Or things that go bump in the Bay


There seems to be a virtual plethora of folk law in England concerning dragons and the like but noted local historian Kath Wilkie has been investigating the Filey Dragon for some time.


Local folklore has several different tales describing how Filey Brigg, a well known beauty spot was formed. The Brigg is a long promontory of rock just above sea level that extends almost a mile out to sea. One story claims it was created by the Devil for the purpose of wrecking ships who dropped his hammer and upon reaching into the sea for it; he grasped a haddock which explains the origin of the “thumb print” seen on the fish today. Another claims that the Brigg is the skeletal remains of a dragon that was killed by a tailor named Billy Biter.


Kath’s diligent research gives us two stories  about the formation of the Brigg.  One says that that the Dragon would lie in the Gulley on the Brigg, this Gulley is a tidal inlet that runs down the spine of the Brigg and is open to the sea at its outer end.  At high water, the Gulley is filled with water and at low water it never fully drains out.  The villagers of Filey lured the Dragon with sticky cake and when he ate this, his jaws were stuck together and the villages killed him.


The second story which we like, concerns  a certain Ralph Parkin.  When Ralph Parkin’s wife wanted the dragon away from the Brigg she would go down there and offer to give the Dragon the Yorkshire sticky cake that he liked, he ate too much of this, fell into the sea and succumbed to the waves.  This is why the Brigg is the shape that it is today and why the sticky Yorkshire cake is called Parkin.


Ralph Parkin married Mary Brumfitt on 10 August 1794 at St Oswald’s Church, Filey.  Billy Biter could have been a nickname for Ralph Parkin as there has been a long tradition of giving fishermen strange nicknames to reflect a family character trait, deformity or impediment.  This came about because many of the families had the same surnames and forenames within them and unusual names such as "Denk", "Billy T", "Boysher", "Tich", "Eamon", "Chicken" and "Tint" developed over a long period of time and helped to distinguish the individuals and the various families apart.

More recently, the story of the Dragon continued and in 1934, a report was filed by a local Coastguard Wilkinson Herbert  in which he says he saw a sea monster whilst walking on the beach at Filey.  He clearly saw something dramatic and the report was printed  in the Daily Telegraph on 1 March 1934 which stated:

" Suddenly I heard a growling like a dozen dogs ahead, walking nearer I switched on my torch and was confronted by a huge neck, six yards in front of me, rearing up 8ft. high! The head was a startling sight- huge eyes like saucers, glaring at me, the creatures mouth was a foot wide and neck would be a yard around. The monster appeared as startled as I was. Shining my torch along the ground I saw a body about 30ft. long. I thought this was no place for me and from a distance I threw stones at the creature. It moved away growling fiercely and I saw the huge black body had two humps on it an four short legs with huge flappers on them. I could not see any tail. It moved quickly, rolling from side to side, and went into the sea. From the cliff top I looked down and saw two eyes like torch lights shining out to sea 300 yards away. It was a most gruesome and thrilling experience. I have seen big animals abroad, but nothing like this."

Quite a frightening experience by all accounts, and while other sightings elsewhere are based upon supposition and old wives tales, in this case, the Filey Dragon had an experienced observer to frighten!  The Filey Dragon sighting is about the time of the reports of the Loch Ness monster and there is quite a following of dragon stories and myths around the coasts.

Our Dragon lives on and intrigues young and old alike – thanks Kath.

Notes for Dragon seekers  - Essential (safe) fireside reading...........

The Greek word drakon meant "large serpent" as well as "dragon." In both Old and New Testaments of the Bible, dragons represent evil and the devil. The serpent in the Garden of Eden has, on occasion, been depicted as a dragon, but Old Testament dragons inhabited the sea. They are distinguished from the monster, Leviathan (Psalms 74: 13-14). Dragons are also mentioned in Isaiah (27:1, 51:9) and Job (7:12, 26:12-13).

The concept of the Dragon in Celtic mythology emerged directly from the holy crocodile (the Messeh) of the ancient Egyptians. The Pharaohs were anointed with crocodile fat, and attained the fortitude of the Messeh (thus Messiah = anointed one). The image of the intrepid Messah evolved to become the Dragon, which in turn became the emblem of kingship (Gardner, Lawrence. Bloodlines of the Holy Grail. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996).

The Celtic kings in Britain were called "dragons" in the ancient Messeh tradition as intrepid guardians. The first Pendragon (Head Dragon) or High King, was Cymbeline.

Vortigen of Powys in Wales married the daughter of the Roman governor, Magnus Maximus. Vortigern was the Pedragon of the Isle in 425 and his emblem was the red dragon (the national flag of Wales) (Gardner, Lawrence, Bloodlines of the Holy Grail. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996).

With acknowledgments to Anon. & Mr R Cornes


Be careful when you venture on the Filey Brigg  alone -  you have been warned!


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