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The Straw Horses
~ darkly delicious original folk music ~
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'Dorset Tales' - a promo video and the stories

Our second album Dorset Tales was released in April 2017.  Here is a short promo video.  Below are the stories behind the songs, along with artwork by Claire Aberlé, specially commissioned for the album.


'Dorset Tales' - a short promo for the album


'The Smuggler Of Wick' by Claire Aberlé

1. The Smuggler Of Wick

Sam Hookey was a cunning and fearless smuggler in the 18th century, well loved by many in Dorset for the tons of tea and silk he smuggled in along the coast between Poole and Christchurch, not to mention the countless tubs of brandy he managed to land without being caught by the customs men. 

His luck ran out in 1796 when an ambush resulted in his drowning in the Stour, weighed down by the gold with which he had stuffed his pockets.

Caveat Lector

We should like to point out, lest anyone be tempted to base authoritative discourse on the account here adumbrated, that the historicity of Sam Hookey is somewhat less than certain, to put it generously.


2. Saint Catherine

Near the Dorset village of Abbotsbury is a 14th century chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria.  Young women hoping for a husband would visit the chapel and pray to Catherine to send them an appropriate suitor. 

Catherine herself had declined the emperor Maxentius's proposal of marriage on the grounds that she would marry only a man whose intellect and devotion matched her own.  She had already converted dozens of the emperor's finest philosophers whom he had sent to dissuade her from her Christian faith. 

Maxentius resolved to execute Catherine on the wheel, but it shattered at her touch.

Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Alexandria


'Purbeck's Phantom Army' by Claire Aberlé

3. Purbeck's Phantom Army

In 1678, more than a hundred people witnessed an unidentified army gathering on Grange Hill near Wareham. 

The river was barricaded and a militia of some 300 men deployed to the area, but no trace of the supposed invaders could subsequently be detected.

Read more here:


4. Foul Play

King William II, known as Rufus for his ruddy complexion, was killed while hunting in the New Forest in 1100, supposedly by a mis-fired arrow. 

The circumstances of his death are unclear, but the haste with which his brother Henry fled the scene to declare himself William's successor suggests he may have had a hand in the King's 'accident'.

Not strictly a Dorset tale, this one, as it actually took place in neighbouring Hampshire.  That's pretty close, and the story is certainly in the same spirit as our others, so we're quite at ease with this minor transgression.

Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_II_of_England


5. Mrs. Perkins' Mausoleum

The charming but eccentric Mrs. Perkins, beloved wife of one General Perkins, had a profound fear of being buried alive.  She requested that her body be left in an unsealed coffin, above ground, and within earshot of the school so that if she awoke from her presumed death, she might escape and call for help. 

When she died in 1783, every detail of this wish was followed.  It presently became clear that she had in fact completed her transition, and a stone monument was erected at the site in her memory.

Read more here: https://www.blipfoto.com/entry/4193388


'Map Of Corfe Castle' by Claire Aberlé

6. Brave Lady Mary

Lady Mary Bankes defended Corfe Castle, her family's home, against Parliamentarian seige for three years while her husband was serving the King elsewhere.

The castle was eventually taken when one of her officers defected and allowed a number of Parliamentarian soldiers to enter via a sally gate.

For her courage, Lady Mary was allowed to retire in safety, keeping the keys of her castle.

Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Bankes

'The Bell Thieves' by Claire Aberlé

7. Knowlton Bell

The bell in the 12th century church tower of Knowlton had such a beautiful tone that the residents of a neighbouring village, Sturminster Marshal, could not resist plotting to steal the bell and install it in their church.

They removed the bell under cover of darkness and made to return home with it, but they had been seen, and Knowlton's witch was swiftly consulted.  She enchanted the thieves' horses, causing them to stop just before the bridge that separated the two villages.

The thieves desperately tried to roll the bell over the bridge, but they slipped and their prize fell into the depths of the river, and there it remains to this day.


Read more about this story here: http://www.darkdorset.co.uk/the_bell_thieves


'Corfe Castle' by Claire Aberlé

8. The Murder Of Edward The Martyr

In 978, the teenage King Edward was murdered in murky circumstances near the site of Corfe Castle. 

We have placed the event at the gate of the castle (in spite of it not having been built until the following century) and dramatised the story according to a 12th century retelling in which the killer is Edward's step-mother and the motive is the succession of her own son.

Read more here: http://www.darkdorset.co.uk/murder_of_edward_the_martyr


9. Tyneham

The Purbeck village of Tyneham was requisitioned by the War Office in 1943 for use as a training ground for troops. 

Although this was explained to the displaced residents as a temporary arrangement, they were never permitted to return and Tyneham is now a ghost village. 

TThe middle section of our song is derived from a notice that was pinned to the door of the church by the last resident to leave.

Read more here: http://www.tynehamopc.org.uk/


Buy Dorset Tales on CD or as a download

The Straw Horses' second album 'Dorset Tales' is available from Amazon, iTunes, CDBaby, Google Play, and other retailers.

Front cover of 'Dorset Tales' by The Straw Horses

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