11th September, No Comments
By John Watson
I first encountered them in A Study in Scarlet as six dirty little scoundrels who stood in a line like so many dispreputable statuettes. Their chief was the energetic and inventive Wiggins. Holmes explained to me that there was more work to be got out one of these little beggars than a dozen of the police force.
The mere sight of an official looking person seals men’s lips. These youngsters went everywhere, however, and heard everything. They were as sharp as needles too and all they wanted was organisation.
Holmes paid them a shilling (five new pence, I understand, in current coinage) plus expenses with a guinea (one pound and one shilling in old money and therefore 105p in new money) bonus to the one who found the object of their search.
Holmes used the Irregulars to hunt down the cab driven by Jefferson Hope in A Study In Scarlet, to find the ship Aurora in The Sign of Four, and to watch over Henry Wood at Aldershot in The Crooked Man.
I note that the Irregulars have appeared in a number of interesting films and productions, including Without A Clue (1990) where they took delight in tormenting the incompetent Holmes played by Michael Caine. The various portayals of Holmes and myself will be the subject of a future discussion – there are few that I could say I approve of!
Most recently they appeared in a television production, Sherlock Holmes & The Baker Street Irregulars, where their sharp wits saved Holmes from an accusation of murder and helped to foil an audacious robbery while rescuing members of their own gang. Jonathan Pryce played Holmes and I was pleased to see a relatively acceptable portrayal of myself by Bill Paterson.
They also appeared in the The Baker Street Boys, a series of eight 30 minute episode broadcast by the BBC in 1983. They were released on video in 1985 but have since been deleted from the BBC catalogue.
The Baker Street Irregulars are also the name of an organisation of Holmes enthusiasts founded in 1934 by Christopher Morley who publish the Baker Street Journal. Although subscriptions to the journal are available membership is by invitation only and to those who have made a significant contribution to the Sherlockian world (as the Americans prefer to call it). Their members have included US Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S Truman who maintained quarters for the Secret Service labelled “The Baker Street Urchins” on a map of what is now known as Camp David.
Winston Churchill’s Special Operations Executive, tasked by him to “set Europe ablaze” during the Second World were often referred to as the Baker Street Irregulars.