Orsam Books

Gary the Clanger

In the sixth installment of 'Lord Orsam Says...,' I pointed out that I'd never seen Gary "the Clanger" Barnett challenge any of the nonsense written by Simon Wood, including his claim that the victims were not prostitutes (which he was very eager to challenge when Rubenhold said it), not expecting that on the very day it was published he would decide to foolishly nitpick a point in my own article in response to Simon Wood's book (Lord Orsam Blog thread on JTR Forums, #175).

The point that Gary the Clanger focused on was my response, in 'Reconstructing Jack', to Wood's discussion in the first and second editions of his 2015/6 book, 'Deconstructing Jack', about the 'Eye-witness' to a verbal assault on a man accused of being 'Leather Apron' who wrote a letter to the Star in early September 1888 saying that, while he was about to turn into Albert Street, a woman 'rushed across the street by Cohen's Sugar Refinery'.  Wood's inexplicable comment about this in the first (kindle) edition of book was that:

'...it should perhaps be noted that a large London sugar refiner of the time was Cowan & Sons, located at Barnes, West London.'

Evidently realizing that this sentence was somewhat opaque, and impossible for the reader to comprehend, he then amended it in the second (paperback) edition to provide at least some sort of explanation for what he was talking about, which was (addition underlined):

'...it should perhaps be noted that a large London sugar refiner of the time was Cowan & Sons, located at Barnes, West London, which sounds very similar.'

In 'Reconstructing Jack', on 23 March 2016, I asked:

'So did the eye-witness to the verbal assault on the man accused of being 'Leather Apron' confuse a refinery in Spitalfields with one across the other side of London, in Barnes?  Rather unlikely.'

That seemed like a fair question to me, and still does.

Wood must have thought so too because in response to 'Reconstructing Jack' (as I pointed in out in the follow-up, 'Re-Reconstructing Jack') he deleted from the third edition of his book any mention of the Cowan & Sons refinery in Barnes!!!!  Indeed, there is now no mention of the name 'Cowan' at all in his book.

So the point has been entirely abandoned. 

Yet, incredibly, this is the point on which Gary the Clanger, who is presumably unaware that Wood deleted it from his book, wants to attack me, despite the fact that I've been proved so right that Simon Wood himself no longer even stands by it!!  This is the point on which Gary the Clanger writes on JTR Forums 'Nice one, Simon', not apparently aware that Wood thinks it to have been such a disaster that he has entirely discarded it.

And that does need to sink it.  For Simon Wood to abandon and delete a point in his book, it REALLY, REALLY, does need to have been a bad one.

Now, Gary the Clanger thinks there could be an explanation.  He says that, in 'a discussion on the subject on Casebook',  to which he doesn't provide a link, Colonel Lewis Cowan had 'recently' taken over Dakin's refinery.   

Well the first thing to say about this is that, entirely unmentioned by Gary the Clanger, this information contradicts what Wood states in the first and second editions of his book.  For in that book we find Wood saying this:

'Up until 1st August 1871 the refinery was run by the partnership of Thomas Burns Dakin and James Bryant Jr.  After the partnership was dissolved the refinery remained under the sole ownership of Thomas Burns Dakin, whose name is recorded in the 1882, 1884 and 1888 Post Office Street Directories.'

It is at this point in his book that Wood mentions the existence of a Cowan & Sons sugar refinery in West London but says nothing about Colonel Cowan having taken over Dakin's sugar refinery.

So, if Gary the Clanger has achieved anything, it is finding another error based on a poor bit of research in Wood's book.  Nice one, Mr Clanger!!!

Now, in writing 'Reconstructing Jack' I was responding to Wood's 'Deconstructing Jack', not to a discussion on Casebook which I'd never seen (and which, it turns out, didn't even exist at the time I was writing it!).  Bearing in mind that Wood stated in his book that Dakin was the owner of the Deal Street sugar refinery in 1888 but, at the same time, pointed out that there was a sugar refinery in West London owned by Messrs Cowan and Sons without any further explanation, I think I had the perfect right to quite properly ask whether Wood was suggesting that the 'Eye-witness' confused a refinery in West London with one in East London, which is exactly what he appeared to be suggesting before abandoning the entire point.

