THE Kent and Keer have swallowed many a man and his mare is a traditional dirge about the dangerous sands of Morecambe Bay.

‘Swallowed’ is a literal warning, as quicksands left by the ebbing tides can suck a paddler down to a dirty death.

Happily in the 1940s and 1950s, Arthur Nelson from Halforth, Heversham, received several awards for rescuing unwary folk stranded in the estuary ooze.

More typically, also at Halforth, in June 1842, ‘the body of the wife of the man Smith, a nailer’, who drowned at Ulverston the previous Christmas, was washed up. As ‘part of the head was missing she was recognised by her boots’.

Further back, in 1725, the Rev John Lucas of Warton, referring to the River Keer’s channel, asserted that ‘Quick Sand Pools... in which a man can be swallowed within minutes’, invariably gave up their dead.

Once, when a sandbank collapsed, he claimed, there appeared the clarty corpse of a ‘traveller dressed in clothes of a former era... still clutching his horse whip’.

The whip is a literal illustration of the ‘mare’ in the dirge, for most early fatalities were to horse riders a well as pedestrians taking the amphibious ‘over-sands’ short cut route between ‘mainland’ Lancashire and Furness.

In Beetham Church there is a memorial to ‘Jonathan Bottomley clothier of Staineland, Halifax who unhappily perished on our Sands aged 32 and was buried here 31st December 1787’.

Casualty lists lengthened when bathing became popular.

In July 1824 Amos Hodgson ‘a dancing master was drowned whilst bathing at Milnthorpe Sandside’.

Also at Sandside, in May 1828, ‘a woman Gerard’ having just bathed her two infants ‘as the tide was ebbing stepped off a break in the sand and was carried away... she was a widow and her children are left destitute’.

In June 1914, 11-years-old Stanley McNamee ‘went under’ at Summerhouse Point, Milnthorpe, though the tragedy occurred, ‘in full view of 1,000 Sunday scholars from Barrow’, his body was only recovered ten days later ‘with black headed gulls devouring it’.

Other tragedies are recalled on memorials at Heversham Church. They include, in June 1792, two borders from Heversham Grammar School, John and Isaac Hudson, both aged 16; in June 1815 Thomas Barker of Cartmel - ‘an amiable and lamented youth’ and, in August 1855 three more Grammar Boys George Cowell, Edmund Goodwin and Richard Rigby.

But Heversham’s saddest inscription, of August 1770, is to the children of Jane Dickinson (who had died the previous April) and John Dickinson, of Milnthorpe.

They were: Agnes, aged seven, Richard, three, Elizabeth, two, and Birbeck, one year.

As in other epitaphs their fate was recorded as ‘drowned while bathing on the Sands’ .