The twins worked occasionally with him when they were young, often around the Brick Lane area until he passed away in 1949, when the twins were sixteen.
James Kray was born on the 4th April 1884. He had a sister, Betsy, and lived with George, Albert and Jane, children from his mother Jane Wild’s first marriage. His father, also called James, worked as a cork cutter, a skilled job that was highly demanded at the time. His father had married Jane only three months before James was born. The family started living at 40 St John’s Terrace (called Gorsuch Street after 1909), a small lane between the Kingsland Road and Hackney Road. In his youth, James began working as a cable-maker for an electrical company in the early days of electricity itself.
When he was sixteen, James met Louisa Eliza Turner (born 6 John Street, South Hackney, 18 Sept 1884), an older woman and a docker's daughter who was the twin's paternal grandmother. She became pregnant so the pair subsequently married quickly on the 5th May 1901 at St Anne’s Church, Hoxton, both aged 21 and only a month before the birth of their first child, James John Frederick Kray, the Kray twins' uncle. After he lost his job at the cable-maker’s the small family moved around to different properties and had several more children; John George in 1902, Albert Charles Giles in 1904, Charles David (the twins’ father) in 1907, Alfred in 1909, William in 1911 and finally, three daughters, Elizabeth (born 1916 but died aged two), Dorothy (1919) and Charlotte (1921). After WWI broke, James aged 30 signed up to King’s Royal Rifle Company. He was posted to France and went into battle at Ypres but was wounded in the chest and was subsequently sent back to Britain.
After returning to London, he came back to a large family and began working as a wardrobe dealer, buying and selling on used clothes and other items for profit. He also began bare-knuckle boxing on street corners and fought aggressively making sure his opponent would be constantly on the defensive. This is how he earned his nickname ‘Mad’ Jimmy Kray. It is alleged that Cannonball Lee and Kray had met in several contests over the years, although Jimmy Lee always maintained that ‘Mad’ Jimmy Kray never got the better of him. His son Charles Kray, often accompanied him whilst he worked, and they set up a small stall on Brick Lane where they could sell on the clothing and other items they had bought. A young Charles would later continue this same profession. Grandfather Jimmy Kray, known to the twins as ‘Farvie’, was a source of boxing stories from his younger days, and young Charlie Kray was fascinated by stories of Hoxton born Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis. Sometimes the three Kray brothers would work with their grandfather Jimmy Kray on his stall in Brick Lane.
- Bennett, John. Krayology (2015). Mango Books.