Ronnie Biggs
By: Luc Sante | Categories: HiLo Heroes

RONNIE BIGGS (born 1929) was a small-time British crook who took part in the 1963 Great Train Robbery. He and fourteen cohorts held up a mail train containing post-Bank Holiday receipts totaling £2.6 million (some $60 million in today’s money), and sort of got away with it — the bulk of the haul was never recovered. Biggs played only the most minor part in the caper, and probably never saw any of the cash. He did, however, escape from Wandworth Prison in 1965, and made his way to Australia, and then, in 1970, Brazil. The UK and Brazil did not have a reciprocal extradition treaty, and Biggs was safe, albeit barred from working and kept under curfew, so he became a tourist attraction, hosting visiting Britons and selling them T-shirts and coffee mugs. And then he was sought out by the Sex Pistols, with whom he recorded “No One Is Innocent,” paired on a 12” with the Sid Vicious version of “My Way.” He did a surprisingly creditable job of sounding like Johnny Rotten at his most stentorian. More importantly, he joined the people’s avant-garde of fame, alongside Judge Crater and the Tichborne Claimant, staking out a category he is destined to occupy alone.

ALSO BORN THIS DATE: Kool Moe Dee.

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Each day, HiLobrow.com pays tribute to one of our favorite high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes on that person’s birthday.

HILO HERO ITEMS by LUC SANTE: Dashiell Hammett | Pancho Villa | James M. Cain | Georges Bataille | Félix Fénéon | Émile Henry | A.J. Liebling | Jim Thompson | Joe Hill | Nestor Makhno | Hans Magnus Enzensberger | Captain Beefheart | William Burroughs | Ring Lardner | Lee “Scratch” Perry | Serge Gainsbourg | Kathy Acker | Arthur Cravan | Weegee | Alexander Trocchi | Ronnie Biggs | George Ade | Georges Darien | Zo d’Axa | Petrus Borel | Blaise Cendrars | Alexandre Jacob | Constance Rourke | Damia | J-P Manchette | Jean-Paul Clebert | Pierre Mac Orlan | Comte De Lautreamont | André Breton | Robert Desnos | Arthur Rimbaud |

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Luc Sante's books include Low Life, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, Kill All Your Darlings, and Folk Photography.