The Gorbals Vampire

September 23rd, 1954. PC Alex Deeprose of the Glasgow Police responds to a call of a disturbance at the Southern Necropolis – a cemetery in one of the city’s poorest areas. What he finds shocks and stuns him. As steelworks to the East and South bellow smoke and flame into the night air, they lace the breeze with a strong scent of sulphur. And before him, he watches gangs of children scour the graves and headstones. The youngest couldn’t have been older than four, whilst the leaders were in their early teens. Most were armed – with crude, homemade weapons including crosses, crucifixes, and more deadly knives, axes, and shivs.

In the dense fog and smoke-filled cemetery, they cast distorted, otherworldly shadows among the tombs and headstones. Yet they move with purpose, and as their gleeful cries and whoops reveal, they are on the hunt. 

Cornering the nearest group, PC Deeprose discovers their intended target. The man with the iron teeth, also known as the Gorbals vampire. A seven-foot monster that has supposedly kidnapped and devoured two of their own.

Only the intervention of a local headmaster, and some timely Glaswegian weather, finally persuade the children to disperse. But they return for the next two nights, determined to catch the monster.

Parental Concerns

Soon after, parents and schoolteachers were asking police if there could be any truth to the tale. After all, how and why would so many children be motivated en masse to take the law into their own hands. For them, the stakes (if you’ll forgive the pun) couldn’t be higher. They had set off into the night to confront a metallic-fanged, seven-foot-tall, child-eating monster. Not the lightest of undertakings.

The story spread as quickly as the fear. It reached the National Press and even parliament. Ultimately, it impacted and changed British law.

But was there any truth to the Gorbals vampire? Its legacy, legend, and legal consequences have certainly lingered.

The Southern Necropolis, Glasgow.

Playground Rumours

It appears that the story of the vampire sprung up very quickly – on the day of the first hunt. Ronnie Sanderson was eight years old at the time and was informed of the simple plan in the playground. 

“The word was, there was a vampire, and everyone was going to head out there after school. At three o’clock, the school emptied, and everyone made a beeline for it. We sat there for ages on the wall, waiting and waiting. I wouldn’t go in because it was a bit scary for me. I think someone saw somebody wandering about and the cry went up: the vampire was there!”

Kenny Hughes, another of the vampire hunters, said their terror built up quickly, to the point they would only move in on the cemetery together.

A third boy, Tommy Smith, suggested the fog, and fire from the steelworks, only added to the eeriness. 

“The red light and smoke would flare up and make the shadows leap among the gravestones. You could see figures walking about at the back, all lined in red light.”

On seeing a bonfire burning brightly close to the cemetery, it even began to be feared that the monster was burning the remains of those it had already killed. Yet, two nights later, it was almost forgotten – at least in the minds of the children. But uproar was to come in the aftermath.

I’ve included a link to interviews with Tommy and other witnesses to the events below.

Fangless Facts and Other Iron-Fanged Monsters

The facts show no children were reported missing, and there are no child murder cases that line up with the period. However, the Gorbals vampire was not the first monster to haunt Glasgow, and it wasn’t even the first to sport iron teeth.

Tommy Smith – mentioned above, suggested tales of the ‘iron man’, were used by parents to keep children in line. This was no Marvel superhero, but a bad-tempered ogre inclined to snack on schoolchildren. 

Before him, in the 1800s, ‘Jenny wi’ the Airn (iron) Teeth’, stalked Glasgow Green. This hideous hag shares her name with another folklore favourite – Jenny (or Ginny) Greenteeth, known for dragging children to a watery grave. Although undoubtedly based on this watery witch, especially living so close to the banks of the Clyde, Glasgow’s Jenny was differentiated by her mouth of metal. She also got her own poem.

Jenny wi’ the Airn Teeth

Come an tak’ the bairn

Tak’ him to your den

Where the bowgie bides

But first put baith your big teeth

In his wee plump sides

A bairn is a baby, and a bowgie is an old-fashioned spelling of another well-known British faerie – a bogie, or boggart.

It would appear, that Gorbals’ school-aged children had a few potential spurs to the imagination to choose from, if they wanted to think on iron-fanged monsters. But it’s still unclear why so many were suddenly motivated on one day, or how rumours spread from school to school in a matter of hours.

