Monday 31 January 2022

One of Us - A Tribute to Frank Michaels Errington - Yours for Only 99c!

 Frank Michaels Errington made a huge and indelible impact on the horror industry not just as a knowledgeable and constructive book reviewer who challenged and encouraged novice as well as established authors, but also as the kind of person everyone wishes they could have in their lives. In his later years, he suffered from severe and, ultimately fatal, kidney disease. He needed a transplant but, sadly none suitable became available before he succumbed and left us in May, 2019. We miss him still. He was truly 'One of Us'.

Naturally, when I was offered the chance of contributing to an anthology of stories, anecdotes and poetry, I was delighted to oblige. The anthology grew and grew - testament to the high regard in which Frank was - and still is - held. Proceeds from the sale of each copy are donated to the American Transplant Foundation in Frank's name.

My contribution is The Lost Prophecy of Ursual Sontheil and is based on a centuries' old legend of a wise woman (some might say witch). Here's a little of the background to the real Mother Shipton:

In 1488, some say in a cave near the Petrifying Well, a young girl gave birth to an illegitimate daughter: one who would be called Ursula Sontheil but whom history would remember as Mother Shipton.

Mother Shipton was not exactly Yorkshire's answer to Nostradamus but she developed a reputation for her prophecies which involved not just the local people around and about Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, where she lived, but also the great and good of her time.

One of the most famous of these was the then Archbishop of York, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who had never actually visited that city and Mother Shipton predicted he never would. In an attempt to dissuade her from repeating these assertions, the somewhat rattled Wolsey sent three lords to Knaresborough to see her. They told her in no uncertain terms that one of Wolsey's first acts on reaching York would be to see her burn for witchcraft. She laughed in their faces. After all, why should she be scared? He would never get there in order to carry out his threat.

The Archbishop was furious and made haste to travel up from London and prove her wrong. But, just ten miles south of the city, he was arrested for treason and Mother Shipton's prophecy was fulfilled.

Many of her other predictions are legendary - and, shall we say, subject to a certain amount of embellishment and creative interpretation. Did she really predict the advent of ships, submarines, motor transport, and airplanes?: 

 In water, iron then shall float
as easy as a wooden boat...
Through towering hills proud men shall ride,
no horse or ass move by his side.
Beneath the water, men shall walk,
shall ride, shall sleep, shall even talk.
And in the air men shall be seen,
In white and black and even green. 

Or telecommunications?:

Around the world men's thoughts will fly,
quick as the twinkling of an eye 

Indeed, if all the interpretations are to be believed, she predicted the French Revolution, the rise of Nazism, Benjamin Disraeli, and just about every disaster - man-made or otherwise - since the year of her birth. She may have even predicted the European Union.

 Whether true or not, you can today visit the famous Petrifying Well and the cave where she was reputedly born. Click here for details Mother Shipton

The Petrifying Well is said to be unique and, if you take along a teddy bear, leave it there and return five months later, it will have turned to stone. Although, if you can't wait that long you can always buy one in the shop ( 'here's one I prepared earlier'!) 

She may have got some things wrong though - including the date of the end of the world which she allegedly gave as 'eighteen hundred and eighty one', (however, it is entirely possible that the inclusion of any such date was added by someone else, after her death. One of a number of examples of embellishment.)

As that year passed and the world carried on, some versions then amended the date, while others dropped it, although I do have a recollection of it being in the little book of her prophecies given to me when I was about eight or nine. That would have been in the early Sixties and I vaguely remember something about 'nineteen hundred and ninety one', but my memory could be faulty on this.

Mother Shipton was said to have married a man called Toby Shipton at the age of 24 and lived on to be 72 - needless to say this was a date she predicted. Her prophecies and legend live on. Was she really able to see hundreds of years into the future? Or was she just an eccentric, ugly, old poetic witch, mentally a bit flaky, but excellent with herbal cures and potions?

 We will probably never know...

...unless we live to see the fulfillment of her prediction of the future after the apocalyptic end of the world:

... the land that rises from the sea will be dry and clean and soft and free
of mankind’s dirt and therefore be, 
the source of man’s new dynasty. 
And those that live will ever fear 
the dragon’s tail for many year 
but time erases memory 
You think it strange? But it will be!

Until February 5th, One of Us is only 99c on Kindle. Here's the link:


Todd Keisling/Dullington Design Co.

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