Nighttime in the ‘Days of Plague’- extract from ‘The Hounding of David Oluwale’

Leeds Promotional Campaign, 1969

“Strange sights in these ‘Long Hours’. Another Milgarth bobby told me he had this tea spot near the  Queen’s Hotel. It must have been about 2.00am, deserted, when out from the gloom came Jimmy Savile, orange-dyed hair, walking determinedly across City Square until he came up to the statue of the Black Prince, stopped, had a long look up at him, walked on; the very next night, same time and place, he appeared again, his hair green; night after that, tartan.

Another remembered a sight like a nightmare. He was patrolling Lower Briggate with his mate PC Kennedy when they heard this rising din of scrabbling and squeaking coming from the direction of Boar Lane. PC Kennedy recognised the sound and pulled him into the first raised doorway, and just as he did, this seething torrent of rats came round the corner. There were hundreds of thousands of them, moving fast; the whole road filled with a writhing dark mass, determined yellow eyes, scrambling over each other. They were fixed in that doorway like Lot’s wife; didn’t dare breathe. Could have been completely overrun by them. His mate put it down to the ancient sewers collapsing near Trinity Church. ‘It was like something from the days of Plague’ he told me. Seemed to take an age to pass as they made their demented rush down to the River Aire.”

 

From Kester Aspden’s The Hounding Of David Oluwale (Vintage, 2007), which I’m reading at the moment. I’m mulling over whether to write a longer piece about the book (specifically connecting it to a broader set of writing on police work in the North from the 60s through to the 80s), which for those who don’t know, examines the social, political, and cultural context of the 1969 killing of David Oluwale, a Nigerian-born immigrant living homeless in Leeds – an act in which two Police officers were heavily implicated. This short passage this is from popped out; in 2014 there’s something skincrawling in the juxtaposition between Savile (one must now dread to think where had he been, or where was he going, and what strange communion was he after with the statue) the rats, and the police officers on the late shift.