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Book sheds light on legend

PUBLISHED: 08:00 19 March 2010 | UPDATED: 09:27 01 August 2010

THE story of the Black Dog of Bungay is the town's best known and enduring legend, which has carried its name far and wide, nationally and internationally.

THE story of the Black Dog of Bungay is the town's best known and enduring legend, which has carried its name far and wide, nationally and internationally.

But now a new work, Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay, takes an new, in-depth look at the fact and myth of the dramatic occurrence at St Mary's Church, Bungay, on August 4, 1577.

It has been co-written, after much research, by Chris Reeve and David Waldron, and explores how the event of the terrible storm on that day became the catalyst for the Bungay town symbol of the Black Dog in the 20th Century.

The book, conceived by Dr Waldron, who lives in Australia, (his father Bruce became minister at the town's Methodist and United Reformed Emmanuel Church) traces the emergence of the Black Dog story, its connections to the traumatic events of the time and its relationship to local and national legends of Black Dogs. It explores the events of the mid-20th Century and the work of Dr Cane, all of which were critical to Bungay's emergence from its industrial basis into an identity as an historic town.

“When my father became minister of Emmanuel Church I started to hear the story from friends and family over there,” said Mr Waldron. “As an Australian in a very colonial way my first response was something along the lines of 'How cool is that!' and then started to do some digging on the tale.”

At the time he was writing his first book, The Sign of the Witch: Modernity and the Pagan Revival (Ritual Studies Monograph) , and saw a lot of close links.

“It gave me an opportunity to look at the romanticisation of the past, the myth of pagan survivals, the trauma left from the reformation etc at the local level,” he added.

He said one thing that was really apparent to him when doing his research on the Black Dog of Bungay from a local history perspective, was that it was not a zero sum game…“There are fragments in the myth from the Celts, Vikings and Romans for example. However, if I was to speak to a 16th century Puritan in Bungay he may not even know what a Celt was and would certainly take offence at the suggestion his view of the attack on St Mary's church by a Black Dog or “Devile in such a likenesse” was Pagan,” said Mr Waldron.

One aspect the book looks at is the myth that the Black Dog is the cursed soul of Lord Bigod (who built Bungay castle). It suggests that the Bungay story was merged in some versions with a similar one in Dartmoor, and taken up in local publications.

“It fitted into the story really well. It tied two different myths together and linked to two most prominent historic buildings in town: the Church of St Mary's and the Castle. Now it's local folkloric orthodoxy if you like,” Mr Waldron said.

Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay will be launched at St Mary's Church at noon on Saturday, March 27.

There will be a brief address at 12.30pm by co-author Chris Reeve and then by the Rev Bruce Waldron on behalf of his son, Dr David Waldron.

The book is published by Hidden Publishing of Bristol at £9.99.

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