It was a custom in Glamorgan many years ago that, when the devil’s name was mentioned in church, the entire congregation would begin spitting. This went on for several seconds until it was thought that full contempt for Old Nick had been shown. The devil himself was expected to retreat under the barrage but unfortunately was indestructible and would show himself elsewhere in one of his many guises. One of his favourite spots was Crack Hill, not far from Bridgend on the Cardiff road.
Two travellers on this road swore, under oath, that the following episodes were true; and they were widely believed because, although both events took place towards the end of the nineteenth century, they occurred at different times and neither of the men had ever had dealings with the other.
The first man was travelling from Bridgend to Cowbridge on foot late at night. He reached the bottom of Crack Hill without mishap and began the ascent, but after going some way he found that his footsteps were unaccountably slowing down. He struggled on but found it harder and harder to keep up his normal walking pace. Then, half way up, he had the uncomfortable feeling that he was carrying a heavy load. He looked sideways and found that something or someone had jumped on his back and was clinging to him by the shoulders. Panic-stricken he tried to break into a run but found himself sinking to his knees. He tried to shake off the burden but to no avail. Gritting his teeth, his breath coming painfully in short bursts, he lumbered on. As he was nearing the top of the hill, and just as he was sinking to the ground in despair, he cried out to God to help him. Immediately the weight left his shoulders and he saw, on the roadway, a huge shape like a bundle. Before his astonished eyes the bundle began rolling back down the slope, gathering momentum as it went. Down the hill it careered, bobbing up and down in the moonlight, until it reached the bottom. There it bounced into a disused quarry and exploded in a shower of sparks and smoke. The man reached Cowbridge in record time.
The second episode concerned a man with a horse and trap. He, too was going from Bridgend to Cowbridge at night and had reached the bottom of Crack Hill without anything untoward occurring. But half way up the slope he found that the horse was going more and more slowly until eventually the animal was proceeding at only a snail’s pace. Several times the trap lurched as the animal stumbled and, peering through the darkness, the man thought he could see a huge, indefinable weight lying across the shafts. Then, near the top of the hill, the horse came to a full-stop. Panic-stricken, its eyes glaring red with fear, it stood rooted to the ground. In fear himself the man called out to God for salvation, and immediately the strange object fell from the horse’s shoulders, twisted itself and went careering down the hill. At the bottom it, too, bounded into the quarry and exploded into a mass of flame and smoke. The whole area was pervaded with a smell of sulphur.
For many years afterwards journeys up Crack Hill at night were avoided by the local population.
The Legends of Porthcawl and the Glamorgan Coast
Author: Alun Morgan
Author: Alun Morgan
Illustration by Margaret Wooding