Tales Of A Rat Catcher (chasing fraudsters) – Reg Parkes – 31st March 2014.

What a humorous, fascinating talk! Reg was born and brought up in Dronfield where he got up to the usual tricks that boys do. At the age of 14 he joined the A.T.C. (the Air Training Corps) where immediately became smitten with flying and at the age of 16 he joined the RAF. When he was 18 he signed on as an air quartermaster, which took him to many parts of the world.

He was shot at in Cyprus and whilst in Ceylon he and many more members of the RAF were co opted as extras to play the part of prisoners in the filming of ‘The Bridge Over The River Kwai, in which William Holden played a starring roll. Apparently when the film crew arrived with the cast, William Holden’s wife was very upset because she had lost her luggage, and had to wear unflattering clothes: which being an actress it didn’t go down very well.  Her personal ‘Go-for’ approached Reg and asked him if he could help in his capacity as quartermaster. Reg went into the hanger  and found a very large case addressed to Mrs A. Beedle. He immediately realized that it was her case, because William Holden’s real name was Beedle, and gave it to the ‘Go-for’, who wanted to reward him. However Reg explained that it was his job and he couldn’t accept anything.

Towards the end of the 6 weeks filming period, a dance was arranged and during the evening there was a ‘ladies excuse’ dance. At this point the actress, Brenda Marshal, alias Mrs Beedle, William Holden’s wife asked Reg for a dance, much to the surprise of the officers.

Reg met his wife, whilst home on leave, at the Nether Edge Dance Hall and decided to leave the RAF and find a job in Sheffield. He started work at the West Street Employment Office, where he eventually got the job of detecting social security fraudsters, a job which he kept for thirty years. He related many stories of fraud, including one lady who collected her money on a Wednesday at 9:00 am instead of 3:00 pm, when she should have done, and then walked straight out of the building and drove off in a large American car. She did this for a period of six months until he caught her running her own massage parlor behind the Washington pub at Nether Edge. Two days before going to court she paid a cheque in for £6,600, which was the money she had illegally claimed.

On another occasion he caught several men collecting dole money on various days of the week who then, for the rest of the week, sold ice cream for a local company. It turned out that they were being subcontracted to the company by a small time crook, who was also prosecuted. On a similar occasion he caught a group of men working for Barrett Homes on a subcontract basis.

Reg became very successful and formed an arrangement with the police where they provided him with vehicle registration information within minutes, and in return he told the police the addresses where the department was sending Gyro cheques to, of people they were wanting to detain. They gave him a code name to use so that the switchboard put him straight through to the right department. The code name was, “The Rat Catcher.”

Reg didn’t bring any props but kept us all fascinated by his stories, which he told with a liberal serving of Yorkshire humor.

I for one am looking forward to his return.