Tag Archives: Blind Beggar

Linked: the Krays, the Blind Beggar shooting and the Queen of England

Micky Fawcett (right) with Ronnie Kray (left) & boxer Sonny Liston,

(L-R) Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston and Micky Fawcett

So I was talking to Micky Fawcett. He used to work for 1960s London gangsters the Kray Twins.

“The Krays went up to Scotland, didn’t they?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” replied Micky. “The Scots came down here to London.”

Arthur Thompson?” I asked.

“I don’t think he was there, but there was a guy called Richie Anderson. He was on the firm (the Krays’ gang) for a while; I got on very well with Richie. He was a bit scornful of… You know the two Scotsmen who were with Ronnie when he shot George Cornell in the Blind Beggar? One fired the gun up in the roof. They hadn’t been round for long; they were newcomers, but Richie Anderson was very scornful of them:. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because they came from Edinburgh and he came from Glasgow.”

“That would do it,” I laughed. “Glasgow chaps think chaps from Edinburgh are ponces and wankers, not proper hard men.”

“I was friendly with quite a few Jocks in the Army,” said Micky. “In the five minutes I was there. There was John McDowell. To look at him, you would imagine he’d been brought up on deep-fried Mars Bars. He came from Maryhill…”

“Ooh,” I said. “Buffalo Bill from Maryhill. There are supposed to be lots of descendants of Red Indians around Maryhill.”

“… and there was a bloke who came from Govan,” Micky continued.

“You know all the best people,” I said.

“I like Scotland,” Micky told me. “In the Army, Scotsmen, Cockneys and Scousers all kind of had more in common. There was a good experience I had in Scotland. Me and another guy sold a feller a distillery.”

“Legitimately?” I asked. “Did you actually own it?”

“Anyway…,” said Micky. “We sold him the distillery. We had never seen a distillery. So we thought we’d better go and see one. We jumped on a plane and went to one of these little towns near Glasgow. All done. So we thought we’d go and have a drink in the Gorbals.”

“Oh good grief!” I said.

“I wanted to see it,” said Mickey. “I’m fascinated by that sort of thing. All the windows were bricked up.”

“Which year was this?”

“The early 1960s.”

“You’re lucky to have got out alive,” I told him. “An English accent in the Gorbals.”

“I’ve been up there since and the Gorbals has gone.”

“They’ve blown up the tower blocks,” I said.

“And I’ve been up Ben Nevis and around Loch Lomond,” said Micky. “I saw the Queen up there… On my first visit to Scotland in the 1950s, around 1958, I went to the Braemar Gathering and she was there in the distance.

Princess Margaret, 1965 (Photograph by Eric Koch/Anefo

Princess Margaret in 1965 (Photograph by Eric Koch/Anefo)

“I can’t remember where I stayed; I might have slept in the car in them days – I had a wooden shooting-brake. But, the next day, I’m driving around and I recognise Princess Margaret’s car, because it had been on the television – she had a Vauxhall Victor.

“I saw a couple of soldiers in their uniforms with rifles, just standing around talking and there was the Royal Family sitting on big blankets out on the grass. Just sitting around drinking out of vacuum flasks and eating sandwiches.”

“It was not,” I asked, “Princess Margaret you sold a distillery to?”

“No,” laughed Micky. “I can’t remember the details of the distillery. But we also sold La Discotheque in London.

“I was in the Kentucky Club (owned by the Kray Twins) and there was a feller who had run dance halls. Do you remember Lennie Peters?”

“The blind pop singer in Peters & Lee?”

“Yeah. and because this feller was in the dance hall business, the Twins thought that was exactly the same as being in the music business. It was confused in their minds. So Reggie asked this feller: Can you do anything for Lennie Peters? The feller said: No, I can’t do anything.

“So the feller came over to us – me and another guy who were standing around just having a drink – and said: Make you fucking laugh, don’t they? He’s just asked me if I can do anything for Lennie Peters? How am I going to do anything for a fucking blind man?”

