Share to Facebook Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share via email

Scarborough Legends

Scarborough has some tall stories as well as a rich history. They may not be true but they were believed. Some perhaps have a grain of truth.

The reader can decide.....

12th Century: Old Nick Visits Scarborough

(August 1165)
There was a great tempest in the province of York during the same month (as two comets). Many people saw the old enemy taking the lead in that tempest. He was in the form of a black horse of large size and always kept hurrying towards the sea, while he was followed by thunder and lightening and fearful noises and a destructive hail.

The footprints of this accursed horse were of a very enormous size, especially on the hill near the town of Scardeburch, from which he gave a leap into the sea, and here, for a whole year afterwards, they were plainly visible, the impression of each foot being deeply graven into the earth.

12th century

back to top


14th Century: Robin Hood Comes to Scarborough

Here begins the story of Robin Hood turned Fisherman

In summer time, when the leaves were green, and the flowers sweet and gay, when the lily appeared with the primrose and cowslip-buds, Robin Hood grew weary of the forest and woods, and left off to chase the fat deer.

"I will hasten to Scarborough now," said he, " and become a fisherman, for a fisherman's trade is good, and their harvest is in the sea."

And when Robin came to Scarborough, he took up his inn at a widow's house, not far from the wide ocean.

"Tell me, my bold young fellow," said the widow, "where thou wast born, and what is thy means of support."

"I am a poor fisherman," he replied, " and want to be employed."

" Then what is thy name," asked she.

"In mine own country," said Robin, "I am called Simon Wise."

"Simon Wise, Simon Wise," said the good dame, "I am afraid thou hast got an unfit name, that may make thee the jest of thy fellows; however Simon, if thou wilt serve me, I will give thee good wages, for I have as good a ship of my own as any that sails in the sea."

So Robin consented to serve this good widow, and went by the name of poor Simon. After a time the ship went to sea, and they sailed along for several days in hopes to take plenty of fish, but when others cast their baited hooks into the sea, Simon only cast in his bare lines.

"It will be a long while," said the master, " ere this lubber will learn to thrive upon the sea. Let him do as he will, he shall have none of our fish, for in truth he is worthy of none." ^

" What a hard fate is mine," said poor Simon, " since I set up for a fisherman before I had learnt my trade; now every clownish fisherman laughs me to scorn, but if I had them in Sherwood groves, and was chasing the fat fallow deer, I would set as little by them as they do now by me."

Away they sailed, and steered their course towards home, but the next day they espied a French ship of war, that sailed vigorously after them.

"O we are now lost," said the master, "unhappy the day that I was born, for our ship and our cargo will be taken from us, and these Frenchmen will carry us to the coast of France, and lay us fast in prison."

But Simon said, "Fear them not, master, only give me my bow in my hand, and never a Frenchman shall live to board us."

"Hold thy peace, thou great lubber," said the master, "for thou art nothing but brags and boasts, and if I should throw thee into the sea, there would only be a piece of lumber lost."

Simon was grievously vexed at these words, and taking his bow, he went towards the ship's hatch.

"Master, tie me to the mast," cried he, "and let me stand fair at the mark, then give me my bow in my hand, and if I spare a single Frenchman may they shoot their arrows through my breast."

Then Simon drew his arrow to the head, and shot with such boldness and skill, that, in the twinkling of an eye, he pierced the first Frenchman's heart.

He took such good aim, and shot so hastily that not a Frenchman could be seen, for they all fell down dead through the hatches below.

"Now, master, untie me from the mast," cried he, "that I may go and board the French ship."

And when they came thither, they found all their enemies slain, and discovered on board, twelve thousand pounds in glittering gold.

Then said Simon, " One half of the ship I will give to our good mistress and her three little children, and the other half I will divide among you, who are my comrades, to make you think well of poor Simon."

"Not so," said the master, "for that would be a shame, if we should receive that which you have won so gallantly; 'tis all your own right, and you shall have the whole."

"If so," answered Simon, "with this glittering gold I will buy an habitation for the oppressed, where they may live in peace and rest."

Poor simple Simon though despis'd,
Soon made his skill and valour pris'd,
And prov'd bold Robin Hood;
The Frenchman's gold when he possessed,
He rais'd a dwelling for th' oppressed,
And made his promise good.

14th century

back to top


17th Century: The spinner and the Cannon Ball

A woman was spinning in an upper room at the Old Globe inn during Civil War times. This hostelry was at the upper left end of Globe street. She chanced to drop her spindle. As she stooped to pick it up, a cannon was fired from a ship in the harbour. The cannon ball passed directly over her, striking the distaff to pieces.
It stood in the very place where her head would have been, had she not bent down.

17th century

back to top

20th Century: The Parrot

A parrot kept at the Sandside Mission to Seamen in Scarborough talked vigorously until the morning of Wednesday 16th December 1914. That day, at eight o'clock, German warships began the bombardment of Scarborough. 
The parrot never spoke again.

20th century

back to top

Legends researched by John Rushton

For All Enquiries

Follow Us Online