The Warning, 1922

13th May 2015
A dolmen from Bellamy's Pictorial Directory and Strangers' Guide of 1843, Priaulx Library collection

Edith Carey, in The Guernsey Society Report and Transactions for 1922 (pp. 89-90), quotes the following mystical occurrence from a 1922 article in Blackwood's Magazine, 'A Welsh Ride,' by Edmund Vale:

I remember a farmer in Guernsey, on whose land stood a huge dolmen, telling me that one morning early, when he went to the field, he saw a tall stranger with a great beard sitting on one of the capstones of the dolmen. He rose on seeing the farmer and beckoned him; when the farmer came near he poured out a strange liquid into a tiny vessel and set it on the capstone. Neither spoke. Presently the stranger lifted the cup and drank of it, offering the remainder to the farmer. The latter, fascinated, if not awed, partook. The host then bowed to his guest and to Another not visible, and departed, never again to be seen. 'And that,' whispered the farmer into my ear, 'was the sign.' And although he was not clear in any way what the sign was, it seemed to him a grave occasion, a momentous business.

Edith comments: 'Mr Vale was of, course, an Englishman, and probably did not quite understand the Guernseyman. My impression is that what the farmer really said was: 'C'etait un avertissement,'—'It was a warning,'—which is the invariable explanation in the country for anything mysterious or inexplicable—and will have debited the next misfortune which happened in the family to that account!'

For some other omens of death see the Trompette de la mort. The illustration is a woodcut by Thomas Bellamy from his Pictorial Guide to Guernsey of 1843.