Home Library Library Displays The Life of Arthur Harding Character Profiles

Character Profiles

Arthur’s Father, Henry ‘Flash Harry’ Tresadern

Flash Harry in his debonair days

Arthur didn’t respect his father very much at all, claiming that he was a ‘loafer’, someone that isn’t much use to anybody. He didn’t earn very much money and he never passed down useful advice or knowledge or took much interest in the upbringing of his children. He used to leave the breadwinning up to Arthur’s mother or to Arthur’s sister ‘Mighty’. Sometimes he would earn money by means such as by snagging his coat on a nail that a business had left poking out of a wall and then claim compensation. Looking poor was also an essential way of earning charity from richer people, and his guise as an out-of-work carver with failing eyesight helped this cause along tremendously. Arthur remembers that he once asked his father why he didn’t just go the whole hog and wear an eye-patch.

Flash Harry in his Debonair Days (left)



Ladies from the church mission used to take an interest in the family and would regularly provide charitable donations. They would come round to the house in order to see how the family were living or progressing, meaning that all the children had to be on their best behavior and look as poor as possible. Arthur’s father would ‘read the riot act’ to all the children and drum fear into them to stop them from misbehaving.

Arthur’s father was very fond of women, having six children previous to meeting and marrying Arthur’s mother. This is what earned him the title ‘Flash Harry’, but in later years whilst Arthur was only about 8 years old and he was in his early forties, he had slowed down, become partially blind and in later years became quite religious.

Arthur's Mum - Mary Anne Tresadern 

Mary Anne Harding Arthur never knew if his mum was Irish or not, but suspected that she was because of her tendency to sing Irish songs when she was drunk. When she was 18 she came to live in London and started her first job in a rag factory. She met her future husband, Arthur's father, in Dirty Dick's pub opposite Liverpool Street station.

Soon after their marriage she was hit by a runaway milk cart and seriously injured her hip. She was taken to Bart's Hospital where she refused to have her leg amputated and remained almost completely crippled for the rest of her life, receiving no compensation. After this, she had to make a living somehow, lest her whole family starve, and was reduced to sitting at home making matchboxes for Bryant and May's. They would supply the labels and pieces of cardboard but she had to make the paste and pay for it out off what she earned, then construct the matchboxes and leave them on the floor to dry before handing them over to Arthur's sister 'Mighty' or her husband to take down to Bryant and May's offices.

Clearly Arthur had tremendous respect for her: 'How she was able to carry on the work of a housewife, bring up her children, and make a living, is something I can only guess at'. She wasn't the principal breadwinner of the house when Arthur was about 4 and above; that job was down to Arthur's more able bodied older sister 'Mighty'. Rather she was the boss, with all wages earned by anybody in the family going directly to her and being distributed by her however she saw fit.

She was not altogether a very happy woman. Arthur claimed that 'At the age of 30 her hair was grey and she looked old and worn out and sad. She was the object of pity to the ladies that dispensed charity.' It was hardly surprising, and Arthur never held it against her, that when the family moved to Queen's Buildings' in 1902, she started drinking heavily and even spending the families money on drink for two or three days straight.

A lot of the family's basic material needs came from the charitable donations of richer people. Arthur's mother visited the church mission and would tell her true life story in order to get money and clothes. Receiving and knowing how to make the most out of the charity available was simply part of day-to-day survival. This also went hand in hand with foraging around church clothes sales, pinching whatever she could and claiming that those clothes were meant to be given out to the poor, not sold to them.

Arthur's older sister - Harriet Harding, also known as 'Mighty'  

MightyHarriet was four years older than Arthur and named after one of Arthur's aunts. Later she became known as 'Mighty' and never got called anything else.

She would take care of Arthur as a child because their mother tended to be too busy making matchboxes, and so Arthur remembered her to have been more influential in his upbringing than his mother was. 'Mighty' would deliver the finished matchboxes that their mother made in a day and would generally be the chief errand runner, usually buying the ingredients for dinner.

Later when she was 14, 'Mighty' began to become the chief breadwinner of the house. She got a job cleaning the offices of Lipton's the grocers for two hours in the morning and two hours in the late afternoon. In the intervening time, she would buy and s

Reverend Osborne Jay, AKA Father Jay  

Reverend Osborne JayFather Jay was vicar of Holy Trinity Shoreditch located inside The Nichol. Arthur Morrison's book 'Child of the Jago' was written with his help and starred Father Jay under the guise Father Stuart. He was friendly with his parishioners whilst at the same time helping Arthur Morrison to vilify them. In 1896 he was advocating a scheme to send the submerged social class to penal settlements.

Find out more at http://www.ferdinando.org.uk/achildof.htm 

 

'One-eyed' Charlie Walker  

Charlie Walker was the head of a gang of thieves who frequented Clark's Coffee Shop. Through an accident, had lost the use of one eye. He was a tough man who always looked as if he needed food and was quite poorly dressed.

Spencer  

Spencer was a life-long friend of Arthur, four years his junior. They first met in Wormwood scrubs where Spencer taught Arthur how to pick-pocket. He was part of 'One-eyed' Charlie's gang which was at first looked up to as the older gang from which to learn from. Spencer later became involved with criminal activities lead by Arthur himself. He was present in the raids on the spielers, the racecourse wars, the countrywide thievery and the 'Bluecoat Boy' affair.

Later, after his prison sentence for the 'Bluecoat Boy' affair, Spencer joined the army and used to bribe the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) to get a weekend pass and turn back to thievery under the guise of his army uniform. He eventually got Arthur into trouble after he stole bank notes from a man outside King's Cross station, ending in another five year sentence for Arthur.

Tommy Taylor  

As an orphan, Taylor needed a means for survival and so Arthur 'recruited' him as part of his gang of thieves who used to hang around outside Clark's Coffee Shop. Arthur describes him as a 'special' friend, and certainly he was one very strong part of Arthur's gang, 'a good all round thief, violent and dangerous'. He helped Arthur with the armed robberies on the spielers, with thievery on the road, snide pinching and gangland wars at the racetracks. However, at a later date he became a pimp and contracted VD, only to die in 1915.

Tommy was responsible for the whole 'Bluecoat Boy' affair which followed from a disagreement and subsequent vendetta against 'Darky the Coon' regarding a prostitute at the Jewish end of Brick Lane. This would have been resolved had it not been for his ensuing act of stupidity when he slashed Darky across the neck and landed the whole gang a prison sentence of around five years.

Danny Isaacs  

Danny was a very strong fighting man who Arthur always had with him because of his reputation for toughness. He married a girl who Arthur used to go out with and always resented Arthur for being her first love. Danny was involved with most of Arthur's criminal activities and eventually got put in prison for the Vendetta case. After coming out he thought he would try and have a go at Arthur, and falsely accused him of giving bogus evidence to the courts, to which Arthur responded by knocking him out clean with one punch and leaving him there on the road in Gibra

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