Bury’s Devilish Schoolboys, Lancashire
An old legend concerning the town of Bury and its famous grammar school relates how some schoolboys, using it seems the remarkably easy method of reciting the Lord’s Prayer backwards, conjured up Old Nick himself. Having done so they did not know how to get rid of their guest.
Mr Hodgson, a senior master, realised something was badly amiss when as he was peaceably enjoying his midday meal his wooden trencher began to spin on the table in front of him. Pulling on his coat – perhaps even then with requisite leather patches at the elbows – Mr Hodgson proceeded to the school, encountering there the devil. Perhaps his own youth had been misspent and he had experience to count on; perhaps he was learned in the black arts; whatever, Hodgson knew how to banish Satan: catch him out with a question he could not answer, though he only had three attempts before he would have to pay for failure with his soul.
His first two questions were quickly answered: for one the devil had to count grains of sand at a particular spot; for the other it was blades of grass. One chance remained: with a mind honed by years of working with little devils in front of him Hodgson didn’t panic, and came up with something Satan could not do: count the letters in the great bible in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin , where naturally the evil one would not enter. Frustrated, the devil dropped straight to hell through the schoolroom floor, leaving a great cracked stone that was shown to those who entered the school thereafter by way of warning.
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