The Village Bobby
The more senior residents of Weston will no doubt remember Tom Walker who was the village policeman between 1962-1971. He took up residence at 18, Hitchin Road, Weston and soon became very much a part of the village community.
Here, in his own words are some of his memories of his time in the village.
“In 1961 we had our first move, this time to Weston, where I was to be the village bobby. It caused some amusement among the older villagers who remembered my granddad, George Walker who was not only the shepherd to the Farr family, but also a crafty old poacher. Poachers were prevalent in our family as not only did we have one William Walker, who was sentenced to 7 years transportation across to Van Diemens Land in 1845 for stealing a brass pot worth £1 but we also were distantly related to the infamous Fox twins, sons of the Minister of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Albert Street, Stevenage. The brothers were identical twins and were named Albert Ebenezer and Ebenezer Albert respectively. They were not just romantic poachers of yesteryear, their crimes did not cease at just poaching and one had a conviction for rape as well.
The old poaching tricks were well known to me and I soon sussed out one of the old boys in the village who would, in summer and winter take his exercise around the village, but in Springtime was usually to be seen walking the fields and hedgerows. One day in spring, my suspicions were substantiated when I spotted ‘old Charley’, for want of a ‘nom de plume’, approaching me along the village street, his pockets bulging a bit. We greeted each other and I responded by clapping my hands each side of him around his pockets, exclaiming, ‘Hi Charlie. How are you today’, hearing the crunch of dozens of pheasant and partridge eggs break in his pocket. He blessed me and I went on my way, pretty confident that I would not have a similar problem from Charlie again. Word soon got round the village, to the villagers amusement and Charlie’s chagrin.
When first making my way round my new beat on my very quiet Velocette, 200cc, motor cycle, I came across a gypsy family camped on the Old Roman Road at Luffenhall. The family consisted of Mum, Dad and a teenage son and daughter. I greeted them and enquired, “Who have we got here?”, to which the mother said, “Don’t you worry who you have here, we know who you are, you are Tom Walker and you have a little girl, Alison”. I was rather dumb struck by the reply, until they explained that a gypsy family I had known at Hitchin were the woman’s sister and brother in law and that one time, whilst there, I had gone out to find the sister to tell her that her son had died in prison. As the old lady had been overcome with grief, I had made her a cup of tea over the open fire. Later, I found a bunch of gypsy hand made flowers on my front door step – how the heck they knew where I lived, I do not know. We had a good relationship and we always saved our cast-off clothes and other bits for them.
I enjoyed my time at Weston but sometimes had to be creative about dealing with miscreants. One late evening, whilst sitting on my motor cycle near the village green, I heard shouts and the sound of a motor cycle approaching from the direction of the ‘White Horse’ pub. As the motorcycle passed me I switched on my headlights and there saw five of the local lads on the one bike. There were cries of ‘Its old Tom’. I then rode alongside and requested them to stop, which they could not do. At this point we were approaching the ‘Red Lion’ pub so I leaned over and pushed the handlebars so that the motor cycle and its load turned into Owen Oakley’s farm yard, straight through a pool of urine and manure where they landed on the muck heap. I escorted them out into the road and produced my notebook to the full view of the customers of the pub. I then wrote up each of them for about six offences each with the promise that they would duly receive summonses and fines. Many of the offences did not even exist! I let them sweat for about six weeks, during which time there were no complaints of rowdiness on the green and all was quiet. After the said six weeks I called them to my office one evening, and told them a tale whereby I had been called to my Superintendents office where he was most upset about the incident and wanted blood and that I had pleaded on their behalf, that they were not really bad lads. The Superintendent had relented and had instructed me to give them a first class telling off. This worked wonders, in the six or so weeks they had got out of the habit of being pests and I had no bother from that direction again, indeed, up into their later teens and twenties they were a source of support. Although telling a ‘Porkie’, it sorted out a problem, whereas if I had in reality reported them for summons it would have caused quite a bit of resentment and further annoyance to me and the public, it curtailed any thought of revenge which could have been ignited. They will still acknowledge me in a friendly manner even now, if we meet when out. They never tumbled to my little fiasco!
