Arthur Harding seen through the eyes of Arthur’s granddaughter, Diane Rowbury
Diane Rowbury kindly came in to the Bishopsgate institute and in a taped interview,
described her memories of Arthur.
Arthur was remembered as a well-mannered, jovial, kind-natured man who always
had his dog by his side. He was quite a strong character, always willing to stand
his ground when he thought himself to be in the right. He brought his family up
very fearful of authority and demonstrated his desire not to see his children
follow the same paths as he did in life. None of them ended up pursuing a career
Despite his old age, he showed fantastic levels of concentration and focus when
writing his autobiographies. Even in to his nineties he retained his feistiness
and remained mentally and physically strong, loosing only one tooth in his life
due to an indulgence in toffees.
Many lessons can be drawn from Arthur's life. His 'criminal apprenticeship' may
help us to understand some of the factors which contribute to criminal activity,
such as deprivation, inequality or an unforgiving legal system. Arthur's life
can also provide an insight into criminal activity from 'the criminal's' point
of view, rather than from the point of view of the police or media.
Overall, this may help us to realise the errors made regarding crime in our society
in the present day and may enable us to better understand the social causes of
crime, and the consequences of poverty.
Arthur's granddaughter didn't know the existence of the Name 'Harding' until
after Raphael Samuel's book came into print, as in later years Arthur scrapped
the name Harding and reverted back to his birth name Tresadern. Throughout his
life it appeared he had two names, the most commonly used being Harding. This
name developed at least two generations before Arthur, possibly as his grandfather
had difficulties with the name's pronunciation. 'Tresadern' originated in Cornwall
and didn't translate very well into the more South-Eastern accents. Arthur believed
'Harding' may have come from the second part of Tresadern, the 'Adern' slowly
developing into 'Harding'.
For whatever reason, Arthur grew up using Harding as his surname. In later years,
he may have seen Harding as synonymous with his life as part of the East End underworld
to which he was trying so hard to escape, and reverted back to his real name in
order to distance himself for good.
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