King o’ the Cats

A gravedigger’s tale

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As I say at the beginning of the video, I’ve known this tale for years. Yet looking into my performing records, I discover that I have only told it once on stage, and that exactly 30 years ago. So first my thanks must go to a recent Chaztales blog by Storytell friend, Charles Kniernan, which made me go back to the story.
The tale is classified as “Death of an Underground Person”, Aarne-Thompson type 113A. Prof. Ashliman lists several variants. But for me the version by Joseph Jacobs in More English Fairy Tales (1894) is so cleverly and satisfactorily crafted, that I want to tell it much as he does.

My introduction about Congleton sexton and gravedigger, Peter Coppenhall, teaching me to dig graves is (of course) completely true. My sister sent me the second snapshot of Peter holding his sexton’s staff, with my father wearing his ecclesiastical robes. My father remembered Peter telling him a version of The Umbrella and the Commandments.
The final photograph is St. Peter’s vicarage, where we lived in the 1960s.

I also use Peter when opening Blacksmith and the Devil.

Another tale I set in Congleton is No News.

St. Peter’s is one of the finest examples of Georgian church architecture in the country, as the church’s tour website shows, including the reredos.

Peter Coppenhall
The Vicarage, where we lived


The video clips here are all amateur quality, shot in various theatres or, as here, in my home studio.

Their intention is just to show the range of my storytelling and give a flavour of a live performance.

Permission is granted for use in non-commercial educational contexts.

The videos are © Richard Martin.

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For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling