WEIRD NORFOLK: Owd Rugman, the devil dog of Lenwade, Lyng and Attlebridge
PUBLISHED: 18:00 12 September 2020
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Beware the devil dog of Lenwade, Lyng and Attlebridge, “a little-known fiend” who prefers to prowl in limited locations
Norfolk’s hell hound goes by many names: Black Shuck, Old Shock, Snarleyow…and in Lenwade and Attlebridge, he’s Owd Rugman. In The Norfolk Broads, written by William A Dutt in 1903, the Shuck variation was recorded and locations given as to where he roamed on dark nights. Black Shuck is the ghostly black dog said to roam in East Anglia inland and at the coast, often believed to be an omen of death, his name from the Old English word “scucca”, meaning devil or fiend.
Reverend ES Taylor wrote about Black Shuck in 1850: “This phantom I have heard many persons in East Norfolk and even Cambridgeshire, describe as having seen as a black shaggy dog, with fiery eyes and of immense size, and who visits churchyards at midnight. And of course, across the border in Bungay, Abraham Fleming’s famous account of “a strange and terrible wunder” in 1577 recounted the terrible tale of a beast that killed people at worship, leaving tragedy in its wake.
William Dutt in Highways and Byways in East Anglia, published in 1901, described Black Shuck and his place in local folklore. “He takes the form of a huge black dog, and prowls along dark lanes and lonesome field footpaths, where, although his howling makes the hearer’s blood run cold, his footfalls make no sound,” he wrote.
“You may know him at once, should you see him, by his fiery eye; he has but one, and that, like the Cyclops’, is in the middle of his head. But such an encounter might bring you the worst of luck: it is even said that to meet him is to be warned that your death will occur before the end of the year.
“So you will do well to shut your eyes if you hear him howling; shut them even if you are uncertain whether it is the dog fiend or the voice of the wind you hear. Should you never set eyes on our Norfolk Snarleyow you may perhaps doubt his existence, and, like other learned folks, tell us that his story is nothing but the old Scandinavian myth of the black hound of Odin, brought to us by the Vikings who long ago settled down on the Norfolk coast.”
Sightings of Owd Rugman (or in Dutt’s book, Owd Rugusan, thought to be a misreading of Rugman) reached their height in the 1890s in the Attlebridge, Lenwade and Lyng areas. Dutt’s book notes: “Something of the same kind [of phantom hound] was ‘Owd Rugusan’, a little-known fiend having a limited habitat in a few inland Norfolk villages.” On the Hidden East Anglia website (www.hiddenea.com) which offers a definitive guide to Black Shuck and where he has been spotted in the region, author Mike Burgess notes: “It seems probable that that the ‘rug’ part of the name comes from the Old English and dialect word meaning ‘shaggy, rough’. I
“In other words, the same as ‘shucky’, and probably the same meaning as the names of the dogs known as Skeff and Old Scarfe.”
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