The Legend of Jan Tregeagle

Jan Tregeagle lived in Cornwall in the 17th century and was a thoroughly bad person.

He was an unscrupulous lawyer who murdered his wife and children, stole the estate of an orphan and sold his soul to the Devil. His spirit still haunts the moors and rugged coastline, doomed to walk forever. He can be heard howling when storms roll in from the sea and some say he flaps around the cliffs like a giant seagull. Other stories have him as a gigantic bird flying over Bodmin Moor, luring travellers to their death.

In myth he was a wealthy man, mainly by ill-gotten means, who managed to bribe the local minister into burying him in consecrated ground in the St. Breock churchyard. In truth he was a steward to the Earl of Radnor and a magistrate.

There are so many different myths about Jan Tregeagle that here I will stick to just the better known ones. Just before his death he witnessed the loan of a large sum of money from one man to another. When repayment became due the loan was denied and the case taken to court, Tregeagle being the only witness. As he was already dead the debtor felt sure that it was his word against the moneylenders and he would get away with it. However he tempted fate when he said. 'If Tregeagle ever saw it, I wish to God he would come and declare it!' there was a flash of lightning and Tregeagle ghost appeared saying 'It will not be an easy task to get rid of me as it has been to call me.' The debtor sought to rid himself of Tregeagle with the help of a parson, who eventually succeeded in binding him to the task of emptying Dozmary Pool with a leaking limping shell.

Dozmary Pool

This pool is said to be bottomless and it is not fed from any visible source. The early Celts thought it a Lake of the Underworld.

He was kept at this task day and night by a pack of demons until one night a fierce storm blew up and Tregeagle escaped across the moor with the evil pack on his heels. He reached the hermitage on Roche Rock and thrust his head through the east window to gain the sanctuary of the church. His body got stuck outside and was exposed to the full fury of the storm and the demons. After a few days the priest could bear no more of his dreadful screams, so with the aid of two local saints removed Tregeagle to the beach at Padstow. The local people weren't happy with this and they soon tired of his incessant screaming and pleaded with St. Petroc to do something. The saint forged a chain with his own hands and drove the spirit to Bareppa, near Helston. There Tregeagle was ordered to carry sacks of sands across the estuary of the river Cober and to empty them at Porthlevan. He did this for a long time until a demon cause him to drop the sack, spilling the sand across the estuary. The ridge it formed is now known as the Loe Bar.

Roche Rock.

There is a 6th century hermitage in the rocks although the chapel seen here is from the 1400's. A leper called St. Gonand lived there and his daughter would bring him food and water daily.

Another story has Tregeagle weaving a truss of sand bound with sand ropes in Gwenvor Cove and when he had finished he was to take them to Carn Olva. He managed to complete this task on a very frosty night when he poured water from a nearby brook onto the truss; it froze together and he was able to carry it to the top of Carn Olva. He returned to the debtor and started to torment him again, trying to tear him to pieces. Luckily the man held a baby in his arms and its innocence warded off the attack. Another priest was called and again Tregeagle was bound to weave a truss at Gwenvor, this time he was to go nowhere near any water. Defeated at last, Tregeagle remains in constant struggle with the sand and when a northerly wind comes to destroy his work, his roars can be heard across Whitesand Bay.