By John Macklin
“COME HERE,” shouted 12-year-old John Edgely to his four-year-old sister Clara, who was sitting absorbed in some childish game on the flagstones outside their English Westcountry farmhouse.
On that still autumn evening in September 1910, the English countryside seemed at its most peaceful. Higher Court Farm, nestling in a dip in Somerset’s Brendon Hills, had the timeless serenity of centuries of partnership with nature.
But suddenly the stillness was broken by the clatter of John’s small boots as he ran to his sister and bundled her inside the kitchen door, oblivious to her cries of protest.
Seconds later, a heavy shire horse, its eyes wide with panic and broken plough, harness trailing behind it, galloped from behind a barn and thundered through the yard out into a lane.
Its great steel-shod hooves hammered over the exact spot where Clara Edgely had been sitting.
NO-ONE IN the farmyard could have known the potentially lethal incident was about to happen. The horse, recently bought by John’s father William, had panicked while ploughing a nearby field, broken its traces, and bolted.
But John Edgely apparently knew, thanks to some uncanny instinct which appeared to give him the power to forecast coming events and made him known in that remote Exmoor area as “the boy who can see the future.”
In that superstitious corner of Somerset over a century ago the introspective youth, who seldom left the farm and regarded animals and birds as his true friends, was regarded with a mixture of fear and suspicion.
But it would seem that his predictions invariably came true. When he was 11 a friend of his father’s was climbing into his trap to return to his own farm some five miles away, when John Edgely said to the man: “Be careful when you reach a crossroads by three houses with an overhanging tree.”
He added: “Try to drive was far away from the tree as you can.”
The farmer looked at the gaunt-featured boy with the brilliant blue eyes and the chaffing remark he was about to make remained unspoken. Instead, He thanked John and said he would take care.
Later the farmer told friends that trotting home in the early evening he did come to a crossroads that fitted John Edgely’s description, overhung by a large old elm tree. Despite himself, he pulled his trap to the extreme right of the narrow road.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own