What happened was, many, many years ago lived a woman called Meg. She was the postwoman for the moorland area around Tavistock which was no small area to cover. Every day except for high days and holidays she would lug her heavy postbag over the moors. No matter what the weather she always managed to deliver the mail to all the outlying hamlets and farms. Meg, bless her, loved her job because not only did it mean she was out in the fresh air all day but as she trundled around the various houses it gave her a chance for some ‘newsin’ (gossiping). Not a lot went on that the postwoman didn’t know about.
As time passed, Meg grew old and weary, the many years exposed to the Dartmoor wind and rain had taken their toll on her. Rheumatics and ‘skiatics’ ate into her old bones until finally she had to give up her post round. Meg soon became bored and so to keep the ‘coin a comin’ and to give herself something to do the old woman took to knitting. It was said her jumpers would keep out the worst of the moorland winter cold. The small amount of ‘coin’ she made from her clothes just about covered the rent of her small attic room in a cottage below Pew tor.
Year followed year and finally old Meg became completely bedridden and so her days were spent in bed knitting and looking out across the tors and moors she loved and knew so well. The woman who she rented her attic room from would bring up her meals and she was the only soul the old woman ever saw. It was a busy house with a large family of children which meant the landlady had little time to spare but old Meg insisted that every night a pitcher of milk was left on the attic window for the piskies. Throughout her many years of tramping the moor the old post woman had learned to always respect and be kind to the little folk. She also knew that it was on Pew tor that the King of the Piskies dwelt and that was mighty close to where Meg lived. In fact it was that close that it would be easy for any piskie to cause her mischief – hence the pitcher of daily milk. But she had no cause for worry because the piskie folk were quite fond of her, after all they had seen her many times carrying the post by the tor and knew she was a hard working kindly soul.
It must have been late that summer when a mightily vexed piskie king summoned all his people to a special sitting of the Piskie Parliament. It seemed that he was fed up with the lack of respect the humans were showing his people. Many of them dared not to believe in the existence of the piskies and some even openly ridiculed them. The king was also sick and tired of the humans clambering and picnicking all over his royal tor. Every Sunday night there would be half eaten sandwiches, egg shells, orange skins and apple cores strewn all around the granite boulders of his castle. So the little folk decided enough was enough and it was time to teach the humans a lesson for their impudence. The discussion went on well into the night and the punishments that were suggested don’t bear thinking about. In the end a list was drawn up and the head of the piskie government was ordered to ensure the drastic measures were carried out. No time was wasted and a party of little folk was sent out to nearby Moortown to pinch and punch the young girls until they were as blue as whortleberries. Some more piskies were sent out to the outlying hamlets and farms to give the small children squinty eyes. Another gang was sent out to swap all the human babies for piskies and if they passed any farm they were to stop the hens from laying. An elite group of specially trained piskies were dispatched to ride all the farm ponies and horses until they were exhausted and scared witless. The King’s vengeance knew no bounds, there was even talk that he had secretly sent a bunch of piskies to steal old Meg’s knitting wool from under her pillow, not even she was spared.
As you can imagine the following weeks were sheer bedlam for the moorfolk. Mothers had to tie their babies in their cribs, farmers had to lock their stables every night and many of the young children were stumbling and staggering around because of their squinty eyes. Old Meg was beside herself because all her knitting wool kept disappearing, oh it was a sorry state.
Pew tor – home of the piskie king.
Now, not only was Meg supposedly on good terms with the piskies she was also friends of the moorland fairies. These little creatures although related to the little folk never actually got on that well with them and so it was to the fairy queen that Meg sent a letter. In it the old woman explained was was happening and implored Queen Mab to help. Having read the letter Mab decided urgent action was required as she had been looking for a reason to bring the piskie king down a peg or two. And so it came to pass that the next night a fairy called Gossamer was sent to sort out the pesky piskies. When she arrived at Pew tor she found the piskie king strutting up and down his throne room with a self satisfied grin on his face. On seeing the fairy the grin soon disappeared, he knew that any envoy from queen Mab meant trouble. Piskie court protocol demanded that no matter who the visitor was they were to be treated with respect and so dandelion tea and whortleberry pie were ordered. As the piskie and the fairy sipped and nibbled their way through the meal they began discussing the plight of the humans. The king was adamant that the recent events had nothing to do with the fairies and Gossamer was equally adamant that it had. The fairy demanded that the piskies stop their bullying and the king stubbornly refused. Tempers flared and a shrill shouting match began but no matter how loud the fairy protested the king was going to have none of it. Finally out of desperation Gossamer burst into floods of tears, tiny salty teardrops cascaded to the floor and a deep pool began to form. The king could see that if the fairy did not stop crying his splendid palace would soon be underwater and so reluctantly agreed to suspend all hostilities against the humans. Gossamer was not that naive and refused to stop blubbering until the king had summoned all the piskies and ordered them to stop their mischievous antics. The little folk were all summoned to the deluged palace and were told to stop all their wicked deeds, but Gossamer had not quite finished. Sobbing and bawling she then demanded that the piskies should also put right all the wrongs they had caused. The king was furious as he stood waist deep in salty teardrops, but he could see there was no way the fairy was going to stop her crying unless he obeyed her wishes. The piskies were ordered without delay to go out and put everything right in the human world. Immediately they waded and sloshed their various ways out of the castle and across the moors. The babies were returned to their rightful mothers, the children’s eyes became unsquinted, hens laid eggs as if there was no tomorrow and the bruises on the Moortown girls disappeared. A special piskie envoy was sent to old Meg with orders to return her wool, clean her room and leave a silver sixpence. Best of all, that piskie was to do the same every night for the rest of her life which he did not mind because, as always there was a pitcher of creamy milk for his troubles.
It did not take long for things to return to normal on Dartmoor except that many moorfolk now showed respect to the piskies and those brave enough to picnic on Pew tor always brought their litter home with them. It is a pity that the piskies can’t pinch or make squinty eyed a few of today’s trippers as that way they too might take their litter home with them!