Crowds flocked to Folylake sea front on Sunday to see Liverpool comedian Ken Dodd unveil the North West’s latest tourist attraction and photo opportunity: a statue of one of Wickle’s most famous sons, the hangman Jim ‘Trapdoor’ Travers.
The bronze sculpture depicts the executioner inspecting the knot on his favourite noose “Ol’ Chokey”. Jim’s ‘other job’ was as a milkman; and to reflect this there is a crate of milk bottles at his feet, ready to be delivered to his loyal customers.
Various plaques at the base of the statue feature many of the catchphrases he would say to his long serving apprentice Malcolm Short, such as: ‘We’ll need to take a couple of feet off the rope for this one Malc; he’s a biggun,’ and ‘I call dibs on his shoes.’ The plaques also display the names and dates of execution of his most infamous ‘customers’, like killer postman Bert Teasdale, and the female Nazi war criminal Adel ‘The Bitch of Belsen’ Kohl.
Before the trapdoor utilising ‘long drop’ technique became ubiquitous, Jim was well known for innovative ways practicing the ‘short drop’ method. One of his favourites would be to stand the prisoner at the top of a step ladder, and then deliver the coup de grace by driving his electric milk float into it. This practice proved controversial in some quarters though, as he would often begin his approach from over quarter of a mile away, whistling ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ as he went.
Now in his eighties himself, Jim’s would-be successor Malcolm Short fondly recalls his time on the job with Britain’s most prolific hangman. ‘Jim was always game for a laugh,’ he told reporters. ‘He was a keen practical joker and had a fantastic sense of humour. It’s a side of him the public rarely saw.
‘One time, Jim replaced the rope with a noose he’d made out of about two thousand elastic bands. It took him weeks to plat them all together. No soon as the prisoner went through the floor, ‘BOING!’ he came straight back up again. He was going up and down like that for ages. Jim finished him of by whacking him on the head with a golf club as he came up through the hole in the end. It was starting to get a bit tedious after half an hour to be honest, but we fell about laughing there for a while. It was lucky we had the clubs with us. We’d planned on going for a quick nine holes after the job.’
The statue marks the 35th anniversary of Jim Travers’ death, and will ensure that Britain’s most famous hangman is remembered for many decades to come.