The Legend of La Biche
There is not a Parish in Guernsey which in times past was not thought to be haunted, and many of the haunting were by animals. There was a headless dog which haunted the Ville au Roi, and this was supposed to be the unquiet spirit of the wicked Bailiff, who hid some silver cups and then tried to have an innocent man blamed for the theft.
Cats and dogs often hear, and see, things which we do not, so it is not suprising hw often the crop up in legends. Witches were supposed frequently to take the form of black cats, and dogs were supposed to be a very unlucky sign if they were seen in ghostly form. Legend tells of a black dog which haunted districts in the Clos de Valle, and was a portent of death. There was also another black dog which haunted the area near Sausmarez Manor.
Big birds such as magpies and crows sometimes appeared in suspicious circumstances, and they, with hares and rabbits, were often associated with witchcraft.
There is a legend about a noted witch in Alderney, which was told by a very respectable local man. Apparently he was returning home after milking his cows, and noticed two very large black birds flying overhead, and they swooped down behind a small furze bush, and disappeared, but the witch rose up from behind the bush and ran away. He said that the bush was much too small to have hidden her. There is also the story of the witch in Guernsey who was taken to be executed, and all the way to the place of execution a great black crow was seen hovering overhead, and croaking. When she was being tied to the stake, the witch begged one of the bystanders for a piece of twine, and tying one end to her girdle she threw the other end into the air. The raven swooped down, caught the thread in its beak, and rose into the air, carrying the witch with it.
As for farm animals, they too come into legend and stories. Ghostly pigs were nearly always female and accompanied by piglets. They were thought to be unlucky for seafarers, perhaps because pigs were sacred to the Ancient Goddess who had charge of the four winds. There was supposed to be a white horse which appeared in the Câtel, another one haunted the area near Le Gron in St Saviour’s.
There seems to be only one legend about a goat, and this was told to Sir Edgar MacColloch, by a distant relative of a man to whom the haunting were supposed to have happened. It appears, so the legend tells us, that there is a certain corner in the parish of St Martin’s, in the Carrefour David area, and between the Saints Road and the Villiette, which is known as the Le Coin de la Biche, the corner of the nanny goat. This was at one time supposed to be haunted by an enormous goat.
It is interesting to learn that this particular corner was intended to be the site of the Parish Church. The builders started to build the Church, but could not make any progress, because every night all the granite and stones and workmen’s tools would vanish mysteriously. This went on for some time, and it was found quite impossible to build the Church near Saints Road. It was eventually built where all the tools were taken by mysterious hands every night, and where it stands today, at La Belleuse. From that time on the corner was considered unlucky, and to be haunted by a frightening goat, La Biche.
One evening at the end of the last century, some men had been collecting vraic at Saints Bay, and in those days the road leading down to the bay was more like the water lane at Moulin Huet. There was just a narrow footpath, and a ditch on the side, down which water ran to the sea, so it was an extremely difficult path for a cart loaded with heavy vraic. The men were using three oxen and two horses to get up the slope, and were feeling very tired and hungry after their day’s work. It was very late by the time they got to the haunted corner, and as they approached the place one of the men said jokingly “Do you think we will see the goat?” And his companion replied cheerfully, “If we see her she can do us no harm.” No sooner had he spoken than the form of an enormous nanny goat appeared and rested its front hooves on the cart. No matter how hard the terrified men urged the animals to move, the oxen and horses just could not pull the cart, even though the ground was now level. The ghostly beast kept its forelegs on the cart and stared at the men. I the end the men had to unharness their animals, and leave the cart full of vraic standing in the lane. The next morning when it was daylight they came with one ox and one horse, and with no difficulty pulled the cart home.
Another night, a man was visiting his relative in the Villiette, and took a short cut past the haunted corner. He carried a lighted torch of resin and straw as he felt that this would protect him, but to his horror he heard a clanking chain, and saw a large brown beast with huge red eyes. The ghostly animal walked by his side, although he tried to give it no room by walking in the middle of the narrow lane. On his return the same animal was waiting for him and accompanied him until he reached Le Coin de la Biche, where it disappeared.
After I had told this legend, a lady rang me to say that she could not remember her uncle meeting her cousins from school, because they were afraid to pass Le Coin de la Biche, and quite recently an old lady of the parish told me all about the ghostly goat, so the legend of La Biche is still being passed on today.