Lord Rokeby - The True Story of a Man Addicted to Water. British Eccentrics.
Water Water everywhere.
Born In 1712, Mathew Robinson, also known as Lord Rokeby, grew up in Hythe, in the county of Kent. in his early life, he was noted as a normal child who went on to study at Westminster and Trinity college, Cambridge. But as he grew older, he became more and more eccentric. At this time in the 1700's, nearly everyone was not particularly partial to water, to say the least, in fact if the local population ever bathed, it was only about twice a year, and most people thought it would 'fill them with the humes' in other words, they were under the impression that they would catch a chill and die in the most horrible way. But not it seems, Lord Rokeby. He began to be noticed by the fact that he wore a beard that reached down to his knees. At that time, most men were either clean shaven or had a small beard. And this was just after he had come into his inheritance, his father being a wealthy landowner, and gentleman usher to George II, most people thought it was just because he was of the hoy falloy, the gentry, and put it down to the fact that, being rich he was bound to be a bit eccentric. Soon though, they realised that something strange was going on. It started with the fact that he would not drink tea, coffee or alcohol. Only water, and soon after, he suddenly built a bathing hut at Hythe, and much to the locals chagrin, he swam in the sea for so many hours a day, he ended up being dragged from the water, totally exhausted.
Each day, the locals would see the bearded man, bent double, dressed entirely in black, in front of a grand carriage, with servants slowly walking behind. He was a wizened old man, and nobody could understand why he didn't just get in the carriage. But no, he said, he wanted to walk to the beach, and if it rained he preferred it. He was kind to his servants, though, and insisted they travel in the coach as he didn't want them to catch a chill whilst wearing damp clothes! he understood that they were suspicious of water, and he knew that they couldn't understand what the attraction was.
After nearly collapsing in the sea, too many times for comfort, he decided to build a bath house in his back garden. The neighbours and servants got used to seeing him dart from his house, down the garden towards the bath. The sight was something to behold. He was always naked, his beard tucked under his arm, followed by his barking dogs.
Rokeby only ever drank beef tea and water, and after a while a rumour started that said he was a cannibal. The locals decided, enough was enough and they started to avoid him. But the truth of the matter was, he had a habit of sitting in the bath, with a large joint of veal floating around him like a body part, and every so often he would take a great bite, chew a bit, grunt, then throw it back in the bath, to let it float around again, soaking up the bathwater, so it expanded and looked even bigger!
Older but wiser
By the time he got to the grand old age of eighty, he decided that not only would he still bathe for hours and hours everyday, he thought it was time to encourage the locals that water was in fact good for them, and he built a public drinking fountain in the middle of the street, near his home, and if he came across anyone drinking from the fountain, he very generously gave them a half crown, which was a great deal of money in those days.
He would never ever let anyone cut his beard, and in the same way, he refused to see any of the trees and rows of hedges on his land, cut down or trimmed. In a sense, he was one of the first conservationists of his time. The trees and plants grew untouched for many years. He was also an astute and stubborn old man. But very intelligent. He had principles, whether right or wrong, he would not allow any of his tenants to grow barley, because he said, the barley would go to the maltster who would then pay taxes on it, and this would be used to pay for the war with France, which he did not agree with.
So this grand old eccentric man, after years of bathing and swimming, who everyone thought was mad, eventually died at the grand old age of eighty eight. But he had one last thing to say to his nephew, who thought. in his own kindness, he would get the Lord a doctor, was told by Lord Rokeby, 'you are welcome to stay, but if you should call in any medical assistance to help me, and by a stroke of luck, the fool doesn't help kill me, then I will disinherit you' !
Lord Rokeby was so scared of having a seizure, but surviving, he just wanted to be left alone to die in peace.
The moral of this tale? Never laugh at a dotty old man, because he might just be a genius!
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