During my time as a rural copper, I made it my principle, that I was one of the villagers and endeavoured to identify myself with them. I have always been interested in local history, and uncovered a tale concerning a local lad by the name of Moles, who was convicted of setting fire to a barn at Oakley’s Farm. The only evidence being that he was seen in the area with a shovel-full of glowing coals. For this offence Moles was prosecuted, tried and hanged for arson from a tree in the grounds of Oakley’s Farm. This was believed to have happened in the 15th or 16th C. I became involved with the local youth club and arranged a firework evening, and as it got dusk I gathered the folk around and related the story of Moles, up to the time he was hanged. This moment I made as dramatic as I could, as I said, ‘They hung him by the neck until he was dead’ . One of lads who I had primed, tugged at a piece of string I had attached to a rope noose in the tree and it tumbled down before them. It caused a gasp and lots of laughter.
I have been quoted as being a very non-pc P.C, and have sometimes adopted some methods of dealing with problems in a somewhat unconventional manner. Justice always had to be seen to be done. On one occasion I was really angry when I had been informed that a hoard of travellers had settled in the old highway at Clothall and were engaged in breaking up old cars and generally fouling the site; defecating in the hedgerows and the not so odd spot of poaching. All attempts at moving them had failed. Having thought long and hard and debating how to deal with the problem, providence shone down on me one Friday afternoon when I was parked on the Buntingford Road across the road from the travellers. This came in the shape of a cesspit tanker, driven by a desperate driver, anxious to unload his tanker and get finished for the week-end. He came to me and asked if I knew anyone who would like the tanker load on their land. I was unable to assist but was suddenly struck with a bright idea, so I suggest that he drive his tanker onto the old highway, open the taps at the back and drive along the highway, and he could disappear in which direction he wanted when he got to Clothall. This he did, and lo and behold within 30 minutes, the highway was clear of travellers, their caravans and lorries too. The following Tuesday, whilst in the village, I was approached by Johnny Pryor, Lord of the Manor and Chairman of the Bench, who enquired if I had seen the “b….. mess on the old highway at Clothall”. I enquired of him as to what did he want, the mess on the highway or more of his pheasants poached and pointed out that it was pelting down with rain and that the said mess would soon disappear back to nature. Johnny retorted, “I feel Tom, that by your reply, you must know something about this? We are shooting on Saturday – there will be a brace of pheasants for you, my boy. Justice had overcome.
I did have on my patch a farmer, who I had known since I was a lad, and had worked for his Dad at Willian. He was known to be an alcoholic and I threatened him that should I find him driving on the road, I would arrest him and warned him of the perils of doing so. I was aware that he still persisted in driving under the influence but I never caught him on the road. However I found him a few times asleep in his Land-rover parked in a field. On several occasions, I would remove the rotor arm from his vehicle to ensure that he did not drive when he came to. On my way home past his farm I would pop it into his letter box, he got the message and I didn’t get any more complaints about him being on the road in an intoxicated state.
Generally I patrolled Weston Beat on my motorcycle, but one day, I received a message over the radio for all available vehicles to attend the Maternity Unit in Hitchin. Smoke was coming out of the building and the Fire Brigade were in attendance. I duly attended and entered the building and recovered five new born babies and carried them from the smoke filled hospital into the Nurses home nearby. I returned into the building where the staircase was jammed with folk trying to get out. I went over the balustrades and climbed down to where a young lady who had just given birth was sitting on a chair on a landing and screaming with pain, the chair legs kept fouling the steps as they tried to carry her down. I straight way stood her up and dropped the chair over the side of the stairs, picked her up in my arms and took her out of the building. This allowed the stair to clear for other persons trying to vacate the premises, some of whom were starting to panic. The situation at the maternity unit was then under control so I slipped away, thinking my visit had not been recorded. Someone found out and I was surprised and humbled to find that the Chief Constable had granted me a good work minute. I also later found that one of the children I had rescued was the son of an Irishman I knew in Baldock. Paddy was pleased with what I had done. Sadly, his little boy died when about 3 months old from a cause not related to the fire.
I reigned at Weston until November 1971, when we bought a house in Weston Way, Baldock. I then moved to Baldock police station (on the corner of Mansfield Road and High Street), for duty purposes. “
Tom died in 2014 but his memory and invisible presence linger on. I am always delighted and proud when I meet up with anyone who knew him and can reminisce about the Weston Days.
If you have any memories of Tom please share them!