A LEGEND BEGINS

This is a story my Dad told me. And I checked it with Percy’s Dad.

It seems there was another bloke called Widdop. Seems he was a tramp. All year and every year he wandered all over. He had a great big stick he carried because he had a limp. Dad said they’d see him every now and then and he’d wave and sometimes stop and have a chat. They’d give him a bit of food – an apple, a crust of bread, some cheese. He didn’t smell too good but Dad said he heard that someone like Weston from the church would take him to the baths. There were individual tubs there then. Otherwise, he jumped in the river I suppose. But then again Dad and Percy’s dad reckon that folk didn’t bath anywhere near as much in those days. But he never changed his clothes. Dad said he wore baggy brown cords, a rough work shirt and a duffle coat.

Anyway, it seems he helped out at a farm in spring and autumn. Summer and winter he’d be wandering. Dad said there were tales that he’d been damaged over in France during the war. And Dad meant the 1914 war. He was a big fella, six foot plus. But he hardly ever spoke. Strong silent type I suppose. That limp was testament to his service, Dad reckoned. But he said there was something about his eyes that said he wasn’t all there.

Dad said him and some of his mates followed once. They went all the way from West Girling all the way to Wyckham Junction. He went in the woods and, when he saw he was being followed, he turned and yelled “Fuck off” at the top of his voice. And he waved his stick and said he’d hurt them if they didn’t leave him alone.

Yes. They left him alone.

Then they didn’t see him for ages. A couple of years Dad said. Long enough for them to think he’d snuffed it. But then one day round about his birthday Dad saw him. He’d have been about 14 because he was out delivering and he left school at fourteen.

“There was Widdop with this kid.”

Yes, a lad. About Dad’s age he said. Maybe younger. And they were striding up Cumberland Road. Widdop with his stick and his limp. Didn’t take long for folk to say this little kid was Widdop’s apprentice. A foundling. His nephew. They walked around for ages together.

Don’t know what happened to Widdop but the lad must have grown up to be Giddy Widdop. Never went to school. But he knew stuff. Stuff about woods and fields and plants and birds and that kind of stuff.

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