|A Ripperologist Article|
|This article originally appeared in Ripperologist magazine. Ripperologist is the most respected Ripper periodical on the market and has garnered our highest recommendation for serious students of the case. For more information, view our Ripperologist page. Our thanks to the editor of Ripperologist for permission to reprint this article.|
by Paul Daniel
Perhaps the gauntlet was laid down in Jim Tully's essay for Peter Underwood's 1987 book JTR One Hundred Years of Mystery (pbk p147). Or maybe the beginning was when John Morrison heard of Jim's suggestion, or possibly... But it really doesn't matter as Jim's suggestion to form a "Ripper Club" for concerned authors came to nought. Writers showed no interest, even though Underwood received many enthusiastic letters from the general public and when Peter asked Jim if he might consider running a club such as he'd suggested, he declined, being already busy with other commitments. However, Jim had mentioned the idea to John Morrison who, in turn, suggested someone who he thought might be interested in something along these lines. This person was Mark Galloway.
Always a keen Ripperphile, Mark decided to follow up the idea and get some like-minded people together for a discussion about Jack the Ripper. This initial seed took root and with the help of a few friends, including Nigel Bartley and Peter Whitby, and some careful nurturing, it began to germinate into something more than 'a discussion'. Gradually the idea consolidated into the notion of a regular club, with a membership list, meetings and a guest speaker to give a lecture or talk at each one. An ambitious beginning, but The Cloak and Dagger Club was born.
As things developed, Mark realised he needed a suitable venue that would become a regular meeting place as opposed to holding gatherings at a different site each time. After some enquiries he found The Alma in Spelman Street. Leading southwards from the centre of Hanbury Street this proved ideal, being situated in the very heartland of 'Ripper' territory. Indeed, the back room of the pub was particularly atmospheric with it's rough floor and unplastered brickwork, nooks and crannies and archways, giving a feel, almost, of the streets of the time themselves - not to mention the hand-painted pictures of the leading players in the drama of the Whitechapel Murders which decorated the bare brick walls. The only dis-advantage was that the room was not at all conducive for a speaker to be heard and seen by the whole audience. And this became a problem that was never resolved. However, when a deal was struck with Steve Kane who owned and ran the pub, the first gathering was well on the way to becoming a reality.
Mark was particularly lucky in having the willing help of one Paul Feldman as his first speaker to inaugurate the embryonic Club, so the whole thing got off to a jumpstart! One of the most popular features was the inclusion of a `Newsletter' which Mark had put together to distribute during the break in the speaker's talk. This was the very beginning of what has now become a highly respected journal, in which I later had my own part to play.
By now there was an excellent list of speakers lined up for each of the subsequent meetings, and I gradually began to feel that I fitted in, talking to different people with each gathering and also getting to know some of the most respected writers in the Ripper field.
The speaker at the second meeting was Nick Warren, and although I remember little of his talk, Camille Wolff has often reminded me of what she remembered: that Nick had passed around notes that showed that the writer Lambroso had demonstrated that prostitute's feet were different from those of other people - they had six toes!
I was, myself, unlucky enough to miss that first meeting as I had not yet discovered the C&D Club, though this was soon rectified when Loretta Lay and Camille Wolff took me along to the second meeting. Such was the atmosphere in that relatively small back room that it gave me the feeling of being something of a stranger in the midst of a group of comfortable old friends who had been together for a long time - and this was only the second time The Cloak and Dagger Club had met!
I remember vividly, on this, my first visit to the club, having a strange encounter with a Member, who, when I suggested the possibility that Liz Stride might not have been a `Ripper' victim said: `I definitely believe she was a victim", and strode away without another word. I was stunned! But it made me aware of an entrenched attitude I was to encounter with a great many Ripperologists as I became more involved. It was a good preparation!
It has to be said that things did not always go smoothly for Mark in these early days. At this very meeting - the second - there was a serious altercation with someone who wanted to speak but was too drunk to do so adequately and so reverted to profane language which caused some people to leave, swearing they would not attend again. This must have been a great worry to Mark at the time - but he needn't have had any qualms - they all came back - and many more besides.
The next couple of speakers were well-known to all Ripper enthusiasts as they were both authors of highly regarded books on Jack the Ripper. I'm referring to Paul Begg and Martin Fido, and their respective lectures were received with extreme interest which promoted many questions after their talks.
By the time of the fourth meeting, Mark had coined the expression 'Ripperologist' as the heading for his newsletter, which grew in size with each issue, and contained lively and interesting articles by the likes of Andy Aliffe, Nick Connell, Claudia Oliver, Mark Madden, Adrian Morris and Mark himself; the second Newsletter had started a column that has remained unaltered - that of Reviews.
