Letter to Old Boss, 133 years ago

On 29 October 1888 someone wrote a letter to Doctor Openshaw at the London Hospital. Earlier that month a kidney had been sent through the post to George Lusk, chairman of a vigilante committee, with a letter claiming to be from hell and Jack the Ripper. Openshaw’s professional opinion on the kidney was circulated in the press and then he received his own correspondence, signed by Jack, begining with the words, “Old Boss, you were rite.”

Thomas Horrocks Openshaw was born in Bury in 1856. He studied medicine at Durham University and, specialising in orthopaedic surgery, worked in London. As a military surgeon he was captured during the Boer War and became principal officer of a medical school in Pretoria. In later life he founded a convalescent hospital for amputees at Roehampton. He died in 1929.

It is extremely unlikely that the Openshaw letter was from Jack the Ripper. More relevant to historians and researchers of the period are Openshaw’s own papers, donated to the national archives. They provide a fasincating insight into a life that was briefly in the national spotlight in that terrible autumn of 1888.

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