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Fairies are good creatures, aren't they? It's good luck to see a fairy, isn't it?

Not if you're out walking in Penwortham woods it isn't!

According to local legend, Penwortham Woods are where fairies from all over the North West of England (and some say Southern Scotland too - though the woods around Whithorn Priory also make that claim) hold their funerals. To see a fairy funeral is most certainly not a good thing - you'd be better off coming face to face with a boggart!

So. There's the story of Eli Robinson and Giley Leatherbarrow. They'd been out supping one night in The Black Horse in Preston. Giley thinks the missus is going to be none too pleased about him rolling in at well past midnight, so he says to Eli "We'll cut through t'woods!" and Eli sees no reason to object. Sure, the ancient churchyard in there can give you the heebie-jeebies, but the pair of them had had enough dutch courage in the form of Thwaites' bitter.

It's nearly midnight. Giley is telling Eli the joke about the man from Wigan. The two friends are laughing like girls. Then they see it. At first they think it's kiddies playing, then they remember what hour of night it is. A procession of tiny people is wending its way along the path to the old churchyard. It's a cortege - they know that because of the tiny tiny coffin.

"Bloody hell!" says Eli

"Blood and sand!" gasps Giley

Eli has a good look into the coffin, which is an open casket (as fairy coffins always are).

"Sweet blast and buggeration!" he exclaims. And why? Because the face of the fairy in the coffin is his own. He sees himself, lying there, ready to be put to rest forever.

Some would take this as a bad omen. They'd be right to. Eli and Giley ran like the clappers all the way home. And they were still cursed by their spouses. "Fairy funeral?" says Ma Robinson "I'll give you fairy bloody funeral! It's that Thwaiteses ale that'll be the death of you, you daft apeth!"

But, of course, it wasn't the Thwaites' ale that was the death of Eli Robinson. Within a month of seeing his own visage in that tiny coffin, he was dead. The story is a bit confused here - some say he fell from a haystack (in which case, Thwaites might well have played its part), while others say he was driven mad by the awful memory of that night and took his own life.

The moral of this story, of course, is that you should never go looking into any caskets if you're out walking in Penwortham woods.

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