THE WILD WEST
Crime plays a major part in Blackpool’s economy. Criminal activity was sometimes coordinated by the highest social class and sometimes criminal activity in Blackpool has involved the government. In early England Lancashire was of little importance and the Fylde was the least important part. It was quicker to travel from London to Blackpool in Roman times than it was in the early 19th Century and the Romans integrated the Fylde more than any rulers until the 18th Century. At times the border with Scotland ran through Lancashire. The people of the Fylde spoke Welsh until the 12th Century. When the Reformation came about many Fylde landowners ignored it and whilst Catholics were persecuted in other parts of the country Catholic Masses continued at Staining as if nothing had happened. The disinterest between the Fylde and the rest of England could become hostility. A local gentleman from Rossall, Cardinal Allen, was an advisor to the Spanish Armada and hoped that after a successful invasion of England he would become the Archbishop of Canterbury. This self-sufficient peninsula was amongst the last places in England to be integrated into the administrative structure and a tradition of lawlessness persisted.
Brecht wrote : “Julius Caesar conquered Gaul. What did he not take a cook with him?” Almost everything we know is “respectable” history. Blackpool was as famed for prostitutes as for Blackpool Rock. We know about the building of Blackpool Tower but what do we know about Blackpool Brothels? There is a secret history involving the lives of smugglers, prostitutes, con-men, black-marketeers, gangsters about whom we know nothing. To take one example from the nineteenth century, a man appeared in court. His crime was selling naughty pictures to visitors. He would offer the visitor an envelope and take the money. Inside the envelope there would be a photograph of a classical nude statue. Think about that man’s life. He stayed somewhere in Blackpool and he ate somewhere. And yet he escapes our attention. Where are the fortune-tellers, the gamblers, the strong-arm men, the prostitutes, the fake-auctioneers, the starving brides? If you turn over a rock and there is activity and then it stops . Illegal l activity is hard to document. So what follows is a speeded up summary of organised crime in Blackpool.
SMUGGLING IN THE FYLDE
The building of the Fox Hall around 1660 was a landmark in the history of Blackpool. Edward Tyldesley hoped that he would be rewarded for his father’s sacrifice in supporting the Royalists in the Civil War. His father had died at the Battle of Wigan Lane. The Foxhall once a centre of secret activity and smuggling became a pub where, oddly, it was the scene of one of Blackpool’s earliest murders in 1895 when John Toomey murdered his wife… see ” Murder at the Foxhall.” The English never quite got on with the Stuarts. They executed Charles I, then restored Charles 11, then unrestored James 11 and then there were two attempts to restore the Stuarts in 1715 and 1745. A local man, George Fleetwood, signed Charles1’s death warrant. The Stuarts often often had an unstable alliance with Scots and the Jacobite Risings involved an incursion from Scotland along the West Coast of England.
Edward Tyldesley built Foxhall in the hope that Charles II would reward him with the Hawes, the common land shared by Layton and Marton. However Charles II forgot to reward his supporters. But this did not stop the stalwart if possibly not very bright, Tyldesleys from supporting the Stuarts. Thomas Tyldesley, son of Edward, was a member of a Jacobite drinking club where he enjoyed the soubriquet the “Slut Kisser.” Foxhall was probably built, near the coast and far from the authorities, to facilitate clandestine activities including smuggling.
THOMAS TYLDESLEY SLUT KISSER AND SMUGGLER
We do not know that Thomas Tyldesley was a smuggler. He had contacts with the Isle of Man, he had experience of clandestine activity involving Jacobites and Catholic Priests,he had a schooner built in the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man was the centre of smuggling to England, Thomas Tyldesley was an active Jacobite. Thomas Tyldesley who would enjoy depriving the government of income and redirecting the profit towards the Stuart Cause.
We do not know that Thomas Tyldesley was a smuggling mastermind, but it is a fair bet. The Isle of Man did not have the same duties on wine and spirits as the rest of England. Smuggling was the major industry. Warehouses stored goods for onward transport to England. A ship, bound for Wardleys or Skipool (at one time Skipool was a more important port than Liverpool) would dispatch a small boat which would hide barrels of spirits in the sandhills to the south of Blackpool. Local people would retrieve them. The early hotels of Blackpool may have benefited. Thomas Tyldesley died before the 1715 Rising and his son Edward was lucky to escape execution. Eventually a troop of dragoons was stationed at Blackpool to discourage smuggling but nobody was caught.
