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Codename: McHaggis

October 01 2023
Thanks to David Tovey for capturing the scene at London’s Streets Fest in September with this painting of the event. © David Tovey Thanks to David Tovey for capturing the scene at London’s Streets Fest in September with this painting of the event. © David Tovey

Operative MQS-X (Malcolm Scots-Little) is the lovechild of Mary Queen of Scots and Malcolm X. He travels through time not so much righting wrongs but making helpful suggestions, under the codename McHaggis. A story by Chris Sampson

Case 1: Stephen C Foster, 1854

“I reek of faeces with the shite brown hair,” quoth the poet Stephen C Foster. “Hmm,” McHaggis intoned.  “Not sure that’s going to be very catchy, is it? What about… ‘I Dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair’ instead? “Good Lord!” Foster ejaculated (no, not that, wash your mind out! It’s a literary term: 19th century books are full of ejaculations).  “Yes,” Foster resumed. “That’s much better!”

And so it was that Foster’s poem became well known, and even inspired the 1960s US sitcom I Dream of Jeannie, starring Barbara Eden as a witch or something, and a pre-Dallas Larry Hagman as her dope of a master (before he was killed playing an equally dappy sod by undercover Nazi paratroops in The Eagle has Landed).  All thanks to McHaggis.

Case 2: The Clash, 1980

“Daddy was a Big Knobber,” warbled Joe Strummer, over a tune reminiscent of The Revolutionaries song MPLA from 1976. “Hmm,” McHaggis intoned. “When you’ve quite finished nicking dub tunes, what about… ‘Daddy was a Bank Robber’ instead?” “By jingo!” exclaimed Strummer (he’d been to public school, y’know), “That’s just the ticket!” And so it was that the song emerged. All thanks to McHaggis.

Yet, after some dozen or so similar cases, McHaggis yearned for something a little more adventurous. He approached his line manager, Timey McTime-Face (identity changed to protect deities that not everyone can agree on, or even that he/she/preferred pronoun exists at all) and requested a more serious time job: “Can’t I stop Hitler from happening or something?” he asked in a mixture of Scots and Nebraskan accent (inherited from his respective parents), which I forgot to mention when he was quoted earlier.

“Join the queue,” McTime-Face scoffed. “Every time traveller wants to kill off Hitler, Mussolini, Imperial Japan and Jacob Rees-Mogg, but it can’t be done.” “Oh? Why?” “No one knows for sure, but under the rules of sci-fi, no one’s allowed to get rid of c***s like Hitler.” “Hmm,” pondered McHaggis. “Is that because if they did, then the biggest bastards in history would instead be the European empires who enslaved and murdered millions of Africans, Indians, and other less white people over hundreds of years? You know, like the French Empire, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Portuguese… even Belgium had the Congo, for chrissakes… Oh, and the British Empire. Let’s not forget Blighty’s crimes. Is that the reason?”

McTime-Face changed the subject, to avoid British embarrassment. “Do you know,” he mumbled, “We might be able to let you kill off the fuhrer after all. But not before the war…” he added, mysteriously. And so it was that McHaggis was dispatched to 1945. Not to Hitler’s Berlin bunker as you’d expect, no siree! He was sent back to 1945 New York.

For McTime-Face had confided to McHaggis the truth of Hitler’s final days which, if publicised, would certainly put a stop to all those conspiracy theories about Hitler escaping Berlin at the last minute to live out his days in, variously, South America, Africa, the Middle East or whatever other theory has been proposed. Ahem. As the internet is powered by people who believe things without a shred of proof, McHaggis was sworn to secrecy.

Which, obviously, he reneged on or I wouldn’t have heard tell of it and share it with you here now. Ahem.

Case 3: Adolf Hitler, 1945

To avoid capture by the invading Soviet Red Army (about whom he’d been quite rude), Hitler fled his bunker, clutching shoe polish and a clarinet (he’d never got round to mastering the instrument; too busy dictatoring, but, fortunately, jazz doesn’t much care for tunes) and headed west. He blacked-up with the boot polish, and tootled some ersatz jazz on his clarinet, which caught the ear of a passing unit of American GI’s, who were glad to hear the sounds of home in this land of Oompah music.

“Howdy!” said the fuhrer in his best American-accent-cribbed-from-cowboy-films voice. “Can y’all tell me when’s the next plane or cruise ship back to New York? I’ve got a gig with Louis Armstrong next week.” The GI’s were fooled, and took him back to the States with them. One or two even apologised to Hitler for the way black folks were treated in America. “Oh, that’s OK,” he laughed. “I can safely say that I’m accustomed to racism after living in Nazi Germany, too!”

Of course, soon as he got to New York, the furtive fuhrer scarpered, clobbered real jazz musicians with his clarinet, washed off the shoe polish and grew his moustache from the familiar Charlie Chaplin scrubbing brush one to a big, walrussy one, like Jimmy Edwards (look him up!). 

He made his way to the Bronx, where he chummed up with a guy of German heritage, called Frederick Christ Trump (yes, Christ, I kid you not).

We might surmise the influence on Fred’s son, Donald, who, incidentally, was born on 14th June 1946, of this other Germanic emigre. But that would be libellous and as The Donald is rich and able to afford top lawyers, it’s probably best that we don’t. Ahem.

But what of Hitler’s fate? Well, Malcolm X was jailed between 1946 and 1952. Rumour has it that while doing stir, he received a visit from someone claiming to be his son. It is said he laughed, delighted, at the visitor’s news, which apparently included details of the death of a very, very bad racist indeed…