After the Storm
The following story was written by Kitty Rose a ex-resident of Roseacre who died in
2005. It was published by Let's Talk in their Autumn 2004 edition and is published with
the permission of both the publishers and the author.
Many years ago, when King Henry ruled the land, there was a boy named Robert. He lived
with his father and mother and sister in a village not far from the sea in the county of
Norfolk. Their cottage had a thatched roof and walls of flint pebbles.
Robert helped his father, the village carpenter, in the workshop at the side of the
cottage. He loved the smell of the wood, the linseed oil and the beeswax his father used.
One fine evening in August, Robert was sweeping the floor of the workshop after a hard
day's work. He sorted out the small left-over pieces of wood for his own use. He had
already made small carvings of his father's dog and his sister's cat carrying one of her
He heard his mother's voice.
'Robert, where are you?'
'Just coming, Mum.'
'Will you take these loaves of bread down to your Uncle William.'
She handed Robert two freshly-baked loaves of bread wrapped in a clean cloth.
Uncle William was a fisherman who lived in a boathouse by the sea. His wife had died
five years earlier and Robert's mother made sure that her brother did not go hungry.
Robert enjoyed visiting his uncle and listening to his stories.
As a young man, Uncle William had spent every summer fishing in the seas around
Iceland. He had seen whales spouting fountains of water and had heard seals singing in the
'Some sailors reckoned they were mermaids singing to lure men to their death,' he said,
'But believe me they were only seals.'
'Hallo, boy,' he shouted as Robert reached the boathouse with the loaves.
'Your mother is good to me, bless her heart. Would you like the crust of the end with a
bit of cheese?'
Robert took the bread and cheese wrapped in his mother's cloth. He walked along the
beach During the night there had been a great storm with high winds, but now all was calm
and quiet. Along the shingle bank, the tide had left a line of seaweed, bits of wood and
lengths of thick rope. In the distance he could see a large piece of timber - or was it a
He walked across the pebbles. It was a young girl with long hair covered with seaweed!
She tried to sit up an cried out with pain. Robert went up to her. The girl shrank back,
'Don't be frightened,' he said 'I won't hurt you. Where does it hurt?'
'It is my arm,' she replied, 'We were caught in a storm last night. I think it is
broken. I cannot swim properly.'
He helped her sit up and then stepped back in amazement! Instead of feet and legs, she
had a fish tail!
'You can't be - you must be - you are a mermaid!' he stammered. She laughed. 'Don't be
frightened. I won't hurt you.'
He carefully cleaned the cuts and felt her arm. 'You are lucky. Your arm is only
He hurried to the bank of the nearby stream and returned with some comfrey leaves.
His grandmother was well-known in the village as a healer and Robert often helped her
collect herbs. He crushed the leaves and placed them on the bruises and covered the arm
with his mother's cloth.
'I feel better already,' she said, 'You have saved my life. You are very kind and
gentle. One day, your hands will make your fortune, I promise you.'
She looked worried. 'I must join my people. The seals will help me.'
I can row you to the sandbank where the seals live,' said Robert. He made her
comfortable in his uncle's small rowing boat and started to row along the coast. Soon he
could see the tall church tower inland. Not far to go now! He rowed hard but made no
headway. The tidal current was forcing him back. His hands became red and sore as he used
all his strength. He was almost crying.
'How far is it to the sandbank?' the mermaid said. 'About a mile,' gasped Robert
She sat up and began to sing a sweet high lilting song. In a few moments heads bobbed up
out of the water. The seals had come to help!
They guided the boat through the current on to the sandbank.
'Goodbye,' she said, 'I will never forget your kindness. The seals will take you home.'
In no time at all , Robert was back near his uncle's boathouse. Suddenly his uncle's voice
sounded in his ear.
'Wake up, Robert. You've been sitting there for nearly an hour! Time to go home.'
'Wait a minute!' Uncle William picked up a large piece of wood. It was carved in the
shape of woman's head with long hair curling over her shoulders.
'It's a figurehead from an old shipwreck brought in by the storm. Take it home to your
Robert put out his hands to take the figurehead. 'How did you get those blisters on your
hands, boy?' his uncle exclaimed. I think your father must be working you too had. Hurry
home before it gets dark.'
Robert looked at his blistered hands. Had it all been a dream, he wondered. But where
was his mother's cloth?
Robert never told anyone about the mermaid and her promise, but he made a carving of
her to decorate one of the benches in the church.
His fame as a woodcarver spread to the city and he became the Master Carver in the
He married a girl with long curly hair and a sweet singing voice. Sometimes he said to
her 'You sing like a mermaid.' 'Don't be silly.' she said, but Robert just smiled. They
had six children and lived happily ever after.
If you do not believe my story, go and look in Upper Sheringham church!
The following appeared in the Eastern Daily Press:
In loving memory of Kitty (Kathleen) Rose, died March 6, 2005 at Kelling, Norfolk aged 85.
Kitty was an inspiration to all who knew her. Her bravery, her forthrightness, and the
many stories of her long and varied career, from her times as a columnist on the Daily
Worker to her knowledge of local Norfolk history, will be greatly missed by her family and
friends. Kitty will be cremated at Earlham Crematorium, Norwich at 1.30pm on Wednesday 16