This week I’ve been working on the second book in the Eochaidh series. As I was writing, I needed to do a little research on the Isle of Avalon. The Isle of Avalon is a tidal island that King Arthur supposedly went to after he was defeated. It also has ties to Excalibur and Morganna.
So, when I was researching it, I discovered that Burgh Island in Devon is considered to be the Isle of Avalon. So, of course, for Freaky Friday I had to check and see if there were any ghosts on the island that could send a shiver down our spines. I wasn’t disappointed.
The website Haunted Plymouth has a page on Burgh Island and the ancient Pilchard Inn.
Burgh Island, situated directly opposite Bigbury on Sea, is steeped in history and legend, being a one-time haunt of pirates and smugglers, and a hideaway for the rich and famous.
The Pilchard Inn was initially a 14th-century hideout for those wishing to keep a reasonable space between themselves & the law. Tom Crocker was a renowned smuggler who was reputedly based on Burgh Island. Although, smuggler was probably just a polite way to say pirate.
Tom Crocker was the leader of a band of vicious pirates in the late 14th century. It was well known that Crocker and his men were indeed responsible for looting and plundering a wide array of ships over many years during the 14th century. Crocker met his demise after a well-coordinated attack ordered by the King of England Edward III, this was due to the fact that Crocker had previously attacked an English ship. Moral of this story – don’t mess with English ships.
There are two accounts of what happened to Tom.
One account states that his band of men were defeated and surrendered after a brutal fight. Crocker was captured and then dragged, kicking and screaming for his life, to the highest point upon Burgh Island from where he was hung by his neck until he was declared dead.
Another account states that after a lengthy career, Tom was shot dead by a revenue man on the 14th August on the porch of the Pilchard Inn. His ghost is said to return to haunt the island every year on the anniversary of his death.
Both accounts agree that Tom’s restless ghost has been sighted outside the Pilchard Inn, as well as wandering aimlessly on the shores of Burgh Island.
However, this account from the Haunted Plymouth website adds a little credence to his demise at the inn:
I find myself on this webpage as I was telling a colleague of an incident that happened in the Pilchard Inn back in 2005.
My family and I were staying in Burgh Island. My husband and I decided to go for a walk to the pub on the island even though it was raining heavily on this particular May evening.
We arrived at an empty pub with the only occupant being a very friendly barman. This was before the no-smoking ban but the pub had already put this into place. (I am non-smoker now I must add.)
After a while, I decided to go for a smoke, and went to the barn style doors to go outside. I opened the top half easily but was struggling to open the bottom when I felt an almighty shove in my back which made me stumble forward a little. I turned to give my husband a mouthful for being impatient and saw he was still sitting down at the other side of the room. The bar man was behind the bar.
My hair stood on end and I had goose bumps on my arm. I told the barman (who didn’t look at me as if I was a nutter) and he said I must have had an encounter with Tom.
I can’t remember the surname he gave. He then told me of a young Tom who had been shot in the doorway by the customs and excise officers a few hundred years ago.
Then I told the lady who lived next door to our holiday rental and she gave me the same account as the barman. Is this another Tom or Tom Crocker with the story altered over the years?
I’m thinking it’s the same Tom. And he’s still a bit of a scoundrel.