‘Kraysy’ rush for Kray memorabilia at Blind Beggar where Cornell was shot
- Credit: Archant
A-List associates of ‘The Firm’ and crime fans from all over the country turned a Krays’ charity fundraiser at Whitechapel’s Blind Beggar pub into a ‘Kraysy’ rush for memorabilia of the notorious gangster family who ruled gangland from London’s East End. Ex-Page 3 tabloid pin-up Maureen Flanagan, now in her 70s and running a charity shop in South Hackney, staged the memorabilia fair at the pub where Ronnie Kray shot dead rival gangster George Cornell in 1966.
Followers who weren’t even born when the twins went down for life in 1969 for murder and conspiracy rolled up to grab momentos such as mugs, T-shirts, prints and books as well as family photos of Ron, Reg and older brother Charlie.
Callenders were sold out with pictures of the Krays’ growing up in Haggerston and Bethnal Green from the 1930s to the 50s, with family dates of births, marriages, funerals and the murders they committed.
Flanagan also sold out of copies of her book about her 40-year friendship with the Krays which started in 1961 when she did their mum Violet’s hair each week at their home in Vallance Road.
A portrait of the Krays was auctioned for £750 to a fan who turned up from Doncaster.
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Good prices were also fetched for original letters written by Ron and Reg from behind bars. Kray fan Anne Smith has a treasured original from Reggie sent in 1998 wishing her luck when she arrived to live in Shadwell after fleeing from her ex-husband in Brighton who was threatening to murder her. She came to buy Maureen’s book and get it signed.
All the glitterati linked to the 1960s’ Underworld turned up for Sunday’s fundraiser, like flamboyant Toby Von Judge, now 75—the posh barrister associate of ‘The Firm’ who studied criminology at Cambridge.
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“The only way to know more about criminology is to be mixed in with criminals,” he confided.
“I met Ronnie who I could get a lot of criminal education from because he was a psychopath, a complete nutter.”
Von Judge got to know the Krays, but says he “never crossed the line” and always spoke his mind, giving as good as he got.
“Lots of times Ronnie told me he was going to kill Cornell because he called him a fat poof,” Toby recalls.
“I said, ‘Ron, you are a fat poof—does that mean you’re coming to shoot me? Get over it’.
“In those days, of course, you weren’t allowed to be homosexual. You were put in prison.”
Toby frequently visited the Krays at 178 Vallance Road and “always got the posh cutlery, the ‘Auntie Rose’ cups that Violet’s sister gave her”.
Another A-Lister on Sunday from the Fifties and Sixties was Eileen Sheridan, now 79, the first ‘Miss UK’ in 1958 and ‘Miss GB’ in 1960.
She was introduced to two “businessmen” at Churchill’s nightclub in Soho—Charlie and Reggie Kray.
“Meeting them was like meeting Frank Sinatra,” Eileen remembers.
“But they were playing at gangsters, especially Ronnie who could have hired someone to kill Cornell in the Blind Beggar—but wanted to be seen doing it, like a gangster movie.
“It went a bit messy with Reggie killing Jack ‘the Hat’ in Stoke Newington when his gun jammed.”
Years later, she was called as a character witness when Charlie Kray was busted for drugs in 1997, claiming he was “set up” by police because he “stupidly pretended he had a drugs connection and just wanted to make a few bob”. Charlie got 12 years for that.
Money raised at the Blind Beggar fair is going to the Ley Community charity that former Krays’ henchman Chris Lambrianou helps run for young offenders in Oxfordshire.
Maureen Flanagan, who runs Hackney’s Paragon Trust charity shop in Wells Street raising funds for St Joseph’s Hospice, said: “I have been to the Ley community and seen how the young offenders have given up drugs and crime and settled down with jobs.
“Any money we can give helps. Chris Lambrianou is the link.
“Young guys like to talk to someone who was notorious. They don’t listen to parents, teachers or even a priest, but to a man who has served time who will tell them crime isn’t glamorous.”
Lambrianou disposed of Jack ‘the Hat’ McVittie’s body after Reggie stabbed him to death in 1967. It got him 15 years.