Thomas Tyldesley would be at the top of the smuggling hierarchy. Then as now the top men in smuggling had to be wealthy and were not involved operationally. Smuggling was an open secret, another source of income in a harsh world.
If Foxhall was linked with smuggling Raikes Hall was linked with the other crime associated with of Blackpool: wrecking. William Butcher was a man from Kirkham of humble origins. When he built something closely resembling a stately home, Raikes Hall in 1760, it was rumoured that he had benefitted from the wreck of a ship called the “Three Sisters.” He was said to walk along the beach in the early morning. William Butcher is buried in All Hallows churchyard as are many with seamen, recovered from Blackpool beaches. His son harboured the disconcerting belief that he was made of glass and inhabited by an industrious cordwainer. People such as myself who do not get out much will know that a cordwainer is a high-class shoemaker.
Over the years the number of drowned seamen probably runs to thousands. This was unfortunate for the seamen but it was a blessing for the residents. A wreck was supposed to be the property of the Lord of the Manor but local people would race to the site and loot the wreck before the Lord of the Manor could protect it. It is a small step from benefiting from a wreck to causing a wreck. Lights would be used to lure a ship to wreck on Blackpool Beach. Wreckers would try to make Blackpool appear like the Wyre Estuary known as a very safe harbour… a port in a storm. At that time the Gynn actually was a small estuary, a brook ran from Warbreck Hill to the sea at the Gynn. Wrecking worked best if the night was dark or if there was a storm so that a ship was desperate to find safety. It is likely that seaman would be killed when a ship was wrecked.
The evidence that there was deliberate wrecking comes from that man of men our wonderful William Thornber. William Thornber, vicar, boxer, local historian, writer, was a glorious adornment to the Church. He was a local man steeped in local knowledge. In 1839 he shocked his congregation by preaching a sermon against wrecking. Being a local historian William Thornber took to drink and madness, he was incarcerated in a high class asylum. We last hear of him in Blackpool giving boxing lessons in a barn near Warley Road. Well actually he briefly reappeared to be buried at the south east corner of St Johns with his wife who he disliked and his father in law who looked askance at his heavy drinking, boxing son- in- law. So William Thornber knew what he was talking about when he gave his sermon against wrecking and there was embarassment among the congregation. His last abode while alive in Blackpool was in Derby Road where a high-class brothel operated… what if?
But no the timing is wrong.
We last met William Butcher who built Foxhall being interred in All Hallows Churchyard. People said he benefited from a wreck and that he went from being poor to a country squire living a stately home. If your neighbour were to suddenly build a stately home you might well wonder…
He has a link to the further development of organised crime in Blackpool… the brothel. The Raikes became first of all a nunnery and then the Raikes Pleasure Gardens. I have already written about brothels in “Victorian Sex Tourism.” Since I wrote that I have discovered more about the brothel in Derby Road. But to return to the Raikes Hall Pleasure Gardens a brothel at Grosvenor Street was raided in. It was aimed at the clientele of the Raikes Hall Pleasure Gardens. Raikes Hall Pleasure Gardens may have been the first major entertainment centre in the world aimed at the working class. People from all over the North visited the Gardens and pubs such as the Number Three and the Belle Vue benefitted. People came to Blackpool and went straight to the Pleasure Gardens without seeing the sea. Apart from brothels there was informal prostitution. There were more prostitutes than housemaids in Victorian Britain… An outfit called the Purity League was active in promoting the closure of brothels. Reverend Balmer published the pamphlet: “Blackpool, Sodom and Paris.” Disappointingly the neglect of the Sabbath seems to be the sin that the Reverend Balmer focusses on but one can’t help thinking that he couldn’t bring himself to name darker sins that caused him so much chagrin. To a Victorian mind Paris and Sodom would not bring to mind neglect of the Sabbath.
