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September 30, 2016

A PILGRIMAGE … In search of William Tyler and Ralph Joscelyne

In the 1830s, the problem of burying the dead had reached crisis point in London. The rapidly increasing population meant that existing graveyards and crypts were – literally, in some cases – full to bursting. One such example was the nightmarish Enon Chapel in Clement’s Lane. An unscrupulous clergyman had come up with a scheme for bargain burials. These may have been at a knock-down price, but they were not burials. The body of your loved one would simply be tipped into the crypt below the chapel, to join countless others. The enterprising minister was also of accused of recycling the wood from the coffins to sell to the poor for kindling. The crypt was only separated from the chapel above by a flimsy wooden floor, through which all kinds of noxious gases and vile insects would pass, to plague the worshipers as they sat down in the pews to praise the Lord. Even more bizarre was the conversion of the chapel to a dance hall, where customers could literally dance on the dead.

enon-chapel

Eventually, the authorities decided that enough was enough, and began the business of commissioning seven huge new cemeteries outside if the inner city boundaries. Highgate and Kensal Green are the best known of these, principally due to the numbers of famous people buried within, but it was to one of the lesser known of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ that I traveled, on a pilgrimage to visit the graves of two people who certainly made the headlines in their day, but are largely forgotten now.

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You can read the story of The Tottenham Outrage elsewhere on the site but, briefly, on Saturday 9th January 1909, two Latvian anarchists ambushed the wages delivery for the Schnurmann Rubber Factory on Chestnut Road in Tottenham and made off with the loot, firing at their pursuers with sophisticated automatic pistols. Both criminals died as a result of their efforts, but a policeman and a young boy were killed in the chaotic chase.

The cold blooded murder of PC William Tyler caused a national outcry, and his funeral was a public event on a grand scale. The deaths of police officers in the course of their duties have always been thought shocking in Britain and, happily, they remain rare events. PC Tyler was laid to rest in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington. Fortunately for the visiting explorer, his simple but imposing memorial is near the path, and is easily found. The number carved on the pediment is, of course, his police number.

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Just a few feet away from Tyler’s grave is a rather humbler cross which marks the grave of an even more tragic casualty of the madness of 9th January 1909. Like countless others before and since, young Ralph Joscelyne had a Saturday job. His was to help a local baker deliver bread to the families in that part of Tottenham. As the Latvian gunmen tried to shoot their way to safety, a stray shot hit Ralph as he tried to hide behind his employer’s cart in Mitchley Road. The ten year-old was cradled in the arms of a bystander, but was pronounced dead by the time he reached hospital.

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On 29th January 1909, the funeral cort├Ęge for Joscelyne and Tyler passed along a 2.5 mile route lined by 3,000 police officers and an estimated crowd of 500,000. The lengthy procession included white-plumed horses drawing Joscelyne’s coffin and black-plumed horses drawing Tyler’s coffin, draped in a Union Flag, which were escorted by hundreds of policemen, a police band, men from the local fire brigade, men from the Scots Guards and Royal Garrison Artillery, and tramway employees. A volley of guns was fired at the conclusion of the funeral.

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fullsizerenderRalph Joscelyne’s mother, Louise, was to raise another seven children, but she kept the pair of boots Ralph was wearing on the day he was killed. When she died in 1952, the boots were buried with her. In more recent times, both Joscelyne and Tyler have been commemorated. WIlliam Tyler has a plaque on the wall of Tottenham police station, while Ralph Joscelyne is remembered in a memorial outside a church in Mitchley Road. There is an abiding irony that the corner of Tottenham where the robbery occurred and the resultant chase began is exactly where the catastrophic riots of 2011 started. An initially peaceful protest by relatives of Mark Duggan, a gangster shot by police, did not get the required response from officers within the police station. It then, as they say, “all kicked off.”

Ralph’s memorial in Abney Park was paid for by fellow scholars at his school, Earlsmead, which still stands in Broad Lane, Tottenham (below) and distant relatives of the unfortunate lad have, as mentioned earlier, ensured that his death will not be forgotten against the backdrop of more recent troubled times in London.

earlsmead

According to some Tottenham residents, however, the boy has not completely left us. This, from the pages of a local newspaper:

newspaper

COMPETITION … Win The Book of Mirrors by EO Chirovici

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The good people from Penguin Random House made an inspired choice of the venue for last Wednesday evening’s drinks ‘do’ to introduce Romanian author Eugen O Chirovici (pictured above, with Francesca Russell from PRH) and his forthcoming crime mystery The Book of Mirrors.

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The Ten Bells in Spitalfields is a pub steeped in criminal – and literary – history. It takes its name from the bells in the tower of the adjacent Christ Church, which in turn featured strongly in Peter Ackroyd’s atmospheric 1985 novel, Hawksmoor. Allegedly, the pub was frequented by the victims of Jack the Ripper, and legend has it that Mary Jane Kelly, who was the subject of the final and bloodiest assault, plied her trade on the pavement outside.
eocSo, in a spookily lit upper room we met the writer, who is not only an award winning economist and has penned best-sellers in his native Romania, but also the author of a stunningly good new novel – the first he has written in English. The book is set partly in the present and partly in 1987, and it tells the story of the murder of a controversial professor of psychology at New Jersey’s Princeton University. His death is observed by different narrators, and Chirovici (left) has constructed an ingenious literary version of the old fairground attraction of distorting mirrors, so that we reach the final pages still not really sure who is giving us the correct image of events on the fateful night.
Not only is Chrirovici a very gifted writer, but he is also a very engaging person to talk to, and my colleague and I spent forty minutes or so with him, dissecting European politics and generally putting the world to rights.
Thanks to Century, we have two copies of The Book of Mirrors – which will not be generally available until January 2017 to give away. Entering couldn’t be simpler. Just email Fully Booked at:

fullybooked2016@yahoo.com

– and write The Book of Mirrors in the subject box. The competition will close at 10.00pm GMT on Sunday 9th October, when the first two names out of the proverbial hat will win the books. Due to postage costs, the competition is open to UK and Irish Republic readers only.

RULES

  1. Competition closes 10.00pm London time on Sunday 9th October 2016.
  2. One entry per competitor.
  3. All correct entries will be put in the proverbial hat, and one winner drawn.
  4. The winner will be notified by email, and a postal address requested

 

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