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Devon Myths and Legends
The Parson and the Clerk
Between a rock and a hot place
For anyone travelling on the main rail line through Devon the trip along the cliffs at Dawlish is one of the most dramatic parts. However, one of the main features of that area has a rather satanic beginning.
The striking rock formation of the Parson and the Clerk has already lost much of itself to the waves over the years but the legend itself stays strong.
The story begins in the distant past but as with many legends the precise timing is conveniently overlooked.
The Bishop of Exeter was, at the time, a very sick man and one local parson took it upon himself to visit him on a regular basis.
It was commonly known that these visits were not of the benevolent type and it was ambition that led the religious man to the Bishop's residence.
The parson saw himself as the next Bishop and believed his visits would stand him in good stead when the decision was made.
He was always accompanied by his clerk and relied on the servant to guide them to the house, his mind concentrated solely on fantasies of his own bishopric.
One foggy night the clerk lost his way along the narrow lanes and soon the parson and the clerk were caught in a maze of mist that neither could find a way out of.
The parson was furious. In his mind every failed visit to the Bishop gave another ambitious man the chance to jump in and make his face known.
He yelled furiously at the clerk and exclaimed, rather foolishly, "The Devil would make a better guide for me than you!"
It was soon afterwards the wandering pair found a small farmer sitting by the side of the road and begged him to help.
The old man admitted he didn't know his way to the Bishop's house but could guide them to a safe-house for the night.
They were soon led to a house where they were welcomed by the owners and were given dinner and a bed for the night.
When the two woke in the morning they were shocked to find they had been sleeping in the open on rocky ground.
Even worse they were trapped on a pillar of rock in the sea and could see their horses on a cliff in the distance.
The small old man from the night before appeared at this point and, to the shock of both the parson and the clerk, revealed himself - I'm sure you saw this coming - to be the Devil in disguise.
He cursed the two and sent them into the waves below, from then on the striking landmark became the Parson and the Clerk.
last updated: 25/01/2008 at 12:37