Page 103. " wrote Mr Ibis "

 Ibis are wading birds. They were sacred to the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptian god Thoth was often depicted with the head of an Ibis.

Thoth was the scribe of the gods and is said to have created the alphabets. He is associated with wisdom, the underworld and law.


Page 104. " tales of the piskies and the spriggans, of the black dogs of the moors and the seal-women of the channel. "

Black dogs are commonly found in folklore, especially in British legends. One such tale inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's  story The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Public DomainPiskie - Credit: Haleyrohr

 Piskies is another name for pixies, often found in folktales from Devon and Cornwall, where Essie Tregowan is from.

Spriggans are sprites local to Cornwall. They are often described as hideous creatures that like to cause havoc.

The seal-women are Selkies, shapeshifting mythical creatures that can shed their seal skins and become human. But if someone steals their pelts then they are trapped in their human form. This is a variant of the swan maiden myths.


Page 108. " of the knockers and the blue-caps who live down the mines "

Knockers live below ground and look like little miners. They knock on the walls of mines. They are Welsh and Cornish in origin, and some see them as mischief-makers where others consider them harmless practical jokers. English Brownies and Irish Leprechauns are comparable.

Blue-caps are similar to Knockers, but they are benevolent and forwarn people about cave-ins. They show miners where rich deposits can be found, as long as they are treated with respect.

Page 108. " of the Bucca, the tricksiest spirit of the land "

The Bucca appears in Cornish folklore as a creature that lives in mines. It is thought to have once been an ancient god of the sea. There were two forms of the Bucca: Bucca Widn, the white Bucca, and Bucca Dhu, the black Bucca.

The Bucca was also believed to cause storms.

Page 108. " old apple trees who talked when they had a mind "

This is the Apple Wassail. The wassailing is believed to bless crops. Slices of bread were placed at the roots of the tree, and cider was poured over them.

 Apple Tree Wassail by the Watersons

Page 109. " they carried a little salt in one pocket, a little bread in the other "

Bread and salt appear in many cultures as symbols of luck and hospitality.

Page 112. " That I am, a cousin Jack "

Cousin Jack is a name for Cornish emigrants.

Cousin Jacks were firm believers in the Knockers.

Page 115. " Madam Life's a piece in bloom Death goes dogging everwhere; She's the tenant of the room, He's the ruffian on the stair. "

Lines by W E Henley, a poet, editor and critic.

Henley was friends with Robert Louis Stevenson, who based his character Long John Silver on Henley.

Page 121. " Slavic Charles Atlas "

Charles Atlas was a famous body builder, who developed and marketed his own methods and was very popular in his day.