Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Owen Ratcliffe - The Man Who Feared Nobody

Owen Ratcliffe was a Manchester character.  A tough guy who did not stand for anybody trying to muscle him, and a club owner.  He owned the Cromford Club, and had the former heavyweight champion Jack(father of Brian) London on the door.  But one night things turned nasty when twin brothers from the East End of London, knocked him(London) down the stairs.  They had decided that they were expanding outside London and so the Cromford Club was their first target.  But Ratcliffe was not a man to back down to anybody.  Frank Williamson was a ranking cop who received a call saying that Ratcliffe was walking about the Midland hotel with a meat cleaver, looking for the Krays.  Williamson confronted them and told them in no uncertain terms to move on.  This was in the very early 60`s.  later a club in Leigh burned down after a visit from them, and then left Liverpool, after DI John Ralphson stuck a gun under Reg Kray`s chin.

    Ratcliffe was a well mannered and charming man, with a passion for gambling, but he still could turn nasty if need be.  Former top London boss Billy Hill, fell out with him over a burglar ransacking homes of guests in his club.  The tips came from a spotter.  Ratcliffe made his feelings clear to Hill, which involved the removal of his head.  It has also been claimed that he and others stood up to the Nash Brothers.  Another story was that he had a disagreement with heavyweight wrestler Dominic Pye, brother of famous wrestler Jack, and chased him with a gun.  He decided to open a club down south and so went into partnership with another tough Manchester man, Paddy McGrath, a former boxer.  This club was in Catford, South London, and was called Mr Smith & The Witchdoctor, the scene of that infamous brawl involving the Richardson mob.  Ronnie Kray claimed he & his brother had a share in it, so Eddie Richardson, Fraser, Moody and others, tried to muscle in.  As Ratcliffe had some years before, went looking for them with a meat cleaver, is it logical that he & McGrath would have given them interests in it?  After this, his influence gradually went down and he retired from the club scene.  He was one of the great Manchester club owners of the 50`s & 60`s, along with Bobby McDermott & Bill Benny.