Iron and Steel

Two metallic monstrosities dominate the story. The first is the iron teeth of the vampire, and the second is the steel industry and its impact. The area was heavily laden with air, noise, and light pollution. The work itself was dangerous and those not in the factories, were still subject to their fumes and imposing presence. The foundries were active 24/7 and constantly backlit the night sky with hellish plumes of orange and billowing smoke. It wouldn’t take much to imagine a demonic denizen dwelled nearby.

Gorbals was also an area stricken by poverty. As a home for heavy industry, it attracted significant numbers of immigrants, not just from the surrounding Highlands, but also Irish Catholics, Jewish, and Italian communities. A huge amount of people (up to an estimated 90,000 by the late 1930s), were crammed into a little over a square mile. Gorbals was known for a high crime rate, and its equally high infant mortality rate. Perhaps these factors made it the perfect place to inspire a story about a monster with iron teeth that killed children.

After all, it’s not hard to imagine this story was a personification of the hazards faced by the residents and workers crammed into Gorbals. And nearly a century before, in 1867, Karl Marx alluded to the similarities between industrial capitalism and vampires.

“Capitalism is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour…”

Karl Marx, Capital

To me, as an amateur with an interest in the strange and monsters especially, this makes sense. We now know that a cultural knee-jerk response to tragedy is to make monsters. Whether it’s Japan’s post-Hiroshima Godzilla, or America’s post 9/11 Cloverfield, they usually aren’t far behind disaster and difficulty.

But a scapegoat would help avoid the accountability implied by over industrialisation and the impoverishing of society.

A Comic Craze?

By the time the story reached parliament, a plausible yet convenient culprit was firmly in the sights of the outraged public. American horror comics, like Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror, were polluting young minds and driving them to such madness.

A 1953 issue of Dark Mysteries was especially cited, after featuring a story titled ‘The Vampire with the Iron Teeth’.

The labour MP for Gorbals, Alice Cullen, led a debate in the House of Commons, backed by a coalition of teachers, Christians, and communists – the latter joining the fight on terms of limiting the influence of American culture. For everyone else though, the accusation was that these stories inflamed imaginations with graphic images of monsters and mayhem. The result was the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act of 1955, which banned the sale of ‘repulsive or horrible’ reading matter to children. It is still in place today as ‘active’ legislation. 

Monsters, Mass Hysteria, and ‘Magination

So, it was back to The Beano for Gorbals’ monster-hunting school kids. But in hindsight, there are several issues with placing the blame on the comics. First and foremost, it seems none of the children involved had access, or had even seen such American comics. Experts suggest they were more likely to have gotten hold of the Crown Jewels than one of these – which had very limited circulation and availability anywhere in the UK, let alone Gorbals. 

As for that conveniently titled story in Dark Mysteries, research suggests this was published in December 1953, over three months after the events in Gorbals, and notably, also after the story had been heavily featured in the National Press.

As Bob Hamilton, and several of the monster hunters admitted, they had no idea what a vampire was. They were just swept up in the idea of a monster hunt and joined in with everyone else.

The Southern Necropolis is a graveyard for over 250,000 Glaswegians. But in the early 1950s, for the children of Gorbals, it was ‘the gravy’ – and a playground. Swapping trees for tombstones, and nursery rhymes for scary stories, it’s not hard to imagine their thoughts were haunted by the macabre. 

It’s not the first time that mass hysteria among children has led to a monster hunt. It’s not even the first time it happened in Glasgow. In the 1870s, the Cowcaddens area saw a hunt for hobgoblins. In the early 20th century, spring-heeled jack became their quarry. In 1964, Liverpool saw a lively hunt for leprechauns. More recently, and with more tragic consequences, the slender man stabbing in 2014 showed the dire consequences of believing such stories, and the international reach of the phenomena. 

And as cases such as the Highgate Vampire and the Cardiff Giant show, adults are not immune either. 

I was first introduced to the Gorbals vampire when I visited Glasgow for a friend’s wedding and stayed in a hotel opposite the mural depicting the legend. In more recent times, the monster has been the subject of a locally staged play and many works of art and sculpture.

I am left with two thoughts. The first, that it’s not entirely implausible, despite the lack of record, that a dishevelled, down-and-out steelworker fabricated himself a pair of metal teeth and got his kicks by scaring children in the graveyard. The second is, seventy years on, the only slaying a teenager is likely to do is via Call of Duty. But back in the day, they heard about a monster, believed it, and made killing it their first order of business. One thing is clear; don’t mess with the kids from Gorbals. 


