North Country Guides









Poetry & Art

The Hayloft Stable


Young People




About this book:

  • ISBN: 190 452 4370 (paperback)

  • Published 2005

  • Price £10.00 + postage

  • 119 pages

  • Illustrated with two black & white photographs



About the Book:
This novel is inspired by an actual event that took place in the Lake District in the 1800s. A mysterious creature, known to Cumbrians as the 'girt dog', escaped from a travelling menagerie and wreaked havoc in the Cumbrian fells.
In a time of barbarous cruelty, the human menagerie forms the backdrop to our story. We are swept from the murky depths of slavery and prize fighting in Georgian Whitehaven to the horror of the massacre of Aboriginal peoples in Tasmania.
The author writes about the struggle for survival with power and grace. In the face of man's inhumanity to man and animal, this is above all a tale of friendship, loyalty and honour, and the force and truth of this work is tempered by a love of all living things and an understanding of nature. This first novel will grip and haunt every reader.

About the Author:
Shaun Williamson has been a merchant seaman on the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and the North Sea. His interaction with the native people of North America inspired him to study stone-carving on his return to England in the early 80s.
He has since built his reputation as a stone sculptor, with public commissions to his credit in Cumbria and the rest of the UK. He has placed a strong emphasis on community training in all his sculpture projects.
While sculpting a 12-ton Herdwick Ram in the Cumbrian heartlands, he was inspired to write his first novel, Mauler. The richness of Scottish and Border history drives his imagination and story-telling ability, a by-product of his ancestral connection with the travelling peoples.

Recently Shawn has been taking part in BIg Cat Conversations about his experiences with big cats including his view of a panther spooking deer in the back lanes of the Lake District. He explains how panthers and big cats inspire some of his sculpture. Shawn also discusses people’s elemental connections with wildlife including big cats and even the Tasmanian wolf or Thylacine, which itself has a historical link with Cumbria.

You can hear more at: https://bigcatconversations.com/episodes

'What a fantastic story! Congratulations!' Nicholas Shakespeare

From the first page to the last, I was held in a man-trap. Then the iron jaws of this wild tale were mysteriously opened into a parable of how we may yet live with nature and even learn from our savage past. The best novel of its kind since Jack London's 'White Fang'. Dr Andrew Sinclair, biographer to Jack London.

Dark legend of the fells
Mystery, history and a touch of horror shroud 'Mauler', a novel with an unusual local flavour. Inspired by a little-known 19th century Lake District legend, this first offering from Shawn Williamson delves into the story of the 'girt dog' - a mysterious creature that wreaked havoc on Lakeland's fells in the 1880s.
Killing hundreds of sheep and running rings round local hunts on a jaw-snapping rampage, the animal's escape froma travelling menagerie forms the backdrop of the tale, which is surprisingly gripping even if you're more used to 'chick lit' or prefer non-fiction.
Not the perfect choice for bedtime reading (especially if you reside in particularly rural Cumbrian climes), the reader is taken on a dark journey from Georgian Whitehaven to the aboriginals of Tasmania, exploring slavery, prize-fighting and the struggle to survive en-route.
The bleak setting described by Williamson, who hails from Camerton, near Workington, is of a landscape exposed to the elements where there hovers a dangerously thin line between life and death.
This contrasting Cumbria, perhaps not a million miles away from modern day life, makes Williamson's inaugural novel a good
choice for anyone with an interest in the area's past or who simply likes a good thriller. Westmorland Gazette, September 2005

