The history of Clophill, Bedfordshire, UK
Including historical descriptions, maps and statistical analysis.
Mr. Machael Davis - yes Machael. that is how he wants it spelt. The mystery man in the many overcoats. He has a speech problem, not only the bad language one, but also difficulty in communication, caused probably by brain damage from an old head injury, or shell shock or lobotomy - but he can't tell us his sad past that has lead to his sad present. He can give us an occasional sentence in Queen's English but the rest is mumbo jumbo and blue pencil stuff.
He has been passing through Clophill for about 8 years now. At first he was starving so we fed him. In those days he came only two or three times a year. Then his visits became more frequent & prolonged and we fed him and gave him a change of clothes (which he got into while having a hot scrub in the garage). He does not drink or smoke so we arranged a vagrant's allowance for him from the DHSS who came out and interviewed him in the High Street. We gave him our address, otherwise he would not have qualified for any cash. Also we arranged for him to have a bus pass.
Then one cold winter we gave him leave to sleep in our back kitchen boiler room, but his habits were nocturnal and he used to prowl around the garden at night making awful noises which nearly drove us potty. So we moved him out after six months and he went back to his haystacks and barns.
The police think he is 80 years old but he is probably younger; the rough life making him look ancient like Moses, with his long white beard. Hot summers are more trying for him than the cold weather because under his five overcoats he gets heat rash. Twice now he has gone in for hospital treatment for this.
Machael gets around all over East Anglia and London. People report sighting him miles away.
His cockney accent has two voices. one dominant and bass and the other submissive and treble, so that when he talks to himself as he is wont, it sounds like two persons - they say that this is a classic example of schizophrenia. However his bark is worse than his bite because all the time we have known him he has been a gentleman, even if a noisy and smelly one.
So, if any of you would like to contribute good quality, clean old clothes for Mac you will be doing him a very good turn. Only shirts, trousers, socks, coats and gun boots please - the rest he does not bother with. (coats have to be large sizes for fitting on top of each other); also travel bags come in useful and small blankets. He would not stay in an old people's home, but if he did, all the others would move out!
When you meet him and greet him remember that he can understand you and what you say, even if you can't understand him and what he says! And if any of you know some more of his secrets please write in about them.
Penny Horsnail, Dormer House. 110 High Street
A lovely picture of Machael - Clophill's adopted tramp. We believe this photograph was taken one Christmas at Penny Horsnail's house (next to the Old Rectory). He often used to turn up at Penny's front garden wall knowing that he was 'good for breakfast'.
Machael hasn't been seen around the village since August and John Burger at the Post Office, concerned at his non-appearance to collect his pension, made extensive enquiries in an effort to trace him. We thought that our readers might like to know that he is in fact in Fairfields Hospital; though we don't know whether this will be long term or not. We wish him well and thank John Burger for his thoughtfulness.
We have just learned that Machael the tramp who, until about 12 years ago, was a frequent and colourful visitor to the village, died on the 15th November.
In 1989 Penny Horsnail wrote an article about him for Spotlight which we have re-printed below together with a picture which will jog some memories. (See above)
No doubt the main attraction for Machaels frequent visits was the food and shelter afforded to him by Penny (who now lives near Bristol, but at the time lived at Dormer House, next to the Old Rectory in the High Street). Another attraction was that his DHS benefit was payable at Clophill Post Office!
He eventually ceased his nomadic life and went into Fairfield Mental Hospital where he stayed for 9 years, apparently to good effect. So much so, that when Fairfield closed, as part of the 'returning to the community' policy, he was able to go to a small residential home in Haynes where he lived in comfort and relative peace of mind for the remaining 3½ years of his life.