With the fifth issue of Ripperologist, which was given out at the meeting to which Ray Luff gave a delightful resume of his involvement with the Ripper case, Mark had come up with two new innovations - the first being the coloured covers, the other, the idea of using topical contemporary cartoons to illustrate these covers. By the sixth issue, he had instigated yet another innovation whereby, under the heading of 'Proceedings...' he gave a summary of the last meeting and talk for the benefit of those Members who had not been able to attend. A great idea, indeed. The lay-out of the magazine had also, by this time, been much improved. This sixth issue contained my first writing in the, by now, notorious review of Peter Turnbull's book The Killer Who Never Was! And at this meeting Stewart Evans gave a talk based on his recently published book, written in collaboration with Paul Gainey, on their brilliantly researched suspect, one Dr Francis Tumblety.
It was at about this time that things began to change. It was now the summer of 1996 - a year and a half since the success of the first meeting had taken Mark Galloway completely by surprise. I had got to know Mark quite well by now and we had had some interesting walks around the Whitechapel area together, and I suggested to him, over a fry-up at Stan's Caff in Osborn Street, that I was keen to be more involved in the C&D Club and it's running. I felt there were areas where certain changes would be beneficial, and now that the Club was well established and was beginning to be respected by people 'in the know' I felt things could be improved greatly - particularly in the area of Ripperologist. I also suggested that The Alma was no longer a suitable venue after many complaints that the acoustics made it impossible for Members to hear much of what was being said by the speaker in the various parts of the room. The number of Members and guests attending each meeting were at this time also growing.
The seventh issue of Ripperologist, which was printed throughout (by accident!) on pale grey paper, contained my own very first article, on the streets of Whitechapel, and it was soon after this that Mark invited me to edit Ripperologist. I was thrilled! And I believe the change was noticeable from the very next issue - No. 8. Mark was still writing the 'Proceedings' column and in this issue he reported on the talk given by Andy Aliffe at the June meeting, which centred around the suspect Roslyn D'Onston Stephenson on whom he had done a lot of research for Melvin Harris's book The True Face of JTR. After the break Andy livened up the whole proceedings with some `audience participation' when he handed out masks, inviting members to stand up and declare why 'their' character, behind whose mask they were hiding, could not possibly have been Jack the Ripper. Dare I say a 'ripping' time was had by all?!
There was a down side to the production of Ripperologist No 8 - my first Editorial issue. I had worked so hard and enthusiatically to make the improvements I thought were necessary, only to be let down by the most dreadful photocopying imaginable. To be honest, I was heartbroken. Mark was at this time having the magazine copied privately, and cheaply, and the print was so dark that the pictures I had used were almost indecipherable, and even some of the typescript had bled over the pages. Mark himself was also very disturbed at this, and went to a printer on the Saturday morning of this particular meeting, spending three hours of his time and his own money reprinting many of the pages, then unstapling each magazine, slipping the pages and restapling them. Hard and conscientious work. So the final magazine that Members got on the 7th December was slightly better, though nowhere near the standard I was seeking.
As it happened that was the catalyst for a great many things that followed. But now, to take the story in order, two major changes occurred. We moved venue, and decided, in future, to hold six meetings a year.
I had suggested to Mark some time before that The Alma was simply not suitable any more for talks. He agreed, and we decided to move long before the December meeting of 1996, and this is where difficulties began to appear. Mark was somewhat afraid of upsetting Steve Kane with news of our imminent departure, but my attitude was somewhat harder. We were not there to provide a good Saturday evening's takings for any publican - we were there to promote, and enjoy, our Club meetings. The concerns of the Club and its Members, not the pub, were uppermost in my mind.
At our last meeting at The Alma (when the Landlord was not present and none of his staff had been warned that our meeting was being held there) no one but a small handful knew of our intentions to move. It proved a good gathering, regardless, with Nick Connell giving an excellent talk on the policemen, of all ranks, who were involved in the hunt for JTR. He even produced a pamphlet for the audience containing pictures of most of them - though a few were somewhat stretched by the photo-scanning process! This was also the meeting that we had heard was to be attended by several people 'from the Internet'- although we were not quite clear what that meant! What it did lead to was our first contact with Adam Wood - which boded well for the Club.
Mark had suggested we postpone telling Steve Kane of our intentions to move until after this December meeting. I accepted that, but was dismayed to find that two weeks before the first meeting at our new venue our Members did not know of the change, as Mark had not mailed them. I was worried that he had also not warned Steve Kane of our departure, in spite of the letter I had drafted before the December meeting for him to send to Steve.
