John H Stracey returns to East End roots to help Krays memorabilia sale at Blind Beggar
PUBLISHED: 19:01 23 October 2016 | UPDATED: 08:16 28 October 2016
Former world boxing champ John H Stracey was back in London’s East End last night to help a fundraising sale of memorabilia of the notorious Kray twins.
The sale organised by ex-Page 3 pin-up Maureen Flanagan at Whitechapel’s Blind Beggar pub—where Ronnie Kray shot dead rival gangster George Cornell 50 years ago—is just 200 yards from the Collingwood council estate where Stracey grew up in the 1950 and 60s when the Kray twins ruled their ‘empire of evil’.
“I still get goose-bumps whenever I return here and see the Collingwood Estate where I lived till I was 26,” he told the East London Advertiser. “I am an East Ender and will always be an East Ender.”
Maureen Flanagan, now 74, who runs a charity shop in Hackney, regularly holds Kray memento fundraisers at the once-notorious Blind Beggar.
Bethnal Green’s Repton Boxing Club where the Krays first boxed gets cash regularly from the events.
But last night was for MacMillan Nurses with Stracey lending his welterweight behind the fundraising.
Stracey, now 66, remembers the night Cornell was murdered at the Blind Beggar.
“I was 15 and hanging out in the estate when Cornell was shot,” he recalls. “I ran up to see what was going on and saw all the commotion.
“Charlie Kray’s son Gary was my mate at school who used to tell me what was going on. I went round to the Krays’ house in Vallance Road every day go to school with Gary.”
They were hard times for a young Stracey growing up in poverty in the East End, which he admits made him a rough and tough street fighter, an impressionable youth drawn the likes of the Krays.
“A lot of people liked the Krays because they looked after the old folk and did a lot of charity work,” Stracey insists.
“There were a lot of villains in the East End back then—all nice fellahs, by the way, don’t get me wrong.”
Stracey was Great Britain schoolboy champion who went on to take other British welterweight titles before winning the world title in Mexico in 1975.
The Blind Beggar fundraisers draw Kray fans from all over the country as well as former associates of ‘the firm’ all now well into their 70s and 80s who turn up, like the colourful character Toby Von Judge who arrived in his ‘Sunday best’ with all the ‘bling’ he could muster.
But they also attract a later generation of East End villains who followed in the Krays’ footsteps, like reformed ex-convict Jack Ramadan who spent most of his young life behind bars.
He now runs the ‘Factory East’ project getting East End youngsters off the streets with activities like boxing and helping to get them jobs when they leave school.
Jack, now 48, who used to visit Reggie Kray in Parkhurst, told the Advertiser: “I was a ‘village idiot’ involved in violence, drugs and burglaries.
“I regret the years I was banged up, from 16 till the age of 24—I should have been out here working, learning trade, instead of being in the prison system.
“I saw the light 10 years ago. My goal in life now is to educate young people not to waste their life in the prison system—it’s about helping youngsters lead positive lives.”
Yesterday’s memorabilia sale included an auction of artwork of Stracey’s boxing career, raising a total of more than £1,000 for MacMillan Nurses, helped by Flanagan’s 10-year-old granddaughter Madison Cox who was looking after a memento bric-a-brac stall.
Other items raising cash were stories about the Krays reprinted from the East London Advertiser including one embossed on T-shirts going for £10 a time for the MacMillan cancer charity.