KEYSTONE COPS… THE POLICE RAID ON THE BROTHEL IN DERBY ROAD
In “Victorian Sex Tourism” I wrote about the brothel at 3 Derby Road. At this time Derby Road was an elite area and the brothel aimed at wealthier visitors who may have stayed in the Imperial Hotel. A hundred years later underage gay sex parties were available to for visitors to the Conservative Party Conferences, it is said. A further article casts light on the events. Catharine Briggs Bolton was convicted of keeping a disorderly house. But then she appealed… on Saturday 19 August 1895. This was unheard of in this kind of case because it means that Catharine Briggs Bolton would have to pay for expensive legal defence. But she did and she won…. the case gives us an insight into how the police operated. They hid in the back garden peeping through the windows. On one occasion they climbed a ladder to see what was going on. The house was under observation for about a month and dozens of people were seen coming and going. And the appeal succeeded and the conviction was quashed. It seems that Catharine Briggs Bolton had backers. According to her own account she had a background in theatre and the connection between show business and organised crime recurrs. To set up Derby Road would require planning. The house would have to be found and rented. Staff would be required. There would need to be provisions, sandwiches champagne and cigarettes are provided for guests. Clients have to recruited. And the whole operation has to make money to such an extent that the backers are prepared to back Catharine Briggs Bolton in an appeal. The Chief Constable stated that he had seen Mrs Bolton and a female friend “at the Winter Gardens and at the Grand Theatre and in his opinion they were simply plying their trade as prostitutes.” More interestingly one of the accused was connected with the theatre and alleged to have part in a concert in connection with the Blackpool police force. The Derby Road was at the high end of of the market. At the lower end prostitutes appear in the Police Court conducting business at Back Queen Street. Queen Street the most respectable residential area in town… residents included the Mayor and a Catholic Nunnery. The brothels were part of the impulse to make money from tourism which lay behind the Raikes Hall Pleasure Gardens and later the Winter Gardens, the Grand Theatre and the Tower. As we learn from Chief Constable Derham the same clients used the brothel and the Grand and the Winter Gardens.
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Sadly there is a lack of evidence about organised crime in the early twentieth century. Policing, public order, the incarceration of the poor, the eccentric and the criminal… you could be imprisoned for not having a light on your bicycle at night… plus employment, education and a lively sense of religion meant that society was more tranquil than it has ever been. On the other hand the British Empire was killing people on an epic scale… and the world was limbering up for an unprecedented blood-letting. It may be that the docility of the population contributed to the death rate in the First World War. We assume that there was extortion because many Blackpool businesses were cash businesses that could be easily disrupted. Holiday makers might want to take part in illegal gambling. Prostitutes would be protected and there would be brothels catering for the top end of the market. It is after the Second World War that we have reminiscences.
A TOWN BUILT ON CRIME
If the early 20th was the high point of social order the post war world and especially post war Blackpool was a world in which crime was… well respectable…even necessary. In many ways the War honed the skills of two kinds of people, almost archetypes, the rule-based civil servant and the unscrupulous entrepreneur. There were many civil servants in Blackpool and the National Health Service may have come out of their discussions. The Second World War was the high point of British Socialism. Unexpectedly the defeat of the Nazis owed more to Civil Servants than to “the few”. A command economy enabled the large-scale projects which defeated the Nazis. Another trait the war revealed was unprincipled entrepreneurship. The war provided new opportunities for crime…the dislocation and the accumulation of supplies plus black-marketing meant that crime became respectable and the mundane. If you announced at the golf-club that you were a burglar it probably wouldn’t go down well but if you dealt in black-market petrol you might enjoy prestige.