Ena Mel & the Lily of the Forest

As it’s Tell a Fairy Story day on Wednesday 26th February, I’d like to introduce you to a character I’ve only ever told stories about to close family and friends. But, I think it might be time she had her debut. I’d be interested to hear what you think!


You may have heard a story about a tooth fairy, whose name was Ena Mel. She became very famous in the fairy realm when the Goblin Lord Thard tried to blackmail her into giving him treasure for all the Goblin teeth that had ever fallen out. But that is a completely different story, and it would take far too long to re-tell it here. This is the second adventure that happened to Ena Mel, and it happened not too long after the first.

Ena has a friend called Butterwick, who is also a fairy. Butterwick is not a tooth fairy, in fact his job is totally different. Butterwick is a type of house fairy, and like all fairies, his name and his purpose are the same. Has there ever been a blackout in your house? Without electricity, you can’t even turn on a light, and it is often at this time that a grown up will go and look for a candle. Have you ever noticed how surprised grown ups can be when they find a ready supply of candles under the sink or in the cupboard? Well, it was probably a fairy like Butterwick who put them there. Hence the ‘wick’ in Butterwick – just like a candle.

Bizarrely, he is also responsible for making sure that you never run out of dairy products, which is where the butter bit comes from. Whereas some fairies make sure you have eggs, polish your shoes, repair your socks and feed the dog all in the name of being a good house fairy, Butterwick pretty much keeps it to a minimum. That said, there is a little village in Devon that hasn’t run out of milk, candles or light bulbs since 1907. Ena asked him about it once; Butterwick just said he likes it there.

The fairy realm is hidden from the human world, deep inside an enormous forest in the south west of England. People do sometimes walk in or near the realm, but they never see the fairies. Sometimes they think they’ve seen a firefly, or a glow worm, or maybe an unusual butterfly. Even rarer still, a person may pass a beautiful woman or handsome man, not knowing that they were actually fairies. You see, fairies come in many different sizes. Some look like you and me, whilst others are small enough to ride on the back of a small bird, or maybe even a bumblebee. Not all fairies have wings either, although most do – including Ena Mel. There are even fairies that look just like horses, who are called Kelpies. Next time you see a horse frolicking in a field whilst all the others are just staring at him, you might just have seen a kelpie.

As you may have guessed, all the different fairies have different jobs as well, just like Ena Mel and Butterwick. Having said that though, no one has really worked out what the kelpies do yet other than jump in the air a lot. However, most of the fairies do something helpful one way or another. The tooth fairy leaves money under your pillow when you lose a tooth. House fairies do housework and other odd jobs round the house. Some leave you presents when you’re lonely, or if you’re upset. And some have very special jobs indeed.

Ena Mel loved living in the fairy realm. She lived in a little thatched cottage made of twigs and dried grasses, with beautifully set walls of cut stones. The cottage was set in the very top roots of a splendid oak tree. You would only ever know it was there if you happened to pass it at night and could see the faint glow from the tiny wooden windows. A little chimney made from an old whistle stuck out of the top of the roof, gently puffing little wisps of smoke into the air. But you’d have to look very carefully even to see all that.

One morning, Ena Mel opened the round door to her little cottage and looked out. She could see other fairy folk pottering in and out of their little houses in bushes, trees and even the rocks themselves. Some were retuning from a night’s work, whilst others were doing just as she was, and only just starting their day. The little part of the realm where she lived was simply known as the Oak Road, as it was a part of the forest where hundreds of oak trees all grew in a line.


Now you may be wondering what a tooth fairy would be doing up during the day, and if you are then you’re very clever to do so. But there are places in the world where it is nighttime at the same time that it’s the morning in our part of the world. For instance, when its 9’o’clock in the morning in England, its 9’o’clock in the evening in Alaska. So, no matter what time it is, there is always somewhere in the world for a tooth fairly to go.

Ena fluttered up into the air and skimmed over the ground, waving at a few of her neighbours as she went. She sped up as she got closer to the ground. The location of the tooth tulip was deep inside the forest, and only the tooth fairies knew exactly where. She was determined to keep it that way and didn’t like other fairy folk being able to see where she was going. After all, even Butterwick didn’t know where it was and he was her best friend.

Have you ever wondered how the tooth fairy manages to get from place to place so fast? Are you now wondering what a tooth tulip is? The tooth tulip is a special flower that is shaped exactly like one of your teeth and instead of being red, like a normal tulip, it is brilliant white in colour. The petals fold over so that it forms a little chamber at the top of the stem, just large enough to fit a tooth fairy.

