I’ve known Paul Buck for years and the other day I went to see him do a talk in which he covered his entire career as a writer, from a recent true crime book to his involvement with heavy weight French theorists back in the day. While Paul has endless tales about the innumerable highbrow chancers he has known, when we spoke after his presentation I asked him about The E… List: Notorious Prison Escapes, and specifically whether my relative Ray “The Cat” Jones had featured in it. Paul said he had covered Raymond Jones. I’ve never met Ray but he is one of my mum’s many cousins and my uncles like to talk about him. Indeed, my mother was named Julia after Ray’s mother. This is what Paul has to say about Ray in his book:
“Frankie Fraser gives cat burglar Ray Jones his vote for the best single-handed escape, when he went over the wall at Pentonville Prison, breaking both his legs in the process and yet still getting away. Fraser gives scant details, but somehow, in 1958, Jones managed to climb onto the prison roof and, in scaling down the sheer face of the outside wall, smashed one kneecap, then fell and broke his ankle. Nevertheless, he continued, scaled another wall, and broke the other leg when he jumped.
“Still he persisted, crawling into a block of flats and making his way onto a roof, where he fell headlong through a skylight as he tried to prise it open. When he regained consciousness he made his way out of the building, pulled himself along using the railings on the Caledonian Road, crawled across the road to King’s Cross station, over the railway lines and into someone’s garden. Eventually he decided to seek help and attracted the attention of some young men, asking them to give him a lift “because I had had a bad fall.” They guessed who he was, but didn’t betray him. After they left him at his relative’s flat, his wife arrived and arranged for him to stay elsewhere, where he remained for five months while recovering from his injuries. He was not recaptured for two years.”
I’d seen the Frankie Fraser book Paul picked this up from, and I’ve come across stories about Ray in various other tomes. Peter Scott who was trained up in the art of cat burglary by Jones includes poison pen portraits of my relative in his autobiography Gentleman Thief, and there are other criminal memoirs that include tales of Ray losing large sums of money in illegal gambling dens. Typical too that a pathetic middle-class fantasist like Scott would have his account of the post-war burglary scene published; whereas Ray Jones and his long time partner-in-crime George ‘Taters’ Chatham, who between them taught Scott this trade but came from working class families, weren’t given that kind of break – and unlike their apprentice they haven’t been handsomely rewarded for appearing on ‘reality’ TV shows like Channel Four’s The Heist either.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/ – you know it makes (no) sense!
Tags: Caledonian Road, Channel Four, Dalston, Frankie Fraser, French theory, Gentleman Thief, George 'Taters' Chatham, George Chatham, Julia Callan-Thompson, King's Cross station, London, Paul Buck, Pentonville Prison, Peter Scott, prison escapes, Ray Jones, Ray The Cat Jones, south Wales, The E... List: Notorious Prison Escapes, The Heist