Stockport

In the nineteenth century a ghost known as the Gatley Shouter was said to haunt the
Gatley Carrs, a swampy morass near the river in the parishes of Stockport, Northen (now
Northenden) and Didsbury, in Cheshire (now Greater Manchester). Fletcher Moss,
writing in 1894, told the story ‘in the language of the old folks who remember the
occurrence’, and in 1898 he told another version in many of the same words but with
additional details. He says he had been told the whole tale many years before by an old
man who was then over eighty: ‘I am not sure whether he said he was present at the great
hunt or only remembered it.’ Both 1894 and 1898 versions may come from this source,
the differences in the 1898 text probably being attributable to Moss’s adding information
gleaned from other informants in the interim.

In both tellings, the Shouter was in life a dishonest tradesman who after death is being
punished for giving short measure: in 1894 he is reported as lamenting ‘milk short o’
measure, butter short o’ weight, oh dear, oh dear,’ but in 1898: ‘The Gatley Shouter sang
a verse of an old song, sang it often in Gatley Carrs when the moon was at full:

“Milk and water sold I ever,
Weight or measure gave I never.” ’

Almost exactly the same lament (only two words different) was uttered by Old Molly
Lee at BURSLEM, Staffordshire.

Fletcher Moss’s two versions with their different details are a salutary reminder that
when a nineteenth-century collector says a story is being told ‘in the language of the old
folks who remember the occurrence’, this does not necessarily mean that what follows
will be a verbatim transcript of what the storyteller in fact said.
In the earlier account the Shouter is called a boggart, but in 1898 is described as ‘an
uneasy spirit who came out of the grave in Northen churchyard, and squeaked and
gibbered about the Carr Lane to Gatley’. Even in the first telling Fletcher Moss
acknowledges that ‘Th’ mon ’ad bin a Barrow,’ and in 1898 he identifies him more
precisely:

Aye, sure, th’ Gatley Shouter wur Jim Barrow’s ghost. ’E cum fro’ Cross Acres, t’other side o’ Gatley.
Them Gatley folk wur allus a gallus [mischievous] lot. Owd Jim wur desprit fond o’ brass, an’ ’e stuck to
aw as ’e could lay ode on. ’E ’d a flayed two fleas for one ’ide, ’e wud, an’ when ’e deed Owd Scrat got
’im an’ ‘e warmt ‘im ’e did so, an’ Jim mi’t a bin ’eard a neets moaning, ‘Oh dear, oh dear, wa-a-tered
milk, wa-a-tered milk,’ till folks got plaguey feart a goin’ yon road arter dark. Now there come a new
passon to Northen, a scholar fresh from Oxford or Rome or someweers, chok’-fu’ o’ book-larnin’, an’ ’e
played th’ hangment wi’ aw th’ ghostses i’ these parts, an’ ’e said ’e’d tackle ’im. So ’e got aw th’ parish
as could read or pray a bit to cum wi’ their Bibles, an’ one neet when th’ moon wur out Owd Scrat mun a
bin firin’ up, for th’ Shouter wur bein’ rarely fettled by th’ way as ’e moaned. An’ aw th’ folk got round
’im, an’ they drew toart one another in a ring like, an’ kept cumin’ closer till at last they ’d gotten ’im in a
corner i’ th’ churchyard by th’ yew-tree, an th’ passon was on th’ grave, an’ ’e whips a bit of chalk out o’
’is pocket an’ draws a holy ring round ’em aw, an’ aw th’ folk jooin ’ands and [sic] pray desprit loike, an’
th’ passon ’ops about an’ shouts an’ bangs th’ book till ’e’s aw o’ a muck sweat. An’ ’e prayed at ’im in
Latin too, mind yo’, as weel as English, ani’ th’ poor ghost moans an’ chunners an’ gets littler an’ littler till
’e fair sweals away like a sneel that’s sawted. An’ at last th’ devil wur druv out o’ im, an’ ’e lets ’im abide
as quiet as a mouse. ’E’s now under yon big stone near by th’ passon’s gate. Yo’ may see it for yosen. It’s
theer now.”

‘You may see it for yosen’ – therefore by implication the story was true.

SEE ALSO:

SOURCE:

Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008

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