A TALE BY HAWTIN MUNDY age 13
My dear old Dad. On my thirteenth birthday he brought me a brand new bike – that was a three-wheel bike. That was like, today, anybody’s Dad buying them a Rolls Royce!
I came peddling away, back home from Northampton, all by myself, down the Old Haversham Road. All up the side of the road there were hedges and bushes. As I came along, I got my old oil lamp on the bike, and just as I got to the Old Wolverton turn, a policeman stepped out, and said “Hey, boy, get off that bike, your lamps out!” I thought “ooh ‘ell,” so instead of me stopping to get off, I pedaled like Hell – hard as I could go – up the hill towards the Stations.
The old copper went up the corner of the Old Wolverton Road, and blew his whistle. I tore up the hill, and I had to pause when I got to the top of the hill, to turn down to Bradwell, and another policeman stepped out, pushed me off me bike on the road. And, course, I knew what had happened. He knew I was on my way up the hill, and he had me. He says, “Now what’s your name?” With no hesitation about it, I tried to think of somebody’s name, but I couldn’t. But any rate, it didn’t take him long. “All right” he says. If you won’t tell me your name, I’ll come home with you”. I thought “oh that’s buggered it”, so I told him me name and address, and so on.
A few days later, I had a summons come, to appear at Stony Stratford Court. ‘Ooo, Hell!’ I turned up at Stratford Court, and I stood in the dock. I could hardly see over the top! The policeman gave his evidence – you know, riding the bike without a light. I said to this policeman, I said, “my lamp’s all right!” “Out” he says. “Oh no it isn’t. It just blew out then.” He put his hand on the top, and he said, “It’s as cold as ice”. I knew it was. Anyway, the copper at Stratford told them what happened – that I wouldn’t stop and went straight on.
Sitting on the bench in those days – there were no working class people – the magistrate then was the old Duke of Grafton, from Potterspury. Anybody in those days, who lived at Potterspury, it was said, ‘Oh, he grew up on the old Dukes dripping’. There was a tale then – I don’t know whether its true or not – but the Earldom of the old Duke of Grafton was caused years ago, because the old king, when he was having a run round with Nell Gwynn, it happened at the palace that Nell was there with her old King. And some of other kids were running about. So Nell said to this kid, “Come over here and be quiet, you little bastard!”” So the old King said “Ooh don’t call him that! We’ll make him the Duke of Grafton”. I don’t know if that’s right – that always has been the tale, but I bet you won’t find it in history!
I was stood in the Dock. I never said a word, and the old Duke, he was there – magistrate. Along each side of him were these ‘ere local people. They was all top notches, shopkeepers, and so on. But the one that sat next to him was Purslow – Dick Purslow – and he was manager of Wolverton Works. He sat next to the old Duke – was deaf as a post! He used to have one of these ear-trumpets. He used to put that in his ear and they used to have to talk to him. When he heard what I’d done – riding a bike without a light – he never hesitated! He said, “Ten shillings.” Purlow shouted down the Duke’s trumpet and he said, “He’s only a boy – six shilling!” And I am blowed if I didn’t have to pay six shillings – or my Dad did. That was nearly two weeks wages!