at least until the 1960s, the sailmaker receiving a

bottle of rum for his work. Nowadays the bodies are seldom buried at sea

but are refrigerated and brought back to land. However, those consigning a

body in this way still receive the traditional bottle of rum for their



We have had a look at some samples of well and carefully preserved

British folklore that tells about the British УwaterworldФ. But a question

of our time no less important is whether the people with such an affection

for their land try to preserve it from the harm that may cause our age of

highly developed machines, ships, tunkers, etc.

BritainТs marine, coastal and inland waters are generally clean: some

95% of rivers, streams and canals are of good or fair quality, a much

higher figure than in most other European countries. However their

cleanliness cannot be taken for granted, and so continuing steps are being

taken to deal with remaining threats. Discharges to water from the most

potentially harmful processes are progressively becoming subject to

authorisation under IPC.

Government regulations for a new system of classifying water in

England and Wales came into force in May 1994. This system will provide the

basis for setting statutory water quality objectives (SWQO), initially on a

trial basis in a small number of catchment areas where their effectiveness

can be assessed. The objectives, which will be phased in gradually, will

specify for each individual stretch of water the standards that should be

reached and the target date for achieving them. The system of SWQOs will

provide the framework to set discharge consents. Once objectives are set,

the enterprises will be under a duty to ensure that they are met.

There have been important developments in controlling the sea disposal

of wastes in recent years. The incineration of wastes at sea was halted in

1990 and the dumping of industrial waste ended in 1992. In February 1994

the Government announced British acceptance of an internationally agreed

ban on the dumping of low- and intermediate Ц level wastes was already

banned. Britain had not in fact dumped any radioactive waste at sea for

some years preveously. Britain is committed to phasing out the dumping of

sewage sludge at sea by the end of 1998. Thereafter only dredged material

from ports, harbours and the like will routinely be approved for sea


Proposals for decommissioning BritainТs 200 offshore installations are

decided on a case Ц by Ц case basis, looking for the best practicable

environmental option and observing very rigorous international agreements

and guidelines.

Farm Waste

Although not a major source of water pollution incidents, farms can

represent a problem. Many pollution incidents result from silage effluent

or slurry leaking and entering watercourses; undiluted farm slurry can be

up to 100 times, more polluting than raw domestic sewage. Regulations set

minimum construction standards for new or substantially altered farm waste

handling facilities. Farmers are required to improve existing installations

where there is a significant risk of pollution. The Ministry of

Agriculture, Fisheries and Food publishes a УCode of Good Agricultural

Practice for the Protection of WaterФ. This gives farmers guidance on,

among other things, the planning and management of the disposal of their

farm wastes. The Ministry also has L2 million research and development

programme to examine problems of farm waste and to minimise pollution.

Britain is a signatory to the 1992 North East Atlantic Convention,

which tackles pollution from land Ц based sources, offshore installations

and dumping. It also provides for monitoring and assessment of the quality

of water in the conventionТs area. In order to minimise the environmental

effects of offshore oil and gas operations, special conditions designed to

protect the environment -Цset in consultation with environmental interests

Ц are included in licences for oil and gas exploration.

Pollution from ships is controlled under international agreements,

which cover matters such as oil discharges and disposal of garbage. British

laws implementing such agreements are binding not only on all ships in

British waters, but also on British ships all over the world. The Marine

Pollution Control Unit (MPCU), part of the Coastguard Agency, is

responsible for dealing with spillage of oil or other substances from ships

in sea.

So great care is being taken to manage to preserve all that precious

that Britain has. Keeping the waters in a good conditions would help to

keep the traditions connected with it as well, and to pass them on to other


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