I have now done some Googling and found what I assume is the thread Gary the Clanger is referring to entitled 'Martin Fido Discovery 2018'.  Buried in that thread, in a post dated 30 October 2018 (#144), we find that it was none other than Gary the Clanger himself who discovered and posted the information about Colonel Cowan having been the owner of the Deal Street sugar refinery as at December 1888 (not September 1888!).  Well, well, well, why was he being so coy on JTR Forums, referring to it only as 'discussions on the subject on Casebook'? 

Now, let's look at what his Clangership actually said: 

'His Lordship clumsily attempts to put a spoke in the wheel of Simon’s theory by pointing out that Cowan’s refinery was across London in Barnes. But If he had been following the discussions on the subject on Casebook (and he does seem to follow the boards avidly) he would have been aware that Col. Cowan had recently taken over Dakin’s refinery.'

But that's ridiculous. Firstly, I didn't point out that Cowan's refinery was across London in Barnes.  This is what Wood said himself in his book!  My point was that Simon's theory didn't make any sense (which it didn't, no doubt being the reason why he has excised it from his book).  Secondly, and more importantly, my article 'Reconstructing Jack' is clearly dated 23 March 2016.  What possible relevance could there be in a post dated 30 October 2018 - had I actually read the Clanger's post written more than two years after my article -  to what I wrote in March 2016, in response to what Wood said in his book published prior to that date?  While I do, of course, have great powers, the ability to read posts written in the future is not one of them. 

Simon Wood claimed to have done the research into Dakin's refinery.  He said that Dakin was the owner of the refinery in 1888.  Now, of course, it's absolutely the case that one should NEVER rely on Simon Wood's research.  And the Clanger seems to be saying that Wood got it wrong, although he hasn't actually proved that Cowan was the owner of the refinery in September 1888. 

So what's the Clanger theory about why the eye-witness referred to the refinery as 'Cohen's sugar refinery', not Cowan's sugar refinery?  Here it is, from his 2018 Casebook post:

'Perhaps there was a large sign stating 'Cowans' on the side of the building, but then the obviously educated author would surely have spelt it that way. Or perhaps Cowan had so recently taken over the business that the signage hadn't been changed and had misheard the new owner's name as Cohen.' 

Hmmmmnnn, perhaps this or perhaps that.  He doesn't seem certain.  On the evidence supplied, we don't even actually know that the refinery in Deal Street was EVER known as Cowan's sugar refinery, at any time in the history of the world, let alone whether it was known as such in September 1888.  It's just a guess.  Certainly it would have been odd for someone to have written 'Cohen' instead of 'Cowan' as a mistake if they knew the correct name.  Yes, it's quite possible that someone could hear the name 'Cowan' and think it's 'Cohen' - Colonel Cowan was, in fact, Jewish and his surname was a variant of 'Cohen' - and, had Gary the Clanger done his research properly, he would have discovered that Cowan's soap works at Hammersmith were sometimes mistakenly referred to in the press as 'Cohen's soap works'.  But is that what happened in respect of the Deal Street refinery?

It should be borne in mind is that 'Eye-witness' didn't actually place the sugar refinery in Deal Street.  He placed it in a road which turned into Albert Street. Deal Street didn't actually "turn" into Albert Street because it was a continuation of it, whereas Pelham Street, where the Schwartz sugar refinery was, did.

Now, it's very important to note that I didn't dismiss Wood's theory about the refinery being the one in Deal Street out of hand.  Not a bit of it.  On the contrary, I  said it was 'entirely possible'.  Gary the Clanger quotes me saying that but, as is his usual practice, in his commentary he ignores it, pretending I never said it.  By way of reminder, here is what I said in full in 2016:

'Close to the corner of Deal Street and Hanbury Street was Dakin's Sugar Refinery which might have been what the eye-witness wrongly referred to as 'Cohen's sugar refinery' for no apparent reason. This theory has the advantage of allowing for the possibility that Pizer's 'Church Street' was actually Hanbury Street and he thought of it by its old name, albeit that the name had changed 12 years earlier.  It's certainly possible but seems to have nothing more going for it (and arguably less) than my theory that the sugar refinery identified by the eye-witness was the one formerly owned by John Schwartz.'