However, we 'opened' at The City Darts which, although not being any larger in area than The Alma, was infinitely more comfortable and suitable in layout. Some of our Members were a bit sad at leaving the somewhat bleaker atmosphere of The Alma, but the general consensus was favourable.
At the same time that we had decided to change venues, Mark and I had also discussed the possibility of increasing the number of meetings held in a year to six - every two months instead of every three. Quite a few Members had voiced their feelings that three months was too long to wait between sessions - in fact, I was one of them! But this presented problems for Ripperologist. Should we still produce only four issues a year? And if we did, how would we space them and distribute them - a virtually impossible task. On the other hand, could we possibly fill six issues a year? Would we get the contributions? Would people get bored with overkill? Many questions were raised and discussed.
Finally we decided to brave it and hold six meetings and produce six magazines. `Magazines', you notice, by now, not 'Newsletters'! I myself was very worried that I would not be able to produce the goods, hold up the standard of Ripperologist and still improve it. Should I have worried? Not a bit! Throughout the year, each issue grew in size, and we had no lack of contributors with articles of every description, from well-known authors to amateurs trying their hands (and often very good ones) for the first time. But we're getting ahead.
Back to that first meeting at The City Darts. This was in some ways a slight disappointment for me. I was worried that few people would turn up at such short notice - and indeed, it was not well-attended. I imagine many Members had been feeling that `let's wait and see' was the best policy! However, those who did come, and heard Jim Marsh talk about his own experiences in the East End, were, I think, suitably happy. Jim also introduced a new young Member, David Sears, who gave an excellent short talk on Mary Kelly's final resting place in St Patrick's Cemetery, in Leytonstone, where his father was (and is) the Cemetery Superintendent.
We had had the path into our new home made very smooth by the pub's current Landlords, Keith and Mina Nightingale, and they even went to the extent of printing their pub-food menu with The Cloak and Dagger Club at the top, which I thought a very welcoming gesture.
Things seemed, at this time, to be progressing, and I felt that it was almost a crossroad in the Club's history. We had moved venue, we had increased the meetings, and were trying hard to raise the standard of Ripperologist. Where did we go from here? Was the Club to become larger? Could we push it forward to become respected in Ripper circles the world over? Or would it remain as it was, a small, intimate private Club which merely had get-togethers to discuss various aspects of the Whitechapel Murders?
I, personally, wanted to push forward and improve and expand - though not in too much of a hurry. Certain things had to be addressed. Running the Club was Mark's area - mine was editing and producing the magazine. There was a certain conflict between the two of us, and when things became slightly strained, I submitted a 'Blueprint' to Mark of proposed suggestions for stabilising and taking the Club forward. One of these was that I felt we needed to form a Committee with members who were not merely names on headed paper, but would give constructive help, so that the work-load, which was becoming increasingly heavy, was spread a little. Mark appeared to have no objections to these proposals.
In the February of 1997 a French TV company had expressed a wish to film The Cloak and Dagger Club and interview some of it's members for a widely-viewed news slot shown all over France. Keith and Mina agreed to let this happen at The City Darts and several `luminaries' arrived for the session. Paul Begg was the 'main attraction' for the TV company (for it was he that they had set up the session with), and apart from myself and Mark, Adam Wood was there with Johanne Edgington, Andy Aliffe, Clifford Hume, and Shirley Harrison with Duncan Field, her soon-to-be husband. I careful kept away from the cameras, but realised that this was the ideal opportunity to inaugurate the Committee as all the participants I had suggested to Mark were present.
The meeting was thus 'convened'; many things were discussed; many suggestions came about; and the final outcome was that a Committee of six Members was formed. Myself and Mark, Adam Wood, Clifford Hume, Andy Aliffe - with Paul Begg, as special consultant. Mark also handed over to me, at this first meeting, the task of controlling the Membership list and enrolling new Members to the Club. I was happy with this extra task, but as time went on it presented a rather disturbing problem as I began to discover that some people had not been getting their magazines on time, and had even not received Membership cards. But before this became too dominant a factor, we had to prepare for the April meeting and get the next issue of Ripperologist ready for printing.
This month's Ripperologist contained our 'spoof April fool article devised, with great skill, by Andy Aliffe, which needed to be read with a certain sense of humour, but we later discovered that there were sadly members amongst us who seemed to lack that necessary attribute, though those who tumbled the ruse were well pleased!
