Skip

Ronnie Biggs has caught the train to the afterlife
December 18, 2013 2:07 AM   Subscribe


 
Entertaining scoundrel, though a bit sad in his later years.
.
posted by bystander at 2:22 AM on December 18, 2013


Apparently a Facebook group wants him to get a State Funeral. Good luck with that.
posted by Mezentian at 2:26 AM on December 18, 2013


Say what you will about the man, he has the moden media pegged:

"There has been so much rubbish written up in the papers over the years."
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:34 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Gelatin at 2:41 AM on December 18, 2013


.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:43 AM on December 18, 2013


I don't see what's entertaining about a small-time criminal who made people's lives miserable before taking part in a bigger robbery, in which a man was beaten around the head with an iron bar (oh, those scamps and scoundrels!) and then running away like a coward somewhere he could crow on and on about his amazing history-making crime spree. Why do we accept this sort of coverage? Why is there such ridiculous anti-hero worship for thugs as long as they've got the right Cockney accent? It's pathological and gross.
posted by AFII at 2:44 AM on December 18, 2013 [29 favorites]




Was this guy the inspiration for Ronnie Dobbs?
posted by mannequito at 2:46 AM on December 18, 2013


But yes, no dot for Ronnie Biggs; beating an old man to a premature death is not cool, and doing photo-ops with Britpop stars does not count as repentance
posted by acb at 2:47 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's always struck me as something rather tasteless that the train robbers were immortalised - still immortalised: a BBC drama on them airs tonight - while the driver retired from his injuries and was a sick man for most of the rest of the seven years he lived.

Biggs was a career criminal who spent his loot, milked his infamy for all it was worth and only came back to Britain when he needed the NHS.

And for this he's an anti-hero. It's perverse, and doubly so when so many of the people who lionise Biggs are so vocal about sponging, thieving immigrants.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:52 AM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's no finer demonstration of the workings of the popular press in Britain than the cultural status of Ronnie Biggs. Immortalised, admired, demonised within the space of a few paragraphs that are sandwiched between an editorial wondering what's become of us as a society that we can react to him in these ways and a picture of some tits.
posted by vbfg at 3:08 AM on December 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


That said, for me he was that bloke out of The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.

I thought he was in Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-azil?

Well he's in bleedin' here now.
posted by vbfg at 3:10 AM on December 18, 2013


Entertaining in a 'can't look away' kind of way, not admiring.
Although I can understand admirers in his earlier years when he was living large (for very modest definitions of large) in Brazil. Remember there are plenty of people for whom the only ticket to a villa in the tropics is a dishonest one.
Denying that the idea of a big robbery where the perpetrators in some cases got away to a tropical paradise without penalty is an attractive fantasy to a whole slab of the population is denying human nature.
posted by bystander at 3:16 AM on December 18, 2013


And here I am finding myself defending Ronnie Biggs. It's a funny old internet sometimes.
posted by bystander at 3:17 AM on December 18, 2013


AFII & MuffinMan: I concur entirely with what you say and am glad someone here said it.

For all those who are offering '.' really? bystander - "Entertaining scoundrel"- see MuffinMan "Why is there such ridiculous anti-hero worship for thugs as long as they've got the right Cockney accent?"

The fact that this is running as top news story strikes me as obscene in itself. It is the train driver Jack Mills that I think about. To quote his son John "I deeply resent those, including Biggs, who have made money from my father's death."
posted by numberstation at 3:22 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the day BBC airs the first part of its high-budget biopic, too.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:28 AM on December 18, 2013


Ronnie has always been a fixture in my life, because of the stories and then the Sex Pistols and Die Toten Hosen.
Most of my ire goes to the ones who avoided jail completely.
For whatever reasons, Biggs at least faced up and went back to the UK knowing he'd be doing porridge (and his part was minor)

But anti-heroes, like your Dirty Den in East Enders or Ned Kelly in real life, have always held a bit of folk status in Australia (and I assume the UK). See also Buster, which I assume is a romantic comedy.

And in reading about Buster, I discovered the shocking Press Gang secret.
posted by Mezentian at 3:31 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, now I've got "A Groovy Kind of Love" stuck in my head, so I hope everyone's happy.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:33 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mezentian - I saw Dexter Fletcher one Sunday down Columbia Rd a few years back with bunch of flowers. Perhaps he was up to his old tricks?
posted by MuffinMan at 3:38 AM on December 18, 2013


+1 for the Press Gang ref.
posted by bystander at 3:39 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Surprised he hung on as long as he did.

The Train Robbers are/were always going to be seen as Robin Hood figures in certain sections of society (despite bashing up the driver) and that they got one over on the Establishment; the 30 year sentences only add to that.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:46 AM on December 18, 2013


With Biggs it was escaping from prison that probably sealed his mystique in the press.
posted by vbfg at 3:50 AM on December 18, 2013


.
But - belatedly - for Jack Mills (1905-1970), the train driver. Not for Biggs, or any of the other gang members.
posted by Wordshore at 3:54 AM on December 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


What a shame it took so fucking long. Dude beat a working man into a premature death and escaped to live the high life on stolen wealth. There's nothing to like or value about that. Fuck him and his mourners, public or private.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:20 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Violent crook dies. Fine.
I always thought it a total shame that the otherwise all-mighty Alabama 3 got in on the fawning over Bruce Reynolds for a while, hope they don't say owt stupid now.

