The Troller's Gill Hound

by Ian Hobson
(Guiseley, Leeds, UK)

The Troller's Gill Hound

A Yorkshire Dales story by Ian Hobson

Tom Trowler had had one too many. As he made his way out of the Grouse Inn in semidarkness, he missed the step and stumbled forward, almost falling flat on his face.

'Mind how you go, Tom,' said old George Butterworth, as he followed Tom out of the pub. 'Are you gonna be alreet?'

'Aye,' replied Tom, regaining has balance and looking over his shoulder at George. 'There's nowt wrong wi me, lad… G'night.'

'Night, Tom.' George was older than Tom by at least twenty years, but he didn't mind being called lad. He stood for a moment and watched Tom set off down the road towards Grassington, shaking his head as Tom lurched first to the right and then to the left, before disappearing into the night. 'These young'uns can't take their ale,' he said, out loud. 'It's a good job tomorrow's a Sunday.' George turned and strode off in the opposite direction.

As Tom continued along the road, guided by the silhouette of the dry-stone walls on either side, he gradually sobered enough to keep a reasonably straight line. And as he heard the sound of running water, he found the gap-stile in the wall, beside the beck, and squeezed through it. Suddenly clouds that had obscured the moon parted, and the moon showed through, illuminating a grassy track: a shortcut that avoided the mine-workings and led, via a ravine, almost directly to Tom's cottage in Skyrehome. If he hadn't been so drunk, he might have felt guilty about coming home to his family so late; though it did cross his mind that his wife would give him the sharp edge of her tongue again. But, he'd worked hard at the lead mine all week, earned his pay, and… well, why shouldn't he have a pint or two?

He cursed as his right foot caught an exposed tree root, causing him to stumble off the path and crash into a sapling. Then he almost jumped out of his skin, as a startled grouse, broke cover and took to the air, berating him with its noisy distress call. Tom cursed again, shook his fist towards the receding sound, then continued downhill, slipping on the dewy grass but managing to stay upright, and soon nearing the lower end of the ravine where the path began to level out.

The moon was still lighting Tom's way, but mist, rising from nearby marshy ground, began to drift across the path. And as the mist thickened around him, he heard someone or something ahead. He stopped and listened. Somewhere in the distance, a sheep bleated, but apart from the gurgling of the nearby stream, there was no other sound. He shrugged and walked on a few paces then stopped. There it was again, but this time closer: a swift four-legged animal, coming straight towards him. Tom stepped off the path as the sound grew louder, but his foot found a rabbit hole, and he toppled over into the bracken as the creature came closer. It's a wolf, Tom thought, as he heard the animal panting, and, frightened, he raised his arms defensively. But again the sound stopped. Tom couldn't believe it. He was sure he'd heard a wolf, or perhaps a large dog, only a few paces away. It was then that he remembered the story of the gill ghost: a huge grey hound that supposedly roamed the gill at night.

Tom strained his eyes and ears, but he could see and hear nothing; just the mist and the gurgling stream. He scrambled to his feet, dismissing the idea as an old wives' tale. Perhaps he had had too much ale. That must be it. There's no such thing as ghosts; two-legged or four-legged. He laughed at his own foolishness and continued on along the path, then froze. Somewhere behind him, a beast had begun to howl. The sound seemed to pierce his very soul. Then again he heard the panting and the sound of the beast racing towards him. Tom ran for his life, blundering off the path, forcing his way through the bracken and stumbling over unseen obstacles, until finally he stepped into a void and fell, tumbling head over heels and landing with a splash.

Tom lay on his back in the stream. 'Please, God!' he screamed out loud. 'Please don't let it kill me!' Then, out of the mist, loomed the beast. It stood on top of the small embankment that Tom had just fallen from. It was a huge silvery-grey hound. As it looked down at Tom, its tongue lolled from its mouth and its fang-like teeth glinted in the moonlight. Then, as it leaped from the embankment and fell towards him, Tom tried to move, but his limbs were made of lead; and as the grey shadow devoured him, he tried to scream, but no sound left his lips. But then, just as suddenly as the hound had appeared, it was gone, seeming to have dissolve into the mist.

Tom's heart was beating so loudly it was the only sound he could hear. Slowly he rolled over and struggled to his knees and, shivering with cold and fear, he clambered out of the beck and somehow found his way back to the footpath. And as he staggered back to the safety of his cottage, he vowed never to drink or to take that way home again.


Extract from a Yorkshire Dales walking book: Many legends centre around Troller's Gill, mostly referring to a spectre, in the shape of a large hound. A notable sighting of this ghost was by a lead miner, called Troller or Trowler, on his way home from work one night (and perhaps after calling at the Grouse Inn on the Pateley Bridge road, near the source of the beck).

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