The Whistlecrafts of Rickinghall were known as a notorious family of poachers — their court appearances ran into the two hundreds.
The family operated in the late 19th and early 20th Century and George Ruffels, later to be known as Joe Whistlecraft, is still well remembered today, serving more than 20 years in prison, including three stints in Dartmoor.
The family’s crimes ranged from the most trivial, up to murder. In 1930, Whistlecraft was acquitted at the Suffolk Assize, having been accused of killing a gamekeeper in Burgate.
And their ‘true story’ is now being told, thanks to a Stowmarket author who penned more than 20 local history books.
Pip Wright, a retired primary school teacher, now writes on local history and gives talks to groups of all kinds and all ages across East Anglia.
Whistlecraft: The true story of the poachers in Rickinghall, is a novel told from the viewpoint of Joe Whistlecraft. He died in 1960, and the book begins in 1959, with him looking back at his long life.
When you read a lot of newspapers, and you see the same name crop up again and again and again, you think ‘I need to know more about thisPip Wright, author
Mr Wright said he predominately used old copies of the Diss Express in his research for the book, which was released about a week ago.
“I have written quite a few local history books and have used newspapers a great deal,” he explained. “When you read a lot of newspapers, and you see the same name crop up again and again and again, you think ‘I need to know more about this.’
“I have got two files of court appearance reports, two thick files.
“The funny thing is, I expected people to say they were a dead rough lot, but from people that remember them, they quite liked them. They could get a bit rough after a few drinks, and that was not unusual, but in spite of that there plenty of people around who had reasonable words to say about them.
“I was fascinated for years about it, and the picture used on the front of the book (of Joe Whistlecraft) is hanging up in The Greyhound in Botesdale, so it was almost like he is a local celebrity.”
n Whistlecraft: The true story of the poachers of Rickinghall, published by Pawprint Publishing, is available from a number of shops and outlets, including the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket, or online at www.pipwright.com