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Monday, July 1, 2013

Ronnie Biggs and The Disappearing Revolution

Hello again. I've already assumed Ronnie's character on Facebook, so I feel as if I've written this article before I start. Now, unless you're under 25 or don't listen to the news, you probably know something of the famous great train robber Ronnie Biggs, who spent years on the run in Rio and got himself quite a media profile. Some saw him as a sort of modern-day Robin Hood and others did not like the way he seemed to get away with his crimes, but he was always colourful.

What I want to do is feature him in 'Life Cycles-The Dark Side' and ask what happened in his important age 36 'Year of Revolution'? Ronald Arthur Biggs was born August 8th, 1929, so we will be looking at the period Aug, 1965 to Aug, 1966. In July, 1965, Biggs and three others escaped from Wandsworth Prison in a daring break, organised by underworld friends. He and fellow robber Eric Flower are hidden in various UK locations between July and Oct. His new age/direction took shape in October, when he was put on a boat to Antwerp and then driven to Paris. Can you see how Biggs was not really in control of these plans? The centrality of this one year in the lives of so many, combined with not being fully in control of outcomes are the defining characteristics of 'Life Cycles' theory. But you knew that already?!

Now back to Uncle Ronnie. He, along with Flower, were also to be largely guinea pigs in extensive plastic surgery operations, designed to change their appearance. It is understood this was a first-ever use of this surgery for escaped felons. This was quite painful and took them two months to recuperate. On Dec.22nd, his wife Charmain joined him for a celebration dinner in Paris, as shown in the TV series, Mrs. Biggs, and then he flew to Sydney under the name of writer, Terrence Furminger. He had now effectively disappeared and the next step was to get Charmain and the kids into Australia, as the UK police were understandably staking them out.

Biggs and Flower set up home in Botany Bay, Sydney, but when their mail is intercepted in March they move to Adelaide. In June, 1966, Charmain and family arrive in Darwin. She is now Mrs. Margaret Furminger. So Ronnie's age 36 'Year of Revolution' sees the beginning of a new age/direction as a new identity trying to act normally in Australia. Many adventures follow this, of course, but it is of interest that Ronnie eventually returned to UK of his own volition, because he needed medical treatment, in May, 2001, after a series of debilitating strokes. He was on the run for 36 years. In August, at the beginning of Bigg's age 72 'Year of Revolution', his lawyers file appeal papers for early release on medical grounds. So this time his new age/direction is about getting out of gaol through appeal. This did happen, interestingly, some seven years later, in Bigg's age 79 'Year of Broken Pathways', and in about a month's time Bigg's will be 84 and most probably in his last 'Year of Revolution'. What will be in store? The answer, as always, is somewhat unknown and we'll simply have to wait.

Crime did not pay either for Ronnie. Although the gang stole a total of 44 million pounds sterling in today's terms, each of the 16 members received an equal share of 147,000 pounds, all of which was used to pay for the escape, plastic surgery and false passports. He arrived in Australia basically flat broke and had to find work. Oh yes, one other highlight for you. When Ronnie was in his age 48 'Year of Revolution' he teams up with the Sex Pistols in Rio to record "No-one Is Innocent (A Punk Prayer)" with Biggs singing lead vocal. Always a colourful villain was Ronnie. Till next month :- may the cycles always bring you good fortune.


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  3. Ronnie Biggs on the run for 36 years after helping to pull off one of the biggest train heists in history is no Robin Hood but he certainly is a colorful and entertaining villain. Your sidebar on him (and on your Facebook page) are lots of fun!

    I knew about Ronnie Biggs and the great train robbery but didn’t remember he had escaped to Australia. That identity-changing plastic surgery was pretty amazing. Clearly you can see how his age 36 “Year of Revolution” was the start of an entirely new life direction for him with a new set of adventures and challenges. Teaming up to sing lead vocals with the Sex Pistols in Rio while still on the lam, what a bold move, what a hoot. Talk about hiding in plain sight! Ronnie Biggs is clearly a criminal who seemed to get away with his crimes and he’s an arrogant rascal, but because he’s so entertaining, this dark side of Life Cycles has a lighter side. Well done!

    1. Hi Madilyn,
      Thanks, as always, for your supportive and insightful comments. Yes, I used to love the Minder TV Show and couldn't resist becoming 'a cockney Pom'. That song he did with The Sex Pistols you can just hear his 'Jack the Lad' voice. However, as always, there is a sober reminder that this wasn't a victimless crime. Jack Mills, the train driver, was hit over the head when he refused to move the train. He suffered trauma headaches for the rest of his life and died of leukaemia in 1970.