Alf Morley's Incredible Story as told to Peter A Blood

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A few of Alfie’s character-building playmates who feature in his stories...

Stephen Bradley Kidnapper

Neddy Smith Jim McNeill

Jim McNeill
Jail Playwright

John Andrew Stuart

John Andrew Stuart

Darcy Dugan

Darcy Dugan

#RazorText

Joe Meissner

Razors Flashed In Sydney

By HUGH BUGGY  

     The tale of "Sailor" Saidler, one of the under-world's ugliest blade artists of "Razorhurst".
     BACK IN 1930, when the shadows of evening fell, when the lights sprang to life, and a hundred King's Cross gramophones churned out "I'm Dancing with Tears in My Eyes," it was then that Sydney's underworld awoke to seething activity.
     It was then that many an ostentatious sultan and parasite strutted the stormy stage and ruled by bluster and bluff his tawdry empire of beer houses, cocaine peddlers, clip joints, and poker schools. It was then that the girls with the big, round, innocent eyes and the dignified tailor made suits, working in pairs, embarked on their nightly expeditions to relieve exhilarated gentlemen of their wallets of Treasury notes. It was then that many an unruly bully stuffed a gun in his pocket and sallied forth from the top of William street in search of dishonest pickings.
     One such desperado, who ran true to type, was a Victorian, "Sailor" Saidler, otherwise "Sailor" McGregor, but really Lancelot McGregor Saidler, gunman, razor terrorist, thief, parasite, and basher. Saidler strutted his brief hour on that precarious stage when the underworld swirled and seethed like an angry maelstrom.
     DOPE PEDDLERS at the time boasted that they had 5,000 customers for "sniffs" of cocaine around King's Cross, Potts Point, and Darling Point. At five shillings "a sniff" to friends and a much higher tariff to those who could pay, the profits of this traffic were opulent. All transactions were by strict cash, and the cocaine peddlers on their nightly rounds carried pretty plump rolls of notes.
     These rolls were coveted by a gang of crooks, who organised to waylay and beat up the dope sellers. In defence the cocaine runners armed themselves with pistols. In reprisal the hijackers adopted the sinister Bengal blade razor as a weapon of terror.
     So was born the razor gang of Darlinghurst (called by the cynics "Razorhurst"), and so began a furtive guerrilla war of the black lanes which taught other criminals the power of the razor as a weapon of terror. They made the startling discovery that a razor whipped suddenly from the pocket could stun and overawe the whole clientele of a thieves' kitchen or sly grog joint. That revelation came to "Sailor" Saidler, a ruthless criminal, who had been in and out of police hands since he was nineteen.
     Saidler kept more or less aloof from gangs. He preferred to work as a lone wolf. He never preyed on the dope runners. He had no ambition to receive a bullet from these men, who began to defend their revenue from "snow" (cocaine) with tigerish ferocity. He knew no laws, he had no conscience, and brazen conceit was one of his chief qualities. He was a hold-up man, a factory and house breaker, a magsman, and a stand-over bully before the term had ever been heard in the courts.
     Saidler, with the flourish of a white-handled blade razor, had terrorised the beer-sodden clientele of the shabby sly grog houses in East Sydney and Surry Hills. He had stalked into the more exclusive beer flats around King's Cross. Behind a gun he had exacted tribute from weary business men who should have been at home instead of drinking with Gladys and Daphne, and June.
     Saidler, in the mildewed lanes of East Sydney, had knocked out be-fuddled wayfarers with a bludgeon and had cleaned out their pockets. With gun or razor he held up other unarmed thieves and collected all or part of their loot.
     "SAILOR" Saidler was feared and well hated in the Darlinghurst underworld. His fortunes in crime fluctuated. When in funds, Saidler, like many others of his type, installed himself in the best King's Cross flat he could find, and few questions were asked by most flat managers in the thirties.
