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That Part Beyond the Tower by Nigel Roth

In 1910, just as Marconi’s wireless telegraph caught Dr Hawley Crippen from fleeing England for The United States, a man called Nathan was born in London, England.

His great-grandfather was a barber, in the mode of Sweeney Todd, but without (as far as I know) the throat-cutting bit, who arrived on the shores of the Thames in 1815, from the clutches of the rampaging Russian Empire. He cut a dashing figure whenever someone with a dashing figure came into the shop looking for a shave.

Anyway, he made a life for himself and his family in the East End of London, along the Mile End Road in an area known as Globe Town, in-between the schmutter shops and the delicatessens, several generations before the millions arrived at the tail end of the century, after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, and the economic hardships and persecutions that inevitably follow.

At some point in time he and his wife had a son, and they began to weave a life in the East End, which itself evolved from Middle Ages boundaries, until it was officially named, though never precisely mapped, by the English clergyman and historian John Strype in his 1720 Survey of London, where he counts four distinct areas of the half-million population city as ‘the City of London, Westminster, Southwark’, and, rather Peakesquely, ‘that Part beyond the Tower’.

That part beyond the Tower, bounded maybe by the River Lea on one side, or the Aldgate Pump on another, or the Roman walls of the City of London on yet another, became built up and more crowded, and progress looked like progress at the time, as it always does.

That son was also a barber, as was his son, Maurice, and so began an easily-forgettable dynasty of a couple of generations of lopping locks and telling tall tales.

Eventually, when there were no more bad jokes to make while holding a cut-throat razor and a tickly brush, Nathan committed Barbicide by arguing too vehemently with his father and rejecting his manifest destiny, and left England for Chicago, where he became an instant citizen, to proudly walked the pavements of possibility until he’d ingratiated himself enough to be recognized by, and maybe even welcomed into the heart of, the Chicago Outfit.