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of Shepherdes may have understood the word in a somewhat more literal sense, and, by a stretch of the imagination, adapted the story to a snail' (Notes and Queries, 2d series, Nos. 53, 62). Snails, we know, have been used in love divinations, and in various other forms of superstition.'
"The Serpent in the Sea' was at one time a very general superstition among the heathens ; for we find it in Isaiah xxvii. 1 : ‘In that day the Lord, with His sore, and great, and strong sword, shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and He shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.'
LEGENDS OF "THE RED HAND.'
ERALDRY has been stigmatized as the science
of fools with long memories;' but it should
rather be designated as a science which, properly directed, would make fools wise, for it is a key to history which may yet unlock stores of information. Its study has been so confused with the fantastic absurdities of its professors, that in the lapse of centuries it has become clogged with popular errors as to the significance of its badges and other distinctions.
The badge of Ulster King-at-Arms in Ireland is a red hand, the origin of which is as follows:
In an ancient expedition of some adventurers to Ireland, their leader declared that whoever first touched the shore should possess the territory which he reached. O'Neil, from whom descended the princes of Ulster, bent upon obtaining the reward, and seeing another boat likely to land, cut off his hand and threw it on the coast. Hence the traditionary origin of 'The Red Hand of Ulster.' "The Red Hand' was assigned to King James 1. as the badge of the baronets, the design of the institution of the order being the coloniza
tion of Ulster and Ireland. The arms of that province were deemed the most appropriate insignia.
But there is a superstition connected with this honourable badge of baronetcy, which is too deeply rooted in the minds of the vulgar to be eradicated without great difficulty, as the following instance will show : In the year 1856, Mr. C. J. Douglas being at Hagley, and conversing with a villager about the Lyttelton family, was gravely informed that, on account of the misdeeds of Thomas Lord Lyttelton (concerning whom the story is told that he foretold his own death, being informed thereof in a dream), the Lord Lytteltons were compelled to have a 'bloody hand' in their arms, and that their arms being painted on a board, with the bloody hand very conspicuous thereon, were placed over the door of the hall at Hagley; and Mr. Douglas was moreover informed that his lordship dare not remove it for twelve months. This board, which was placed there just after the death of the late lord, was nothing more or less than a hatchment; and Mr. Douglas was told that the hand was to be smaller every generation, until it entirely disappeared.
Mr. Douglas adds another instance of this absurd belief. In one of the windows of Aston Church, near Birmingham, are the arms of the Holts, baronets of Aston ; and there, unfortunately, the hand has been painted minus one finger ; to explain which, it is told that one of the Holts, having committed some evil deed, was compelled to place the
Communication from Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster, to Popular Errors Explained and Illustrated, new edition, 1858.
bloody hand in his arms, and transmit the same to his descendants, who were allowed to take one finger off for each generation, until all the fingers and thumb being deducted, it might at length be dispensed with altogether (Notes and Queries, 2d series, No. 12).
The tradition to which this strange insertion is said to refer is, that one of the family murdered his cook, and was afterwards compelled to adopt the red hand in his arms.' The tradition adds, that Sir Thomas Holt murdered the cook in a cellar at the old family mansion, by running him through with a spit,' and afterwards buried him beneath the spot where the tragedy was enacted. In 1850, the ancient family residence where the murder is said to have been committed, was levelled with the ground; and among persons who, from their position in society, might be supposed to be better informed, considerable anxiety was expressed to ascertain whether any portion of the skeleton of the murdered cook had been discovered beneath the flooring of the cellar, which tradition, fomented by illiterate gossip, pointed out as the place of his interment.
The ancient family residence was situated at Duddeston, a hamlet adjoining Birmingham. Here the Holts resided until May 1631, when Sir Thomas took up his abode at Aston Hall, a noble structure in the Elizabethan style of architecture, which, according to a contemporary inscription, was commenced in April 1618, and completed in 1635. Sir Thomas was a decided royalist, and maintained his allegiance to his sovereign, although the men of Bir
mingham were notorious for their disaffection, and the neighbouring garrison of Edgbaston was occupied by Parliamentarian troops. When Charles I., of glorious or unhappy memory, was on his way from Shrewsbury to the important battle of Edgehill, on the confines of Warwickshire, he remained with Sir Thomas as his guest from the 15th to the 17th of October ; and a closet was long pointed out to the visitor where he is said to have been concealed. A neighbouring eminence is to the present day called * King's Standing,' from the fact of Charles having stood thereon while addressing his troops. By his acts of loyalty, Sir Thomas Holt acquired the hostility of his rebellious neighbours. Accordingly, we learn that on the 18th of December 1643 he had recourse to Colonel Levison, who 'put forty muskettiers into the house' to avert impending dangers; but eight days afterwards, on the 26th of December, 'the rebels, 1200 strong, assaulted it, and the day following took it, kill'd 12, and ye rest made prisoners, though with lose of 60 of themselves.' The grand staircase, deservedly so entitled, bears evident marks of the injury occasioned at this period, and an unoffending cannon-ball is still preserved.
Edward, the son and heir of Sir Thomas, died at Oxford on the 28th of August 1643, and was buried in Christ Church. He was an ardent supporter of the king. The old baronet was selected as ambassador to Spain by Charles I., but was excused on account of his infirmities. He died in 1654, in the eighty-third year of his age. His excellence