SMILING DAMNED VILLAIN
” Smiling damned villain” is the biography Paul Lund a likeable and bright crook by Rupert Croft-Cooke. It is interesting because of its observations about Blackpool and it shows Blackpool in the 40’s to be a town dependent on crime. On release from Winson Green prison in 1946 he went to Blackpool with another criminal. In Blackpool he met a man called Joe who was a clever thief. Paul Lund says that Joe had managed to convince a psychiatrist that he was a “half-wit” so he never received long sentences. Paul says: “I wish I was half as intelligent.” During Paul Lund’s career he spends some time in Blackpool in the late 40s. Blackpool had a wonderful war economically and the post-war years were the busiest ever but rationing meant that ice-cream makers or rock- makers could not supply demand and would have to lay off staff. Paul and his team steal sugar, cooking oil and cocoa butter. Because the Police are busy rounding up lost children and dealing with drunken visitors they didn’t have time to deal with crime. Paul is an enthusiastic about the laws against homosexual behaviour because it leaves professional criminals free to operate. The attraction of Blackpool is that a criminal will be lost among the visitors and that there are opportunities for money making. After another spell in Walton Prison Paul Lund decides: “The only place we could pick up some operating money straight away was Blackpool and we made straight for there.” Paul stayed with a character known as “The Mayor” who owned a boarding house. The Mayor collected crooked lodgers and fenced stolen property. “He wouldn’t let rooms to people who were straight at any price.” Paul joined a team he had known earlier and they robbed the Yelloway Coach Company. Paul Lund says that there was a gang run by Scarface Jock who extorted money from stall-holders on the Golden Mile and also from other criminals. He tells us about an incident involving Scarface Jock. A woman called “Blackpool Mary” tried to get money from a stranger in a Blackpool Bar. The plan was that the gang would take money from the stranger using the pretext that they were insulted by the stranger’s behaviour. That was the plan. Instead when the gang stepped in the stranger produced a pistol and fired it twice. When the Police arrived the stranger had gone but the shooting was blamed on Scarface Jock and his team who were imprisoned. Paul Lund says that Blackpool Mary was later murdered and the pepretrator hanged. The incident may refer to the murder of Madge Leadbetter, a prostitute, on 31 October 1951 although the killer was not hanged. Paul Lund’s next crime was stealing from a wholesale wine and spirits store in Whitegate Drive. One warm august night Paul entered the store through the skylight. The stolen cases were passed to a lorry parked in a back street. The robbery was disrupted by the Police and Paul had to run for it through peoples’ back gardens. Finally Paul Lund is caught in Blackpool through carelessness and is bailed. He goes on the run and after a series of events in London he is recaptured and imprisoned. Crime was not only endemic in Blackpool it was central to of the economy. Ice-cream manufacturers, rock makers and fish and chip shops could not operate without breaking the law to get material such as sugar and cooking oil. The war had created a wave of lawlessness. Since the economy of Blackpool depended on small businesses and the council represented small business interests I doubt if the Police were keen to pursue black-marketing. Paul Lund’s mention of Scarface Jock links Blackpool to Billy Hill.
Billy Hill was the most successful gang leader in London. He used an array of skills: the careful use of violence, diplomacy and bribery to put together the largest gang London has ever seen. Billy Hill, normally as sharp as a whistle, lost his marbles where his former partner and rival Jack Spot was concerned. He concocted a plan to attack Scarface Jock Rosso with a knife and then blame it on Jack Spot. Scarface Jock agreed and then went back to Scotland and told Billy Hill that he had changed his mind. He later gave evidence against Billy Hill. Consequently he would be keeping well out of the way of Billy Hill. The shooting incident that Paul Lund mentions involving “Blackpool Mary” may not have been a coincidence. Billy Hill later gave his blessing to the Krays. I think they appalled him but he wanted to retire quietly. The Krays were not celebrated for finesse. In semi-retirement Billy Hill made his most lucrative and near legal venture. He co-owned the Clermont Club with John Aspinall. This was where Lord Lucan lost his money. Cards were marked in a sophisticated way using a special press. The club was infiltrated by card sharps as well as aristocrats. I met an ex-employee of Billy Hill in Blackpool. Alex the Greek worked for Billy Hill at the Clermont Club. Incidentally he was a fan of Schopenhauer the philosopher which shows something but I know not what.
MAD FRANKIE FRASER Frankie Fraser visited Blackpool for months . He stayed at a hotel which may have been the one where Paul Lund stayed. According to Frankie Fraser, and in this section everything is according to Frankie Fraser, the leading figure in local crime was Abie Tobias. Abie Tobias’ daughter had been “walking out” with a local Police Constable until his superiors had warned him off. Their motive was that Abie Tobias was Jewish. A leading character was Jack Pye who was a famed professional wrestler. Jack’s son Dominic was even more intimidating. Dominic once turned over a car on the Promenade because the driver annoyed him. Jack Pye appeared in films including: “Its a grand life,” with Diana Dors and Frank Randle. He had been George Formby’s closest friend when they were at school. He owned the Castle on the Promenade which operated as a Casino. Abie Tobias and colleagues burgled Jack Pye’s house at Cornwall Avenue in North Shore. Jack Pye, Dominic Pye and others visited Abie Tobias. Abie Tobias was later imprisoned for this robbery. A PC had noted the number of Abie Tobias’ car outside Jack Pye’s house. Sadly Dominic Pye died in an accidental shooting. Abie Tobias had a daughter called Sheila who married Georgie Porritt whilst he was in prison. Georgie Porritt had angered friends of Johnny Cadillac, who had been killed in a car chase. He had taken up with Johnny Cadillac’s former sweetheart Fluffy Copeland. When armed men appeared at his stepfather’s house he produced a weapon and accidentally killed his stepfather. He was sentenced to death and reprieved the day before execution. Sheila later drove the car in a wage-snatch in Manchester. Because she could not get a baby-sitter she took her baby along. Frankie Fraser was acquainted with Eric Mason. Frankie Fraser says that he took an axe to Eric Mason put him in the boot of a car and dumped him at a hospital. Frankie Fraser used to complain that he had lost his axe in the incident. That is Frankie Fraser’s version of the event. Eric Mason’s version is available on you-tube and is more convincing. Interestingly in Eric Mason’s account of the incident the Krays and Arthur Thompson are present when the incident starts.