     Noon would find him still lolling in his crepe de chine pyjamas and an expensive dressing-gown. His tastes were crude and vulgar. His suits were showy, his neckwear effulgent. Somewhere in the Saidler domain was a sullen slave with yellow hair and the tinsel prettiness of the underworld. It was her function to feed Lancelot on cooked chicken and the choicest morsels of the delicatessen. It was also part of her duties to ensure that the refrigerator was well stocked with bottled beer, and that the cigarettes were always within reach. Any remissness on these points would earn for her a pile-driving right swing to the jaw.
     Thus fortified, Saidler was ready for his nightly sallies into the more lucrative hunting-grounds of Darlinghurst.
     "Sailor" Saidler was a lavish spender when his criminal exploits proved profitable. But he ran into lean periods when the beerhouses were barred against him, and when "hostesses" at the more dignified bottle parties saw him first and telephoned the police. At times a shop, a house, a factory he had selected to yield him a moderate degree of affluence was either too hard to crack or was too well guarded. And there were times, too, when bibulous wanderers whom he held up in the Darlinghurst jungle were annoyingly short of currency.
     Any or all of these setbacks often drove "Sailor" Saidler from a chintz-curtained bower in King's Cross to a mean and cheerless back room in a Surry Hills residential. They forced   him to sacrifice his wardrobe, his luxury living, and to forgo the ministrations of the golden-haired slave.
     It was then that he wandered about   the lanes a shabby, unshaven, collar-less, restless, vindictive figure who schemed to restore his prosperity without the indignity of toil. At such unfavorable conjunctions in the   stars of Lancelot McGregor Saidler he would begin a round of calls on other convicted criminals in the hope of bullying or bluffing spending silver out of them. He would devote his attention also to unattended houses or flats round Darlinghurst, Potts   Point, Paddington, and Woollahra.
     Yet within a few weeks there would be a metamorphosis in "Sailor" Saidler. He would shed the shabbiness and reappear in flashy tailoring. He would desert the dim lanes of Surry Hills and return to jolly the barmaids in the better-class city hotels. He would forsake the dismal back room and the distrustful landlady, ready to seek a more congenial abode and more amiable company.
     BUT IN the winter of 1930 the graph of the fortunes of Lancelot McGregor Saidler took such a downward plunge as to deny him even the haven of a mouldy back room in Surry Hills.
     For Saidler was on the run!
     He had pulled off a hold-up with two other criminals. It yielded a good profit, and he believed that the job had been carried out in a manner that would produce no unpleasant repercussions. Nobody was hurt, so why should there be any unseemly concern?
     But the victim of this hold-up gave to the police an inconveniently accurate description of one "Sailor" Saidler. He had gone further and had recognised his picture at the C.I.B., and three detectives were looking for Saidler.
     It was back again to the purlieus of Surry Hills and Redfern for Lancelot. He steered sharply away from accustomed haunts. He sought to bury himself in the brickdust jungle, never sleeping in the same dosshouse twice.
     Saidler looked on hotels as traps for a man on the run. At odd and awkward moments police had a habit of nosing their way into bars looking for someone. He longed and panted for beer. Yet he feared to be seen in a sly grog joint lest he be "shelfed" by one of his enemies, and he knew he had many. He shrank from hotel bars, so he went without his beer. He felt far safer in the more remote and dingier wine saloons, and they were easily found in the Sydney of the thirties. There behind the beaded curtains, in gloom made thicker by cigarette smoke, and amid the babble of voices, "Sailor" Saidler sought security.
     He drank port at the sticky tables while about him cocaine talked in loud, aggressive voice. He wearied of the chatter of frowsy girls such as "Tangerine Tilly" and "Brisbane Baby," well-known wine bar habitues. He fumed at the babble of "Melbourne Mavis." After a sniff or two of cocaine, Mavis had a habit of telling anyone who would listen that she was a great dramatic actress lost on the stage.