“Later, I said to Reggie: You asked him, did you? And Reggie says: Yeah. The usual thing. I’ll chin him.

“I said: No, no, hold it a minute. We can do something with him.

“We?” I asked.

“Me and the guy I was working with. I had a partner for a long, long time. We worked well together. So we talked to this guy and found out how his dance halls worked and how they didn’t work and said: We can do something for you. Would you like to run La Discotheque? It was the first discotheque in the West End. A feller called Raymond Nash owned it, a Lebanese…”

“Nash?” I asked.

“Yeah. Not the Nash family. He was a Lebanese guy, a top criminal.”

“Lebanese criminal?” I asked.

“Yeah. But in England. He died not long ago and there were big articles in the papers about him. His daughter got caught by Japanese and – oh – if someone wanted to make a good story, that really would be a good story.”

Raymond Nash had also been an associate of slum landlord Peter Rachman.

“So,” Micky continued, “we approached Raymond Nash and said: Listen, we got a feller we wanna do a bit of business with, if you could make all your staff just salute us and give us the run of the place for a night… 

“He said: Alright, you got it.

“He got cut-in for a percentage?” I asked.

“No. No money for him. He just wanted to be friendly with The Twins…

Krayzy Days – remembered as they were

Krayzy Days – Micky Fawcett’s memoir

“So we went back to this feller – Ron Kingsnorth his name was – he had a dance hall in Romford – and we said to him: Listen, we can do something here. We’ve put the frighteners on that Raymond Nash and we can take over La Discotheque. We’ll take you up there, have a look round, see if you fancy it.

“And I forget the figure we got out of him – but it was a few grand.”

“So he bought it?” I asked.

“He bought the running of it from us and then Raymond Nash came along and said to him: What are you doing here? Fuck off!

“We used to do it all the time. That was my job.”

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Filed under 1960s, Crime, London, Scotland

Corrupt cops, sado masochist whippings & how gangster Ronnie Kray described his own dangerous, psychotic feelings

Micky Fawcett remembered  Krayzy Days yesterday

Micky Fawcett in London’s Mayfair yesterday

Yesterday, I had tea at the May Fair Hotel in London with Micky Fawcett whose memoir Krayzy Days has, quite rightly, been called the “definitive” book about iconic 1960s criminals the Kray Twins. Micky was on their ‘firm’.

“At some point after the George Cornell murder in the Blind Beggar pub,” Micky told me, “Ronnie Kray took his entourage – there could have been about 20 of them –  into a pub in Hackney – and a plainclothes policeman was in there and approached him and said Look, Ron, I’m the Old Bill and I know what you’ve been through. Don’t worry. No-one’ll get near you in here. You can use this place, you can do what you like, but I’ll want ‘looking after’ and he told Ronnie how much money he wanted. So, you know what Ronnie did?”

“He hit him?” I suggested.

“No,” said Micky. “He phoned Scotland Yard and told them what had happened. So they then said they had to get Ronnie to be a witness in court against the policeman. So Ronnie went on the run and he hid until it blew over.”

“Did the policeman ever get prosecuted?” I asked.

“It just died out,” said Micky. “What the police were very fond of doing was – I’m not sure what phrase to use – maybe ‘drawing a veil of decency’ over things.”

“As I understand it,” I said, “the Krays’ rivals, the Richardsons, had lots of policemen in their pocket, but the Krays didn’t.”

Ronnie (right) & Reggie Kray as photographed by David Bailey in the 1960s

Ronnie (right) & Reggie Kray  photographed by David Bailey

“The Krays didn’t have any police protection,” said Micky, “but what they did have was nothing to do with money because money wasn’t their thing.

“Their thing was sex. That was their downfall; it was everything. It wasn’t money with them.”

“So the Kray Twins had no influence over the police?” I said.

“Well,” said Micky, “there was this woman called Jamette who owned a club called La Monde in the World’s End in Chelsea and she knew the then Commissioner of Police, Sir Joseph Simpson. He was a masochist and she was a sadist.”

