Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics

The inimitable Brewer’s organisation have published another amazing book which you might like to have in your collection. It’s called “Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics”.

Compiled by William Donaldson, the book contains, says its cover, “in 1000 colourful, informative and richly entertaining articles, a rogue’s gallery of extraordinary and outrageous Britons from the mediaeval period to the present: buggers and bigamists, highwaymen and whoremasters, perverts and perjurers, vicars and vice-girls – plus an unsavoury array of poisoners, quacks, forgers and others.”

Just opening the book at random, I came upon a pair of pages with pictures. These show a selection of interesting people.

Rev. Harold Davidson, the Rector of Stiffkey, had a mission - the salvation of fallen women. A consistory court ruled that he was not being truthful about his relationships with them, and he was later eaten by a performing lion.

Sir Francis Dashwood was the politician who founded the notorious Hell Fire Club that met at Medmenham Abbey.

Rev. Wiliam Dodd, described as “cleric, dandy and fraud”, was executed on a charge of forgery.

Louis de Rougemont described himself as explorer, King of the Cannibals, alligator hunter and Great White God, but he was actually Louis Grin, whose career had been that of a butler.

The Duke of Edinburgh is shown with film stars Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, Mrs Latter and Dorothy Kirsten. Perhaps one should read further.

Others with photographs in the book include, for various reasons, Jonathan Aitken; Jeffrey Archer; Margaret, Duchess of Argyll; John Aspinall; Francis Bacon; William Beckford; Jeffrey Bernard; Peter Bessell; Ronnie Biggs; Anthony Blunt; Robert Boothby; Horatio Bottomley; Lord Byron; Burke and Hare; Barbara Cartland; Eddy, Duke of Clarence; Alan Clark; Dr Crippen; Aleister Crowley; Eddie the Eagle Edwards; George IV; and Nicholas Fairbairn.

Leicestershire people involved include Earl Ferrers, Rutland people include Titus Oates and those from Essex include Matthew Hopkins and Dick Turpin.

There is an entry, perhaps not surprisingly, for a schoolfriend of mine, the late Vivian Stanshall, whom we knew at Southend-on-Sea High School for Boys as “Vic”. Famous later as leader of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and for his master of ceremonies work on Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”, he was an eccentric even as a teenager.

The book celebrates the complicated practical joke which Viv devised with the support of Keith Moon, involving an allegedly strong pair of trousers.

“Brewer’s Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics” is available at all good bookshops.