Mari on the Mountain
S P Oldham
Pentyrch, a small village at the foot of the Garth Mountain, close to Taffs Well and Gwaelod y Garth in South Wales, near Cardiff, is typical of many Welsh villages in that it has its fair share of history, and of course, of myths and legends.
Born and brought up in Pentyrch as I was, Mari Ann Cabbage is a name I have been familiar with all of my life. Hers was one of the names that filled me equally with fear, awe and wonder as an already very imaginative child. She played a mysterious and compelling part in the folklore of the region, due to the fact that very little in the way of actual fact is known about her. As is often the case where fact is in short supply, a variety of inventive, usually spooky stories sprang up about her. Stories we children devoured with relish!
I was recently reminded of poor Mari Ann and all those childhood memories came flooding back. I don’t feel she has been accorded the attention she fully deserves, however one looks at the ‘history.’ If nothing else, some effort could perhaps be made to discover if she indeed ever existed at all. I like to think that she did; after all, the name must have come from somewhere, and as some folk like to say, there is no smoke without fire… Perhaps one day someone will dig beneath the stone on the Garth that may or may not be her headstone, as some claim, to discover if there are indeed human remains there. Perhaps some expert may be able to read the inscription on that stone by means of some technological advancement, because whatever is on there now is lost to the average human eye. In truth, I am not even sure if the stone is there any more – can anyone enlighten me?
Whatever the truth of it might be, there can be no doubting that Mari Ann Cabbage is an interesting figure. As such, I have borrowed from my memory, from local myths and legends and from history, such as it is, to make up my own story based around the myth.
I lay absolutely no claim to any factual content to my story, nor do I claim that it is in any way accurate or based on evidence of any kind. What it is, if I am honest, is simply a little story of my own, to add to those already in existence, about a character that has scared and fascinated me since childhood. It is an original story of my own creation, based upon one of the many theories about Mari Ann. Please enjoy it in the spirit in which it is intended – a tale, and nothing more, of a girl who may or may not have been: Mari on the Mountain.
There is very little on the web about her. The two sites I have found are listed below. There may well be more. If you know of any, or if you have a version of Mari Ann that you would be willing to share with me, I would love to hear from you. In fact, I am keen to know what your ‘memories’ of Mari Ann are!
There is a reference in the story to Devil’s Drop. This is also well known locally and it just so happens that I wrote a short story about it some time ago called, perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘Devil’s Drop.’ It is part of ‘Wakeful Children: A Collection of Horror and Supernatural Tales,’ available on Amazon, should you be interested.
A last little point of note. I am not, sadly, a Welsh speaker but I do like to think I know the odd word or two. Those I don’t know I endeavour to find. In this story the main protagonist, other than Mari Ann, is named Hywel Bugail, bugail meaning shepherd. All will become clear...
Thank you. I hope you enjoy it.
S P Oldham
June 25th 2017