The day brickie Will gate-crashed The Dirty Dozen

Like the rest of Hertfordshire, Piccotts End abounds in beautiful flint walls. But there is just one problem with these iconic local building blocks. They keep falling off! You can always spot the fresh cement and slightly machined new flints where walls have been repaired around the village. The man responsible for many of these is a veteran bricklayer called Will from Markyate. Will has been spending the last few weeks at our house building a wall for us, this one without flints. Between all the jargon of copings, commons and creasings, Will has been telling me about his days as a tearaway teenager in Markyate back in the 1960s.

The highlight was the time he and a friend took their lurchers out hare-coursing one early morning. Whooping and yelping across the fields near Beechwood Park their chase came to an abrupt halt. Appearing out of the grass appeared dozens of soldiers brandishing rifles.

Will recalls an angry voice shouting  ‘What the f*** are you doing? F*** off out of here now.’ 

It turned out that he and his pal had accidentally run into the set of the legendary film The Dirty Dozen!

Later that morning, when Will and his friend went for their daily pint at The Sun pub, a grisly looking giant of a man immediately button-holed them. ‘You’re boys who nearly ruined our movie! What are you having to drink!’

That man, says Will, was none other than the star of The Dirty Dozen,  legendary Hollywood hard man Lee Marvin.

‘He was a big man, very fierce looking just like in his films, but very friendly. We spent an hour so chatting. When closing time came at 2 o’clock the landlord told us all to go.

‘We were only 16 at the time and weren’t supposed to be there anyway but the landlord always turned a blind eye.

‘Lee Marvin asked him “‘What do I have to do to stay for another drink?”

‘Buy a room for the night’ the landlord told him. ‘Lee Marvin put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a wad of notes and that was it. We stayed drinking with him for the rest of the afternoon. He could certainly hold his liquor. Between 2 o’clock and 5 o’clock he drank three full bottles of gin!’