“The perfect relationship,” I said.

The current Wikipedia entry on Sir Joseph Simpson says: Simpson was a fair and tolerant man, but also expected the same high standards of others that he set for himself and was a great believer in discipline. He believed in a more equal police force, where senior officers and lower ranks had a closer relationship.

“Jamette was a horrible, evil woman,” said Micky.

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Krayzy Days remembered in Micky book

In Micky’s book Krayzy Days, he writes that Jamette “emboldened” the Kray Twins by telling them that this top cop Sir Joseph Simpson was a closet masochist who she would regularly whip and abuse to order and she assured them she could handle him. This same woman was the one who, when Reggie chinned Bimbo Smith knocking his false teeth out, stamped on them, and on her daughter’s 16th birthday asked Ronnie to deflower her. Ronnie duly obliged.

“I suppose,” I said to Micky yesterday, “that the Richardsons were in it for the money and the Krays were in it for the power and the violence.”

“That’s right,” said Micky unexpectedly. “You know who sums it up well? Malcolm Hardee.”

I had given Micky a copy of the late comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

“I’ve read most of his book,” Micky said. “My son Michael kidnapped the book and I had trouble getting it back off him.”

In his book, Malcolm Hardee says: No-one outside South East London knew the Richardsons until they were arrested and there was a lot of publicity at their trial about torturing people in a home-made electric chair. But everyone knew the Krays. 

Reggie Kray, Micky Fawcett, singer Lita Rosa, Ronnie Kray, actress Barbara Windsor & actor Ronald Fraser

Reggie Kray, Micky Fawcett, singer Lita Rosa, Ronnie Kray, actress Barbara Windsor & actor Ronald Fraser in 1960s

“The Twins,” said Micky yesterday, “had their clubs and were into showbizzy things.”

“There were stories,” I said, “that the Richardsons were paying off at least one Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard. But the Krays were not paying off the police.”

“That’s right,” said Micky. “I mean, they declared war on the police. They hated them. It was like a religion with them. Everybody had to hate the police and when Ronnie Marwood stabbed a policeman with a frogman’s knife, the Twins made a cause célèbre of it. He was hanged for it. They were obsessed by it. There was another guy who got shot by the police in a phone box – he wasn’t crooked, he was a nutcase – but, after he’d been shot, the Twins were trying to find links so they could say Oh, he was a pal of ours. They were anti-Police, anti-Police, anti-Police all the time.”

“So is that why Ronnie phoned up Scotland Yard and told them about the plainclothes copper who wanted a bribe in the Hackney pub?” I asked.

“No,” said Mickey, “Ronnie phoned up Scotland Yard because he was fucking, raving mad. What probably happened was that he was in a paranoid mood.”

Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett

Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett in 1960s

“Did you get on the wrong side of him?” I asked.

“In my book,” said Micky, “I tell you. One afternoon, me and a pal of mine were driving along and we saw an old boy we knew – Lenny Stringer. He’d done six years in Dartmoor Prison, but had given it all up; he was a nice old boy and we were going to drop him off in Corporation Street where he lived.

“Suddenly – Ding-a-ling-a-ling – Ding-a-ling-a-ling – bells – and there’s a car in front, a car behind and a car beside us forcing us into the kerb. Then we were jumped on by half a dozen big coppers who grabbed us and put us in different cars. I looked down at the floor of the police car and saw a crow bar wrapped in brown paper and thought They’re going to say that’s mine.

“So, at the police station, I said those legendary words What’s it all about, guv? and this Welsh copper told me: The manor will be a bit fucking quieter without you: that’s what it’s all about. It cost us £200, we had to plead guilty for possession of crowbars and my pal and I each got three months in prison – they let Lenny Stringer go.

“I got the three months and appealed, knowing we’d have to plead guilty later. You used to be able to appeal in the Magistrates’, say I want to go to the Sessions and, just before you got there, drop your appeal. It gave you time to get all your things in order.