This very article brought to a head our printing problems as the page with Andy's illustrations came out virtually black. Adam Wood came to the rescue and printed another hundred copies of the page at his office and I had the extra task of inserting and sticking them over the original page in the magazine.
We were still with Mark's 'cheap' printer, and after this latest disaster I was getting angry with the situation. So we now took the printing bull by the horns and decided to turn to professional photocopiers to print our magazine, and although this escalated the cost of production, it proved the very best move.
John Stedman, one of our Members and contributors, had recommended a company called CLP, situated in Kilburn, who, he informed us, were very competitive with their pricing. As a test, we had some back issues printed up and were impressed enough to go with this company - for better or worse. Not only were the prices reasonable but we also benefitted from the honesty of Mr Francesconi, who ran the company, as he quoted a figure for our first run that later proved to be considerably less than it should have been. He would not go back on his quote, which we very much appreciated. The outcome to this was that I was happy with the final printing of the magazine for the first time since I had begun to edit Ripperologist.
Having settled in so nicely at the City Darts and being made so welcome by Paul and Mina, we sadly discovered that they had been offered another pub to manage at Wapping Green and the very Saturday of our April gathering was their last at the City Darts. At this meeting we were entertained by Peter Turnbull who gallantly agreed to speak at very short notice when we found that Claudia Oliver was unable to fill her slot as planned. Peter and I had struck up a correspondence since my review of his book The Killer Who Never Was and it was about his theories and ideas from this book that he talked.
With the June 97 issue of Ripperologist we had our first wrap-around cover and this was a great improvement on the previous A4 pages just stapled together. At last I felt that we were now producing a really good magazine that appeared to have a touch of class. This issue also contained a superb article on Dorset Street and Millers Court by John Stedman which, I believe, sealed our fate as a magazine to be taken seriously. I certainly like to think so, anyway!
June did have its disappointments, though, in that Mark Galloway told the Committee that he no longer felt that he wanted the responsibility of making difficult decisions and running the Club himself, and resigned his Chairmanship. We persuaded him to remain as President and to still sit on the board to give input and vote when the necessity arose. Cliff Hume also resigned at this meeting, but another member was voted on to the Committee in the person of Coral Kelly, who was to look after our finances (such as they were at this time!).
Outside of our Club activities, this year ('97) was a year of frantic JTR production. So many books, videos, magazines etc, all aimed at `us - well, Ripperologists! As luck would have it, Mark had left the June speaker's slot vacant - the initial intention being to have a 'social' when Members could actually talk to, and get to know, each other. But this was already happening as we now started earlier and limited the speaker time - to the advantage of both speaker (not so much pressure to fill a lengthy time span) and member (not so long to hide yawning mouths behind concealing hands!). The Secret of Prisoner 1167 was just about to become available and it's writer, Jim Tully, was over here from Spain to promote the book. Would he give us a talk at the C&D Club? Yes, he would! And it turned out to be one of our best evenings and one of our best talks.
On the 'management' side things were building up. We held Committee meetings on the afternoons of the regular Club meetings to discuss a variety of topics and problems, and took minutes - all very professional! By this time, with Mark's resignation, I was virtually running the entire Club single handed. I edited and put together the magazine, controlled the Membership, answered all the mail, which was by now steadily growing. The Committee Members, though, all performed their duties with panache - viz: Andy Aliffe's expertise in the area of Master of Ceremonies!
Adam Wood was also becoming my right-hand-man. Being a graphics expert I was able to pass photographs and illustrations over to him for scanning and 'enhancing' for better reproduction in Ripperologist. We also discovered he had a good talent for writing, and by late summer I felt he deserved recognition for all the help he gave me in producing the magazine, which was now expanding almost uncontrollably. I knew I wouldn't have to convince anyone when I put it to the Committee that Adam should be my subeditor. I was right!
August came with immense heat, and at the City Darts, even with the windows flung wide, Bill Beadle felt the full thrust of the lights under which he gave his talk on the first Saturday of the month. Bill recounted the deaths of Annie Chapman and Mary Kelly with particular emphasis on the timings of these sad events. Earlier on this Saturday, Paul Begg had told us that he needed to be relieved of his position on the Committee as he felt it might conflict with other of his interests, and what could we do but accept. So now we were down to four - Adam, Andy, Coral and myself, with Mark as the Club's President.
For our October issue of Ripperologist we had planned a celebratory edition in memory of Mary Kelly, and this seemed to be well received. The magazine had now crept (in leaps and bounds!) up to 56 pages. We vowed not to let it get any larger, but....!! Another excellent talk was given at the meeting for this month by D S Goffee - about whom no one knew very much (not even his name, which turned out to be Stewart!) but whose reputation as a researcher shone out before him. Indeed, his explorations into the background and history of Michael Ostrog (his subject for the talk) is renowned.
