The Ji-Jaller Bag

The Ji-Jaller Bag

Given the bustling industrial and urban nature of North Tyneside, you would not be blamed for believing that there are no tales of witches, fairies or dragons from these parts. However, stories of years gone from the north of the Tyne have long survived the layers of steel and concrete which now cover the land. You may be surprised to learn that a wicked witch once lived not far from where the bustling city stands today.

There once lived an old woman in a village near to Newcastle. To the villagers she seemed harmless, but what they did not know was that she had stolen a lot of money from them and hidden it away. The old woman lived by herself in a little cottage, but as she grew older she found it much harder to keep her house clean and tidy. She decided to hire a servant girl to do the housework for her.

The old woman told the girl to clean the house thoroughly; to dust the cobwebs from the roof beams and sweep the dirt from every corner. But there was one exception; she was not to sweep the chimney. Every morning the girl rose early to do her chores as the old lady said, and every night before she slept the old lady gave her the tasks for the next day and reminded her not to sweep the chimney.

As young girls do, she soon became very curious about the chimney and wondered often about the old woman’s instructions. So, one day she rose very early before the old woman woke and put her brush up the wide chimney. To her surprise and delight, down fell a large bag of money. The girl grabbed it and immediately fled the house.

As she ran out into the garden, she came to a gate set in the wall. To the girl’s amazement the gate spoke to her and said, “Pretty one, would you open me? It is a long time since I have been opened.” But the girl was afraid of being caught and so replied, “I have no time to open you. Open yourself!” That said, she skipped over the gate and ran on.

In the field beyond she met a cow, who mooed at her and called, “Pretty one, would you milk me? It is a long time since I have been milked.” But the girl replied, “I have no time to milk you. Milk yourself!”

Further on the girl came to a mill which creaked as it spoke to her, “Pretty one, would you stop and turn me? It is a long time since I have been turned.” But the girl tossed her head and replied, “I have no time to turn you. Turn yourself!”

But by this time she had become very tired, so she hid the money bag in the mill-hopper and went to sleep.

When the old woman woke up, she noticed the girl was missing and went straight to the chimney, where she kept her bag of stolen money. Finding it gone, she immediately set off after the girl.

Reaching the gate, the old woman called out, “Gate of mine, gate of mine, have you seen maid of mine, with a ji-jaller bag, and a long leather bag, and all the money in it that I ever had?”

The gate replied, “Farther on.”

Coming to the cow in the field, she said, “Cow of mine, cow of mine, have you seen maid of mine, with a ji-jaller bag, and a long leather bag, and all the money in it that I ever had?”

The cow replied, “Farther on.”

Then the old woman reached the mill and asked it, “Mill of mine, mill of mine, have you seen maid of mine, with a ji-jaller bag, and a long leather bag, and all the money in it that I ever had?”

The mill replied, “In the mill-hopper.” The old woman looked in the mill-hopper and found the girl with the bag of money which she had taken from the chimney. The frightened girl woke up and had not the time to escape before the old witch turned her into a worm.

However, before long the old woman needed to hire another servant girl. She gave this second girl the same nightly instructions and the girl did as she was asked; but as the first had done before her she became curious of the chimney and found there the bag of money. But when she ran away and came to the gate she opened it; when she ran past the cow she stopped to milk it. When at last she came to the mill she turned it, though she was very tired. Each told her of their cruel mistress, who had stolen from her neighbours rather than worked for a decent living and turned her previous servant girl into a worm.

When the old woman found the bag missing she ran after the girl. But this time when she asked questions of her gate, it said nothing. When she came to the cow and asked where the girl had gone it also said nothing. Finally she came to the mill and questioned it, it too said nothing. Therefore the girl got away with the bag of money and told the villagers of what she had seen. They drove the witch out of town and she was never seen again.

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