“So, that night, I walked into the Kentucky Club (owned by the Krays) and Ronnie was in there.

“I told him We got three months each today. Lenny Stringer got off.

“And Ronnie went Why you telling me this, Mick?

“And I said What, Ron?

“And he said You told me a different name before. You’re sounding me out, aren’t you, Mick?

“And I said N-n-no. No, Ron, what?

“And he said: You’re sounding me out. You think I’m a grass, don’t you? A lot of people are going round saying we’re grasses, me and Reggie.

“And I said: No, I dunno what you… I…

“And he said: Yes you do...

“And I said: I don’t th… I… Honestly, Ron…

“At that moment, someone else walked in and he said Hello to Ron and I went out the door – gone – quick.

Vallance Road, home of the Kray Twins

“Mick, I want to have a word with you”

“The next night, half a dozen of us were in the (Krays’) house in Vallance Road and Ronnie said: Mick, I want to have a word with you. So Reggie and the others all went off to the Kentucky Club and Ronnie said to me: You and me will walk down together.

“And he told me: I’m sorry about last night, Mick. The words will stay in my head forever. He said: You must think I’m a right prat, don’t you? A word I’d never heard him use.

“He said: I’ll tell you what it is, Mick. I’ve been experimenting with not taking my medication. I’ve taken it now. I’ll try and explain to you. It’s like a haze. I can’t tell you. It’s like I’m living in a fog. I can’t work things out. I can’t understand things. I’ve got the pills here. Look.

“I said: Oh, yeah. They were Stelazine – an anti-psychotic drug. He’d already been in and been certified.

“He said: Do you want one?

“So I took one of the pills and swallowed it. I took it in case, if I refused, he’d say Oh! You think I’m trying to poison you! and it all started up again. I took the pill and that was the end of that.”

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Filed under 1960s, Crime, London, Police, Sex

Krayzy Days – Why London gangster Ronnie Kray really shot George Cornell inside the Blind Beggar pub in 1966

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

I Stole Freddie Mercy’sBirthday Cake

Malcolm Hardee iconic autobiography

Towards the start of comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, this passage appears:

______________________________

There was a club in Catford called The Witchdoctor. It was a club we all went to although they didn’t sell drink. Downstairs there was ‘Mr Smiths’ – a gambling casino….

Eddie Richardson was involved in a big shooting at Mr Smith’s, underneath The Witchdoctor. It was a inter-gang thing. They all met down the gaming club and this bloke got shot and was bleeding all over the place from an artery. ‘Mad Frankie’ Fraser (the Richardson’s infamous ‘enforcer’) hit a bloke who subsequently died and ‘Mad Frankie’ himself was shot in the thigh. He got outside and the police found him lying in a front garden round the corner in Fordel Road, Catford, where my Aunt Rosemary and Uncle Doug were then living. His mates had just left ‘Mad Frankie’ there. A bit inconsiderate to the neighbours. 

No-one outside South East London knew the Richardsons until they were arrested and there was a lot of publicity at their trial about torturing people in a home-made electric chair. 

But everyone knew The Krays. As comedian Lee Hurst says, the Blind Beggar must be the biggest pub in the world. Every time you meet a London taxi driver he says he was in the Blind Beggar the day Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.

Some people say the Krays wouldn’t have been big if there hadn’t been the shooting in the Blind Beggar. But these days people are getting shot all the time. In the paper yesterday there was a bloke shot in a pub in Yorkshire at lunchtime. I suppose The Krays were setting a trend.

The Krays also had that showbiz thing about them. They actually owned a club;  the actress Barbara Windsor was a girlfriend of Charlie Kray and later married Ronnie Knight who worked for The Krays; and the Conservative politician Lord Bob Boothby, whose mistress had been Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s wife, was having it off with Ronnie, the gay Kray.