Ena Mel dived and squeezed between the folded petals of the tooth tulip as quick as a flash, with only a few specks of fairy dust leaving an evaporating trail to show where she had gone. Once inside, she looked down to a small pouch on her belt and took a handful of the dust. She blew gently on her hand, letting the dust hover gently over the surface of the walls of the petal chamber. Quickly, the dust formed a floating map of the world in front of her. She took out her wand and pointed it to a very far corner. Fairy dust showered around her as the tooth tulip seemed to shake as if in an earthquake for a moment. Then it stopped.

The walls of the chamber had changed colour from their brilliant white to a very deep green. The leaves looked prickly and hard, and much smaller than tulip petals. She also noticed how cold she was all of a sudden. She was definitely in the right place. She could see starlights through a gap in the leaves, and she shot out of the tooth tulip into the night air. When she looked back, she could see that the tooth tulip was no longer a tulip, but in fact a huge green fir tree, still in the shape of an enormous tooth. She smiled as she whizzed over the snow-laden ground. She had never seen a tooth tree before! The last time she had come to Alaska – for that was where she was, she had found herself inside a snowbell. But they only came out at certain times of year, and it was too early in the polar spring for flowers.

Ena saw the distant lights of a small town. As she drew nearer, the wand in her pocket began to glow. There were definitely teeth waiting to be collected. She took out the wand, and she slowly began to pass over the rooftops below. As she hovered over the first chimney pot, the very tip of her wand glowed red. So did the next one, and the next. Then, at the fourth house, the tip glowed green.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a house with a chimney, so she zipped into the guttering along the roof. She did her very best to keep her wings and legs off of the sides of the drainpipe. In Scotland and Ireland, the tooth fairy was a large white rat. Ena had met him a few times, and he was more than happy to scurry up drainpipes. Ena was much happier with open windows or chimneys, but she soon saw a ray of light at the end of the drainpipe.

Ena found herself looking out through a plughole, set in a small blue bathtub. She could see a little girl with black hair brushing her teeth at a sink on the other side of the room. Ena watched as the girl’s mother came in and hurried her out of the bathroom and into the next room. Ena flew up to the overflow and squeezed through, following the girl and her mother. Quick as a flash, she zipped through the open doorway of the little girl’s bedroom and hid herself in-between some books on a small shelf above the bed.

The girl’s mother kissed the little girl gently on the forehead, and pulled out a small purse. Ena watched as the mother put the small tooth the little girl had handed her into the purse, and then placed it under the pillow. The mother ruffled the little girl’s hair, then reached across and turned out the lamp before leaving the room. A small amount of light still filtered through from the bathroom. It seemed to take ages for the little girl to fall asleep. Soon enough though, Ena heard snuffly snores coming from below. Ena floated silently down towards the bed and landed softly behind the pillow. Carefully, she pushed her hand as far as she could underneath until she could just feel the strings of the purse between her fingertips.

Ena pulled as hard as she could, until the purse was clear of the pillow. She pushed the clasps open and took the tooth out with both hands. Remember, that even though a tooth is tiny to you and me – it’s the size of a football to most tooth fairies. Ena took out her wand and tapped the tooth once. At once, fairy dust fell from the wand tip and began to circle the tooth, which began to glow brightly. When the tooth was glowing so brightly that Ena had to shield her eyes, an amazing thing happened. The tooth began to shrink. It grew so small that it soon became just a twinkling spec of dust. Ena Mel uncorked a tiny bottle on her belt, and the spec floated gently into it.

She checked the little girl was still soundly sleeping, and then zipped out of the room and a long the corridor. She eventually left the house through a vent in the kitchen, sneaking past the grown ups in the front room, even though she knew they were less likely to see her. Children were the only ones who really saw fairies. All children have a little bit of magic in them, which means that magical creatures can see them, and more importantly, they can see magical creatures. That’s why, whenever you try to show a grown up an elf, or the monster under your bed, they never find anything. No one really knows what age children lose the ability to see the magical world around them. My advice to you is to keep hold of it as long as possible.

Ena flew high above the town. She had flown over every single house, and although she was sure that no other children lay sleeping with uncollected teeth underneath their pillow, her wand still quivered and shimmered. Somewhere, there was a tooth nearby that needed collecting. It was then that she heard it, high above the chilling call of the wind. A loud, deep, growly moan. Her sensitive ears picked out the sound more clearly now, and she glided with the wind towards the sound. She flew away from the town, its dim lights now behind her. The wind was laden with snow, and she felt the cold for the first time. She hoped she would find the owner of the rumbling growly voice soon. It was definitely getting louder now.

