Object of the Week
Old Kattie the Ruswarp Witch
Few witches have their image preserved, or are permanently on display in a glass case. One such is Old Kattie of Ruswarp whose diminutive form can be seen in our toy and doll section.
Sometimes spelled Katy or Kathy, this unpleasant old lady was avoided by all who lived in, or passed through Ruswarp. Except for travelling salesman Abe Rogers. He would visit Ruswarp three times a year and, without fail, would call on Kattie, without knocking or asking permission to enter her home.
How could Abe succeed where others failed?
There are several published versions of Kattie’s story, this version is based on Whitby Lore and Legend (1923) where Percy Shaw Jeffrey tells us the tale…
It is said that one night Abe and Kattie had a terrible quarrel on the moor. No-one knows the subject, but they fought, Kattie seemingly tried to stab Abe with a sharp bodkin or needle. Finally, he grabbed hold of her, threw her to the ground and threatened to choke her.
But she wasn’t beaten even though she was now unarmed; she screamed some words and a group of a dozen imps surrounded them, closing in. Abe released Kattie, who began screaming again “Deean’t let him git away”.
But just as it looked as if he would lose, Abe also started to make an incantation and, reaching into his bag he threw a pinch of something over his shoulder, causing a whirlwind to spring up, scattering the imps. Using Kattie’s sharp bodkin, Abe disabled each of the imps, and left the moor.
From that day Kattie treated Abe with respect, as she didn’t know what other powers he might have.
The museum’s figure of Kattie, with a clay face, probably came from the collection of John Hall, a local school master. Unfortunately, we don’t have any accurate information as to its origin other than a reference in a 1968 book on witches.
The Toys and Dolls collection contains many familiar and less familiar childhood pastimes, to find out more click here.