If it is the case that, in September 1888, the refinery in Deal Street was owned by Colonel Cowan then it would certainly add some considerable weight to the theory that 'Eye-witness' was referring to that refinery but, in 2016, when I wrote my article, there was 'no apparent reason' given by Wood as to why 'Eye-witness' might have referred to it as 'Cohen's Sugar Refinery'.  That being so, my own suggestion that it might have been Schwartz's Sugar Refinery, due to them both being Jewish sounding names, seemed to be a better suggestion, or at least as good.

Not only that, but in the third and current edition of his book, presumably entirely unknown to Gary the Clanger, Wood now actually mentions the existence of John Schwartz's sugar refinery in Pelham Street!!!  This was in direct response to my drawing it to his attention in Reconstructing Jack.  Wood mentions it without comment (only noting that it ceased operations in 1887, as I had already noted in 'Reconstructing Jack' while adding that it still existed as a physical presence in September 1888) but he can really only have included it his book to indicate that he accepted that it was a possibility that this was the sugar refinery being referred to.  So not only did he abandon his point about the Barnes refinery but he moved towards the Schwartz theory, if only tentatively.

Interestingly, I see that in response to Gary the Clanger's post on 30 October 2018 about Colonel Cowan, Simon Wood posted (#147):

Hi MrBarnett,

Nice find.

A couple of years ago I posted about the Cowan/Cohen homophone and got unmercifully savaged by Lord Snooty.

Bryan Mawer of the Sugar Refiners and Sugarbakers database, citing the ‘Eye Witness’ report from the “Dundee Evening Telegraph,” 6th September 1888, told me, “I have to assume, therefore, that Mr. Cohen was probably the manager of the [Dakin’s] refinery, which at that time was on its last legs. Dakin put it up for sale in 1889.” 

Cowan was an unlucky chap. Prior to his 1888 fire, there was an explosion at his Barnes premises which killed a couple of workers.



A couple of important things to note there. 

Firstly, it's completely untrue that Wood 'posted about the Cowan/Cohen homophone' and got unmercifully savaged by me (assuming that I am the 'Lord Snooty' in question).  I mean, good grief, what planet does that guy live on?  I never responded to any post of his about the subject.  He can only be thinking of what I wrote in my article 'Reconstructing Jack' in response to what he said in his book.

And I didn't savage him about the 'Cowan/Cohen homophone'.  What I savaged him for was the bald suggestion that the existence of a refinery in Barnes, in West London, called Cowan & Sons, explained, on its own, why the 'Eye-witness' in Spitalfields referred to a refinery near Albert Street as 'Cohen's sugar refinery'.  Wood didn't give any kind of reason as to why the 'Eye-witness' was calling it 'Cohen's sugar refinery', and everyone agrees that there was no such refinery in the whole of the East End.  The reader was left to assume it was because the two names sounded similar despite being in totally different parts of London. And because Wood doesn't appear to have had any knowledge of Lewis Cowan's apparent takeover of Dakin's refinery, that must, indeed, have been what he was saying.

So I wasn't savaging the notion of the homophone, as such, I was savaging the way that Wood drafted his book.  And Wood MUST have agreed with me, hence the removal of the relevant passage from his next edition!

This leads on to the second important thing which is that Wood, in his usual utter confusion, omitted to mention in his post that he amended his book in response to my article and removed any mention of Cowan & Sons from the third edition of his book published in June 2017 which was the current edition of his book as at the time he wrote his post in October 2018 and which remains the current edition as at time of writing. 

