Tom was the best poacher in all of Cornwall. His nightly stew was never short of a rabbit and a different feather graced his cap every day. He went undercover, got a job as a gamekeeper at Treworgy Manor up near St Cleer, but he didn't give up the poaching and his fame spread far and wide and all the way to hell.
One dark evening Tom was working the moor near Minions when he was surprised by a stranger who immediately challenged him to a poaching contest.
"Let's see..." said the stranger "...who can bag the most souls in a night."
Tom laughed and took the stranger on. No one could bag as many pheasants or trap as many rabbits as Tom, several had tried, all had failed.
Tom set to work, trapped and trapped all night, walking the moor from Crow's Nest to Henwood. In the morning as the sun rose over Caradon Hill he stood with a huge heap of swag at his feet: braces of pheasant, warrens of rabbits, even a deer or two. The stranger stood empty handed.
"Think I've won." said Tom.
"I wouldn't be too sure." said the stranger."Listen!"
...and Tom listened, and heard the most terrible howling and wailing and crying, from St Cleer and Tremar, Darite and Minions.
"I've bought the plague to Cornwall," said the stranger "and taken more souls in a night than you could poach in a lifetime. And I've not finished yet. Come with me Tom."
That morning nothing stirred on the moor. But where Tom had met the stranger there now stood a tall standing stone, on top of which sat a large black rook, cackling into the wind.
retold by Sue Field and Mark camp
- Caradon Hill - Moor Stones