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TALES FROM THE PAST.

Byline: Tom Slemen

I HAVE discovered that, locally, there are nine places where the desperate and the foolish traditionally go to sell their souls to the Devil.

These sites all have sinister reputations, and some of them are crossroads, a time-honoured place to meet His Satanic Majesty.

One of the soul-exchange venues in my unholy gazetteer of the damned is now known as the Childwall Fiveways, and I could chill your blood with some of the terrible deeds that stemmed from the pacts that were struck there for love, wealth and vanity.

Another place to sell your soul for fame and fortune is the bridge on Rose Lane in Mossley Hill. This location has a very dark reputation because of the sheer amount of infernal bartering that went on there, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s.

There is even a murky rumour that one local musician sold his soul to Beelzebub on the bridge one frosty midnight in December 1960 in exchange for two decades of fame and fortune.

One rainy night in July 1970, three young men from West Derby were drinking in the Rose of Mossley, at the junction of Rose Lane and Bridge Road in Mossley Hill.

All three lads had lost money at the betting shop, and one of them, named Paddy, had just been chucked by his girlfriend, Penny, who lived just round the corner on Dovedale Road.

Paddy had assured his two mates, Dan and Brian, that Penny would drive them home to West Derby, but now, thanks to a stupid row, Penny had given him the elbow and so they'd have to walk six miles home.

Souls for sale 'So it's Shank's Pony then eh?' sighed Brian, draining the bitter from his glass as he eyed the pub clock. 'Hey, what is "Shank's Pony"? Wonder where that saying came from?' mused Dan, relishing the last of his Bovril crisps.

Paddy explained, 'From your shank - the lower part of your leg, between your knee and ankle. So it means using your legs as transport.' 'You're wrong there son,' came a rich old voice from a corner. All three youths turned to see an old man in a faded tartan cap and tweed suit, eyeing them through his pipe smoke.

'Shanks is one of the names the other fellah uses,' the old man said, and when the three lads returned puzzled looks, the pensioner mimicked horns by placing his bent index fingers over his head. 'Old Nick - the Devil.' 'That's not what I heard,' Paddy retorted, 'I heard Shank's pony -' The oldster cut him sort: 'Well you heard wrong lad. Sit down and I'll enlighten you.' The bemused trio sat around the little oaken table in the corner, and the old man - a Mr Sikey - fascinated his new company, telling them how the Devil gave little favours to people as tasters now and then, and one of them was Shank's Pony.

In the old days people who had 'given Old Nick a chance' had been richly rewarded. Poor travellers needing transport would find a pony waiting for them when the inn closed, and sometimes a mysterious man would even turn up at the inn with a carriage, all for a small price of course.

The Devil would ask these people to do little things for him. The more they did for him the bigger the rewards were.

'Unparalleled success with the opposite sex,' Mr Sikey promised, and winked at Paddy, 'wealth beyond your wildest dreams.' 'Count me in!' declared Brian and Dan at the same time, and burst out laughing at the coincidence, but Paddy smelled a rat... . Continued next week Souls for sale

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DEVIL'S BRIDGE? the bridge at rose lane
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2010
Words:618
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