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The Little Drummer Boy of Richmond

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Today I thought I’d share a story from my childhood that has always stayed with me: The Little Drummer Boy of Richmond. I can’t remember when I first heard this story, but like all the best stories it became a part of me without me even realising.

Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I will begin.

This story takes place in a place called Richmond. Richmond had a proud history, founded in 1071 by Alan Rufus, a member of the Norman invasion led by William the Conqueror. It nestled into the North Yorkshire hills and everyone agreed that was one of the prettiest towns they have ever seen.

Local legend had it that an ancient tunnel linked Richmond’s castle with Easby Abbey, built in 1300s by the ‘white cannons’. No one really believed the old stories until one day soldiers from a garrison stationed at Richmond stumbled across the entrance to a tunnel, deep in the earth beneath the castle. The entrance was too small for a grown man to fit through.

At that time, all army regiments had a small boy to be their drummer, beating them into battle and beating out instructions hidden within the drum rolls. The soldiers called out to their drummer boy and asked him if he would go down into the tunnel to see if it led to the abbey as legend foretold. This little drummer boy was very brave and agreed to go into the tunnel. The soldiers gave him food and they agreed that he would drum as he made his way underground and the soldiers would follow his drum beats above ground.

Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle. Courtesy of Wikicommons and Andrew Bowden

The little drummer boy set off. He drummed steadily as he followed the tunnel and the soldiers followed his drum beats above ground. Those subterranean drum beats rang out through the earth and shook the souls of everyone who heard them. The soldiers were afraid for their little drummer boy. The drum beats continued and the tunnel was indeed heading towards Easby Abbey. However, after three miles, the drumming stopped. The soldiers never saw their little drummer boy again and put a monument to him where the drumming stopped which can still be seen today in Easby Woods.

But what really happened to the little drummer boy deep underground? Some say his drumming stopped as his torch lit up a great cavern underground full with sleeping knights. One of the knights had awoken at the sound of the little boy’s drum and he raised his hand. ‘Has the hour of England’s greatest need come?’ he asked the little drummer boy. ‘No,’ the boy replied. ‘It is not the time to wake King Arthur then,’ the Knight said and sat back down to return to his slumbers. Before he fell asleep again, he invited the little drummer boy to join them in their sleep. The little drummer boy had heard the great stories of King Arthur and his Knights. As he was a brave boy himself, he decided to join them, ready to defend his home if the dark days ever came. He lay his drum down and joined the Knights asleep under the earth.

It is said that even today, on a cold clear day, local people hear the faint echoes of drum beats in the Earth. The little drummer boy does not want to be forgotten.

I hope you enjoyed that story. I think once in a while a story captures your imagination so much that it becomes part of you – do you have stories like that?

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