Those of you connected on Twitter locally may well have picked up on talk over the past few months about the "Goatman of Parkland Walk". Initially, I didn't pay it much attention. It appears however that this particular urban myth has a fascinating story attached to it going back to the 1970s.
Finsbury Park local Rob Ganly who grew up in the area has vivid memories of a man herding goats on Parkland Walk in the 1970s and 80s. Speaking to an Islington paper recently Rob commented “I don’t know exactly when I first heard of it, but around that time there were a lot less people on Parkland Walk and when it would get dark, it would get eerie. I remember we would start saying the ‘Goatman’s going to come’ to scare other kids. There were about 30 or 40 of us that had this Goatman figure in their mind." Over time the story seems to have developed into something of a local urban myth.
As the years went by, Rob never forgot the myth and finally last year he decided to find out what was behind it all. Rob took his quest to find the Goatman to Twitter. What he discovered as a result revealed that the Goatman may well have had physical form and lived on the Harringay Ladder!
Thanks to Rob and the Amy, the Islington journalist, I can reveal that the Goatman of the Seventies myth was very probably Ladder local Dick Harris.
The story originated from a period in the late seventies and early eighties when Dick moved into a house on the Harringay Ladder with a group of friends. Dick told the paper, “The idea was we could all share income and possessions. This place was an absolute haven. We had everything we needed, our own milk and cheese. Someone would grind corn and we would make our own bread.”
And where do you think the milk and cheese came from? One of the group built a goat shed in the garden and for a couple of years the Ladder house was home to three goats.
The goatman myth started because from time to time Dick used to put his caprine co-habitees in an in old Morris Minor pickup and take them to the Parkland Walk for exercise and to vary their diet from one consisting mainly of Green Lanes veg. A 'sheepdog' would also tag along on these pastoral promenades to try and keep the goats from straying too far.
And so the Goatman myth was born.
Although his lifestyle has changed somewhat Dick, 68, still lives in the same Harringay house. The original goatshed – built from materials which include discarded concrete pillars from the old Northern Heights railway that used to run along what is now Parkland Walk – still stands today.
Grateful acknowledgement to Rob Ganly and his Finsbury_Pk Twitter stream, Amy Smith of the Islington Tribune and Dick Harris who pieced together the Goatman story
i used to live in a top floor fat at 47 Hornsey rise (now a health clinic) from 1976 till 1980 the goats were not an uncommen sight on the disused railway line. I remember one summer Sunday afternoon hearing a loud din of hoofs clattering and goat bells clanking , I saw a grey bearded man (Mr Harris I presume !) hearding the goats North up Hornsey Rise towards the railway line, i will never forget the smell !
I think, Dennis, you must have seen the goats that Sara H mentioned above. Our goats didn't wear bells and, in those far off days, my beard was certainly not grey! Moreover our goats were all nannys which don't smell. It's only the billys that do that.
The goatman’s fame has spread, is a short piece about the goatman of the Parkland Walk in the (excellent) book ‘Curiosity: an alternative A to Z of London’. Page 220.
It mentions a short story by Stephen King called Crouch End which in which a man is swallowed by a horrific Goat with a Thousand Young .. This was inspired by the sculpture at the Crouch Hill part of the walk, which in turn it says alludes to the goat man.
Wonderful! Thanks, Alison.
You’re famous, Dick!