The third important thing - totally unmentioned by Clanger Man in his JTR Forums post - is that Wood was saying (as he does in the third edition of his book) that he had contacted the person running the Sugar Refiners and Sugarbakers database who told him not only that it was likely that a Mr Cohen was the manager of Dakin's refinery (which Mr Clanger must regard as a 'clanger' by the expert on sugar refineries) but that Dakin had put the refinery up for sale in 1889.  If Mawer's information that the sale of the refinery didn't occur until 1889 had some basis in documentary fact, it would suggest that, when Mr Alexander of the SW Bethnal Green Conservative Club stated in December 1888 that Cowan had only 'recently' purchased Dakin's sugar refinery, some form of contract had only been signed within the past few days or weeks, with the transaction actually being recorded as having taken place in 1889, thus making it questionable as to whether anyone would have referred to Dakin's refinery as 'Cowan's refinery' in early September 1888, if Cowan didn't actually own it at that time.

But the factual position is even more complicated than this.  Had the transaction even completed as at December 1888?  There seems to be some reason to doubt it. For how does Gary the Clanger explain this advertisement that appeared in newspapers in April and May 1889?


As can be clearly seen, Dakin's sugar refinery, described here as 'a Valuable Freehold Sugar Refinery in full working order, Hanbury Street, Whitechapel, capable of turning out 600 tons of sugar weekly' was being offered for sale on the instructions of the trustees of the estate of T.B. Dakin.  How could Cowan have acquired it in either September or December 1888 if it was being offered for sale by the trustees of Dakin's estate in April 1889?  There is no indication in the advertisement that there is an existing tenant in the freehold property who will be providing the new owner with an income for doing nothing and, on the contrary, it states that possession will be given on completion of purchase, suggesting that it was an empty building at the time.

When we look in the 1891 Kelly's Post Office Directory we find no support for Cowan's ownership of the Deal Street refinery:


What we see in the entry for Lewis Cowan & Sons Limited (that limited company having been formed in 1890) is that their works were in Barnes (the sugar refinery having been rebuilt after the April 1888 fire), with salesrooms in the city, including Mincing Lane.

This 1899 biog of Lewis Cowan's son from The Freemason refers to 'the firm of Messrs L. Cowan and Sons, soap maker and sugar refiners, of Hammersmith and Mincing Lane' showing no obvious connection of the company to Deal Street or Spitalfields.


If Dakin still owned the refinery in September 1888 then the Cowan/Cohen homophone is nothing more than an odd coincidence which, I would suggest, puts my tentative suggestion about the confusion of two Jewish sounding names right back on the table.  But that's not even the important point here.  Who really cares which of the two refineries it was?   The point of my article was that Wood had messed up the explanation in his book of why he mentioned the existence of Cowan & Sons in Barnes which made absolutely no sense to the reader.  The point was a valid one.  It still stands.  And Wood obviously agreed with me, hence his removal of any mention of Cowan & Sons from his next edition.  The fact that Gary the Clanger doesn't understand that is his problem.

Lord Orsam
27 March 2020 

Appendix 1

In the Fido thread on Casebook to which Gary the Clanger has drawn my attention, I see that Simon Wood posted in #88 of that thread:

'The 'Eye Witness' letter and the Pizer incident near the sugar refinery in Church Street are discussed in my book, Deconstructing Jack.'

In response, Gary the Clanger wrote:

'Do you point out that there was no sugar refinery and no Church Street? Nor was there an Albert Street.'

Oopsie!  How then, I wonder, does he explain this, from the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette of 2 November 1888?


Oh dear Gary the Clanger, it's not going well for you is it?  For this press report refers to the opening of the King Edward Institute 'situated in Albert Street, Spitalfields'.  The very street which Gary Barnett tells us in #90 had been 'renamed Deal Street by at least 1873'.  Boy those Victorians were cunning. Building a brand new institute in a street which didn't exist!!!


According to the more sensible Joshua Rogan, who subsequently posted in the Casebook thread (at #91):'Only the lower section of Albert Street had been renamed Deal St at this time, between Hanbury and Pelham St, which ran parallel'.

