Search

The Chigwell pensioner who became the Kray twins’ PR man

12:37 06 July 2014

Ronnie and Reggie

Ronnie and Reggie's PR manager James Campbell

Archant

It’s been five decades since the Kray twins’ rise to celebrity – and infamy.

Composite picture of the Kray twins Ronnie (left) and Reggie (Picture: PA)Composite picture of the Kray twins Ronnie (left) and Reggie (Picture: PA)

Encompassing the glamour and danger of Swinging Sixties’ London, the gangster brothers are synonymous with the cool edgy East End of nostalgia.

The public’s fascination with them continued even after they were locked up for murder – both being handed life sentences in 1968.

But few people will be aware that one of their first business ideas when they tried to go legitimate was to invent... an egg slicer.

James Campbell, from Chigwell, was asked to come on board as the pair’s PR manager years after they were sent to jail and promote their business interests from inside.

“The first time I went to see them I got a little bit tipsy the night before,” said Scottish-born James, who is now manager of Woodford Green-based band Everafter.

“I was in the music industry and I knew a reporter who was friendly with the Krays. I got asked to go and see them, to look at the business things. I couldn’t believe it when Reggie started writing to me.

“I couldn’t read the letters because they were censored – but I cracked the code.” The 65-year-old travelled to HMP Lewes in East Sussex to meet Reggie.

“I remember I went up the stairs at the prison and thought maybe I would recognise him, then he came up and just said ‘pleased to see you, James’.

“I could see the other visitors and the prisoners going ‘look, there’s Reggie Kray – who’s that sitting next to him?’ I felt so powerful.”

Despite their past in illegal protection rackets, Reggie’s first idea to make money from behind bars was to make a gadget to take the tops off boiled eggs.

“I said that’s a great idea – that’s great,” said James. “Reggie was very 100mph. Ronnie was totally different – laid back.”

Needless to say, it didn’t come off but before long, the brothers were reaping their rewards from book and film deals and writing columns from ­behind bars.

“They made tons of money,” said James. “But they were a bit like Robin Hood. They gave a lot of money away.”

Despite their terrifying past, James said he always told them the truth about their business suggestions.

“I used to tell them ‘no, don’t do that’,” he said.

“They would look you in the eye, and if you looked away, you would be finished.

“I disagreed with them quite a bit – if I wasn’t happy about something, I would say. They trusted me and they respected me.”

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Ilford Recorder visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Ilford Recorder staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Ilford Recorder account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

17:00
Redbridge Town Hall. Picture: Redbridge Council

The search for a new chief executive of Redbridge Council is set to begin after Roger Hampson announced he will be retiring from the role next year.

16:40
Lord Alan Sugar. Picture: PA/Philip Toscano

A teenager has been ordered to pay a celebrity businessman £100 in compensation.

Redbridge Witzo,a women's group which raises money for women's causes, hosted a strawberry tea event at Old Parkonians Association in Ilford.Elsa Linder, Val Middlebungh, Gloria Soskin, Sean Devoren (Head Butler at the Savoy Hotel) Muriel Silver, Judy Rose, Norma Levinson and Maxine Karobik

Dreary weather could not stop the women of Redbridge Women’s International Zionist Organisation (WIZO) from enjoying themselves as they hosted a strawberry tea event with a special guest.

13:33
Campaign group People's NHS rallying in George Lane, South Woodford, and getting people to sign its petition to improve healthcare and stop privatisation of the NHS.

Campaign group People’s NHS held a rally in George Lane, South Woodford, on Saturday.

Most read news

Competitions

Get your hands on some fresh trainers!

Need some new shoes to head to work or some new heels for a night on the cobbles? London24 has teamed up with online retailer Sole Trader to offer £100 worth of shoes to one lucky reader.

Take in the stunning sites of London from the summit of the O2!

Up at The O2 has teamed up with London24 to give one lucky reader the chance to experience urban mountaineering this summer with an exhilarating 90-minute climb across the roof of one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Ilford Recorder e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder