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Did the Pied Piper ever go to Pudsey?

1984…George Orwell’s year of doom:

1,500 years since the first great schism between the Eastern and Western Churches;

700 years since the start of the Pied Piper Legend (of which more below);

400 hundred years since the death of Ivan the Terrible in Russia;

200 years since Andrew Meikle – a Scottish millwright from Dunbar – began inventing what would, a few years later, become the threshing machine, paving the way for agricultural revolution all over Europe;

100 years since the completion of London Underground’s Circle Line; 40 years since the D-Day Invasions;

And in Christmas of this year Band Aid released the collective single Do They know It’s Christmas? that fundamentally changed the ways millions of people worldwide viewed charitable giving, specifically, in this case, for the victims of famine in Ethiopia.

Less well known is that the previous month, November, Israel organised its own relief in the form of Operation Moses, a secret military action which airlifted 7,000 Ethiopian Jews out of the country and brought them to Israel. This Jewish Community in Ethiopia were an extremely ancient sect. They called themselves Beta Israel – The House of Israel, but were know by others as Falashas -aliens, or strangers, and were unknown by the outside world, even by other Jews, until the Scottish explorer James Bruce (known as the Pale Abyssinian) stumbled upon them when he was searching for the Source of the Nile in 1769.

Another story of exodus involves the origins of the Pied Piper story, which historians now believe to be based on the migration from the German town of Hamelin described in the Lüneburger Handschrift: on June 26th 1284 a single nobleman led a group of 130 children, or Kämmerlinge (probably born as bonded serfs) out of the town’s gate, never to be seen again.

There are various theories about where they might have gone, and one historian, Wolfgang Wann, has uncovered some tantalising clues.

He believes they emigrated to Moravia, in the Czech Republic, settling in a place they named Hamelingow; this Hamelingow appears in historical maps dated before the Thirty Years War (1618- 1648), but not after, implying that at some point during this war they had to up sticks and leave again. Herr Wann believes they went on to settle an area corresponding closely to the present day city of Vyškov, which was, until WWII, a German-speaking enclave called Wischau.

Herr Wann has trawled huge amounts of historical documents and found evidence that several family names occur both in Hamelin and this part of Moravia: Hamlinus, Hamler, Leist, Rike, Fargel, Hake and Ketteler.

Interestingly, it was from this same area that the Moravian Brethren sent out their apostles into the world from the early 1700s onwards, reaching as far as the West Indies, Greenland, England and America, possibly taking those names with them, going to places those original Kämmerlinge could never have known existed.

There was an active community of Brethren In Fulneck, just outside Pudsey in Leeds, a place I know well as I worked in Tong, right next door to Fulneck, and worked with pupils from the Fulneck Brethren’s school right after I graduated from Leeds University in, yes, you guessed it, 1984.

So here, folks, endeth the lesson for today.

This is the oldest known drawing of the legend about the Piper of Hamelin, made in the year 1592, to describe the journey undertaken by Augustin von Mörsperg, a baron from Elsaß. The drawing is based on the leaded glass window in the old church of Hamelin, which dates to around 30 years after the 1284 exodus, and was sadly destroyed in 1660 during construction work.

My thanks to Erich Meixner

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