He really was a character! I sent him some red roses when his twin brother, Ronnie died. He mentioned me on the television.
“A kind lady sent me some red roses,”
We were friends thereafter. Once, when he rang me up, he said
“I wanna speak to Elayna Burree.”
“My name is Eleanor Berry,”
I replied forcefully.
“Yeah, that’s right, Elayna Burree,”
he repeated. I changed the subject.
“What did you think of my book about #RobertMaxwell?”
I asked. He replied,
“With respect, and I repeat, with very great respect, as I know you’re a lady, but all you ever do is just go on and on and on and on about this bleeding bloke!”
Eleanor Berry Clippings: Free Reggie, August 1999 Despite his institutionalised slowness and hardly Wildean skills as a conversationalist, I could not help liking the man. I could actually see a gentle, old St Bernard dog on the other end of the line, the kind of creature which would take three-quarters of an hour to walk across a ten-foot long room.
‘I’ve read your autobiography, Born Fighter. I’ve also read the autobiographies of your twin brother, Ronnie, and your other brother, Charlie.’
I thought it would be unwise, not to say a little tactless at this point, to mention my knowledge of Reggie’s dispatching of the infamous Jack the Hat McVitie into the next world, while the pale light of the moon shone wistfully on his blood-spattered stiletto.
There was a pause. I could tell how shy Reggie was. I was particularly anxious not to intimidate him by the sound of my deep, carrying voice.
‘You still there, Reg dear?’
I said, trying to raise my voice half an octave, and sounding as sweet and friendly as I was able.
‘I liked the description in your brother Ronnie's book about the Alsatian your family used to own, which you took in turns to rub with olive oil every morning, before brushing it until it shone. I also enjoyed that film of your lives which came out in 1990, and was particularly moved by the manner in which you and Ronnie apologised to your mother when she ticked you off for shedding each other’s blood in the boxing ring.’
This poor, agonisingly shy, futureless man was unable to return my ball. I talked generally about pubs in the East End, places such as the claustrophobic Grave Maurice and The Blind Beggars. At least I was able to get him to speak again.
‘Blind Beggars. Cornell,’
He‘d said it. I hadn’t. Cornell was hardly the most amiable and charming of individuals. He was a professional sadist, and was almost more hated in the East End than Hitler. Ronnie Kray had made arrangements for Cornell to be shot dead at the bar of the Blind Beggars.
‘Cornell was an utterly dreadful man, of course,’
‘He was more than that, but I wouldn’t like to use bad language in the hearing of a lady,’ he said
Mivart was adamant that the conversation be terminated. His patient in the next door room with the acute anxiety state was too ill to get of his chair, so at least I wasn’t depriving Mivart of his trade.
Just before we finished speaking, Reggie said he had sent some memorabilia. I found the packages contained such things as silver Trophies, bags full of T-shirts, key rings, framed photographs, books and similar items.
When I re-read Born Fighter, the work of a certified religious maniac, it was a different book to the one I had read originally. The phenomenal slowness of this crushed man, still incarcerated long after the expiry of his sentence, weighed on me so heavily I felt as if I were walking through a ploughed field. There is a description of Reggie’s friends bringing a tray of tea into his cell.
The incident is as comical as it is tragic. One of his visitors suggests that grace be said and that Reggie should say it. Reggie tells his readers that he found the invitation profoundly moving, and thought for a considerable amount of time before saying grace. The slowness of thought, word and action combined suggests that the tea was so stone-cold before the grace was started that the only solution was to produce a cocktail shaker and make ice cubes out of it.
A stooped, broken mute straight from the pages of #MaximGorki, this once hot-blooded, debonair, violent giant of the London underworld is incarcerated beyond his sentence. Though he may have committed crimes, I am one of many Londoners who feel he should be at large once more. That does not mean his being carted about in shackles to attend funerals following his copious bereavements. He should be free to walk the streets of London, the city in which he was born, like a man.
Reggie Kray passed away the following year, October 2000.