with a rebel yell —-
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Oxford Dictionary of National Biography podcast: Kray brothers, English gangsters
The Kray brothers became icons of a very British form of criminality inextricably linked with memories of the 1960s. There were three brothers, Charles James Kray (1926–2000), born on 9 July 1926 at 26 Gorsuch Street, Shoreditch, London, and the twins Reginald Kray (1933–2000) and Ronald Kray (1933–1995), born on 24 October 1933 at 68 Stean Street, Hoxton, London. Their parents were Charles David Kray, a hawker and wardrobe dealer, a door-to-door dealer in second-hand clothing and jewellery, who was seldom at home, and his wife, Violet Lee (d. 1982). The adult males of the extended family prided themselves on their fierce independence; Charles senior spent most of the Second World War avoiding military service. The boys were brought up by their protective mother at 178 Vallance Road, Bethnal Green, London; although 60 per cent of the children in that area were malnourished, and 85 per cent of its housing stock was deemed officially unsatisfactory, Bethnal Green was better than Hoxton. Ron suffered from a series of serious illnesses as a child, and developed as a somewhat slower and more reserved individual than his identical twin, with an active fantasy life based on his charismatic leadership of a gangster firm.
The story of the Kray brothers is one of over 200 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.
Image: Reginald Kray (second from left), by the National Archives UK. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.