Mike Gray is a Wandsworth born and bred author, who has just published his fourth book relating to Wandsworth Prison and the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs, who escaped from the prison on July 8th 1965. Mike has just published his latest offering, 'The Ronnie Biggs Quiz Book', following the Great Train Robber's death in December 2013. Shortly before this he published 'The Great Train Robbery Quiz Book', also available in kindle format, to coincide with last year's 50th Anniversary of the crime...
"On that summer's afternoon on July 8th 1965, I was a nine year old boy standing next to a red furniture lorry that only minutes earlier Great Train Robber Ronald Biggs had used to scale the walls of Wandsworth prison, and then escaped in a getaway car heading to Wandsworth Common train station, where the car was found abandoned. It was the first time I had heard the name Ronald Biggs.
"My father was a prison officer actually in the prison at the time of escape, and myself and friends were literally a few hundred yards away when the escape took place. But the name of Ronald Biggs only ignited my interest again some nine years later in 1974 when Biggs was re-arrested in Brazil and I was in my final year at Spencer Park Comprehensive on Trinity Road. Iwas hoping to be a journalist.
"I collected each and every newspaper cutting as all of them showed photographs of Wandsworth prison from 1965, and as I was there the collection had a meaning, if only to me. I collected for many years until I had a suitcase full of magazine/newspaper articles and photographs, all dated. In 1989 I actually wrote to Biggs in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil and to my suprise he responded some weeks later with numerous enclosed personal photographs and a long letter.
"From 1989 I telephoned him or wrote every month until his return to the UK in 2001, when I was fortunate enough to be one of the first visitors to see him in Belmarsh prison. I visited him every single month for eight years until his eventual release on compassionate grounds in August 2009, when I presented him with a copy of my first book 'Ronnie Biggs- The Inside Story' which was about the eight years I had spent visiting him in London's Belmarsh and Norwich prisons.
"Wandsworth and its surrounding areas are also featured in 'The Great Train Robbery Quiz Book' as the mastermind of the train robbery, Bruce Reynolds, had earlier in his prison career been sentenced to a few years in HMP Wandsworth, or as Biggs always refers to it 'The Hate Factory'. Bruce Reynolds' son Nick (today a member of the Alabama 3 band) went to school at Emmanuel Grammar in Spencer Park Road.
"I left my parents living in the Wandswoth prison Quarters in Heathfield Road in 1980, when I got married and bought a property a mile down Trinity Road in Hendham Road, Upper Tooting before moving to Surrey and onto Kent in much recent years."
Mike Gray Books
Author- The Ronnie Biggs Quiz Book
Author- The Great Train Robbery Quiz Book
Author- 101 Interesting Facts on Ronnie Biggs & The Great Train Robbery
Author- Ronnie Biggs- The Inside Story