Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Forty Thieves

 At one minute to eight on the morning of January 29, 1928, Danny Driscoll walked to the waiting gallows in Cardiff prison.

With just seconds to go before his life ended he looked up at the sky and smiled. "Well," he said, "they've given me a nice day for it."

Outside the prison more than 5,000 men, women and children jammed Adam Street. A teenage girl led the singing of a Catholic hymn but silence when Driscoll's four brothers were led to the front of the barriers where armed police patrolled - Cardiff's underworld was rife with rumours that an attempt would be made to spring the men.

That underworld was ruled by Cardiff's fabled Forty Thieves, thugs who terrorised local race courses running protection rackets, charging bookies for supplies of chalk and sponges, and even buckets of water. You paid up. Or got cut up.

But Dai Lewis, a popular former boxer, refused to pay up. At Monmouth races on September 28, 1927, he defied the Cardiff gang led by Edward and John Rowlands - "Tich" and "Jack Tich".

A detective recalled years later that though Lewis wasn't frightened, "he was worried". So instead of going home to Ethel Street in Canton he stayed at a hotel.

That night Lewis sat in the Blue Anchor at the bottom end of St Mary Street with Driscoll and Tich Rowlands. John Rowlands and Edward "Hong Kong" Price waited in a cafe across the road. At eleven o'clock Dai Lewis walked out of the pub - and into local legend .......  read on

PG told me this story on Sunday. I had never heard of it. The Adam Street outside the prison jammed with 5,000 hymn singing protesters is the same Adam Street where Dad would be born five years later. 'Hong Kong' Price was PG's brother-in-law's grandfather. is worth a look as well.

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