AS the tide receded from a stretch of rain-swept beach between Hartlepool and Blackhall one afternoon in November 1952 a roving Mail reporter came upon a “cave man”.
His were the only pair of footprints in the soft, wet sand, going along the beach, turning towards the cliff face and disappearing at a point where smoke was rising in a thin cloud.
Within the cave a man wearing just a loin cloth and pair of sandals squatted serenely over a fire of wood and sea coal.
Unlike his predecessors this caveman was clean shaven, thinning on top and his clothes were piled neatly on a nearby rock.
Mr X, as the Mail dubbed him to respect his wish for anonymity, explained how whenever he had an afternoon free he would drive from West Hartlepool to bathe “and afterwards to add the pleasure of a cave bonfire to that of a rough towel”.
He told the Mail: “Since I was a boy I have always had a passion for the sea.
“Not the ‘messing around in boats’ kind, so much as simply being beside it.
“There’s something fine and stimulating about a rough sea and here among the rocks and cliffs and caves everything is much more interesting than on the tame. flat beach at Seaton Carew.”
First, he said, he would gather wood for a fire. then bathe and return to dry himself before the flames.
“It was as invigorating as a Turkish bath,” he said.
Mr X admitted: “ I generally get much warmer gathering the wood than I do from the fire.”
Another problem was soot from the smoke.
“My wife complains a little if i go home sooty,” he revealed.
The Mail reporter was not unusual in visiitng Mr X in his cave, with pitmen, schoolchildren and policemen all intrigued by his return to our neanderthal roots.
The article concluded: “And when his callers are gone, or the fire is going out, or the tide, which will fill the cave, is coming in, he climbs back to the post-war car which will carry him back to civilisation.”
Do you remember Mr X? Contact Andrew Levett by emailing email@example.com or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.