Thursday, 25 April 2013

Jack Spot & Billy Hill

I saw a website that stated that a film about the life of Jack Spot had been in the offing.  Considering that Spot always embroidered his tales, especially in the "Battle of Cable Street", that it would have been difficult to know what was true and what was fiction.  What is true is that Spot was born in 1912, and had various names, Jacob Comacho, Colmore, John Comer, etc.  Comer had to leave London and ended up in Leeds, supposedly establishing himself as a top man.

    When he returned to London, he did have his own mob of heavies, running protection rackets, illegal drinking dens and gambling joints.  He was in total contrast to Billy Hill, who had a following of thieves.  Spot was a man of violence, and had no hesitation in hurting much weaker people, even using knives on them, cutting them.  Spot`s biggest claim was taking on Moseleys` Blackshirts in Cable Street in 1936, fighting his personal boduguards, huge wrestlers.  Complete fiction.  This "Battle" never took place.  Moseley was advised not to march by the Police, and rather than be seen as ignoring the Police, he chose not to march.  The fighting seen in old newsreels was of Police and left wing agitators. 

    in the mid 50`s, Spot attacked a big ally of Hill, Albert Dimes, in Frith Street.  Both ended up in hospital with stab wounds but neither pressed charges.  It became known as the "Fight that never was".  Two years later, Spot was attacked by Frank Fraser and several others, leaving him needing dozens of stitches but never pressed charges.  However, his wife did, and Fraser and Co. went down.  It was the downfall of Spot.  His biggest crime he planned was a raid at Heathrow Airport in 1948, that failed spectacularly because Police got wind of the job.

    Hill, was a different kettle of fish.  He was a planner, and successfully engineered two raids in which neither money or suspects were apprehended.  Hill tried to retire to Australia but was refused entry.  He had his memoirs "Boss of Britain`s Underworld" ghosted by his tame journalist friend , Duncan Webb.  Webb, obviously received much help from Hill with his crime exposes, and delighted in taking shots at Spot.  This was too much for Spot who broke Webbs` arm and was prosecuted.  Hill did have much influence outside London but in Manchester, an associate of his upset Owen Ratcliffe, a club owner and fearless fighter.  He sent this associate packing which supposedly upset Hill.  Ratcliffe was said to have sent a warning to Hill not to encroach on his territory.  Hill did very nicely out of his criminal activities and died a wealthy man, in the mid 80`s.  Spot died in 1996 in an old folks home.
   Spot had his own memoirs written by an American pulp writer named "Hank Janson" and copies are scarce to find, but it is full of highly colourful stories that should be taken with a huge pinch of salt.  Hills` memoir has highly colourful claims as well.  The reader, if you ever come across them, judge for yourself.