Michael O'Leary: Hagstone Story Teller

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The Hagstone

The symbol, or logo, that I use is "the hagstone". Hagstones are holed stones that used to be hung in Hampshire Orchards to bring good luck and juicy apples, and to frighten away evil spirits. Sometimes the name is applied to standing stones with holes, such as the Men-an-Tol in Cornwall (shown left), or the Choone Stone, also in Cornwall, through which you can see the Merry Maidens Stone Circle. These stones were often said to have healing properties; like stories they can be healing - but you must be careful!

The reason I first adopted the logo, though, wasn't because of something set in beautiful landscape, it was because of a mystery in Northam, my own not so beautiful inner-city area of Southampton.

The map shown on the left dating from around 1560, shows the 'Hagestone or Blackworth' (see the detail bottom right)

The first Ordnance Survey map of the area, made in 1868, shows an ancient monument called "The Hegstone". On the next map, of 1897, it is gone. I've only ever found one mention of it, in an old book, which suggested that it might have been a boundary stone; perhaps people stopped there when beating the boundaries of old Southampton.

I soon found "The Hegstone" appearing in my stories, and in those stories there were other stories, seen through the hole in the stone. It seemed especially important for stories to have the local touch in areas that are stigmatised; where local pride is battered from all directions.

So, wherever you live, in city or country, in suburb, council estate or rural village, come and look through the eye of the hagstone - and find a story.

The Holed Stone one of The Gallauns, Cape Clear Island County Cork is shown left (photo by Chuck Kruger). Cape Clear is the location of the annual CAPE CLEAR ISLAND INTERNATIONAL STORYTELLING FESTIVAL

(Should you be interested in the history of Northam you might be interested in the book "Chapel and Northam; an oral history" that was compiled and edited by Sheila Jemima in 1991. Mike wrote the historical introduction. It was published by the Oral History department of Southampton City Council. ISBN 1 872649 03 3. Sadly it is now out of print but can be viewed at the City Libraries

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