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How Dark Was Our Valley (Paperback)
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At around 11.00 pm on Tuesday 13 March 1934, twenty-eight-year-old Horace Wiggan handed himself in at Wombwell Police Station. He had murdered his girlfriend Ada Perkins. He had strangled her to death with her own scarf.
On 9 May at Leeds Assizes, he was sentenced to death by Justice William Finlay KC. He would be hanged at Armley Gaol on 22 June.
A total of 42,000 signatures to appeal for clemency were handed in to the Home Secretary, Sir John Gilmour, and Wiggan's sentence was ultimately commuted to life imprisonment. That didn't always work, however.
On 1 May 1955, twenty-two-year-old Alec Wilkinson had stabbed his mother-in-law, to death at Bradbury Balk Lane, Wombwell, prior to setting her house on fire. His family garnered 34,400 signatures hoping for a reprieve, but to no avail. He was hanged by Doncaster executioner Steve Wade.
During 1939, Horace Wiggan would be joined in HMP Maidstone by two paedophiles - one from Roman Street, Thurnscoe and the other - the more depraved of the two, from Hope Avenue, Goldthorpe. They had been found guilty at Leeds Assizes on 17 March and on 15 July 1938 respectively and sentenced to five and seven years.
Although these two never returned to the eastern Dearne Valley, their legacy remained.
One of the latter's victims - a six-year-old boy, had lived on Hope Avenue before moving onto Bolton-on-Dearne's Ringway estate, where throughout the 1940's and 1950s he became a serial rapist. That was before he undertook his pi ce de resistance, when in 1968 he raped and killed a sixteen-year-old girl. He had strangled her to death with one of her own stockings.
In a blaze of publicity, which made the front pages of the Daily Mirror, he went on trial at the Old Bailey and was found guilty of murder. He died in HMP Wakefield on 11 September 1991.
I never knew him, but I certainly knew his nieces. I did, however, know Horace Wiggan. He was put in the ground just a few days before the most violent confrontation of the 1984/85 Miners' Strike - and for the record, it was never Orgreave.
For a short period, my parents had owned a Fish and Chip Shop off Worsbrough Dale's Bank End Road, where during that time Horace had been a regular customer often calling in on a Thursday night. The last time I recall seeing him was on 16 October 1980. Minder had been playing on the portable TV - an episode where the PE teacher out of Kes - Brian Glover, was playing Arthur Daley's old army mate - Yorkie.
The reason I recall it, is that my uncle - Graham Durose off Bolton-on-Dearne's The Crescent, had died the very same year and his nickname had been Yorkie.
The eastern Dearne Valley is very close-knit. It is also a place which possesses an extremely dark history.