Chapter 69

Strange Story of the Broken-Hearted Tramp


One forenoon a military-looking man knocked at the manse back door at Newmills, Fife. He asked politely for a cup of tea and something to eat. I asked him into the kitchen saying my wife would gladly make him a meal. My visitor declined to enter, but if I brought out a chair he would wait my convenience.

My wife soon had a kettle on. We set a tray, made sandwiches and found some jellied cakes. When all was ready, I took it out. From a window, I saw the man. He divided the eats, wrapped half in paper, then removed his hat and bowed his head as if in blessing. He ate the meal slowly. When he finished, he knocked at the door and thanked my wife and our young family. I walked out into the garden with him.

To make conversation I told him of my army days, years in Africa, my illnesses and the great courage and kindness of my wife and our young family. He stopped near an apple tree, bowed his head, then I saw tears in his eyes. He took a Bible from his pocket. On the inside flyleaf was a photo of a very pretty young woman.

With great emotion, he told me his story. He was a teacher and engaged to be married when he was called up. His young lady taught also. She saved and, early in 1918, took an option on a house. Together they gradually gathered furnishings.

The war ended, he rejoined his school and the wedding was fixed. His bride took ill and before the marriage, died.

Heart-broken, he left everything behind, vowing never to reside in a habitable dwelling, sharing any kindness and 'food he received with others. For seventeen years he tramped the country.

'I'm not mad,' he told me. 'Sometimes I stop at a tinker camp and teach children. I even share my meal and, if necessary, clothing and footwear.'

I tried to reason with him but he wouldn't listen. He would not break his vow. He was a brave man. Perhaps in his own way he was doing as much good as I was.

Later that evening an elderly couple came to the manse door. They were frequent visitors, a husband and wife out of Dunfermline Council Home. At times they would leave the home and walk as far as Stirling.

On their outward journey, our house was their first call for food and sixpence. On the way back, our house was their last place of call for something to eat. They were cheerful in their own way.

This particular evening they didn't want food.

'We had it from the Samaritan. He shared with us the food you gave him this forenoon. He's the kindest man on the road and doesn't drink or smoke. He's a mystery man, so polite. Do you know anything about him?' they enquired.

I shook my head. I could not betray his secret. I never met him again. But time and again other beggars and gypsies told me he was still doing his good work all over the East Coast.

Another so-called tinker lived in a rude dwelling on a waste piece of ground. She was a fine woman. Her husband took a good dram at times, but not enough to get drunk. He was a great reader of good books. I gave him quite a number. He was a good worker on the land, never staying long in one place. The inside of the tent was clean. Most cooking was done on a double paraffin stove. They liked good food.

One day, when both were in, I sat inside the tent on the only collapsible stool. They sat on logs. We had a delightful talk over a cup of very strong sweetened tea, coloured by a dash of condensed milk.

The woman made flowers from crepe paper, teapot stands from wood and 'links' of crochet. She sold them to other traders, possibly door-to-door sellers.

Before leaving the cosy tent, with its twin beds of deep heather and beautiful bedspreads, the woman allowed me to read what her life was patterned on.

'Life is not governed by clothes, nor the colour of skin, but by the purity of the soul within!' It was a faded piece of paper, in large clear bold handwriting, her own work many years previously.

The last instance of travellers on the Queen's highway concerns a tinker evangelist. His parents, grandparents and generations before that, were tinkers. He lived as one of the groups he was visiting. He liked to preach to 'ones and twos.' He told stirring Bible stories to wayside children. According to his commission, he married, baptized and buried. He was a sincere Christian.

One of my great delights was working in the manse garden. It was a big one and required a lot of attention. Many people wondered how it was kept so clean and tidy. It can be summed up in one word - method. Perhaps the army started it. Certainly the mission field advanced it. My ministry perfected it.

Method is a must in everything. My wife had the same qualities. Despite now having a family of six, a large manse and being interested in all church work, our home was always in excellent trim. So too her colourful flower plots, rockeries and lawns.

At four o'clock on a Monday morning she was in the washhouse (no washing machines then) and, if fine, four clothes lines were soon full.

One day, a miner said to me, 'Mr Caseby, a number of my work team have a bet that your wife washes her clothes on Sunday and puts them out on a Monday morning.' I told him the truth. 'I've won 5/-,' he said.!



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This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993.   All rights reserved.  Used here by express permission.