Out of the gloomy, snow-chilled night, came an enormous, lumbering figure. The polar bear stood up on its hind legs and let out a deep and pitiful growl. Ena suddenly realised – the bear had toothache! This was the tooth that she was looking for. Ena Mel flew close to the bear, hovering just on top of its nose so that she could look him in the eye. All fairies are able to talk to wild animals, and Ena Mel was no exception. She spoke to the bear in a quiet voice, which it understood perfectly. He opened his mouth wide, and Ena fluttered inside. The smell was awful – the polar bear had very fishy breath.

Ena could see the tooth easily enough by the light of her wand. It was hanging from the gum, only just still held in place by the stringy roots. Ena took two well-aimed shots with her wand, cutting the tooth free and catching it in her hands. She zipped back out of the bear’s mouth, clasping the tooth. She couldn’t help smiling as the bear yowled with pleasure and tried to rub noses with her despite being awfully big. She could see the roots of the tooth were almost green with rot. It must have been very painful for the bear! Ena Mel waited for the tooth to shrink to a spec, and then placed it in the bottle with all the other specs she had collected. As she flew away, she looked behind her to see the bear standing on its rear legs and lifting its nose in the air at her.


She smiled as the bear disappeared from view through the now thickly falling snowflakes. Before she knew it, she was standing inside the chamber of the tooth tree, ready to head back home. This time, she pointed her wand up towards the ceiling of the chamber and whispered “reverso”. The tooth tree shook for a moment, and then suddenly she was back in her familiar forest, with bright sunlight peaking through the petals.

Ena Mel gently lifted off from the tooth tulip, and glided over the clearing, but instead of heading towards her cottage, she went the opposite way, deeper into the forest. She looked up into the branches of the trees as she passed, catching glimpses of the sun. The light was beginning to fade and it would soon be evening. She zigzagged back and forth through different lines of trees, all the time going deeper and deeper into the forest. Finally, when she was as certain as she could be that nobody had followed her, she stopped zigzagging and flew as fast as she could to the small forest pool that only the tooth fairies knew about.

Ena knew that she had to get her timing just right. The trees around the pool had grown in such a way that they gradually filtered out the suns rays until there was only one left as the sun was setting. It touched the water at the very edge of the pool, where Ena Mel now knelt, clasping the small bottle containing all the specs of dust that had once been teeth. She watched the reflection of the setting sun on the water until it resembled a small, golden disc hidden underneath the surface. She gently poured the contents of the bottle onto the water.

At first, nothing happened. Then, the water began to bubble. Soon, the water was frothing wildly, and the bubbles began to shoot into the air, erupting out of a fountain of water that shot up from the centre of the pool. Inside each bubble was a tiny spec of glittering light that had once been a tooth. Believe it or not, there is almost nothing so pure in this world as one of your baby teeth. Tooth fairies have a special magic that can take all the good and pure things that make up a baby tooth and transform it into raw magical energy – which is very powerful indeed.

Ena watched as the bubbles disappeared up into the air. Some didn’t go very far at all and landed on the ground around the pool. Immediately, new and vibrant flowers like bluebells and foxgloves sprung up from the ground. As the bubbles landed on the trees, they spread their branches out and their buds and leaves opened up fully. Blossoms and pollen erupted from flowers everywhere as far as she could see. It was then that she noticed a shadow. It was Butterwick! She realised that he must have somehow followed her. She was very cross indeed, but couldn’t help smiling when she saw the big grin on his face.

As a house elf, Butterwick stood a little taller than Ena, but only about an inch or so. However, in the fairy realm that was like being a few feet taller than someone else! Something else you probably didn’t realise is that fairy clothes are always green in colour. They can be many different shades of green, and Butterwick was wearing a dark green tunic and waistcoat, and bottle green trousers. They were made of the softest cloth you can imagine.

“I always wondered where you went,” said Butterwick, still smirking “I don’t think I’ve ever been this deep into the forest before”. Ena smiled, and then with a flick of her wand she whispered “boogerburp”. Before he could deflect it, Butterwick let out a huge burp, and a tiny bogey flew out of his mouth. Butterwick spluttered as he tried to get the taste out of his mouth. “Guess I deserved that” he said finally “You know you shouldn’t be here,” scolded Ena, still smiling at her spell. She had thought of it herself, and as far as she knew, nobody else knew how to cast it. Suddenly, Butterwick looked up towards the pool. “Does he know he shouldn’t be here?” he asked. Ena looked up too.

