Bill Atkin, a founder member of the team was out one day hunting for Trunckles. Cricket bat in one hand, butterfly net in the other, Bill was on the trail of a biggun. He only needed one more Trunckle and he would have enough to make two sets of bell pads. He pushed his way between a couple of Rose Trees and burst into a clearing upon a very pale, frightened looking Unicorn.
"I Don't know how long he'd been there" said Bill. "He was in a bad way. He looked terrified and I wondered if I was gong to get spiked but I soon realised that the poor old chap didn't have the strength".
Not wanting to abandon the poor creature, Bill put down his hunting gear and spoke softly. He let the Unicorn sniff his hand and eventually gained his trust. "I couldn't leave him there, that would have been cruel" said the good samaritan. Bill resolved to take the beast home with him and half coaxed, half carried it to his trusty Motorbike and Sidecar.
Bill and Unicorn ride out of the Forest in his Triumph
Bill admits that they must have made a strange sight bombing along the old A11 with the Unicorn in the sidecar, his mane flying in the wind. "I just had to get him home" said Bill, "It was all I could do. All the way home I was frantically trying to figure out how to make him well again" . They got home in the nick of time, the Unicorn, exhausted by the journey, fainted just as Bill pulled up in front of his House.
Tender Loving Care
Bills wife, Barbara was home and she immediately took charge. Between them, they got the Unicorn into the front room and made him comfortable in an armchair next to the fire. Barbara left Bill with a bowl of warm water and a flannel to clean the Unicorn up a bit whilst she went into the kitchen to see what she could find. Bill noticed that the Unicorn kept looking over at the Sofa and sniffing.
"I knew he had to eat" said Barbara "I'd never seen anything so thin and pale. I just didn't know what to feed him". Barbara practically emptied the larder in a vain attempt to get the animal to eat. She recalls the list of foods the Unicorn refused as others would recite poetry.
- Corn Flakes
- With Milk
- Wood shavings
- Wadworth 6X
None of it worked. The Unicorn sniffed and tasted every offering before firmly but politely pushing it away with his nose and then looking pointedly at the Sofa. Bill and Barbara thought they would have to prepare for the worst and Barbara's eyes filled with tears.
There was a knock at the door. The man from The Pru had called for his 'tuppence per person per week' . Bill looked after the fading animal whilst Barbara went to pay. "The poor man must have wondered what was going on. I was in floods of tears as he counted out my change" said Barbara. The man from the Pru was sent on his way and Barbara hurried back to the Unicorns side, absent mindedly putting her handful of coins on an occasional table next to the fire. The Unicorn suddenly became very animated, leaned over towards the table, swallowed every coin and sat back with a contented sigh.
"It was an incredible sight to see" said Bill who went on to describe what happened next with a look of wonder still in his eyes. The coins did the trick almost instantly as colour returned to the animals face, his breathing became easier and he started to sit more comfortably in the chair. Minutes later, the beast was strong enough to get up and he made a bee-line for the Sofa. He went snuffling down the backs of the cushions discarding the odd penknife, a couple of French coins and a few fluff encrusted boiled sweets and swallowed every English coin he could find.
After a few days, he was back to full health with a hearty appetite which almost bankrupted Bill. "I really didn't mind" said Bill as he revealed how the Unicorn became his constant and loyal companion It seemed right to him that the Unicorn should be taken along to meet Bills chums at the Westminster Morris.
It was by now early spring and the team was booked one Wednesday evening to tour three pubs in Maida Vale. This seemed the ideal time to bring the Unicorn along. Some of the team were scared, others delighted and they were all aghast to see the creature eat English money. "Foreign coins just wouldn't do and he looked quite irritated if you offered him a brass washer" one of the men recalls.
The team officers had a quick meeting and had decided that this beast was really not quite the thing to be associated with the team. "They said he didn't look fierce enough to be able to fit in with the team and asked me not to bring him along to any more team events" Bill recalls with disgust. "I was so angry that I decided to boycott the teams attendance at the Thaxted Ring Meeting. 'Love me, Love my Unicorn' I told them".
A Mind of his own
The Unicorn had other ideas and later that week whilst Bill remained at home wondering where the Unicorn was, the beast had somehow transported himself to Thaxted. The Unicorn is clearly not as daft as he looks and had figured out that where there were Morris Men, there would be people and they all had money. Whenever the team danced, the Unicorn would prance, skip and clown, always playing to the crowd who were only too pleased to feed him. He was a natural show off and a born dancer and it was agreed that he was, after all, an asset to the team.
Bill and Barbara were delighted at the news and even dared to hope that since the Unicorn had found a new source of food, their overdraft would start to come down. The couple admit that it was quite a wrench when the day came that the Unicorn moved out. "He needed his independence" said Barbara "but it did hurt".
Mystery upon mystery
He is a beast surrounded by mystery. How did he come to be in Epping Forest? How long had he been there? Why does he only eat money? (and why only English coin?) Where did he learn to dance? To this day, we don't know where he lives or how he finds us but find us he does and whenever the team dances, he's there somewhere and it wouldn't be the same without him.
Denis gets his Doctorate
These questions and more have been the subject of many a long, ale fuelled, conversation and some theories have grown up over time but we're no closer to the truth.