WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE GROW­ING UP WITH A REAL EAST END CRIM­I­NAL FOR A FA­THER

Sunday Sport - - NEWS -

AS a kid, Ryan Simms knew his fa­ther was a crim­i­nal – he had no choice, his dad spent much of his life in and out of prison.

But it was only as he got older that Ryan re­alised just how deeply in­volved his old man was with life on the wrong side of the law. Shock­ingly, he was to learn that his dad was in fact a MASS KILLER. Now Ryan has writ­ten, and is star­ring in, a play about his fa­ther – Danny ‘ Skinny Danny’ O’Hal­lo­ran – a proper East End vil­lain who plied his trade dur­ing the time of The Krays in a bru­tal world of crime and vi­o­lence.

In the play – Prairie Flower – Ryan stars as his dad and re­counts the ter­ri­fy­ing tales he heard while grow­ing up.

And as a taster, Ryan has agreed to re­veal some of the more shock­ing se­crets to Sun­day Sport.

He said: “When I was re­ally young, Dad would hide what he was.

“I re­mem­ber go­ing to visit him for the first time inside.

“It’s one of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries. He said to me, ‘ See that wall over there,’ point­ing at the prison wall, ‘ We’re all in here build­ing that’.

“Later, my mum would say he’d go away for work. But when I was older Dad sat me down and told me what he was all about.

“I still wasn’t clear how much of a big name he was un­til I got older.

“Then I started go­ing to pubs. I would walk in and peo­ple would be say­ing, ‘ Get that boy a drink’. And tell me my dad was ‘ a proper man’.

“They treated me like a prince be­cause they wanted to get on my dad’s good side.

“They didn’t mean any of it. They just didn’t want a bul­let in the head.

“They knew he was a vil­lain and didn’t want to up­set him.”

But Skinny Danny had no truck with arse lick­ers. He was an old- fash­ioned gen­tle­man who thought you should be nice to ev­ery­one – un­less they crossed you.

Ryan added: “Dad al­ways drummed it into me, ‘ Man­ners don’t cost a thing, boy’. He wasn’t in­ter­ested in show­ing off or be­ing a big man.

“He was nice and po­lite to ev­ery­one. He was a gent.

“The whole point of be­ing a crim­i­nal like him was to stay hid­den.

“He was around at the same time as The Krays but he be­lieved that be­ing so pub­lic and fa­mous as them was just crazy.

“He was try­ing to pro­vide for his fam­ily the best way he knew how. And that meant be­ing a vil­lain who wasn’t on the po­lice radar.”

But de­spite all the vi­o­lence and killings, Ryan’s dad was no in­dis­crim­i­nate thug.

He fol­lowed a strict code that he would never, ever break – even if that meant spend­ing time in jail.

Ryan re­vealed: “When my dad stole money he wasn’t steal­ing from peo­ple in the street.

“He was a bank rob­ber. He didn’t hurt the lit­tle man.

“When he knocked off a bank he’d say, ‘ Ev­ery­one still gets their wages. There’s no- one get­ting hurt’. That was the code he lived by. He called peo­ple who weren’t in the life ‘ straight­go­ers’ and they were to­tally safe.

“The code meant they were left alone. He would never hurt or kill a straight­goer.

“But the code had a dark side, too.

“Dad put it be­fore ev­ery­thing – in­clud­ing his fam­ily.

“Be­cause it meant that no mat­ter what, you never grassed on any­one. So if he ended up get­ting ar­rested and ques­tioned he’d rather die than grass on some­one.

“That was why he spent more than half the time I was grow­ing up in prison. He had to stand by the code.

“He ended up with 14 con­vic­tions, in­clud­ing armed rob­bery, but he never said a word.

“Go­ing to jail was just part of the job.

“It wasn’t easy. The fam­ily would go from him earn­ing Premier League wages to noth­ing.

“Other vil­lains would help us out but it was pretty hard.

“The code also meant that when some­one broke it and did grass they had to be dealt with.

“Dad killed peo­ple. But to him, mur­der was a ne­ces­sity.

“He didn’t kill be­cause he was evil – he did it for a rea­son.

“In his head, ev­ery time he killed, it was for a good rea­son.

“When I was in my early 20s I asked him, ‘ How many have you done, Dad?

“He held up his hand and the thumb on his other hand. Six.’

“‘ It’s only the first that’s the hard one,’ he said. ‘ Af­ter that it be­comes eas­ier’.

“He said it didn’t bother him but I think it was in his head. He

Ryan said: “He was a dad first, vil­lain af­ter, and he knew it was no life for us to fol­low.

“He made sure we stayed in school and got straight jobs.”

But af­ter years of be­ing mis­er­able do­ing office jobs and when his dad died in 2005 he de­cided on a com­plete change of di­rec­tion – and signed up for act­ing school.

It was while he was there Ryan de­cided to write a play about his fa­ther’s life.

And the re­sult of that is Prairie Flower, which starts on Septem­ber 12 at the Up­stairs at the Gate­house, High­gate Vil­lage, north Lon­don, N6 4BD.

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