A man of many professions – phrenologist, antique dealer and bookseller – his name was due to the iron frame which made up for the shortage of six inches in his leg. He enhanced this defect by making his appearance even more bizarre with colourful silk scarves which were pinned together with an old cameo which he tried to sell whenever an unsuspecting stranger was persuaded to admire it. The effect was completed with an opera cloak and a silver-knobbed cane.
Ironfoot Jack told me that when he found some cheap, almost derelict premises in Greek Street, he became a restaurateur. The electricity was cut off so, in Fagin’s wake, he persuaded his ‘boys’ to filch some paraffin lamps from the nearest night watchman’s hut which gave the restaurant an interesting atmosphere. When a customer arrived, he flourished an enormous menu in French with all the dishes crossed out except for ‘poisson et pommes frites’, and if anyone commented on such a strange discrepancy he explained that this was due to a sick chef, though he eulogised about the ‘poisson’. When this was ordered, he shouted to a non-existent kitchen at the back where a boy waited until he heard the cry and sprinted up the road to the nearest fish and chip shop, returning with a paper bag which was emptied on to a plate, served majestically by Ironfoot Jack himself.
The restaurant lasted for only a few weeks and he turned to fortune-telling instead.
– Daniel Farson on Ironfoot Jack, self-proclaimed ‘King of the Bohemians’, in Soho in the Fifties