Scuccan

A Scucca (Pronounced “Shuck-kah”) is given in Bosworth-Toller as being “A devil or demon” but is a word of disputed origin as it may be connected to the Old English word “sceaga” meaning “undergrowth” or the Old Norse word “skôgr” meaning “copse” thus implying a type of Woodwose. The word is also alternatively cognate to “sceacan” meaning “shake, move vigorously” regarding the affect it has upon the living.

The names “Shock” and “Black Shuck” have survived into modern folklore denoting a kind of enormous, black, ghostly dog which is said to haunt the roads of East Anglia. Indeed, tales of black dogs or “hellhounds” can be found all over England. In some versions it can cause accidents by forcing drivers to take avoiding actions. In other stories, it appears to foretell or even to cause the death of someone as in “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

Sometimes it can appear headless, or with huge blazing eyes. It may therefore be related to the Scina which will be covered in another entry.

In Dorset, there is said to be a Black Dog associated with the town of Lyme Regis and the story is as follows:

The tale begins at Colway Manor near the town of Lyme Regis during the seventeenth century. A lonely old man once owned the manor whose only companion was a loyal black dog. One night as he retired to bed thieves broke into the house and demanded from him his hidden valuables, but the man refused. The thieves became angry and kicked and punched the man until he was dead. The dog however, was left at the foot of the stairs to pine for his master until he eventually died of starvation.

The manor was almost completely destroyed during the Civil War and a farmhouse was built on the remaining part of the mansion. The farmhouse at that time still retained the large original fireplace and also two large antique seats, which were fixed either side of the alcove. It was there, that the new owner, a farmer, would relax each evening. But one evening his solace was interrupted by the arrival of an eerie black dog, which came to sit on the opposite seat to him. The farmer was at first uneasy, but after a time he became accustomed to his new companion’s regular appearances.

Discussing his strange visitor with neighbours, he was constantly advised to be rid of it. The farmer, who didn’t fancy the idea of confronting the animal, jokingly replied. “Why should I? He is the quietest and most frugal creature about the farm, neither eating, drinking, nor interfering with anyone.”

One evening while drinking with neighbours, the subject of his companion was discussed. The farmer who at the time was heavily drunk got so fed up with their mockery that he stormed off back home to confront the spectral beast. On his return, and in a terrible state of rage, he found the dog sitting at its usual place upon the chimney seat. The farmer without any hesitation seized a poker and lunged at the dog. The dog quickly jumped off the seat and fled upstairs followed in hot pursuit by the angry farmer. He soon cornered the animal in the attic, but the dog leapt through the ceiling and disappeared. Infuriated the farmer struck a hard blow to the ceiling dislodging some of the plaster. From the hole an old box fell to the floor. The farmer picked up the box to discover that it contained a considerable amount of gold and silver coins of the reign of Charles I. Could it be that this box contained the old man’s valuables he concealed from the thieves that broke in that night all those years ago?

The farmer later decided to buy a house a mile west of Colway Manor on the Devon and Dorset Border, and with the help of his new found fortune, converted it into a coaching inn, where in honour of his fortuitous companion he named it ‘The Black Dog.’ This building still remains at Uplyme, known as “The Old Black Dog”.

Black dog

The Old Black Dog, Uplyme

When the dog ceased its haunting of the farmhouse at Lyme Regis, it took to haunting, at midnight the lane adjacent to the inn known as Haye Lane, alias ‘Dog Lane.’

 

Dog Lane

Dog Lane, Lyme Regis

One encounter with the creature occurred late one evening in 1856. The witnesses were a local couple and the woman whose occupation was a nurse described the incident as follows:

“As I was returning to Lyme one night with my husband down Dog Lane, as we reached the middle of it, I saw an animal about the size of a dog meeting us. “What’s that?” I said to my husband. “What?” he said, “I see nothing.” I was so frightened I could say no more then, for the animal was within two or three yards of us, and had become as large as a young calf, but had the appearance of a black, shaggy dog with fiery eyes, just like the description I had heard of the “black dog”. He passed close by me, and made the air cold and dank as he passed along. Though I was afraid to speak, I could not help turning round to look after him, and I saw him growing bigger and bigger as he went along, till he was as high as the trees by the roadside, and then seeming to swell into a large cloud, he vanished in the air. As soon as I could speak, I asked my husband to look at his watch, and it was five minutes past twelve. My husband said he saw nothing but a vapour or fog coming up from the sea.”

The last reported sighting of the black dog was in 1959, when a family saw it on holiday after visiting The Black Dog Inn. The three tourists were walking down Dog Lane when it came floating out from a hedge and crossed to the other side.

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