Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rucksack 'n' Rifle of Wrexham

The provocatively named Rucksack 'n' Rifle was an army and navy type store in Wrexham that specialised in selling Survivalist products. No doubt, it was a handy outlet for those bearded north east Walians who like to stockpile weapons ready for when society collapses.

In the '80s it was run by anglo-Irishman Michael McLaughlin, a former head of the far-right British Movement. During his stint as the BM's boss (1975-83) he had been responsible for moving the organisation's HQ across the border into Wales to Shotton, Flintshire. How charming. He was also involved in the publishing of The Survivalist magazine.

McLaughlin set up Rucksack ‘n’ Rifle in 1983. The shop was located on Abbot Street. One of its catalogues proudly boasted that it had ‘the biggest display of knives in Britain’. Air rifles, cross-bows and slingshots were advertised. You could also get hold of warfare manuals and Better Dead than Red sweatshirts. Amazingly, punters could even purchase nuclear, biological and chemical warfare suits from him.

Naturally such an emporium raised a few eyebrows in the area. As did McLaughlin’s extremist political views. MPs called for tighter controls on licences for the sale of weaponry in such establishments. McLaughlin himself, though, was unperturbed. He told one local newspaper at the time: “It is a matter of particular annoyance to me that youngsters today don’t know one end of a gun from another. I would do all I can to encourage people to come and buy weapons. This is not a wimpish nation – it never has been.”

Rucksack ‘n’ Rifle no longer exists but one wonders whether there are still paranoid men hunkered down in underground bunkers in the Wrexham area waiting to emerge blinking into a post-apocalyptic dawn. I like to think so.