Creeping carefully through the reeds on the far side of the pool was a frog. But unlike a normal frog, he was waking on his hind legs just like a person. He was carrying a satchel over one shoulder, and as he crept through the reeds he was collecting the bubbles before they hit the ground. He put each one in the satchel, carefully making sure they didn’t burst. When he had found five bubbles in total, he closed the flap on the satchel and began to hop away.


“Let’s follow him,” said Ena, “I want to know where he’s taking my bubbles” She looked at Butterwick for a moment “will you be able to keep up with me?” Butterwick smiled knowingly and took out a small flute from his jacket pocket. He played three shrill notes, and a handsome brown hare bounded out from underneath the trees. Ena raised her eyes and shook her head “You cheat!” she scolded again, “no wonder you were able to follow me!” Secretly though, she was quite impressed at how clever Butterwick had been. “Come on,” said Butterwick “the hoppity fellow is getting away”.

Ena flew high, keeping an eye on the frog as he hopped ahead of them whilst she also kept an eye on Butterwick, who was now riding on the back of the hare and following behind. It wasn’t long before the frog has led them even deeper into the forest. It didn’t stop until it reached the mouth of an enormous cave. It looked around for a moment, then made its way into the darkness. Ena folded her wings back and dived towards the cave, only spreading her wings again just before she hit the ground, bringing her to a perfect stop. Butterwick wasn’t far behind, and he and the hare soon leapt up to the cave entrance. Butterwick thanked the hare, and then let it skip back towards the forest trees. Ena took her wand out again, and gently blew on the tip until it glowed brightly enough to light their way. Butterwick and Ena took a deep breath and then they stepped into the cave together.

It was very dark inside the cave. Ena hovered a little way off the ground, but Butterwick had to pick his way through carefully by the light of her wand. They could hear the frog as he hopped over the cave floor, occasionally splashing into a puddle. Soon, they became aware of another noise – the sound of water crashing against rocks. Just as they were wondering what the noise might be, they began to see a glittering light. It was then that they realised that the cave was in fact a tunnel, leading to what must be a waterfall. As they approached the end of the tunnel, they could see that there was indeed a beautiful and enormous waterfall that cascaded down a sheer rock face into a huge pool at the bottom, close to where the tunnel came out.

Butterwick and Ena crouched in the long grass at the entrance to the tunnel. Ena let out a tiny gasp of shock. In front of them were hundreds of frogs! Some were standing on their hind legs like the frog that had collected the bubbles, whilst others wore strange looking helmets and carried vicious looking swords and shields that looked like lily pads. Ena decided to herself that they must be guard frogs. Then she began to wonder what it could be that they were guarding. She glanced at Butterwick, who seemed just as interested in the proceedings as she was.

The frogs seemed to be crowding round the frog with the satchel, who was making his way to the water. When he reached the edge of the pool, he bent his knees a little and jumped high in the air. Ena and Butterwick expected him to splash down into the water, but what happened instead was a little lily pad popped up out of the water as if by magic for him to land on. Then another, then another, and another, until they could see that they were acting like stepping-stones that led to an enormous lily pad at the centre of the pool. In the very centre of this pad was a large, unopened bud that the frog now stood in front of.

The frog slowly opened his satchel and took out the first of the bubbles with the magical dust inside. He gently let it drop from his hand onto the bud, where it landed with a loud ‘pop’. Immediately, little white flowers erupted all over it, but it still remained closed. He reached into the satchel again and brought out the second bubble. Again, he let it drop from his hand onto the bud. This time, a large thick green vine wove its way round the bud, clasping at both of its sides like long green fingers. Yet, it still remained closed. The frog brought out a third bubble and again let it drop. Beautiful blue and pink flowers opened on the vine and out of each one flew a tiny hummingbird. Each hummingbird had a bright blue body and pink wings to match the flowers and they sang a beautiful song as the sun began setting. But the bud itself still remained closed.


