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Illingworth House: 38 – Watching the Beaters

Timothy Illingworth, the family’s dark secret, attacks a farm labourer and runs off with his lunch box.

To read earlier chapters of John Waddington-Feather’s story of a Yorkshire mill owning family please click on Illingworth House in the menu on this page.

Sir Luke was deeply upset when Abe told him about the incident. Worse was to come the next year. Not long before he died, his insane son Timothy escaped and hid out on the moors. He had attacked one of the farm labourers and run off with his lunch-box. When he hadn't returned by nightfall, they called the police who began scouring the moors along with the farm men.

It was a foul day when they set out. Wherever Timothy Illingworth was hiding he would be soaked to the skin. He had taken a carving knife so they had taken the precaution of clearing the moors of hikers.

Abe joined in the search for his half-brother with the police, who made their base at the farm where Timothy was locked up. Abe drove his father to the farm and Sir Luke waited in Timothy's room sitting moodily by the fire, occasionally getting up to stare through the barred window at the moorland beyond.

From there he saw the line of policemen and their dogs, the farm labourers and Abe, like a team of beaters drawing grouse, moving slowly up to the crest on the skyline till they disappeared from sight. One of the men carried Timothy’s straitjacket. All of them had stout sticks, as much to protect themselves as to help them manoeuvre the treacherous bogs.

The room Sir Luke sat in was almost bare. His son had lived there almost all his adult life. It was his cell. There were no ornaments just four bare walls and the barred window, a heavy wooden table, a smaller table with a water jug and glass on it, two chairs and a bed. He couldn't read or write so there were no books and he barely understood what anyone said to him, so there was no radio.

His room led out to a bathroom and toilet, which was as far as he went some days, except when they had him dine occasionally downstairs. They never had guests, except when Sir Luke called in to see him and check that he was being well looked after, but Timothy had no idea who he was nor where he was and lived in a world of his own.

Much went through the old man's mind as he pondered Timothy’s life. He was the only child of his first wife, his cousin, Margaret Illingworth. Her father had been the driving force behind the building of the Illingworth empire. She was an only child like himself and the future of the dynasty rested on them. When Timothy had been born so malformed, the family was devastated. She never recovered and died a year later.

Of course, it was imperative Luke should re-marry and his father quickly found him another wife, Elizabeth Green, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy engineer. When they met Luke fell in love with her and loved her dearly. They had two sons, Abe and John, who grew up strong, handsome and intelligent, quite unaware they had a mad half-brother till they were in their teens.

Then Luke took them to meet their sibling - and once was enough. They were shocked at the thing before them, slobbering insanely, playing with his fingers and quite unable to communicate. It haunted Abe the rest of his life, and he wondered privately why his father hadn't quietly got rid of the monster at birth.

Abe was very close to his father and toed the line as Sir Luke had done with his father. John, on the other hand, was a rebel. More like his mother. When Sir Luke cracked the whip, Abe jumped to it, but not John. He had joined the local yeomanry to spite his father and spent every weekend at the drill hall. For days he had missed work, spending money like water in the officers' mess and generally living the life of Riley, when they went off to camp.

His father had just about reached the end of his tether when war broke out in South Africa and Lieutenant John Illingworth was in the first draft. How proudly he marched his platoon through cheering crowds lining the road to Keighworth Station led by the military band of his regiment. How proudly, too, his mother watched him as he marched past, waving her handkerchief and blowing him kisses.

It was the last time she saw him, for he was killed in action only a week after landing, and when her other son, Abe, joined the Territorial Army some years later both she and her husband pleaded with him to resign. Another war was imminent, this time in Europe.

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