(THANK YOU Mezentian for the fab PG-adjacent anecdote!)
posted by runincircles at 4:21 AM on December 18, 2013


Dude beat a working man into a premature death and escaped to live the high life on stolen wealth

This is untrue. Yes, he was in the robbery, and yes he benefited from it, but there is no evidence to suggest Ronnie done it (there is much to suggest he didn't). If there was one bar used, I'd tend to believe that. And he died of chronic lymphatic leukaemia, so while the attack may have contributed, it wasn't what killed him.
posted by Mezentian at 4:29 AM on December 18, 2013


He's always served as an example for me to not stay in Brazil. No matter where you go, there you are.
posted by surplus at 4:36 AM on December 18, 2013


He was a petty criminal who fell into a very minor role on a famous crime he didn't plan and only marginally helped to commit. He's not worth all the time and attention people give him.
posted by pracowity at 5:13 AM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I loathe the industry of books and films and interviews that shovel money in the direction of thugs and gangsters. The adulation for people like Biggs or the Krays, and the countless books in the true crime section of any UK bookshop written by ex-bouncers/hardmen. There's irony too that a lot of the audience for this pandering shit are people who would get all hang 'em and flog 'em about a lowly mugger in their own neighbourhood.

Make an exception for daring jewel thieves though, I have a hypocritical blind spot for them.
posted by reynir at 5:31 AM on December 18, 2013


Another song about these events from the people who brought you the Sopranos theme music.
posted by radicalawyer at 5:45 AM on December 18, 2013


He was a petty criminal who fell into a very minor role on a famous crime he didn't plan and only marginally helped to commit. He's not worth all the time and attention people give him.

I don't disagree with this statement (although, being in the US and not really paying attention means that I rarely heard about Biggs), but how does one personally put this into practice. If you don't say anything, you have avoided giving them attention but you lose the chance to suggest that other people also ignore the crook. If you do say something, it's really easy to become part of the meida narrative....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:45 AM on December 18, 2013


Also, it was not just the train driver who was attacked during the robbery. The Telegraph has a piece on the other innocent people who got caught up in this.
posted by Wordshore at 5:49 AM on December 18, 2013


Say what you will about the man, he has the moden media pegged:

Yeah, but he was bitching about his coverage since the early sixties.

Make an exception for daring jewel thieves though

Pink Panthers for the win!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:10 AM on December 18, 2013


This is untrue. Yes, he was in the robbery, and yes he benefited from it

Not least by recording a record with the leftover dregs of the Sex Pistols that was very nearly titled Cosh the Driver
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:18 AM on December 18, 2013


Well, that's bad. And I had not known that.
It's in poor taste, to be sure.

But, the Sex Pistols also had a touching ditty called Belsin Was A Gas. I love them a lot (on Never Mind.....) but by that stage Punk was dead (for the first time) and reanimated.
posted by Mezentian at 6:24 AM on December 18, 2013


Ah, despite the excellent name the Pink Panthers are armed and crude (driving cars through windows). I prefer the louche minor noble who climbs ten stories down a skyscraper and picks seven kinds of locks for the perfect jewel heist, nearly getting caught when he almost forgets to wipe his DNA off the celebratory martini glass. I may be over-romanticising all this slightly.
posted by reynir at 6:28 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can see now I should have called this post:
"Ronnie Biggs has bludgeoned Charon to death and stolen a boat to the afterlife".
posted by Mezentian at 6:31 AM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


.
posted by Cash4Lead at 6:41 AM on December 18, 2013


I always thought it a total shame that the otherwise all-mighty Alabama 3 got in on the fawning over Bruce Reynolds for a while, hope they don't say owt stupid now.

Fun fact: One of the members of Alabama 3 is Bruce Reynolds son. Hence the fawning.
posted by garius at 6:55 AM on December 18, 2013


Just remembered a doc I saw about just how corrupt the police (and other parts of the establishment) were at the time... it's hardly surprising that the Train Robbers became folk heroes of many.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:40 AM on December 18, 2013


But, the Sex Pistols also had a touching ditty called Belsin Was A Gas.

Yeah but I suspect if they'd actually been responsible for herding jews into gas chambers rather than just posturing in the t-shirts, you'd probably feel somewhat differently about them.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:04 AM on December 18, 2013


I don't think I'd heard of this guy or the event before this morning, or if I had, not enough to have taken notice. But since then, wow, the frequency of the opinion "Aw, come on, it wasn't so bad, the train driver didn't even die" is... kinda weird.
posted by Flunkie at 10:26 AM on December 18, 2013


I loathe the industry of books and films and interviews that shovel money in the direction of thugs and gangsters.

You write detective stories, don't you? Are you careful to make the bad guys clearly bad?
posted by pracowity at 10:35 AM on December 18, 2013


Ronnie did a version of "Belsen" as well, so there's that little nugget.
posted by malocchio at 11:46 AM on December 18, 2013


I prefer the louche minor noble who climbs ten stories down a skyscraper and picks seven kinds of locks for the perfect jewel heist, nearly getting caught when he almost forgets to wipe his DNA off the celebratory martini glass.

So basically Vincent Cassel?
posted by elizardbits at 12:08 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


You write detective stories, don't you? Are you careful to make the bad guys clearly bad?

Being pedantic, crime fiction, rather than detective stories. Most of my protagonists are victims or people in the blurry margins of society, not police (who I'd find a bit boring to write about, to be honest).

And no. I try to make the bad guys rounded human beings, but hopefully with no doubt about the badness of the bad things they do. I absolutely hope I don't ever glamourise. And I do see a difference in that the money from any book sold goes to me, the maker-up of fiction and not to a me that has spent his life hurting people and is now making more money on the back of that.
posted by reynir at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2013




« Older Breathe Me   |   "the vast majority of cars are... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post