How much humiliation can one person take?  You almost feel sorry for the pampered twat known as Gary the Clanger don't you?  Almost, but not quite.

The Clanger tried to recover his ground by saying,

'The Schwartz refinery had closed by Aug, 1887, and is shown as a tenement on the 1888 electoral register, compiled later that year. So all Eyewitness's geographical references are anachronistic.'

The thing is, I was aware that the Schwartz refinery closed in 1887 but as I said in Reconstructing Jack in 2016:

'While Albert Street did not turn into Church Street, it did turn into Pelham Street (which was in Spitalfields) where one could find Schwartz's sugar refinery (which had closed in June 1887 but the building still existed, see e.g. the advert in the Times of 18 July 1891 referring to an 'Important Sale of the Plant and Machinery of Messrs Schwartz's Sugar Refinery, Pelham-street, Brick-lane, Spitalfields.').

For that reason, one can well imagine the building sitting there closed and empty but with the sign saying 'Schwartz's Sugar Refinery' on the outside for years so that people still referred to it as such.  It's wouldn't have been anachronistic to do so!!  

Important to remember that the Simon Wood theory (and by association, now the Gary the Clanger theory) is that 'Eye-witness' did confuse to things.  Hence, Wood says of 'Eye-witness' (#93) that, 'he muddled up his streets. He was about to turn from Hanbury Street into Deal Street—not Albert Street—by “Cohen’s" sugar refinery'.

It's also important to remember, though, that 'Eye-witness' says nothing about Hanbury Street (or Church Street as it was formerly called).  He just said in his letter that he 'was just about to turn into Albert Street, by Cohen's sugar refinery'.  So he could easily have been in Pelham Street which had a turn into Albert Street.  Wood thinks he must have been turning from Hanbury Street because there is a separate mention of the verbal assault on Pizer having taken place in Church Street.  That's fine, and a perfectly reasonable point which, as I said in my 2016 article,'has the advantage of allowing for the possibility that Pizer's 'Church Street' was actually Hanbury Street and he thought of it by its old name, albeit that the name had changed 12 years earlier'.  But if Pizer's 'Church Street' was a street that he had wrongly named, that puts us back into the possibility that 'Eye-witness' was correct about Albert Street and only muddled up his Jewish names.  

Clanger can pooh pooh the notion as much as he wants to but, in the absence of any proof that Cowan owned Dakin's refinery in September 1888, or that anyone called or thought of that refinery as Cowan's refinery at that point in time, the Schwartz theory cannot be entirely dismissed however much the Clanger would like to do so simply because I put it forward.  

Appendix 2

Amused to see that, in #98 of the Fido thread, after having posted in #90 that 'Eye-witness' had written about Church Street, Gary the Clanger posted in #98:

'I have to hold my hand up to not checking my records before posting here. It was Pizer himself who referred to the lower part of Hanbury Street as Church Street.'

It's funny that, 'coz I distinctly remember that, when I corrected a minor mistake in one of my posts on the Casebook forum (about the number of forensic document examiners who had examined the Maybrick Diary), the very same Gary the Clanger jumped down my throat to say that the fact that I had made this small mistake, which I then noticed and corrected myself, undermined everything else I had ever written on the subject of the Maybrick Diary!!!  And here we have him correcting a small mistake he had made. But when he does it, it's perfectly fine.  Funny that.  Pampered twat.


The only positive thing I will say about Gary the Clanger's post is that, while written under cover of a personal attack, at least he was essentially responding to the facts and arguments in my article 'Reconstructing Jack' even though he was attempting to cherry pick one single small point in the whole article while ignoring all the many bigger and more important points relating to Simon Wood's book, even in the context of the Pizer incident.  But I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies.

Also, I saw that in the Fido thread there was, lo and behold, some limited attempt by the Clangermeister to question Simon Wood which was somewhat of a miracle but, once again, with nothing like the venom and energy with which he has attacked, and continues to attack, Hallie Rubenhold.  Why is that?