Peaky Blinders is based on a true story – but was Tommy Shelby a real person?


PEAKY Blinders is back for a fifth series TONIGHT (August 25, 2019) and viewers will once again be transported to the grimy streets of post-war Birmingham.

The show’s gangsters were based on an urban youth gang in the West Midland city in the late 19th century, but was the show’s lead character Tommy Shelby a real person?


Cillian Murphy’s character Thomas Shelby is a work of fiction[/caption]

Was Tommy Shelby a real person?

None of the names of people previously reported to have been in the real Peaky Blinders‘ heyday have Shelby as a surname.

Cillian Murphy’s character Thomas Shelby may have been a work of fiction, but the real gang’s antics were just as dramatic, violent and dark as the show makes out.

And Billy Kimber, a character in the show’s first season, was the name of an actual gangster from Birmingham.

Professor Carl Chinn, a Birmingham-based historian who began researching these infamous Brummie gangs back in the 1980s and has written a book called The Real Peaky Blinders, is pleased the programme has brought his beloved hometown into the spotlight.

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The cast of the TV show Peaky Blinders – based on real Birmingham gangs[/caption]

He said: “It’s really interesting to look back at the mythologized version of the story and the reality.

“There was no real Tommy Shelby and the Peaky Blinders were around in the 1890s and yet the series is set in the 1920s.

Who did Cillian Murphy base his Peaky Blinders character on?

Professor Chinn’s findings suggest the Peaky Blinders were followed by a large pre-war gang called the Brummagem Boys – a “loose collection of pick-pockets, racecourse thieves and pests who were gaining a lot of power”.

By the 1920s, a group called The Birmingham Gang emerged – many members of which were from the Brummagem Boys.

SWNS:South West News Service

The gang called the Peaky Blinders who operated in Birmingham in the early 1900s. Pictured from left to right are Henry Fowler, Ernest Bayles, Stephen McHickie and Thomas Gilbert (two pictures of him – one with cap, one without)[/caption]

It is much debated as whether the Peaky Blinders were a single gang or a term that referred to a number of violent youths.

They went on to become the most feared and notorious gangs in the country – led by Billy Kimber, a character in the show’s first season.

Philip Gooderson, author of The Gangs of Birmingham, states that the Peaky Blinders originated as one gang but the term later became generic.


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