______________________________________________________

Micky Fawcett in the May Fair Hotel yesterday

Micky Fawcett in the May Fair Hotel, London, yesterday

Yesterday, I had tea at the May Fair Hotel in London with former Kray Twins associate Micky Fawcett.

His new book Krayzy Days is that rare thing – a totally true insight into what it was like being with the Kray Twins – Ronnie & Reggie –  and their brother Charlie.

“Did the Kray Twins have a sense of humour?” I asked.

“Ronnie had a very good sense of humour,” Micky told me, “Reggie had no sense of humour, but Ronnie did.”

“What type?” I asked. “Black humour?”

“Yes,” said Micky. “Black humour.”

“Or maybe black and blue,” I suggested.

“He was an Oscar Wilde type,” mused Micky. “I’m not saying he was witty, but he would have loved Oscar Wilde. The way Oscar Wilde used to carry on.”

“Because he felt he was clever and superior?” I asked.

Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett

Ronnie Kray (left) with boxer Sonny Liston & Micky Fawcett

“Well, Ronnie felt superior,” Micky agreed. “He was called The Colonel. He thought he was superior to everything and everybody. As I say in my book, I was round the Twins’ house one day and somebody dropped in a copy of Private EyeIt was about ‘Knacker of The Yard’ (Private Eye’s name for un-named policemen) and all that – I can’t remember exactly what it was about. But Ronnie read it and laughed for the rest of the day.

“He used to describe himself as ‘a well-known thug and poof’.”

“But,” I said, “he took exception when George Cornell called him a poof.”

“No, that’s…” said Micky.

“When Ronnie shot him in the Blind Beggar pub,” I added.

The Blind Beggar pub in London

The Blind Beggar pub in London

“Well,” said Micky, “in the book I tell the true reason for that. It has nothing to do with homosexuality at all. It’s in the book. I was visiting someone in Dartmoor Prison. But, the day before the Blind Beggar shooting, there was the big tear-up at Mr Smith’s in Catford.”

“That’s the one mentioned in Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography,” I said.

“Yes,” said Micky. “Everybody was Whoa! Did you hear that? Whoa! My God! and all that. Frank Fraser finished up with a bullet in his leg in that front garden. It was a big tear-up between the Richardsons and another local ‘firm’.

“The following evening, I was going to Dartmoor, so I went over to the Regency club to meet the fellah I was going with – the Regency being a club in Hackney frequented by the Krays, who had a small share in it. People think they owned it, but the Barry family owned it.

“When I got to the Regency, I saw Reggie outside and he said: What about the news! Reggie was a very uptight sort of fellah. He never hardly showed his emotions. But he grabbed hold of me and he was waltzing me round on the pavement saying: What about it, Mick? Wasn’t it great? The Richardsons had been arrested.

“But I didn’t feel very elated by it at all. They had never done anything to me and, as I came away, I thought to myself: I’ve a feeling now that the next thing is going to be them (The Krays). Once these things get underway, the police nick everybody. The Richardsons had been arrested, but it wasn’t something to celebrate.

“I met my pal. We went to Dartmoor Prison. Visited a fellah down there. Frank Mitchell was on the visit as well. When we used to go to Dartmoor, we’d get my mate out and say to the screw (the prison guard): Can you get Frank Mitchell too? and he’d get Frank Mitchell.”

Nine months later, ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell was sprung from Dartmoor Prison by the Kray Twins and subsequently murdered on their orders when they found out he really was uncontrollably mad.

“Frank Mitchell would come for a chat at Dartmoor,” explained Micky, “because he didn’t have any visitors of his own. He’d sit down and say to the screw: You look after him, cos he’s a friend of mine and I’m telling you, if you don’t... and the screw would say Alright, Frank, alright. OK, Frank, keep calm... That’s a fact. They were good experiences when I look back.

“Anyway, we come home to London and, early in the morning, I got a newspaper and it said: MAN SHOT DEAD IN THE BLIND BEGGAR PUB. So I get on the phone straight away to Charlie Kray. He says: Meet me outside Mile End station. So I go straight there and I can remember it as if it was yesterday.