     One or two "jobs" had yielded Saidler but a miserable pittance, and others he had fumbled. By Saturday afternoon, September 13, 1930, "Sailor" was flat broke. He still, however, retained his tools of trade, two white-handled razors. He realised that on Saturday afternoon the detectives who were looking for him could probably be off duty. He ventured into the city.
     There he encountered three other convicted men he knew. All four of them steered through the varnished swing doors of Ernie Good's wine saloon in Elizabeth street, near the railway viaduct. Saidler had no money, but he was determined to get some.
     ERNIE GOOD and his brother Mick conducted their wine saloon well. If many of the regular habitues were not the type of customers the Hotel Australia knew, it was not an indictment of this wine bar. Behind the Good brothers there was a six years' record of tactful management.
     Both brothers knew "Sailor" Saidler. They knew he had forceful ways, that his temper was like tinder and his language pungent. They always feared turmoil when they saw him enter the saloon. They sensed trouble when he ambled in with the other louts that Saturday afternoon.
     Faces glowed in the reflection of the crimson wallpaper. Big boisterous laughs rattled round the saloon. A mist of blue cigarette smoke hung over the tables. A solitary girl powdered her nose among the men drinkers. Ports, muscats, and vermouths marched steadily from Counter to table. Boxing champions looked down from black frames on the walls.
     Into this picture of carefree conviviality swooped tragedy.
     "Sailor" Saidler was in a nasty mood. He was half-drunk.
     "Give us a bob," was the demand he shot at Mick Good behind the cash register.
     Good used tact. He had no desire to give Saidler a shilling, but he acceded to avoid a row.
     Saidler pocketed the shilling. "Now I want a caser" (five shillings), he snapped. "Get a caser from Ern for me."
     "Ask him yourself," replied Mick Good.
     "Give us a caser, Ern," Saidler asked in the same truculent way.
     "Times are too hard," Ernie Good replied. "I've got no caser for you."
     A string of epithets were flung at Good by Saidler. The saloon was thrown into a hubbub. Saidler snapped up a glass of port from the counter. He splashed the wine in Good's face. Good backed from the counter as Saidler hurled the glass at his head. It was shivered against a shelf of bottles.
     "I'll carve you up!" shrieked Saidler. "I'll lop your head off with this."
     His hand darted to his pocket. A white-handled blade razor was half withdrawn from brown paper wrapping. Customers left their drinks. Chairs were overturned. There was a rush towards Saidler as he vaulted to the counter. Just as his boots touched the linoleum-covered board, Ernie Good, who had grabbed a revolver from a drawer, fired.
     Saidler crashed back among the jostling men. Coughing and clutching wildly at his chest, he lurched towards the door. A wooden screen blocked him. He fell flat on his back at the foot of the screen. He did not utter a word.
     At that very moment a police car pulled up outside the saloon. In it were Detective-Sergeant Sadler and Detectives McFarland and Gordon, who had been looking for Lancelot McGregor Saidler. They had heard the shot. Sadler led the way in to the wine bar. As he did so he saw the head of the wanted man showing below the screen. Saidler was dead.
     Protruding from his hip pocket was a white-handled razor in a paper wrapping.
     SO ENDED the career of "Sailor" Saidler, a dangerous and reckless tough in a reckless period.
     Good had acted in self-defence, and was quite properly exonerated from any blame.


The story as told in November, 1950 in a supplement to The Argus newspaper. Text from the image is reproduced below. Click here to see the original document from which this has been taken.

Character: LANCELOT MCGREGOR SAIDLER
(An alleged member of Kate Leigh’s Razor Gang) (Audio link)


Chow Hayes

“Chow” Hayes

Lancelot McGregor Saidler

Lancelot McGregor Saidler

Neddy Smith Murderer, etc...

Ernie Goode
Wine Bar Owner

Ernie Good

CHARACTERS & CAPERS - The Life and Times of Alf Morley - The Book


Extract From The Book:

Disgruntled, Saidler tried to leap over the bar, armed with his cut-throat razor. He had a good argument, but my grandfather had a better one. He snatched up his handgun from under the counter and shot the 23 year old Saidler dead.” September, 1930

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