Was Tommy Shelby real and who is Cillian Murphy's character in Peaky Blinders based on?

PEAKY Blinders is back for a fourth series, and viewers are once again transported to the grimy streets of post-war Birmingham.

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

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.

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.

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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