In a career of exceptional viciousness and longevity Frankie Fraser nailed people to the floor and pulled their teeth out with pliers. He avoided working for the Krays moving from Billy Hill to the Richardsons. Despite his reputation Frankie Fraser’s comments about people are nuanced. Given an opportunity who knows what he could have become… a dentist? Frankie Fraser also knew Freddie Sewell who murdered Superintendant Gerald Richardson. This crime came about because of the communication between Blackpool and the London Underworld. I hope to deal with that incident separately. Aged 90 and suffering from dementia Frankie crowned his career by assaulting a fellow resident in his nursing home and having an ASBO issued to him.
THE COMING OF THE KRAYS The Krays defined what it was to be a gangster. They mixed with show business stars and people such as Lord Boothby who had an affair with Harold MacMillan’s wife. Princess Margaret had an affair with the actor and gangster John Bindon whose party piece was to suspend five beer mugs from his penis. His presence would have enlivened royal garden parties. Eric Mason’s soujourn in Blackpool followed the attack on him by Frankie Fraser. Eric Mason was connected to the Krays and a close friend of Mixie Walsh a local businessman. The two had met in Dartmoor where Mixie was doing time for attacking six policeman. I am told that you wouldn’t want to be attacked by Mixie Walsh.
Tony and Chris Lambrianou were brothers and Kray loyalists. After the imprisonment of the Krays they served stiff sentences rather than cooperate with investigators. In an unlikely turn of events one of the brothers, Chris, became a born again Christian and gives talks in churches. Tony and Chris visited Blackpool and… this is according to Tony… found that Eric Mason was invoking the Kray name to intimidate the locals. Eric Mason was staying in Saint Annes where he enjoyed the company of performers appearing at Blackpool such as the Dave Clark Five. Tony Lambrianou says that the brothers “took over” the town. Both ” Wolfie Wiseguy” and I think this is unlikely. (Read Wolfie Wiseguy’s blog… it’s good. ) This is probably the source of the story that the Krays came to Blackpool and were turned away by local villains. As Wolfie Wiseguy says this story is told about every town in England and is a universal law similar to the one that says there is somebody in every pub who used to be in the SAS. Tony Lambrianou did have one brilliant, idea. He wanted to have a Kray Franchise so that gangs in other areas would have the blessing of the Krays. Like McDonalds or KFC or Anne Summers. Actually not Anne Summers. Time ran out for the Krays. Reggie was mourning the suicide of his wife and Ronnie was drinking a lot which didn’t help with his paranoid schizophrenia. A villain called Jack the Hat was drinking a lot and taking a lot of drugs and may have cheated the Krays and took to telling people that the Krays were scared of Jack the Hat. Jack the Hat went to a party attended by the Krays and was killed. There were scores of witnesses. Tony Lambrianou and his brother were imprisoned. They refused to inform on the Krays. In the tide of Kray worship I enjoy the comment of one of the Richardsons about the Krays: “They didn’t have a brain between them.”ERIC MASON
Eric Mason remained a regular visitor to Blackpool. When Mixie Walsh suffered from dementia Eric Mason helped arrange a benefit. The benefit illustrated the relationship between performers and gangsters. They were two professions in which working class people could rise to the top. Also clubs were operated by gangsters and offered work to performers. Eric Mason was a fan of P J Proby. The aesthetics of organised crime are a topic in themselves. Eric Mason wrote a book called: “The Brutal Truth.” He often operated from St Annes and served time in Kirkham Prison. He confirms the existence of Abie Tobias who he calles: “Abie T.” and Alex the Greek who whe calls “Scotch Alec.” He is convincing about the brutality of the prison system but unconvincing about crime as a solution. He was a friend of Jack the Hat who was killed by the Krays. Eric Mason associate and friend of Mixie Walsh was a frequent visitor to Blackpool
