Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper committed a series of brutal murders around Whitechapel in the East end of London from 1888. All of the murdered women, except for one, were prostitutes. The perpetrator was never caught and there has been a great deal of speculation as to the identity of the Ripper. It is thought that he could have been a butcher or a doctor because the mutilations suggested the murderer had knowledge of human anatomy. However, the crimes remain a macabre mystery to this day.

Mary Ann (Polly) Nicholls

The first woman to be murdered by the Ripper on August 31st, 1888, was Mary Ann Nicholls, known as ‘Polly’.  Polly struggled with drink and relationships, ending up in Lambeth Workhouse.

In August, 1888, she was lodging in Thawl Street in Whitechapel. On the night of her death, after spending time at The Frying Pan pub, Polly went out on the street saying she was going to make enough money to pay for a night’s bed. She was proudly wearing a new bonnet, which she thought would attract a customer.

Polly’s mutilated corpse was discovered in a dark, cobbled stable entrance on Buck’s Row, now Durward Street. The inquest said that her throat had been slashed so deeply, her head was nearly severed. Her abdomen had been savagely ripped open to expose her intestines.

Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nicholls was the first victim of the brutal serial killer known as Jack the Ripper.  Some say that Mary’s ghost haunts Durward Street. Why don’t you see for yourself when you are next in London? There are some excellent Jack the Ripper Tours.  A word of warning; don’t go alone…

I wrote the following short story from Polly’s point of view:-

Polly’s Story August 31st 1888

I’m not complaining, but you wouldn’t believe what a terrible life I’ve had. In fact, it’s been ‘orrible from beginning to end if you ask me. Hang on a minute.

What you staring at? Yeah, you over there, posh gent with the poncy suit. Aint you got no manners? Can’t yer see there’s a lady ‘ere wiv an empty glass?

Gawd, what you ‘ave to do to get a drink round ‘ere?  It’s murder and there’s no mistake. I’ve been coming to this pub, the Frying Pan (aint that a stupid name for a pub?) for as long as I can remember. The beer’s rancid, but the punters are a bit more classy round here than up the market.

Where was I? Oh, yeah my shit life. Well, I was born in Dawes Court, Shoe Lane, I fink it was August 26, 1845. I’ve just celebrated me birthday, in fact. I was one of the Walkers and me ma and pa, Edward and Caroline, called me Mary Ann, but I like being called Polly better. Gawd knows how old I am, I never hardly went to school and me arithmetic’s always been crap anyway. We were always dirt poor, ‘ungry, smelly, you know, just like everyone else in Whitechapel really, apart from the snotty vicars’ kids.

I fink I was about nineteen when I met my handsome Bill Nichols. Do you know, I really loved ‘im back then and I was that happy on me wedding day. I remember it was January, 1864 and it was a bleeding, miserable cold day. I should have taken that as a sign, I suppose, but I was that in love, or so I thought. Me nose near froze off in the freezing cold in that thin dress I borrowed from Annie Chapman. I didn’t look at no-one else for ever such a long time, I must say.  We had five kids altogether, but after Percy, then Henry came into the world, well Bill started to get spiteful and vicious. He was forever moaning and groaning about me drinking too much, said I was a ‘soak’, cheeky bleeder. It really did my head in, especially as I didn’t drink that much, honest I didn’t.

Anyway, he dumped me and left me in a mess. I ended up in that foul, stinking workhouse in Lambeth. Not long after ‘im, though, Thomas Drew came along and he made me really ‘appy, well for a bit anyway.  He was a respectable blacksmith, he was.  Oh yes, I had regular meals when I was with ‘im, I did. Typical man, though, started nagging me about me drinking, too, in no time at all. What do they expect a girl wiv all my troubles to do? Sing in the bleeding church choir? Drinking dulls the pain, it’s always just dulled me pain and took me troubles right away. Well, til the next bleeding mornin’ anyhow. Oh, this cough.

Ah, finally; a drink. Better bleeding late than never, thank you. Just put in down there, will ya? Cheers, your good health, kind sir. I might be able to pay you later- if you’re willing and able at any rate! Excuse me laughing and coughing at the same time, won’t you? You’ve just touched me funny bone for some reason.

Do you know I’ve had a respectable job, only this year, I did. I was a domestic servant, you know. Oh yes, worked for those holier-than-thou Cowdreys, both teetotallers and religious to boot. I just couldn’t stick that holy stuff thrown down me throat every day, what wiv no drink to dull it and all. Well, I fink I lasted nearly a month there. Not my cup of tea at all, if you pardon the pun.  I nicked some of milady’s clothes when I left and got done for that, an all. Damn this bleeding cough.

Anyway, so now I’m lodging up the road ‘ere at 18 Thawl Street. It’s a right stinking, rat-ridden dump, but where else can I go? I aint going back to that bleeding workhouse again and there’s no mistake. I ‘ave to get four pence for me bed there tonight somehow. Course, that’s not a problem for me being as I am such a comely wench and these punters admire class round here, like I said. Hell, I can’t stop coughing tonight.

Right, I’m knackered, better drink up and go for ‘walkies’ if I’m to earn me four bob for a night’s kip, if you get me drift, darlin’. Oh, that beer’s like bleeding paint stripper, but it hits the spot, you might say.

Bye, Annie, see yer back at the palace. Gawd, this cough, I mustn’t make meself laugh any more tonight. What do yer think of me new bonnet? Nicked if from that stuck-up Sarah Cowdrey, I did.  You can bet the punters will notice me in this, they aint going to miss me wearing these bleeding big feathers are they?

Right which way, left or right? Well I went right last night, so I’ll make it right again then. I did good last night up Bucks Row…love how that rhymes with, anyway here comes that poncy gent from the Frying Pan, he looks a likely lad for a few bob.

Evening sir, want to give a girl a good time?

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  1. Well, you’ve got poor Polly just right, I’d say, Jen! What a sad sad story! Jack the Ripper is one of history’s great mysteries. When did the murders stop, I wonder? I think I’ll look it up. Thanks for another great post!

    • Thank you Val. I think the murders went on for about 3 years if I recall correctly. It seems odd that they ended suddenly and he was never found; one of London’s greatest mysteries!

  2. The character comes through brilliantly,Jenny. I thought they’d solved who he was a few weeks back through DNA on one of the victim’s scarves that a descendant had kept? Did I dream that?

    • I hadn’t heard that, Judith, I will have to research. DNA is wonderful though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was used to allow a breakthrough.

  3. Lovely characterization of a victim and how her helpless growing addiction contributes to her own fate. The hint that the killer came from the same Pub was creepy.

    • Thank you Anne. I think he must have watched his victims carefully because he managed to evade detection so well. Creepy indeed!

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