How the Kray twins helped a paralysed Codsall youngster from their prison cells
When James Fallon was hit by a speeding driver in South Africa he was left paralysed and unable to breathe or swallow unaided. Ronnie and Reggie Kray were keen to help.
A surprising friendship between the Kray twins and a paralysed schoolboy from Codsall is documented in an archive coming up for auction in Lichfield.
Drawings, letters, poems, Christmas cards and a signed copy of Reggie Kray’s Book of Slang all feature in the collection, which began when the gangsters heard of the boy’s plight.
James Fallon was born in Codsall and lived in Wilkes Road before emigrating to South Africa in the 1980s with his mother Elaine, father Roger and sister Leanne.
But in September 1988 James' life was changed forever when he was run over by a speeding driver who, unlicensed and aged 17, had taken his father's car without consent.
James suffered serious internal injuries and crushed legs as he was hurled more than 90ft along the road. He stopped breathing once at the roadside and again in hospital, while the impact detached his skull from his spine and stretched his spinal cord.
He survived thanks to a seven-hour operation carried out by top surgeons from across South Africa which received worldwide publicity. It was the first time such an operation had been performed in South Africa, and only the fourth time it had happened anywhere in the world.
However for many months James was unable to talk, swallow or breathe without the aid of a life support machine and with the Fallons facing huge medical bills, a family friend heard that the Krays wanted to get involved.
And so began an unlikely friendship between a once-healthy young boy destined to spend the rest of his life needing round-the-clock care and – 5,600 miles away – two of the UK’s most feared gangsters who by then had been behind bars for almost two decades.
Over the next 18 months, both Reggie and Ronnie Kray kept close correspondence with Jamie and his family, sending drawings, poems, cards and letters.
The twins, who were arrested in 1968 and locked up for life for murder a year later, also called in support from their legion of celebrity supporters.
This led to a fundraising gala at the Hackney Empire and a boxing night – but Jamie died aged 11 two days before the latter, in March 1990.
James had been allowed home in January, 18 months after the surgery, and his parents converted one of the rooms at their home into a private intensive care ward.
But in the week before his death he began suffering fits and was airlifted to hospital after he went into a coma following injections.
The star-studded boxing night went ahead as a tribute and a memorial service was held at St Nicholas Church in Codsal, where James' ashes now lie.
A phrase on his gravestone reads: “James symbolised the word courage.”
A request by the family to the Home Office to allow the jailed Kray twins to attend the memorial service was turned down, but Elaine Roger and Leanne visited Lewes Prison to meet Reggie for the first time shortly afterwards.
Elaine Fallon said: “This was a tragic period in our lives. The Kray twins did not have to do what they did as we lived in South Africa and didn't know us.
“What they did for us to raise awareness, money etc was nothing short of amazing.
“I used to receive phone calls from Reggie from prison to see how James was. His compassion and concern were genuine and I will be forever grateful.”
Ronnie died of a heart attack aged 61 at Broadmoor Hospital in 1995, while Reggie died of bladder cancer weeks after being released from prison on compassionate grounds in 2000.
The archive includes six signed crayon drawings by Reggie of a sailor, a cowboy, a boxer, a landscape, a boat at sea and a boxing match.
Affixed inside the sketchbook are two Christmas cards. An inscription on a page at the front dated December 3 1989 reads:
“The most courageous boy in the world – James Fallon. God bless. Affection. Your friend. Reg Kray xxxxx.”
Spread across four lots, the collection includes a copy of Reggie's Book of Slang signed “James, God Bless. Affection, Reg xxxxx”.
Reggie pledged to donate royalties from the book to help James, as mentioned in a letter accompanying the lot which says: “James, Your book is in all the shops today…”.
Another lot of letters, poems, cards and newspaper cuttings includes a signed drawing of a cowboy by Reggie dedicated to James and letters to family friend Bernard King from scores of football clubs and celebrities’ secretaries relating to requests for appearances at charity galas.
There is a further archive of around 50 letters and envelopes from both brothers written to James and his parents in South Africa and to his grandmother in Codsall relating to fundraising.
In one Reggie, who wrote most of the letters, mentions being in his cell while in another he talks of his telephone conversations with friends Fred Dinenage and Garry Bushell.
The archive as a whole is estimated to fetch at least £2,500.
A letter to James’ parents from Ronnie on a piece of lined A4 paper reads: “I am deeply upset and very sorry to hear of young James. It is sad news. I am very deeply sorry.
“If I or my brother Reg can ever do anything for you please let us know.
“I will pray for James that he is now in a better world.
“May God bless. From your friend Ron Kray xxxxxxxxxxxxxx”
A typed letter from Reg says: “I wish to express my sincere deepest sympathy at your sad loss that James has passed away.
“I cannot express how sad I am because I considered James part of my family.
“At the moment of writing I am overcome with grief.
“I am sure that James will be in a place of peace and happiness. I hope you received my last letter. I know that James would wish for the three of you to be happy and that he would wish that I remain friends with all three of you.
“You will all be in my prayers, along with James.”
James' uncle Paul Nicholson said: “It all shows the compassionate side of these gangsters through such an emotional time for us as a family.
“There is one hell of a story here – it really would make a great movie.”
The sale of the archive will be filmed as part of an upcoming episode of Dickinson’s Real Deal and members of the public are invited to come and watch.
The saletakes place at The Lichfield Auction Centre, Wood End Lane, Fradley Park, on May 15. Viewing is on May 11, from 9.30am until noon, on May 13 from 9am-4pm and from 8.30pm on the morning of sale. Visit richardwinterton.co.uk or call 01543 251081.
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