I have already mentioned the Chief Constable of Lancashire Stanley Parr who was dismissed as unworthy of holding high office in my blog: “Owen Oyston rapist or victim?” To sum up briefly the 20 year old daughter of Bill Harrison, a prominent businessman was in an accident in which her car mounted the pavement and two young mothers were killed. Her father rang the Leader of the Conservative Group, Len Broughton. Len Broughton had helped Bill Harrison by arranging for Blackpool Council to lease him a caravan site without competive tendering, a move which was criticised in the Times. Len Broughton advised the businessman to ring Stanley Parr. Stanley Parr had the charge reduced from causing death by dangerous driving to careless driving. In many ways Stanley Parr’s misdemeanours were entertaining. He used police vehicles to ferry himself and his wife to airports for visits to Torremolinos. He fiddled his expenses. This misdemeanour was not funny. Bill Harrison was involved in a private investigation of Owen Oyston. We next hear about Stanley Parr in 1981 when his car is involved in an accident as he is on his way to attend a rotary event. He tried to claim that his car had been stolen at the time of the incident. He was fined £135.00.
THE THOMPSONS AND BLACKPOOL Compared to Arthur Thompson the Krays were sweethearts. In Scotland Arthur Thompson’s organisation was a state within a state. He started out as a debt collector where he distinguished himself in a brutal profession by nailing people to the floor. Frankie Fraser also used to nail people to the floor and we do not know if one learned from the other or if like calculus they were invented separately. Nobody would be a witness against the Thompson gang. In his early life Arthur Thompson was imprisoned in Bairnlinnie Prison where his wife Rita wrote to the governor complaining that he was being led astray by criminal inmates. A car bomb killed Arthur Thompson’s mother-in-law. When Arthur Thompson saw two people he thought were responsible in a van he drove straight at them in his own car and they were both killed. Rita Thompson visited one of the widows and stabbed her with a kitchen knife. You get the gist. Arthur Thompson distributed arms to Loyalist Groups in Northern Ireland and he was “turned” by British Intelligence in return for a shorter jail sentence and for secrecy over his involvement with Loyalists which would have attracted the unfavourable attention of the Provisionals. Arthur Thompson’s son Arthur nicknamed “Fatboy” lived in Blackpool for some years. He was involved in drug smuggling and distribution. Arthur Thompson Junior was arrested and imprisoned in 1985. After his release Arthur Thompson Junior was shot outside the family home in Provanmill Glasgow and died in his father’s arms. The funeral cortege passed the corpses of two men placed like evil flowers along the route of the funeral procession. They were suspected by Arthur Thompson of involvement in Arthur Junior’s murder. More people were to die. It is possible to feel pity for Arthur Thompson. His son had died. He could administer violence and death but he had no viable heir and the hyenas were gathering. Arthur Thompson died 18 months after his son’s death. Rita, his widow, on her deathbed offered money for the killing of Paul Ferris. She believed that Paul Ferris was the killer of Arthur Junior. Whether he was or not Arthur Junior had planned to kill Paul Ferris. It comes as no surprise to learn that Paul Ferris was a visitor to Blackpool nor that Frankie Fraser was a close friend of Arthur Thompson’s other son Billy Thompson. Nor that Billy Thompson was the victim of a near-fatal attack. Nor that Paul Ferris went on to start a Security Company.
