Simon Howley, a West Hampstead film maker, has spent two years producing a new documentary about the Great Train Robbery.
A Tale of Two Thieves features interview footage with one of the last surviving gang members, Douglas Gordon Goody, now 85 years old and living in Spain. He reminisces about the notorious 1963 robbery that shocked the nation. More than £2.6 million was stolen (the equivalent of almost £50 million today), and the train driver was badly beaten.
Simon, who has lived in West Hampstead for 20 years, travelled regularly to Spain during the production of the film to meet Goody and gradually built up a relationship with him. It wasn’t the original plan. “We set out to make a TV series about a rock legend, which never happened, but through our meeting with his management team we were introduced to Gordon Goody.”
Through meetings with Goody, the truth behind another kind of legend was uncovered – the identity of the man known only as “The Ulsterman”, the insider who passed vital information to the rest of the gang that enabled them to carry out the robbery. Goody broke a 50-year silence to name The Ulsterman as postal worker Patrick McKenna. The film production team hired a private detective to track down and identify the man in an attempt to piece together the missing elements of the story. It turned out McKenna had died some years earlier.
Simon says he and his team were not initially drawn to the project, thinking that the Great Train Robbery had been covered so many times that it was “old hat”; but upon meeting Goody “we realised that there was actually lots of life left in the story and a very strong new angle – first naming and then finding the mysterious insider.”
The film’s UK release was last Friday. No local screenings are slated as yet, but the documentary is available to buy on DVD from Amazon, or look out for it when it airs on TV in the new year.