The life of Ronnie Biggs was notable for a story that people across the whole world were drawn to. The train robbery itself is well known to the reader, but the story of celebrity and rebellion is what makes him deserve an obituary today.
The story was not the one that policy makers would like; a man who fought the law and apparently won. But it was largely a lie, sold by Biggs to an awaiting media in order to escape his life of poverty in his third-world home, yet the need of people to own this story was truthful, and for us, it would be wise to consider its relevance.
In the film Goodfellows we were told an American mafia story in two halves. The first half concerned with the sheer joy of the gang being a law unto themselves. “Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster”. The individuals who made up their own rules, while the state, with their corrupt police officers, was impotent. Yet, the 2nd half completely turns the story into the sheer horror that this apparent freedom from state control necessitates, opening with an horrific murder where the victim is stabbed repeatedly in the boot of a car until his life finally drains for him. The audience is shocked and sobered. The joy of being lawless is no longer apparent. The horror of the removal of the rule of state is apparent.
The media story of the Great Train Robbery with its huge haul was similarly turned by the horrific beating of the train driver, Jack Mills, mercilessly smashed across the head with an iron bar in an pointless and homicidal attack. The story progressed till the robbers were caught and the state was victorious. The matter would have ended there, if Biggs hadn’t escaped.
Read the rest of this entry »