story 6 story 5 story 8 story 9 story 10 story 11 story 12 story 7 home story I story 2 story 3 story 4 St Anselm College
British Museum MS. Royal 15 A. xx. fo. 142 b

IV. Iterum tradunt veteres quod quidam nomine Iacobus Tankerlay quondam Rector de Kereby sepeliebatur coram capitulo Bellelande et solebat egredi in noctibus vsque kereby et quadam nocte exsufflauit oculum concubine sue ibidem et dicitur quod abbas et conuentus fecerunt corpus eius effodi de tumulo cum cista sua et coegerunt Rogerum Wayneman cariare illum vsque ad Gormyr[e] et dum iactaret predictam cistam in aquam fer[e] pre timore boues demergerentur. Absit quod ego taliter scribens sim in aliquo periculo, quia sicut audiui a senioribus ita scripsi. Misereatur ei omnipotens, si tamen fuerit de numero saluandorum.





  • Synopsis
  • Translation
  • Commentary
  • Essay
Story IV tells the strange tale of the ghost of the former Rector of Kirby. Although buried at Byland Abbey, this ghost would travel back to Kirby at night. After he harmed his mistress, the abbot and the chapter at Byland decided to exhume his body and have it dumped in a nearby lake. The transcriber of the story seems uncomfortable telling it, ending with a caveat and a prayer. (LR)

4. On the other hand, men of former times related that a certain man, by name Jacob Tankerlay, formerly the Rector of (Cold) Kirby, was buried in front of the chapter house of Byland and (that) he was accustomed to go out in the night all the way to (Cold) Kirby and on a certain night he blew upon the eye of his concubine in that very place and it is said that the abbot and the house brought it about that his body was dug up from the grave along with his coffin and they compelled Roger Wayneman to carry it all the way to Lake Gormire and when he threw the aforementioned coffin into the water, out of fear the oxen were almost drowned. God forbid that I, writing in such a way, be in some danger, because just as I have heard from my seniors, thus I have written. May the almighty have mercy upon him, if only he will have been in the number of those worthy of salvation. (LR)

line 1 tradunt veteres This is the only Byland Abbey story that seems to have taken place any time other than the recent present, and the only story that has been passed down in such a way. tradunt implies a story passed down through at least a couple of generations, especially when combined with its subject veteres.
nomine: “by name” – a common tactic the Byland monk uses to introduce characters’ names

line 2  Rector In the church, a rector is a term for a parish priest or a “priest who presides over missions or quasi-parishes” (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Kereby Cold Kirby is a village and civil parish in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire, England. It is in the North York Moors, near Rievaulx Abbey and Sutton Bank, 5 miles west of Helmsley. Before the end of the 12th century it was granted to the Knights Templars. In 1209 the master of the Temple claimed various lands from the lords of neighbouring manors as part of his manor of Kirby. Kirby Flat, which probably lay between Cold Kirby and Old Byland, was found to belong to the master's manor, but was granted to the abbey of Byland at a yearly rent of 4s. ('Parishes: Cold Kirby', A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2 (1923), pp. 43-44) This might explain why he was buried in Byland Abbey, given the likelihood that the Rector was originally a monk of Byland.

line 3 capitulo: a “chapter house” is a building attached to a monastery or cathedral in which the meetings of the chapter are held. A “chapter” is an ecclesiastical body of church officials that gathers to conduct church business. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Bellelande Byland Abbey, in whose library this tale was written, makes this a very local ghost story.
kereby Cold Kirby is a village in North Yorkshire, about 9 miles north of Byland Abbey; the ghost has wandered quite far!

line 4 exsufflauit: This verb means “to blow upon;” it implies blowing out a candle, so perhaps could serve to mean he blinded the woman as if blowing out the light of her eye. Some translate the word far more violently: Curran reads it as “gouging out both her eyes until the blood ran.” (Curran) This gory translation is not supported by the Latin text.
ibidem: “in that very place;” i.e. in (Cold) Kirby, likely implying that the concubine has not moved away from the place where she dwelled when the ghost was alive.

line 5 conuentus In Medieval Latin, conventus is a term for the monks of a monastery who 'come together' in the chapter house.
This is the only Byland Abbey story where the ghost is laid by physical not spiritual means. The ghost here does not need forgiveness, he needs reburying. As an older tale among the Byland stories, it seems to illustrate the shift from pagan ideas of reanimated corpses to the Christian idea of a soul troubled in Purgatory seeking forgiveness.

line 7 Gormyre Lake Gormire is a small lake about four miles northwest of Byland Abbey.

line 8 boves This is the first mention of oxen in this story. Roger Wayneman “carried cariare”the coffin to the lake; he must have done so with the aid of oxen pulling a cart.
demergerentur When Wayneman was throwing the coffin into Gormyre the oxen which drew his cart almost sank in the marsh for fear. This, I suppose, is the sense of the rather obscure sentence. (MRJ)
Absit: this verb is used both here and in Story II in a prohibitory sense. Literally, it can be translated as “Let it be absent,” but it is intended to mean something more like “God forbid.”

line 9 ego Here we have one of the few (but meaningful) instances of the Byland Abbey monk giving his own bit of commentary on the story. He seems to hope that the abbot and the monks were not mistaken in their actions. He also wants to be sure that the reader knows he is simply writing things as they were told to him.
periculo The author seems to fear his reader’s response to the story.

     Story IV is an odd tale when compared to the rest of the Byland stories for several reasons. To begin, it is the only story that is said to have been “handed down” by elders, suggesting that it took place much earlier than the other stories. Also, it is very short, and the action is told all in one sentence. It also presents a slightly more violent ghost than others, though how violent exactly has been contested. The story says that the ghost visited his former concubine, and “exsufflavit.” This word simply means “to blow upon,” but it seems to imply something more serious. Perhaps the breath of a ghost has blinding capabilities, especially when Latin often describes eyes as “lights;” blowing upon a person’s eyes could blind them just as blowing on a candle extinguishes the light. James translates it as meaning that he put out her eye (James 418). Curran reads it as “gouging out both her eyes until the blood ran” (Curran 21), which perhaps takes too much liberty with such a violent meaning.
     The next odd thing about story IV is that it involves no sort of conjuring whatsoever. Ecclesiastical figures are involved, but they perform no religious rite to absolve the ghost and lay him to rest peacefully. It is possible that as a rector, the ghost’s crimes are more unforgiveable, but we do not know. The ghost does not ask for absolution; there is seemingly no dialogue at all between him and the other characters. Instead, the abbot and friar simply decide that the proper remedy for the hauntings is to rebury Mr. Tankerlay. They enlist the help of a local man (likely a lower-class laborer, as he seems bound to obey their wishes), and transport the coffin to a nearby lake. Lake Gormire is four miles away from Byland Abbey. Covering distance clearly is not a problem for this ghost, because he traveled all the way from his grave at Byland to Kirkby, nearly twenty miles away! Transporting the coffin to the lake does not stop the ghost by removing him; instead there must be some effect upon his corpse by drowning it.
     A final significant point to this story is that it is one of the few in which the author gives his own voice to the account. The last couple sentences imply that he is unsure that the abbot and friar acted properly. He seems very concerned with noting that it is not directly his story and that he is simply writing down things as they were told to him. He does not want to be blamed if Mr. Tankerlay’s ghost was actually supposed to be forgiven instead of drowned!