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Bobby Mapples - The Laceby Hermit

BOBBY MAPPLES – “The Laceby Hermit”

“Cats running to all points of the compass amid explosions fit for the 5th of November, this was the beginning of the end for Bobby Mapples known as “The Laceby Hermit”.

It has always been thought that Bobby first appeared in the village just after the first World War, but in fact he was Laceby born and bred. He lived as a boy in the cottages which once stood behind what is now the Countryman Store. It seemed that even in his younger days he wasn’t too keen on work, but used to keep his toolbox in Stevenson’s blacksmith shop where he used to help out as and when he felt like it.

At some stage he must have settled down somewhat as he married a local girl who unfortunately took ill and was sent to hospital in Lincoln where she later died, but for many years after he often used to bring out his top hat and white gloves which he claimed he was married in.

He used to wander about the village wearing several coats no matter the weather and sporting a long, straggly beard, which he washed along with the rest of his personage once a year, said always to be on August Bank Holiday during his annual visit to the sea at Cleethorpes.

The stories told of him are legend among the older residents of Laceby and certainly he was constantly receiving the attention of the village children who used to taunt him until he got perhaps a little to close, whereupon they would run away amidst squeals of horrified delight. He had the habit of feeding dogs with meat off a fork, the meat being pushed so far up the prongs that when the unfortunate dog went for the meat he was pricked on the nose for his trouble. It was also claimed that such was his appearance that on receiving money from Bobby for goods bought, it would be disinfected with carbolic before being passed on to any other hand.

He was, we are told, a gunsmith extraordinaire and spent many days cleaning and maintaining his guns for use during his other talent of poaching. Many tales are told of his ability to “whistle up” a hare to a state of virtual hypnosis before his quick accurate shot made another contribution to his larder. But Bobby had other talents too. He could often be found singing hymns whilst accompanying himself on the melodian. However although he was largely law abiding he did have several brushes with the law resulting in him spending various spells in jail, to which he consistently referred as his visits to college. Perhaps the worst of these problems was the occasion when he had been poaching in Haycrops and was just coming out of the gate when the local policeman chanced upon him. Bobby did not take kindly to the suggestion that he be relieved of his booty or gun and in the resulting struggle the unfortunate policeman was shot in the arm. For this Bobby was rewarded with 18 months in “College”.

But what of the cats? Bobby lived in a hut on the Laceby–Aylesby road built for him by the then rector, Canon Knight and here he kept a number of guns and ammunition, together with, it is said, some 22 cats who lived in the hut with him. One day the hut caught fire and with the resulting explosion the hut was virtually demolished. He was not injured, but having nowhere to live he was sent to the workhouse at Scartho. It was here that Bobby received what was probably the best scrubbing he had ever had. It would seem that life there was not to his liking as he was seen some days later back in the village where his beard now was as white as driven snow.

Bobby, having nowhere to live, now wandered about the village and on one very cold evening he was found in a dyke, and shortly after died of pneumonia at the age of 77 years.

It was17th March, 1927, and many people say that his death was really the result of that fateful scrubbing.

Article taken from the 1977 Laceby Chronicle Newspaper.