STEVE SINCLAIR: THE BLACKPOOL ROCK Steve Sinclair has written about his career as a doorman in Blackpool. His work gives an insight into organised crime in Blackpool. Steve Sinclair’s activities were sometimes legal, club-owning, and sometimes borderline, debt-collecting, providing security for drug-dealers and sometimes they were illegal. Paul Ferris the one-time Thompson enforcer was tried for the murder of Arthur Thompson Junior. After the longest and most expensive trial up to that time in Scottish history he was found not guilty. He was later convicted for gun-running. The Intelligence Services provided evidence, this was said to be because they had suitable technology but possibly it was also because Police Investigations were insecure. We know from Steve Sinclair that Paul Ferris and his brother, who was on the run from a murder conviction, both visited Blackpool regularly. Paul’s brother was engaged to Steve Sinclair’s sister. On his visits Paul stayed at the Verona Hotel. Paul Ferris’s brother was arrested and on his release he committed another murder and was imprisoned again. Organised crime moved from extortion into the Security business. The early days were marred by appalling crimes. The murder of Mark White, 25, a Blackpool Hotel worker was the victim of an attack by Blackpool Doormen Gary Ward, who was 19 at the time of the attack, and James Docherty. The attackers said that they recognised Mark White from a previous incident. Mark White was badly beaten and drowned in the sea. Gary Ward was imprisoned for life and James Docherty for 10 years. Following his release James Docherty murdered a 41 year heroin addict on Christmas Eve 2001. The judge said that the attack was “chillingly similar” to the attack on Mark White. Steve Sinclair reports on an event when he was acting as protector for a deal with Cocky Warren. Although Steve Sinclair is reticent about the nature of the deal we assume that drugs were involved. All drugs and especially heroin created havoc and loss of life in Blackpool. In May 1995 there were eleven shootings in Liverpool. Blackpool was a natural outlet for drugs because of its club culture and Liverpool was the principle gateway for imports. Cocky Warren, probably Britain’s most financially successful criminal, made it onto the Times Rich List with a reported worth of £185,000,000. He first became interested in drugs while working as a doorman in Liverpool Clubs. He was once arrested over his part in a smuggling operation but released because his partner was a police informant. He visited Blackpool Airport and had a helicopter fly him over Morecambe Bay where he claimed he owned Barrow Football Club through an intermediary. I cannot resist telling the story of Detective Inspector Elly Davies. Elly Davies was an old-style Sweeney type copper. He was very put out at being passed over for promotion. Incredibly all these incidents were being recorded on a fly on the wall TV production called “Merseyside Blues.” Elly Davies lived with Michael Ahearne who had been a TV Gladiator. Michael Ahearne was a former flatmate of Cocky Warren. It may be that monitoring of Cocky Warren’s phone calls linked him to Elly Davies. Microphones were concealed in Elly Davies’ home. Cocky Warren was living in Holland but he was in touch with events in Liverpool. The son of a businessman Philip Glennon who was also called Philip shot a doorman following a dispute. Witnesses were bribed but there was other evidence. Cocky wanted to help his friend Philip Junior so he contacted Elly Davies. The call was monitored and eventually in 1998 Elly Davies was jailed for five years. Philip Glennon Senior was Chairman of the local Neighbourhood Watch. Cocky Warren was imprisoned in Holland and while in prison he killed a fellow inmate. There may have been dozens of drug dealers operating from Spain. We know about Lee Broadbent from Poulton, 31, who was arrested in Torremolinos and John Alan Brooks aged 61 who was arrested on a visit to his family in Blackpool. He smuggled 150 million pounds worth of cocaine into the country. There must be many more. Drug smuggling is a high-end crime and wealthy yacht owners might be tempted by the prospect of a single journey which could net a million pounds in profit, or they might hire a yacht from a dealer who would advise them how to conceal the drug and how to sell it onwards. Unless the Customs had intelligence the inspection at Marinas such as Fleetwood would be cursory. Drugs are a significant part of the Blackpool economy. Aside from smuggling there is a network of distribution and debt enforcement. Corrupt doormen might enforce a monopoly for a favoured distributor. In addition to heroin and cocaine and cannabis there are dozens of “legal highs” Much cannabis is grown in attics using ultra-violet lights in cannabis farms. A helicopter pilot told me that when you fly over Blackpool you see dozens of ultra-violet lights. Heroin in particular has done damage to Blackpool. Many people have died directly and indirectly through violence involving drug debts and drug dealing. Somebody once told me that they should have a memorial in the toilets of the Dinmore to all the people who have died there of overdoses. Toilet cleaners in Blackpool run the risk of finding dead people in the toilets. Sometimes more than one.
