It is always nice to be able to introduce you all to a new guest blogger. Possibly the nicest thing about the CFZ bloggo is that it is a living, breathing community and new people arrive on a regular basis. I can't tell you anything about Liz apart from the fact that she bought some books from us at Uncon, briefly spoke to Richard and had a charmingly old-fashioned habit of referring to me as `Mr Downes,' when everyone else calls me `Jon` or `Hey You` (or sometimes something more scatological), until I told her not to.
She is also the unpaid bloggo sub-editor and author of a charming and very elegantly written fortean novella called The Second Level, which I strongly urge you all to buy at this link:
The Baum restaurant and wine bar rests snugly in the time warp that is Rochdale’s Toad Lane, next door to the Pioneer museum and across from St. Mary’s the Baum church. It serves glorious food and real Lancashire ale. You can’t say fairer than that. However, there’s another reason for north-western readers of the CFZ bloggo to dash out to their cars and wing their way in our general direction: the Baum rabbit.
In the first half of the fourteenth century the Earl of Oxford rushed to the little town of Rachedall (as Rochdale was then known) to warn Blanche, the woman he loved, that the Black Death was on its way. The poor fellow had to walk much of the way since his horse died from exhaustion and at Blackstone Edge, the moor land above our town, he lay down by the Monstone (a large rock with a legend all of its own) to sleep.
He was awakened much later by the sound of laughter and music. He sat up and beheld a crowd of butterfly-winged fairies dancing in a circle. The fairy queen appeared and remonstrated with her people for celebrating while the townsfolk of Rachedall suffered, for while Oxford slept, the plague had reached the vicinity. To prove to their human guest that fairies were capable of kindness, the queen granted Oxford the ability to save one Rochdalian from the Black Death by writing their name on the Monstone. Without hesitation the Earl scratched out ‘Blanche de Boulton’ with his diamond ring. Immediately, the fairy horde disappeared and there, sitting on the Monstone, was a beautiful white rabbit, which wore a golden torc about its neck.
Oxford took the rabbit to Rachedall and the house of his beloved. Blanche was already stricken with the disease but as soon as she held the little rabbit in her arms all symptoms disappeared. Blanche’s brother, Thomas de Boulton, was parish priest of the town and she and Oxford helped him tend the sick of the community. They often rode as far as Todmorden and Castleton, always taking the rabbit along; however, it was the area known as ‘the Baum’ that was the worst affected so Blanche and her rabbit would mostly be seen there. It’s said that after the death of England’s last victim of Bubonic plague, Blanche’s white rabbit disappeared, never to be seen by its former owner again; though to this day, sightings of the Baum rabbit still occur in that area of Rochdale, mainly, it has to be said, by people who have just had a skin-full in the pub of the same name.