Walter Valentine Welsh also more commonly known as The Bear or Big Tommy Brown was an integral member of The Firm, who was a very well-built fighter and boxer.
He was a lifelong family friend of the twins and worked as a doorman for them at various clubs with Limehouse Willy throughout the late 1950s and 1960s.
Tommy Welsh came from Tottenham and was known as 'The Bear' and was born in c. 1916. He was around 6'6" and carried powerful shoulders and was of Romani Gypsy heritage. His neck was allegedly nineteen inches thick and he had steel grey hair and blue eyes with an almost pugilist nose. He earned his nickname from his sheer size and strength, and he was regarded as a fighting man in and out of the ring. His father's best friend was called Brown, and when his father died out of respect, he fought under the name Brown. He fought in the Second World War in the Royal Navy before becoming an associate of the twins.
Joining the Firm
Tommy was a main part of the Kray Firm and Reggie Kray regarded him as one of his closest friends during the 1960s. He was associated with the twins for around 14 years and worked on and off throughout this time as a doorman for their various clubs. At every opportunity, Reggie and Tommy would go to the backyard at 178 Valance Road and spar with boxing gloves. He allegedly lived in a caravan on a bomb site in Stepney, keeping Greyhounds and horses as company. He was present at the wedding between Reggie and Frances in 1965 and can be seen in the photos taken by David Bailey.
He had been a good professional heavyweight fighter and he usually assisted Reggie on the doors of the various clubs to keep order. His presence was a deterrent to would-be troublemakers who didn't fancy their chances against Brown in a fight. Reggie once prevented him from breaking the singer, Billy Daniels jaw, after he became impertinent towards Brown. On another occasion at The Double R Club, a customer became rather raucous and disruptive, so Tommy lifted him by his tie and swung him around the club.
Brown was also a very smart dresser, who dressed like a film star and played the part well according to Reggie. All the Firm held him in high esteem and always referred to him as 'The Bear' or 'Big Tom'. The police once called upon Brown's Tottenham address to arrest him but before they succeeded in taking him in for questioning, he knocked out eleven officers, for which he then received two years in prison. Tommy and his brother Charlie helped remove carpets and bloodied furniture from 97 Evering Road with his van, ready to be burnt after The Murder of Jack McVitie in October 1967.
Arrest and imprisonment
Eventually, a Scotland Yard conference decided to arrest the Krays on the evidence already collected, in the hope that other witnesses would be forthcoming once the Krays were in custody. On 8 May 1968, the Krays and 15 other members of the Firm were arrested. Tommy was living at Bruce Grove in Tottenham at the time of his arrest. Exceptional circumstances were put in place so as to stop any possible co-operation against any of the accused. Nipper Read then secretly interviewed each of the defendants and offered each member of the Firm one chance to come onto the side of law and order. During the 1969 Old Bailey trial, Brown was given a three-year sentence for causing grievous harm, when he was aged 51.
Later life and death
After he came out of prison in the early 1970s, Brown opened up a gambling club with his brother-in-law, Jimmy Etherington. He suffered from bad health during his later years but still maintained his reputation. He lived with his sister in Waltham Cross before moving back to Tottenham with his ex-wife Doris. He passed away in 1991, aged seventy-four and his funeral was held at Bury Green Cemetery, Chesnut, where he was buried next to his brother Charlie.
|People associated with The Krays|
|Kray Family||Ronnie • Reggie • Charlie • Violet • Charles|
|Shea Family||Frances • Frank • Elsie • Frank Sr.|
|Lee Family||Cannonball Lee • Grandma Lee • Aunt Rose • Aunt May • Uncle John|
|The Firm||Albert Donoghue • Ian Barrie • Leslie Payne • Big Pat • Ronnie Bender • Ronnie Hart • Teddy Smith • Jack Dickson • The Bear • Chris Lambrianou • Tony Lambrianou • Connie Whitehead|
|The Richardsons||Charlie Richardson • Eddie Richardson • George Cornell • Mad Frankie Fraser • Roy Hall • Jimmy Moody • Barry Harris • Albert Longman • Tommy Clark|
|Gangsters & Criminals||Freddie Foreman • Jack Spot • Billy Hill • Bert Rossi • Albert Dimes • Eric Mason • Johnny Squibb • Ginger Marks • Leslie Holt|
|Civilians||The Barmaid • Blonde Carol • Maureen Flanagan • Nipper Read • Lord Boothby • John Pearson • David Bailey|
|Victims||George Cornell • Frank Mitchell • Jack the Hat|