Married Under The Ash Tree

Many years ago, when the centre of Glossopdale was forest and swamp, everyone lived in the villages that clung to the valley’s sides: Glossop, Whitfield, Chunal, Simmondley, Charlesworth, Chisworth, Dinting. People usually married their neighbours, as they did in most rural communities, and so it was with Harry and Joanne. Harry was a farmer up on Whitely Nab, and Joanne lived in Chunal. They’d known each other most of their lives, and in time they’d fallen in love. They planned to marry in Charlesworth church. They spoke to the priest, and the wedding was arranged for a morning early in June.

On the morning of the wedding, Harry went to collect Joanne soon after dawn, while the larks were singing and the sun was climbing over the moors, and the couple set off hand in hand across the fields to Charlesworth. But they hadn’t gone very far when the weather began to deteriorate, and before long they were walking through a torrential downpour. Harry thought it would just be a brief shower, but it didn’t stop; instead, it got worse 7 much worse. The sky grew as black as night, and there was thunder and lightning, and the rain lashed down so heavily they could hardly see the path in front of them. Before long the way grew so dangerous that they had to stop and take shelter under the spreading branches of a great ash tree. The summer leaves kept the worst of the weather off them, but standing there waiting for the storm to stop, they were getting no nearer to Charlesworth. Eventually they realised that they’d no longer be able to reach the church for the time they’d arranged with the priest. Of course they were heartbroken; Joanne was in tears. This should have been a happy day for them, but it was turning out to be a very sad one as well as a very wet one.

Then, out of the pouring rain, there appeared a wandering Irish priest. He stopped for shelter under the very same ash tree as the young couple. He greeted them, as priests do, and they answered him politely; but he realised that something was badly wrong.

He asked, “Now, why are you two fine young people out here in this storm and looking so sad? Is there something you’ll be wanting to tell me?”

Harry said, “We were goin’ to th’ church i’ Charlesworth fer t’ get married, but th’ storm’s ’indered us, and it’s too late now. Th’ priest winna wait no longer, and even if th’ rain stops reet now, we’ll ne’er get theere i’ time.”

“Well, well,” exclaimed the priest, “is that all? If only all of life’s problems could be solved as easily as yours!”

Ash Tree Canopy

Ash Tree Canopy

Joanne looked up at him and asked, “What do’st mean, Father? If we conna get to th’ church we conna be married, and ’ow long will it tek afore th’ priest i’ Charlesworth ’ll gi’e us another date?”

“Now, my dear girl, why would you be needing to get to the Church in Charlesworth?” asked the Irishman. “I’m a priest; I can marry you here and now!”

And with that, he took his prayer book from under his cassock, and he married Harry and Joanne under the branches of the ash tree while the storm raged around them. At the end of the short ceremony, he said to them:

Under a tree in stormy weather
I married this man and maid together.
Let Him alone who rules the thunder
Put this man and maid asunder.

And so Harry and Joanne became man and wife, and they lived long and happily. For many years afterwards, you would see them walking of an evening along the path to the great ash tree, remembering their wedding day.

Used with grateful permission of the collector, Mark P. Henderson,, from his book Folktales of the Peak District
Image by Lazaregagnidze (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons