* Suitable for a bedtime story
Matt Mathews was sitting on the Old Crow Pound waiting for his father. He was a small boy with soft brown hair and dark brown eyes. His clothes were thin but clean and well pressed and his boots were nearly new. Eating a large flaky pasty, Matt watched the crows as they circled the fields all about. A thin crow with very sharp eyes came to perch on a rock just beside him and at first Matt wasn't sure how to respond, then he threw the crow a bit of pasty and said,
'I bet you are one of St. Neot's pilfering crows.'
'I am,' said the crow, moving sideways toward the boy and his lunch.
'I learned off my Granny that St. Neot lived long, long ago, that makes you a liar as well as a thief.' The boy reached for a stone to throw at the crow.
'If you and I remember rightly you offered me the treat and I accepted,' Matt paused stone poised while crow kept talking, 'And if I am a little more precise; I am a descendent of them crows and therefore not a liar as such.' The crow appeared to grin, or was it gleam, at the boy and Matt let the stone bounce away.
'Passed down the generations to me has been something worth having,' said the crow.
'What's that?' asked Matt with interest.
'Saint Neot was a very learned and wise man and I have inherited his knowledge. Perhaps for a little taste more of your delicious pasty; I shall give you a tale, and in it a little bit of the St Neot's knowledge.'
Well, Matt Mathews looked hard at the crow from behind his soft brown fringe and he saw a thin and ragged bird and Matt decided he liked the crow after all and the bird did seem rather wise and so he thought may be telling the truth.
'Alright,' said Matt, throwing the rest of his pasty to the crow, 'I'm listening.'
'Then I'll tell you the story of St Neot and the pilfering crows,' began the crow. 'Times were very hard in Cornwall at that time and everyone worked on the land, they grew what they could to feed their hungry families. Now, us crows also had to feed our hungry families, and we understood that when the people spread the corn seeds over the fields we were welcome to eat them. Let me be double clear on this: we crows were very sure we were entitled to eat the corn as it was sown. The people were not so clear about this and they began to guard their fields so the birds could not eat the corn seeds. Every day they guarded their fields, every day but Sundays, when they went to church to listen to St. Neot preaching and praying. Every Sunday the crows from far about ate all they could from the fields, a whole week's worth of corn to which they were entitled and every Sunday the people were very cross, that their corn had disappeared. Finally the people decided not to go to church on Sundays, but to guards their fields instead.
'St. Neot was then very cross and he called the people to a meeting in which they made quite clear to St. Neot that food had to come first. St. Neot wasn't so sure about this but he did have a regular supply of fish himself, so he decided on a plan.
'For many days St. Neot laboured alone on the common not far from the village building a huge pound out of earth and granite. When he was finished, he called to the crows to come to the pound and they couldn't help but obey him. You see Matt, St. Neot had a way of communicating with birds and animals, he was entrancing. In a flash they all came to the pound and perched on its walls until the inside was black, totally black. St. Neot couldn't believe how many crows lived in the area, no wonder the fields were so quickly stripped of corn.
'Now listen to me crows,' said St. Neot sternly. 'I am going to call you here to the Crow Pound every Sunday morning and you will come and stay here while I am giving my Sunday service. It is very important the people need not worry about you pilfering crows and can listen to my words of wisdom.'
'St. Neot went to the village and called the people to church telling them the crows were impounded in the Crow Pound. The crows found they rather liked the hymn singing and tried their best to join in with a mighty crowing chorus. From then on, every year St. Neot was alive, the crows were called to the Crow Pound on Sundays at the time when the corn was being sown.'
As the crow finished his tale, Matt Mathew's father came round the corner and the crow flew off across the fields.
retold by Anna Chorlton
Reference: Legends and Tales of North Cornwall Tregarthen
- Bodmin Moor - Moor Stories