Peaky Blinders - Fact or Fiction? No.1 Stephen McNickle

Legend surrounding the 'peaky blinders' seems to have far overtaken actual written facts about the individuals behind these stories. This is largely thanks to the tremendous success of the (hugely entertaining) BBC drama Peaky Blinders but also some of the real prisoner images that have been shared online.

One of the pages from the historic prisoner ledgers held at the West Midlands Police Museum adds to the intrigue of these characters - these four individuals have been labelled as 'the real peaky blinders' and here we start to tell some of their stories.

I have to thank Graham Knight for his hugely insightful post on Stephen McNickle's story - which inspired me to start looking further into the lives of these individuals and share their stories.

Graham manages the popular Facebook group 'Birmingham Old Prints, Photographs and Maps 1600-1900's'

He said:

"Forever branded a vicious gang member of the peaky blinders because of a police mugshot and the lies in the newspapers.

Stephen McNickle was born 1880 living at 4 Court 2 House Bordesley Street living in 1881 with his parents William age 21 who was a metal worker and Catherine age 21. In 1891 the family had moved to 350 Lichfield Road.

Stephen was living at the back of 60 Cuckoo Road with his common law wife Louisa Maria Mason and two children Stephen and Albert when times must have got hard for him and he broke into a drapers shop a few doors away stealing goods to the value of £6.

Tried and convicted at the law courts he served his sentence of 8 months hard labour

In 1911 he was living with his common law wife Louisa and 5 children working as an edge tool grinder at 2 Wharton Road Nechells.

When England declared war with Germany on 4th August 1914 Stephen was serving in the South Staffordshire Regiment and must have seen what was about to come. He married Louisa Maria Mason on 10th October 1914 and enlisted into the Northumberland Fusiliers as a Special Reservist two days later on 12th October 1914 stating he was time expired and served with 3rd Bn South Staffordshire Regiment.

On his second tour of France Stephen received a gunshot wound to his arm and it was amputated on 22nd September 1918, hospitalised to the UK he was discharged with a silver war badge number B 332760 on 25th September 1919 and went back home to his wife and children at 6 Premier Street Nechells, he died on 28th June 1920 buried in St Joseph's Churchyard Nechells.

Private Stephen McNickle received 1915 Star, British War and Victory medal. The picture below shows the grave of Stephen McNickle."

Further searches of the archives have identified that McNickle was sentenced to 3 months hard labour in 1899 for unlawfully wounding Frederick Neale - a charge he pleased not guilty to.

in 1906 Stephen was convicted of assaulting a local man named Dabbs, aged 66, by striking him about the head with a weapon. His reason was that Dabbs has sneered at him so he hit him and he was injured when he fell and hit his head. Dabbs required hospital treatment and McNickle was fined 20s and costs.

Whilst not totally innocent and convicted of at least three offences, no records have been identified including McNickle in the kind of gang activity frequently demonstrated on the Peaky Blinders TV series.

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