Dandos Dogs - St Germans, Cornwall
Stories of the devil claiming his own are not uncommon in our folklore, but the story of Dando's Dogs has added piquancy as in this case the devil claims a churchman.
Long ago the ancient priory church of St Germans had a priest named Dando who in spite of, or because of, his riotous living was loved by his flock. Perhaps because of his own sins he more readily forgave the sins of his parishioners. Dando enjoyed the pleasures of the flesh to the full: he 'sported' with women, and perhaps with men too; his table was of the groaning variety, laden especially with game from his endless hunting. The uproarious priest even hunted on the Sabbath, and when hunting just as at home he drank to his fill, in his drunkenness paying no heed to crops or fences as his hounds and henchmen followed him wherever their quarry might take them.
One autumn day Dando and his fellow hunters were out racing around the countryside. They were joined by a mysterious and elegant stranger, dressed in black and mounted on a fine black hunter. The weather was warm, and Dando's exertions had him drinking even more than was his wont. Soon he had drained the flasks of all the ale and wine his followers had brought, and they told him they had no more. Dando shouted at them to go to hell to bring him something to slake his thirst if needs be, or he would go to fetch it himself. Now the stranger came forward and gave Dando his flask, which proved to contain a spirit the like of which Dando had never tasted before, prompting him to enquire if the gods drank such liquor, the reply being that not gods but devils enjoyed it. When Dando wished himself a devil to taste the stuff again, he was lost. The devil grabbed the priest by the scruff of the neck, threw him across his horse, and galloped back to hell with his prize, racing ahead of the rest of the chasing hunt until he came to the river Lynher. With a mighty leap the devil's horse soared far above the river, then plunged into it, leaving the waters steaming and bubbling behind him.
The tale, though, does not end with the damnation of the priest. His loyal hounds tried to chase after him, but could never catch the devil of course. On some nights they try still, and are heard barking and howling their way across distant Bodmin Moor or St Germans itself. Sometimes the ghostly hounds are seen, an unpleasant portent for the observer. Sometimes the dogs will haunt the skies above some unfortunate's dwelling, their presence signalling evil events to come for that household.
In the old church at St Germans there is said to be a chair carved by one of the parishioners who witnessed the dreadful demise of the cursed cleric, retelling his terrible tale for the edification of those who came after.
So watch out as you cross Bodmin Moor, or come to the pretty village of St Germans some miles from it. And never accept drinks from strangers.
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