A rivetting example of the use of cocaine comes from Anthony Gilberthorpe a former Conservative Activist and whistleblower. He says that in the 1983 Conservative Conference at the Imperial he was sent out to find rent boys. He found them almost immediately in the Lower Promenade. These under-age boys were given security passes and taken to a party. Cocaine was consumed. According to Anthony Gilberthorpe the company included Lord Havers, Leon Brittan, Sir Keith Joseph and Rhodes Boyson plus others who are active in the Conservative Party. Some of us remember the Conference of 1983. It is almost certain that the Provisionals had done a recce of the Imperial Hotel since Patrick Magee, their most experienced bomber had been in Blackpool earlier that year (my blog: “IRA operations in Blackpool”.) Until recently you could see signs of the security presence where drainage grids were sealed. There was a destroyer (I think it was a destroyer, or was it a frigate?) at sea off Blackpool. While the Provisionals are stalking the Prime Minister at the Imperial Hotel a Conservative activist is off looking for rent boys. Anthony Gilberthorpe says that the same thing happened in Brighton shortly before the Brighton Bombing the following year which was carried out by Patrick Magee.
Is Anthony Gilberthorpe a reliable witness?
I have absolutely no idea.
ORGANISED CRIME… REFLECTIONS
Organised crime moved into legitimate business. In some cases the legitimate business is more profitable than crime. The businesses include nightclubs, security, casinos. Successful criminals needed a money-laundering arm and casinos, for example, can provide this. When I began this I knew very little about organised crime and I still know very little. I have been immersed in the world of criminals and some thoughts come to mind. Karl Marx wrote that we are all indebted to criminals because they provide so much work. Policemen, prison-officers, security staff, lock makers, prison architects, cctv manufacturers, , crime reporters, judges, barristers, solicitors, coroners, undertakers, coffin makers, florists … all owe their living or part of their living to criminals. It may the average citizen enjoys a net-benefit from crime . Not everybody who comes to Blackpool takes drugs in a nightclub but for some people it is a reason to visit Blackpool. In Blackpool the nightime economy is all-important.
The writings of gangsters are mesmerising. The narrative is always something like: “I had trouble. We had a fight. I won.” Gangsters always win fights. Gangsters have an intense sense of justice. You might think that a criminal would have a give and take attitude to property. Try stealing from a criminal. The ideal place for organised criminals is a charity event where there are retired boxers, actors, singers and entertainers. They love bow-ties. They speak a peculiar language that wouldn’t be out of place at a Conservative fund-raiser in the late seventies. “My good lady.” “Charlie Kray” was a true gentleman.” “A very well-respected family down Streatham way.” Charlie Kray is always: “a true gentleman.” Hitler would be: “A very well respected true gentleman down Munich Way.” Respect is code-word for “feared.” At this ideal place the music would be provided by James Blunt and P J Proby. They would be photographed in Country Life Magazine. Aristocrats such as Lord Lucan or Princess Margaret or Lord Boothby mix with the Krays and Alex the Greek. Diana Dors and Barbara Windsor are in there somewhere. Sonny Liston too… Many gangsters became after-dinner speakers where they glory in this kind of gathering. This is gangster paradise. Maybe I am not fair. How would Marcel Proust fare against Sugar Ray Leonard? The casualties are low. Although there are eternal turf wars and they get bloody a lot of the violence is ritualistic. Harold Shipman killed more people than all the gang wars of this and the last century. On the other hand empires of fear like the Thompson organisation caused pain and suffering to the poorest and most defenceless. Some criminals, Billy Hill and Arthur Thompson and Cocky Warren come to mind, are outstandingly intelligent, in another life they would be answering questions in University Challenge, part of their situation was that they were born at a time and in a place where there were few opportunities for the poor: that place is called the United Kingdom. On the other hand if my talent was hitting people and I had a choice between a varied life hitting people and working in MacDonalds I would probably go for the hitting people option. Or work at MacDonalds and hit people.
Above all what I have enjoyed is another culture. You do not need to go to the Amazon valley to find people whose view of the world is different from your own. Go to a club and look at the people on the doors. A quick word about sources Newspaper articles from Blackpool Local History Centre a wonderful resource. Rupert Croft-Cooke’s Smiling Damn’d Villain and Frankie Fraser’s Underground Britain were an enormous help. Eric Mason’s :”The Brutal Truth” is enlightening and comical: he goes in for name dropping in a big way. Among the the names he drops is the artist Francis Bacon. It was actually written by Eric Mason so it has authenticity. ” Inside the firm” by Tony Lambrianou accounts for the brothers’ activities in Blackpool, if you believe it. And big thanks to Steve Sinclair for “Blackpool Rock” not forgetting WolfieWiseGuy’s blog. Thanks Wolfie.