George Cornell in a police photo

George Cornell in a police photo

“I said to him: Reggie? and he said No, Ronnie. I said Yeah? He said Yeah. What’s happened, Mick… you know that turn-out down there…”

(Micky and I agreed that, for the rest of the exact detail of this story, you will have to buy Micky’s book… He’s no fool and I am not going to argue with him. So there is a section of our conversation missing here… Micky then continued…)

“So he’s going to throw a petrol bomb into Freddie Foreman’s pub.

“And Charlie Kray told me I wish you’d been here, Mick, because you’d have been the obvious choice to send over because I would have liaised – I used to – but they sent Nobby and he’s come back and gone Oh, it’s all off again! Murders! We’ve gotta do something! They’re going to burn Fred’s pub down!

“And Ronnie’s gone What? And Ronnie’s got all excited, cos he’s mad and he’s gone Give me a shooter! Right! Right! Let’s have a drive round and see if we… and he’s gone into the Blind Beggar and Boom! and that’s it. Just cos Cornell was one of them, cos he was associated with the Richardsons.

“I got on well with Georgie Cornell. He came from Stepney but was very friendly with the Richardsons in South London. He wasn’t 100% with them all the time. And all kinds of strange stories have gone on about why he was shot.

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

Micky Fawcett’s new myth-busting book

“The strangest of them all is that Georgie Cornell gave Ronnie a terrible beating on some previous occasion. John Pearson says it in his book. But the fellah who told Pearson is a terrible liar.”

“Is he alive?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Well I’m not going to print that he’s a terrible liar, am I?” I said. “He might take it amiss.”

“Don’t worry about him,” Micky told me. “He’d have trouble getting out of his armchair.”

“There are so many stories,” I said to Micky: “The comedian Lee Hurst used to say that the Blind Beggar must be the biggest pub in the world because, every time you met any London taxi driver, he would claim he was in there the night Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.”

“Well,” Micky told me, “in the pub that night there really was this fellah called George The Fib.”

“Is he violent, is he still alive and does he live near me?” I asked.

“You’re OK,” said Micky, “he’s dead. But he was called George The Fib cos he was known for lying about everything so, when he told people he had been in the Blind Beggar the night of the shooting, no-one would believe him. He was going around afterwards saying What about that turn-out? I was in there that night… but no-one would believe him. The Old Bill didn’t even interview him.”

Krayzy Days indeed,” I said.

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Filed under Crime, London, UK

One man can change the world with a bullet (or six) in the right place….

(A version of this blog was also published in the Huffington Post under the title What Links Dead Comedian Malcolm Hardee, Gangster Mad Frank Fraser & a British Political Sex Scandal?)

My local handyman (who is a very interesting person; he was at university – UCL, London – with the mother of Kate Middleton, our possibly future Queen) came round to mend my side gate yesterday. He was telling me he hated reading Charles Dickens and could not understand what people see in Dickens’ writing.

“Just caricatures,” he fumed. “Just caricatures. But,” he continued, “Horace Walpole is worse. “The Castle of Otranto is utter shit yet people thought it was a great piece of writing at the time and they thought Horace Walpole’s name would be remembered. Now, quite rightly, no-one remembers him except dusty academics. He’s a footnote. Who knows which ‘famous’ people’s names are going to survive from the 20th century? It’s pot luck.”

Also yesterday, Bill Alford sent me a Facebook message telling me he had posted on Flickr ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… photographs he took in the years 1985-1987 at the late Malcolm Hardee‘s legendary – nay, notorious – seminal alternative comedy club The Tunnel Palladium.

In among the early photos of Keith Allen, Clive Anderson, Phil Cool, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield, Jeremy Hardy, Ainsley Harriott, Jools Holland, Eddie Izzard, Phill Jupitus, Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey, Mike Myers (yes, that Mike Myers), Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Screaming Lord Sutch, Squeeze and many others at Malcolm’s Tunnel Palladium, there is a photo of a trendy-looking gent captioned Johnny Edge.

All ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… of Bill’s photos are interesting – a nostalgic flashlight on an earlier comedy era – but the photo of Johnny Edge was the one which interested me most because I never met Johnny Edge.

I only knew of him by reputation.

He died almost exactly a year ago, on 26th September 2010.

He was just an ordinary bloke living in south east London, whom most people had never heard of yet, when he died, he merited very lengthy obituaries in the Daily Telegraphthe Guardian and the Independent.

In that sense, he was a bit like Malcolm Hardee.

Most people in Britain had never heard of Malcolm Hardee but, when he drowned in January 2005, such was his importance to the development of British comedy, that he merited near full-page obituaries in the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard, the Guardianthe Independent and The Times – indeed, he managed to get two obituaries in the Evening Standard and two in the Guardian.

Malcolm had told me tales of Johnny Edge coming to his comedy clubs and, when I showed the Flickr photo to a friend who worked at Malcolm’s later comedy club Up The Creek, she immediately recognised him:

“Oh yes. I recognise him. He was a regular. He always seemed to me to be on his own. I didn’t know who he was, but other people seemed to know him and treat him with respect, like he had been in known bands or something, He looked ‘reggae’ and he held himself well, maybe just because he was older and quiet. He seemed nice. I think if he had been in a rock band I would have heard which one, which is why I wondered how people were familiar with him… Now I come to think about it, maybe Malcolm always put his name ‘on the door’ so he got in for free. Logically, I think that is highly likely.”

When Malcolm had told me about Johnny Edge being a regular at his clubs, I could feel the slight thrill he had in being able to say he had met and, to an extent, known him.

Johnny ‘Edge’ was a nickname. He was actually Johnny Edgcombe. What he did in 1962 was the catalyst that triggered the Profumo Scandal in 1963 which played no minor part in bringing down the Conservative government in 1964.

Edgecombe had fired six shots at osteopath Stephen Ward’s mews flat, where Edgecombe’s ex-girlfriend Christine Keeler was hiding.

Malcolm’s barely-contained thrill at having a link with Johnny ‘Edge’ was the same thrill I could sense in him when famed 1960s South London gangster Charlie Richardson came to a party on Malcolm’s floating pub the Wibbley Wibbley. It is the same thrill some people feel if they have an even tenuous link with the Kray Twins.  I have heard more than one stand-up comic joke about the TARDIS-like capacity of the Blind Beggar, seeing as how most of the population of East London appears to have been in the pub the night Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.

It is the thrill of one or two degrees of separation from important historic or society-changing events.

Malcolm had three degrees of separation from the Krays, which I think he always cherished and which is mentioned towards the start of his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (now out-of-print, but currently available from me via Amazon at  the remarkably reasonable price of £49.99 + p&p).

When Mad Frank Fraser, the Richardson’s ‘enforcer’ was shot in the thigh during a fight at Mr Smith’s Club in Catford, he was eventually left lying in the front garden of Malcolm’s aunt Rosemary and uncle Doug. The shooting was part of the bad blood and linked events which led to the shooting in the Blind Beggar which brought the Kray Twins and, to an extent, the Richardsons down.

Links within links within links.

To an extent, I share Malcolm’s thrill with one or two degrees of linked separation from national, international or parochial history. Everything and everyone is inter-linked.

Malcolm never met Mad Frank Fraser. I have and I am glad to have met and chatted to him a couple of times: the man who once lay bleeding in Malcolm’s aunt and uncle’s front garden.

Links within links within links.

Once, Mad Frank told me he worried “a bit” what people would say about him after he was dead, because what people are seen as being is ultimately not what they are but what people write about them in retrospect.

A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazonian jungle really can change the world. Ordinary unsung individuals can be part of the chain that creates historic events. Or, to quote anti-hero Mick’s line in Lindsay Anderson’s trendy 1968 film If….

“One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place…”

Or six bullets.

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