A CAST OF THOUSANDS
BY CHRISTOPHER SCOTT
Thomas Porter - George Fisher - William Green
On the 16th January 1889, a New Zealand newspaper called the Te Aroha News carried details and the text of letter purportedly from an acquaintance and accomplice of the Whitechapel murderer sent to a Thomas Porter. The newspaper conjectured that the writer was a former employee or apprentice of Porter who worked as a saddler.
The text of the article is as follows:
FROM JACK THE RIPPER'S PAL
STARTLING LETTER TO A HUCKNALL GENTLEMAN
The appended letter has been sent to us (says the Nottingham Daily Express) as having been received by Mr. Thomas Porter, of Hucknall Turkard, who immediately handed it over to the county police. Without expressing any opinion as to the authenticity of the document, it is open to conjecture that the writer is a man who was formerly in the employ of Mr. Porter, when that gentleman was in business as a saddler at Hucknall, and who went out to Colorado. The letter bore the East Central postmark. We omit several of the least interesting portions of the letter:
November, London, E.C.
I now take the liberty of writing to you, hoping I am not taking a liberty in doing so. I have no doubt you will be surprised to hear it is me and a pal of mine doing this work in Whitechapel; but I feel I cannot continue much longer - shall have to give it up - cannot reign much longer.
Have been in America some years and since leaving Colorado have been carrying on a "deadly" (word omitted here) in the east of London. I feel at this moment as if I could burn or blow all these dens down, and all those filthy low women in them. When I go to bed at night I can see all my past life before me, can see everything I have done wrong, and thousands of rats; it is dreadful, and when I lie awake in the morning I fancy I've been dreaming I am not the man.
It is too true, I am the right one. Oh I do wish I had gone to Nottingham when I left Colorado, it makes me feel miserable. Most people think there is only one in the affair, but allow me to tell you - I guess there are two, and that is him who learnt me how to do it, a scamp, but I am as bad as him now if not worse, for I never feel frightened in cutting a woman up now, felt at times I never should get caught, am just like a maniac.
Oh how I wish I could without any more of this sort of life I have been leading of late - must go on or my pal would do for me - I guess it is a sworn thing between us. When I am talking to a woman I can see the very devil, would give my life any time if I could just speak to some of my old friends.
Do feel bad just now, hope the Lord will forgive me all the sins I have committed - always feel better in the afternoon when we go in a public house, and hear some one reading about the Whitechapel affairs, having many a laugh as if I could help it; when it is getting dark I do feel funny - my pal is a wild wretch, he has learned me how to do all this. I am a native of Notts, but I lived in Hucknall some years ago.
My pal is a Bavarian, I guess. We met on board a steamship, and I assure you I was mesmerised when I found out his hideous calling, which had been concealed, from me for some time. I had become so intimate with him, and he cast a sort of spell over me. Myself and my pal are just what they call "Jack the Ripper," we are not the cause of all the nonsense about that letter writing and that writing on the wall, we have never done anything of the sort.
You must not allow any hope to exist in your body. I really feel miserable and scarcely know what to do with myself at this moment; expect we shall pop off another or two, when I guess we go back to Colorado never to return.
Jack the Ripper's Pal
There certainly was a Thomas Porter who was a saddler in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. The census listings for him in 1871 and 1881 give details of two of his apprentices. In 1871 the Porter household is given as follows:
Chequer's Yard, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.
Thomas Porter aged 62 born Hucknall - Sadler employing 2 boys
Ann Porter aged 60 born Widmerpool
Emma Porter aged 16 born Hucknall
William Green aged 16 born Hucknall - Saddler's apprentice.
In 1881, Porter is listed with a different young apprentice:
Address: Baker Street, Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghgam
Thomas Porter, aged 72, born Hucknall Torkard
Ann Porter, aged 70, born Widmerpool, Nottingham
George W M Fisher, aged 17, born Sleaford, Lincoln
Of these two apprentices, William Green and George Fisher, I have been able to find details for Green in 1881:
19 Baslow Street, Beswick, Lancs.
William Green aged 26 born Hucknall Torkard - Saddler
Emma Green aged 26 born Manchester
This looks very much as though Green married Thomas Porter's daughter. The age and name agree, although it must be pointed out that the place of birth differs between the two records.
I have thus far been unable to find details for any of the characters above in the 1891 census. Whether William Green or George Fisher went to America and was the writer of the letter to Porter, we cannot know. It is obvious that Porter had other apprentices. The 1871 census describes him as employing two boys, but only one is listed, Green. Whether the writer of this letter was a former employee, and, if so, his identity, remain unknown.