|You probably all know the song, but do you know the story behind it?
It is the 21st July 1821, George IV has just been crowned king, and my great-grandmother is in labour. Her husband is absent, not unknown for the time. Moans and screams come from the bedchamber as Alfred struggles into the world.
As the front door opens the midwife calls "It's a boy!"
"It's a clock!" Herbert shouts back as he struggles to get the large package through the low door. It was not only 'too tall for the shelf', it was also too tall for the ceiling. "Fetch me a carpenter, woman."
The carpenter came and shortened the base of the clock so that it would stand in pride of place in the hall. "There you go mate. Now it fits. That'll be two bob please mister."
The doctor came to check the babe. "I'm sorry to say that his legs are ill formed. He will always be short in stature. That will be two guineas for my services."
For the first five years the clock kept excellent time. During this time Alfred made good progress but never got to a good height. Alfred loved the clock and would insist a servant lifted him so he could wind it himself. Then it was time for the boy to go away to school. The servants took over the winding, and once, when it was forgotten, the boy was sent home sick. It was never forgotten again.
When Alfred moved on to University, Oxford of course, he forgot about his precious clock in a round of revelry and debauchery. The clock chimed, not on the hour, but each time Alfred committed a cardinal sin. The family got little sleep during that period. Alfred joined the army and each time the clock was knocked he was injured.
He went through his life tied to the darned clock. As Alfred approached his 90th birthday he made one particular servant solely responsible for the winding. His life depended on the clock ticking away happily. He had seen in the new century and seen out Victoria. He wanted to live forever.
Then it happened. The clock was not wound. As it slowed, Alfred struggled to breathe. When it stopped, so did Alfred. This is when the song ends ... but not our story.
Remember, Alfred wanted to live forever. And he did through the clock. The time of his death was ten to two in the early morning. The clock retained an evil grin on its face.
The problems started the day of the funeral. Of course, the entire household were in attendance. It was the first time in years, if not centuries, that the house stood empty. The clock chose this time to throw itself down, blocking the door. Uncle Willy and Fred the chauffeur had to climb in through the attic window to gain entry. As they stood it up it grinned that wicked grin and gave out a whirring, groaning noise.
From then on nights were disturbed by clanking pendulum chains until Willy removed them. He instantly regretted that as he tripped over them on his way to the cellar and fell headlong down the steps, breaking his back.
One day as Auntie was staring at the evil face of the clock she heard a loud 'BOING' and a spring shot from the clock, piercing her heart. As she lay dying the clock ticked the seconds until she breathed her last.
Twelve family members met their death at the hands of the evil timepiece. Whenever I visited I kept my distance. Finally, at a family meeting, held well away from the house, a decision was made. We drew straws. I was the chosen one. I filled the bottle with petrol and rammed home the cloth. Once lit, I lobbed the cocktail through the window nearest to the clock.
The flames caught the curtains and I heard Alfred's scream. Soon the flames engulfed the entire house. Nobody called the fire brigade. The house was left to burn.
I returned next day to check things out. There amid the rubble and ashes the clock stood tall, it's chimes ringing out a grim message. "You can't kill me, I will live forever."