The creation of a wartime myth…
The modern myth of Kitty Jay is perhaps one of the best-known stories from Dartmoor’s folklore, yet few know of its origins. Following the death of her fiancé in the First World War, writer Beatrice Chase became closely attached to the grave of the forgotten girl, Kitty Jay. Alongside fellow writer John Galsworthy, she set in trend a new tradition that continues to this day. Forever adorned with fresh flowers by a mystery mourner, Jay’s grave survives as Dartmoor’s shrine to the tragedy of abandonment…
MED theatre’s 2014 community play ‘Chasing Kitty Jay: the creation of a wartime myth’ got to the heart of Dartmoor’s Kitty Jay legend, exploring how the grave of a unknown suicide became a shrine for grief in a community suffering the impact of a brutal yet remote World War. Writers Beatrice Chase (author of ‘The Heart of the Moor’) and John Galsworthy (Nobel prize winner and author of ‘The Apple Tree’, a short story based on Kitty Jay) lived in the Dartmoor parishes of Widecombe and Manaton during World War One. Both had come from London where they had witnessed the poverty of the East End and developed a vocation for social reform. It was through their creative intervention that Kitty Jay myth was born.
‘Chasing Kitty Jay’ was scripted using historical records, oral history and the writings of Beatrice Chase and John Galsworthy. It was written by Artistic Director Mark Beeson in collaboration with members of MED Theatre’s Young Company Rachel Caverhill, Lily Earp and Elizabeth Mortimer, as well as Abby Stobart (Education Officer). The play formed part of MED Theatre’s wider Dartmoor in World War One project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and followed on from the Young Company production Road to Nowhere in November 2013.
Downloads and Links
For more information on the historical background, take a look at the PROGRAMME for ‘Chasing Kitty Jay’
You can also take a look at the SCRIPT here. You can visit our Dartmoor Resource site to read about the evolution of the Kitty Jay myth, or visit the Modern History page to read more about writers John Galsworthy and Beatrice Chase.
The Apple Tree Sequence
‘…one of the best we’ve seen. Amazing to have it in Widecombe!’
‘…a beautiful, entertaining and interesting play’
‘I’ve long been aware of Kitty Jay, but didn’t know the full story’
‘Nice to see the younger generation very involved with local folklore…’
‘Such and interesting play for the area. Well performed by all… The themes of love, grief, war, social inequality are important themes for the younger ones to consider’
‘I would like to find out more about Galsworthy…’
‘It was the best production yet, brilliant acting and a great story.’
‘Living on Dartmoor, it is pleasing to have some of the stories/legends acted out’
‘Great to watch acting of all ages’
‘It brought history to life’
‘It has reminded me of the wealth of history, story and culture from Dartmoor and makes me feel proud to call this extraordinary place my home…’
‘I was born and bred in Manaton and have heard the story many times before… but it was beautifully acted out. I was spellbound.’