The fourth bubble was already in the frog’s hand and Ena and Butterwick watched in wonder as it burst upon the bud. Something stirred inside the bud and a white glow appeared from somewhere inside it. The frog stood back a little, just enough for Ena and Butterwick to see that the glow was coming from an enormous pearl that was now growing larger and larger between the leaves of the bud. The bigger the pearl grew, the easier it was to see inside. They could just make out the silhouette of a figure, curled up inside. Suddenly, the hummingbirds flew closer and closer to the leaves of the bud, taking pieces of vine in their beaks. They flew in a circle, wider and higher as they went, slowly pulling the leaves apart. Finally, the pearl was free. The frog took the last bubble in his hand, but this time instead of letting it drop, he blew gently so it lifted off his webbed fingers and it touched the side of the pearl.

There was a sound like thunder as the sides of the pearl broke, turning to water, which streamed downwards over the lily pad and into the pool. Ena beat her wings a few times, taking her a little way off the ground so she could see better. She let out a tiny gasp of astonishment. Lying curled up inside a silvery bowl – which was all that was left of the pearl, was a beautiful fairy. She was sound asleep. Her hair was the colour of autumn leaves just as they turn golden. Her wings, although tucked up behind her shone gold and silver with the setting sun. Ena, Butterwick and all the frogs waited in silence. Then, the fairy opened her eyes. They were the colour of the greenest waters of the deepest oceans. With a single beat of her wings, she gracefully lifted onto her feet.

Immediately, all the frogs bowed and lowered their heads. The fairy bowed her head in return, and then she looked straight at Ena Mel and smiled. Ena had been so excited by what she was seen, she had forgotten all about staying hidden and had floated high above the grass where she and Butterwick had been hiding. Everyone could see her. The frogs half ran, half hopped towards her. The guard frogs raced towards them brandishing their swords. Ena flew back down to join Butterwick. He seemed to be enjoying it, as he was grinning as usual.

Suddenly, the frogs stopped in their tracks. In the blink of an eye, the fairy had flown ahead of them, and had landed next to Ena. Ena had never seen any fairy fly so fast. Once again, all the frogs stopped and bowed low before her. The fairy was smiling warmly at the frogs. She turned and spoke to Ena “forgive my guardians. They are very protective of me. They have waited a long time for me to come” “How long?” asked Ena, still a little amazed at what she had seen “Five years,” replied the fairy, in a voice that seemed full of wisdom and understanding. Ena didn’t know what else to do “My name is Ena” she said, “and this is my friend Butterwick”. The fairy smiled warmly at them both “and I am Lily, one of the water fairies”.

Ena gasped. She had heard of the water fairies. No one she knew had ever seen one. She knew they were very special, even for fairies! As if sensing what Ena was thinking, Lily began to explain “my kind have always been few and far between. We are charged with bringing new life from the waters which we came. This very night, I will leave the fairy realm to plant new forests and to stir the oceans. I have only to daybreak before I must leave. Please stay with me and tell me stories of the realm”. Ena could see that Lily would be sad to leave the fairy realm, for it was a very special place. But she also knew that her job was even more special. So, she sat with Lily and began to tell her all the stories that she had ever heard.

As they laughed and told each other jokes and stories, the three fairies listened to frog singers and frog musicians as they sang and played throughout the night. One by one, the stars began to go out, and the glow of daybreak began to creep across the sky from the east. Lily smiled, even more warmly than she had before. She thanked Ena for the stories and for keeping her company throughout the night. She said goodbye to a very sleepy Butterwick who yawned as he shook her hand. As the sunlight hit her wings, she began to glow brilliantly gold, so brightly that Ena had to shield her eyes. The wind swept over the pool and the light began to fade. It wisped around Lily, beckoning her upwards and away. She smiled, and Ena caught a last glimpse of her dazzling green eyes. Then, she was gone, high above them, weaving in and out of the clouds as the wind took her up and away until she was just a spec in the sky. Soon, she had disappeared altogether.

Ena sighed. She turned to say goodbye to the frogs who had kept them company all night, but already they were hopping back down to the pool and jumping into the water. As the sun rose, a mist began to rise off the pool and soon it was covered in swirling grey vapour. Ena Mel and Butterwick smiled at each other. They made their way back to the edge of the forest, and decided there and then that they would tell no one else about the secret cave. It had been a wonderful adventure to find the pool, and they would always remember their meeting with Lily, the lily pad fairy. They hoped they would meet her again.






