RD Blackmore spent his childrhood and youth in "Doone Country" on Exmoor, Devon, went on to become a classics master at Wellesley House School, Twickenham, and a barrister ( he was called to the Bar in 1852)
Nobody can really prove what was fact and what was fiction. A Mr. Beeton at Hunstanton had a number of Doone relics, including a 'Journal of Rupert Doone'. Most of his curios were lost in a fire at his house in 1902. Folowing the fire an antiquary examined what was left, and came up with the view were indeed very old and connected with a Scottish Doone family. It is certainly true to say that even today local stories exist about "goings on " at that time. It would seem likely that Blackmore heard simlar stories as a child
This Doone family were said to have come to Exmoor in 1620, and returned to Scotland in 1699. Legend claims they were disinherited Stuarts who had to flee Scotland, and were later invited to return
The sort of local stories that existed about local robbers and rustlers is
illustrated in a handed-down story told by a Mrs Tucker, who, years ago,
lived at Court Barton,Parracoombe. She says that it was told to her by her grandmother,
when she was a girl about the year 1857.
". . . I remember my grand-mother telling me of a terrible robbery at Badgeworthy. She said: 'After they were gone to bed, robbers came and kicked the bullocks with pricks (prikes) and made them roar. The master sent the foreman down to see what was the matter with theln. When he went down the robbers killed him. Then the bullocks began to roar again, then another went down - they served him the same. They began to roar again, then the master went down in a rage and they killed him. 'l'he little boy heard the robbers coming. He crept into a hole in the chimney. She heard them coming and she jumped into a cask of feathers that was in the room. When they went upstairs they could only find the baby. The old woman belonging to the robbers said: "Kill the calf then the cow will mooe!" They then took what they wanted and went off. The next day, the ncighbours were told about it and a great dog came and licked up the blood, and they flung a chopping-hook at him and made him bleed, and they traced the blood to the place where the robbers were, and they were all taken.'"
(Mrs Tucker did not seem to have any knowledge of the name of the robbers, nor does she state whether they were hanged
or not, and she suggests that they were able to trace the dog's blood because of the snow on the ground. )
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