Up on the moor near Bacup, there is a pile of loose boulders in an area known as Hell Clough and, as you’d expect, there’s a legend featuring the Devil which explains how this came to be.
Somewhere near this cairn there was once a good-sized natural pool which the Devil was fond of using for bathing. One day there was a terrific storm over the moorland and the Devil, coming to the pool for his usual bath, found that the heavy rain had so over-filled his pool that the edge was about to give way under the weight of the water. If that happened, the pool would empty itself entirely down the hillside. The Devil realised that he needed to construct some sort of dam to prevent this calamity, but how?
The Devil looked around for an answer and suddenly he saw a hayrick in the valley, covered with thick sheeting for protection. This gave him an idea.
He flew quickly down to the valley, took the sheeting and wrapped it like an apron round his waist. Then he returned to his pool at a more leisurely pace, gathering boulders as he went from here and carrying them in his apron. It was a good plan, but sadly his apron could not hold the weight he expected of it. Before he reached the pool, his apron gave way and all the boulders tumbled out to land in one huge pile on the moorland. It is this pile which later gave the area its name – Hell Clough.
As for the Devil’s bathing pool, well, as he had feared, the edge of his pool did indeed give way and the whole of the contents poured away down the hillside. The handy bathing-pool was gone forever and the Devil would have to find somewhere else to wash.
In the history of folklore how do such tales come to be. I mean a Devil tieing an apron to load rocks. Someone thought that up and started telling it. Who does that?
Good question – centuries ago workmen such as carpenters wore heavy-duty leather aprons to protect themselves, with pockets to store their tools- would certainly be strong enough to carry rocks. Perhaps a good way to date the tale – when were they first used…