A Dreamy Midsummer’s Night

On what was already promising to be a rather balmy late spring eve, I found myself on the lovely country estate of Squerryes Court in Westerham, Kent, awaiting a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The family motto inscribed over the entrance reads ‘licet esse beatis’, meaning permit oneself to be joyful. And there was certainly no lack of opportunity, with the lawn beside the lake adorned with festive food and drink options. It was also my first opportunity to sample Squerryes sparkling wine which although I am no connoisseur, I found very light, refreshing and wonderfully tasty. It was the perfect drop for the event, and I will definitely be seeking out bottles of Squerryes from now on whenever I might fancy a permit to be joyful!

The Courtyard of Westerham were on hand to ply the punters with pulled pork baguettes that were superb, and The Black Cab Coffee Co made sure none of us would be lulled into a lie down, no matter how good the faerie lullabies.

The house itself was also the perfect backdrop for the event, something I have to admit I wasn’t sure of at first. That said, I could definitely imagine it lending itself perfectly to The Importance of Being Ernest or even The Sound of Music. Maybe something for the future! But with A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s woodland setting, I was struggling to imagine how the 18th century Georgian manor would fit. But what I hadn’t counted on was how the incredible cast would immerse us deep into the thicket no matter what, and how nature would lend a little helping hand too.


The cast really was something special, with National Theatre, RSC and other accolades too many to mention among their back catalogue. And if that doesn’t impress some of the younger members of the household, you can mention that Abby Ford, who plays Hermia, has a blink and you’ll miss it part in Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban as the maid who is roared at by an unruly guest in the leaky cauldron! Her take on Hermia however is certainly not to be missed, as her zings towards both Tom McCall’s Lysander and Samuel Collings’s Demetrius delivered some of the highest hilarity of the evening, as did the laments of Nicola Kavanagh’s Helena.

To take on the role of faerie king Oberon, presence is a must, and Paul Mcewan provides it aplenty. He oozed with the confident power-hungry self righteousness you’d expect from the dark ruler of faerieland. And Tim Treloar’s Bottom threatened to bring the house down on several occasions with his brilliant braying of some of Shakespeare’s most classic comic lines.

Puck is one of my favourite characters in both literature and mythology. Also known as Robin Goodfellow, he is identified in the play as a mischievous sprite, but his origins are heavily hobgoblin based. I have always found it interesting that tales of puck-like creatures are widespread across the ancient world, from our own homely hobgoblin, to the more dangerous Pukwudgie of Native American legend. Makes you wonder what really might be in the woods doesn’t it?


Safe on stage though, James Cooney depicted a gregarious and greatly likeable Goodfellow, showing some affable athletics in the process. As I say though, this is a strong cast and I could make good mention of each and all, but suffice to say there is no weak link in this chain.

It could have been the magic of the sunset against the red brick house, or maybe even the bubbly, but having not heard or read Shakespeare for some years, it was wonderful to be immersed again into the rich language and also to be reminded of the playwright’s sense of humour. The bard was clearly mindful of a sense of parody, with the ‘play within a play’ of Pyramus and Thisbe not just resembling his own work of Romeo and Juliet, but also alluding to what he recognised as its cliched themes. There is also a later reference to the sisters three of Macbeth.

What really helped the performance become more magical and alive though were the sounds surrounding us. As twilight beckoned, things definitely took on a more ethereal nature. As Puck wove spells of mischief on stage, another trickster sang to us from the sidelines. A song thrush, repeating his mimicked cries of other birds in triplicate from the trees, chose to do so just as Puck was beckoning Lysander and Demetrius in the same way by throwing his voice. Moorhens cried warnings from the lake behind as Oberon felt pity and regret for his deeds. The coincidental calls of nature from all around seemed perfectly placed and timed throughout. Perhaps there really was some magic afoot. Either way, the production was enchanting, and the end applause so constant and heartfelt I’m sure any number of faeries would have snapped back into life right there and then. The last performances are today, so if you still haven’t seen it, your time is short!

I on the other hand can look forward to another weekend at Squerryes for the upcoming celebration, where I will be signing and selling freshly pressed copies of Shadow Beast on Friday and Saturday.

And for those of you who might not believe in a little bit of orchestrated magic and manipulation, I’ll just end with this. As I made my way back to the car and joined the throng of vehicles waiting to exit the estate, I found myself admiring a slightly beaten up, original blue mini. The owner gave me a knowing wink and nod, and as I looked away I noticed the model name on the side, sprite. Needless to say, by the time I looked back, the car had disappeared into the inky night and the road was clear. Rather apt wouldn’t you say?