The next months for me, personally, were hectic. I was now unemployed, having been made redundant when the Royal Opera House (my erstwhile employer) closed for two years, and so was able to give more of my time to the magazine. I did not need to give it more A me - it demanded it! Preparing the Christmas edition was a mega task. We included a special section of. photographs - making up for the lack in the last few editions - and this was tricky as Adam's graphics firm had been involved in a huge take-over and the time he had available for editorial help was becoming limited.
And due to a most magnificent review given to the magazine by Stephen Ryder on his Casebook: JTR Internet site, which promoted many enquiries about the Club, we were subscribing new Members with regularity (including possibly our most famous Member, one Jeremy Beadle!) and all this meant extra work with replies and enrolments and all that goes with the running of a growing Membership list. We instigated a Quiz for the attending Members at the December meeting, with the prize of a Ģ15.00 book voucher being magnanimously donated by Camille Wolff and Loretta Lay for use at Grey House Books. Keeping one (or three or four) step ahead in preparing the next issues of Ripperologist, plus this extra JTR Conference edition, kept my nose firmly at the grindstone.
One of the last things to happen in a year of great change in the history of The Cloak and Dagger Club and Ripperologist was a sadness indeed. As with Adam's firm, the company who leased space to Stephen Ryder for the Internet Casebook was itself taken over with the result that Stephen lost his site very suddenly and unexpectedly.
Although a blow to Stephen, it came, as it happened, at a propitious moment as it truncated the flow of often unpleasant and vitriolic letters to the site concerning the Paul Feldman - Melvin Harris dispute over the provenance of the so-called Maybrick Diary. Stephen's site, I'm pleased to say, was restored by early January 1998.
And this leads me right into the February meeting, which in turn brings us full-circle, so to speak, as our Speaker at this Club meeting was none other than the aforementioned Paul Feldman, who, it may be remembered, was the very first guest speaker at the Club's inaugural meeting back in January 1995. This time, though, there was something of a difference - Paul was to be interviewed by Keith Skinner.
We had decided to go for an experimental change in order to vary the rather staid and rigid structure of the meetings, and it was Keith's own suggestion that we try an interview. In the final outcome, and I know Keith was very nervous about it, the evening was a tremendous success. The Club was the fullest it had ever been, and was awash with well-known Ripper 'experts'. Paul Begg attended, as always, and Bill Beadle paid one of his regular visits but we also had our first attendances from Don Rumbelow, Andy and Sue Parlour, and Shirley Harrison. Martin Fido made his first visit for some time but, sadly, Stewart Evans, a 'fairly' regular visitor was unable to be with us on account of a minor operation.
The evening went with a great swing, with Mr F in great cricketing form, batting and fielding many questions, not only from Keith, who stage-managed the affair to perfection, but also from many members of the audience as well. If I say so myself, everyone seemed to have felt it the most successful Cloak and Dagger Club evening yet held, and the activities were also videoed for posterity by the lads of the BRITS School for Performing Arts and Technology, who were working on a special JTR project for their college examination.
And that brings us right up to the present, with everyone anticipating the Jack the Ripper Conference in Norwich this April with the utmost enthusiasm and expectation!
Where the Club and magazine will go from here is anyone's guess. I myself have not yet tired of the fun and excitement (perhaps in reality that should read the stress and strain!) of preparing the magazine for a deadline - trying to squeeze in all the contributed articles; finding room for our regular columns; searching out illustrations and photographs; arranging the graphics; answering many letters in any one week; enrolling Members new; renewing Members old; mailing the magazine all round the world; trying to find time for some research of my own - it is simply endless! But eventually I will inevitably have 'had enough', so to speak, and what will happen then I simply do not know.
I hope very much that there will be willing hands with the time to take the whole movement on to heights that I have not acheived - perhaps even to the stage of having Ripperologist printed instead of merely photocopied. No one can predict the future with any kind of certainty, but I feel sure that the Club that Mark Galloway created back in the latter part of 1994 will remain with us for many more years and continue to expand, and that Ripperologist will spread the Ripper Gospel to many far-flung parts of the world, bringing new knowledge to new enthusiasts and continuing to bring forth exceptional research into the case - and yes, possibly, finally, help to discover the genuine, authentic, no-question-about-it solution to this one-hundred-and-ten year old mystery that holds us all so spellbound.Paul Daniel - Editor