Meet the Gang
Meet the Gang
Gangster George Mooney, 33, ran a highly lucrative and illegal pitch and toss betting ring at Skye Edge above Sheffield: Every single gamble kick-backed a percentage to him.
But when his criminal empire suffered from a fall in earnings during the depression, he slimmed down his operation. He laid off some of his scouts, minders and henchmen. So they formed a rival gang called the Park Brigade. They were led by his onetime number two...
Sam Garvin, 43, had amassed a string of convictions and prison sentences for assault, illegal gaming, con-tricks and theft. A professional criminal, his other commercial activities included a sideline as a promoter of pub-yard bare knuckled boxing matches.
He was first convicted in 1904 but his criminal connections didn’t stop him being in with local politicians. When some of the first decent council houses were built in Sheffield he got one of the few available. And when everyone else was in the depths of the depression, he was driving a three litre Bentley saloon.
THE JUNIOR PARK GANG
The seemingly easy money and untouchable status of the main gangs meant many teenagers wanted their lifestyle. Without the stature of their ‘heroes’ they were more likely to be armed with ‘knives, coshes and razors’. Some accounts state they had firearms as well. Their scams were more subsistence stuff such as pick-pocketing and selling dud jewellery. They would try to sell rings to a couple. If the couple didn’t buy, they were beaten and mugged for their money.
In August 1923, four men were attacked by a gang of youths and later a woman was punched in the face. The boys would work in pairs or packs and target individuals or couples. But being in a gang was as much about thrill seeking as it was about being a profitable professional criminal. A favourite activity was to leave one of the gang on the entrance of a pub and the rest enter. They demanded free alcohol and cigarettes. If refused, they smashed the pub to pieces. Either they got their kicks through drinks or through violence and vandalism.
When they tried to disrupt a fairground, they found someone who would kick back harder. They would be the some of the first to come up against the Flying Squad.
THE FLYING SQUAD AND SILLITOE
The biggest and the baddest of the local police were seconded to form The Flying Squad. They were drafted in by a new inspector with a tough reputation and even tougher CV. The 38-year-old Chief Constable had left England to become a trooper in the African Police. There he worked for a tough and brutal regime which kept control over the native tribes. He brought the same methods to bear on the Sheffield gangs.
Sillitoe’s men wore plain clothes. They were fighting men but they fought with intelligence. They hurt the gangs where it hurt most. They went into the pubs, the gangs profit centres and meeting places and told the landlords to refuse gang members service. If they didn’t, they’d lose their license. As subsequent court cases showed, the landlords weren’t happy to be placed in the crossfire. But they were luckier than the targets of the Flying Squad. Some court cases had defendants turning up in bandages. Sources suggest they were beaten whilst in custody.
William Plommer was a 34 year old Scots soldier. He came to Sheffield after the First World War to find labouring work in the steelworks in order to support his family. He had absolutely no connection with the gangs. But the death of this father of three at their hands would herald their demise.