The Official Tourism Website for Herefordshire

A Murder of Crows

Our tale this week is all about secrets and lies. Reminding us that whatever happens the truth will out. Sometimes in the strangest of ways, even by a murder of crows.

High above the village of Longtown on the Black Mountains many, many years ago, a shepherd lived on a farm. It had been in his family for generations and was all that he knew. The only downside was his neighbours, two brothers who happened to own all of the land that surrounded his farm. Not satisfied with their own lands they were determined to oust the shepherd from his farm and take what was his. The shepherd however resisted their many attempts to bully and harass him from his beloved home and livelihood.

A Callous and Greedy Murder

One day as the shepherd was out tending his flock he was unaware that he was being watched by the two brothers who were hiding behind a very large rock. Startled as they stepped out before him, the shepherd asked what they were doing on his land. The brothers demanded that the shepherd hand over his farm or else they would kill him there and then on the spot. “We’re all alone up here”, said one of the brothers, “no-one will know how you met your death”, he continued. But the shepherd alarmed by what he was hearing stood his ground and said, ” the only way you will get your hands on my land is when I’m dead, but even though there may not be any witnesses to my murder, the crows will see it and tell the world”.

The brothers laughed and mocked him and proceeded to club the poor chap to death. As they concealed the shepherd’s body, one of the brothers noticed two crows sat watching from one of the boulders. He thought no more of it, crows were a common sight on the land. The brothers returned back to their lives as if nothing had happened.

A Terrible Discovery

About a week later the body of the shepherd was discovered, villagers were unsure of how he had met his death. Some thinking he had had an accident while out on the mountains, others that he had met a violent death. However soon after the discovery the crows started acting very strangely indeed. A flock of them followed the two brothers wherever they went attracting unwanted attention. A black cloud of crows constantly hung just above their heads, in the fields while they were working and even when they went to market. The crows had also taken to sitting on the roof of their cottage, cawing loudly.

Brought to Justice

At first the brothers couldn’t understand why the crows were making such a nuisance of themselves. Until one day one of the brothers remembered the crows watching them when they killed the shepherd. Turning to his brother he said, “Do you remember what the shepherd said just before we killed him, that the crows would tell the world of it?”. His brother nodded, “Yes, but what can we do about them?”. Unbeknown to the brothers two farmhands had overheard their conversation and were on their way to tell the local justice. Within minutes the crows disappeared back onto the mountainside, the brothers were duly arrested, tried, found guilty of murder and were hanged. As prophesied by the shepherd, the brothers were indeed condemned by a murder of crows.

If you love Herefordshire Folklore and History follow our weekly Facebook ‘Folklore Friday’ feature here.

Click here to return to our Herefordshire History and Folklore page for more great stories.