Girt Dog of Ennerdale

The Girt Dog of Ennerdale is one of the most enduring mysteries in the north of England. In 1810 something was loose in Cumbria and killing sheep in a very strange way. Those who glimpsed the nocturnal marauder likened in to a huge dog, hence the name Gurt (great) dog. But the beast had some distinctly un dog-like characteristics. Witnesses said it bore tiger like stripes along it’s back. It often just drank the blood of its victims or ate the soft internal organs. Stories were rife that it was some kind of supernatural beast. Indeed it’s uncanny ability to avoid being caught and the fear it instilled in normally courageous hounds was strange.
Some years ago I wrote an article for the cryptozoological magazine Animals & Men in which I postulated that the only animal the fitted the Gird Dog’s description was the Thylacine, a striped, wolf like, flesh eating marsupial.
Discovered only in 1805 on the island of Tasmania this remarkable animal did indeed lap the blood of its prey and preferred soft flesh to thicker meat such as muscle.
My colleague Clinton Keeling, an expert in the history of zoos, told me that several of the traveling menageries held creatures labeled as “tiger wolves”. These were almost certainly thylacines. Escapes from these slap dash affairs were common. Could one have got loose in Cumbria in 1810?
The article later appeared on Brian Goodwin’s Crypto Cumbria website.
Imagine my surprise when, several years later, out of the blue Shawn Williamson rings me up to tell me he has written a novel based on my scribblings! Not only that but he invites me up for the launch in Edinburgh.
A likeable giant of a man Shawn puts you in mind of a shaved, polite Viking. Give him a beard and a sword and you could well imagine him terrorizing Lindisfarn in the 9th century.
He has produced an excellent first novel. His writing style is best described as a cross between Jack London and Arthur Conan-Doyle. The book begins when a certain Captain Potter brings a ship full of strange beasts from foreign lands to the port of Whitehaven. He has a traveling circus and zoo complete with dwarfs, strongmen, monkeys, and lions. But his main attraction is Cu`chulain, a striped dog like beast from the distant isle of Tasmania.
The captain enters his charge in a dog fight with high stakes and Cu`chulain (name after the Irish folk hero) destroys the finest fighting dogs of the local snob Lady Dagobert costing her dear in the pocket.
In the meantime an engaging character known as Fell Boy enters Whitehaven. He is a feral child who lives on the moors with his pet fox. He is a sort of junior, temperate Tarzan. Fell Boy is on the run after stealing gold crucifixes from some Irish workmen.
Fell Boy falls in with Potter and his crew as the pompous Dogobert engineers an animal escape and riot that wrecks the town and turns Potter and his cronies into wanted men. Fell Boy who has formed a bond with Cu`chulain sets him free as the circus flees town.
Once loose the thylacine cuts a bloody swath trough the local seep population and runs rings around those who try to catch him.
The second half of the book is set in Tasmania where Fell Boy, now a grown man with his own son, is trying to avert the wholesale destruction of the island’s wildlife and native people. Mauler is a gripping yarn that would make an excellent film and the unexpected twist at the end leaves the story open for a sequel.
Richard Freeman, Fortean Times, October 2005.

Tasmanian carnivore on the rampage...

A renowned sculptor has turned his creative skills in a new direction by penning his first novel. And Shawn Williamson's bid to carve out a new branch to his career has already attracted attention with favourable reviews and talk of the novel 'Mauler' being turned into a film.
Shawn, who grew up and was educated in Morecambe, is best known for his distinctive stone sculptures - the most eye-catching local work being the medieval knight outside Lancaster Magistrates Court.
He now lives in Cumbria and says: 'I have a few sculpture commissions in the pipeline but just now my heart is in writing. Living up here in the wilds really forces you to concentrate and it's a good environment for creativity. Mauler is set largely in the Lake District and around Morecambe Bay but then finishes off in Tasmania.'
The novel deals with the legend of the 'girt dog' and its terrorising effect on rural communities in the Lakes. An escapee from a traveling zoo the animal - probably a Thylacine, a now-extinct Tasmanian carnivore - rampages through local villages devouring hundreds of farm stock.
The Morecambe Visitor, January 2006

Good book - but don't read it at night
This is a strange and dark book that is probably not best read late at night.
'Mauler' tells the tale of a Tasmanian tiger let loose in the early 19th century Cumbrian countryside and the devastation and terror it wreaks.
For Cumbrian folk the book is all the more enthrallng for using Whitehaven or other local settings.
It's also a legend that has echoes in the story of the Girt Dog of Cumbria or the more recent Beast of Exmoor.
Author Shawn Williamson evokes the spirit of the time well and describes the Cu'chulain - as he dubs the beast - in frightening form.
Perhaps it's the lack of detail and the hints at the presence and size of the monster that makes it quite so terrifying. Cu'chulain really does become the central character of this novel although the brooding fells and dark countryside also seem to take on a life of their own.
It's a book best read in daylight and certainly not when you're alone!
Whitehaven News, September 2005






To Order:

this book with payment via Worldpay's secure credit card website:




If you prefer to pay by cheque or to order by post then please print out and complete the order form by clicking the link below:

Order Form




Copyright © Hayloft Publishing Ltd