The Baker Street Irregulars
are any of several different groups, all named after the original, from various Sherlock Holmes
The original irregulars were a group of fictional characters
featured in the Sherlock Holmes
stories. They were a group of street urchins
who helped Holmes out from time to time. The head of the group was called Wiggins
. Holmes paid them a shilling
a day (plus expenses), with a guinea
prize (worth one pound
and one shilling) for a vital clue. They first appeared in Sherlock Holmes' first novel, A Study In Scarlet
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive
(SOE), tasked by Winston Churchill
"set Europe ablaze"
during World War II
, had their headquarters at 64 Baker Street
and were often called "the Baker Street Irregulars" after Sherlock Holmes's fictional group of boys employed "to go everywhere, see everything and overhear everyone," as they spied about London.
It should be noted that U. S. presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S Truman maintained quarters for the Secret Service labeled "The Baker Street Urchins" on the map of Shangri-La (the presidential retreat now called Camp David).
The modern organization
The Baker Street Irregulars is also the name of an organization of Sherlock Holmes
enthusiasts founded in 1934 by Christopher Morley
. Members have included John Stevens Berry, Franklin Delano Roosevelt
, Harry S. Truman
, Rex Stout
, Banesh Hoffmann
, and Isaac Asimov
. They continue to convene every January in New York City
for an annual dinner, which forms part of a weekend of celebration and study involving other Sherlockian groups and individuals as well. The present leader of it is Michael Whelan
of Indianapolis, Indiana
The BSI, as it calls itself, is considered the preeminent Sherlockian group in the United States. There are also "scion societies" approved by the BSI in dozens of local communities. A list of these scions is maintained on Sherlocktron, a Sherlock Holmes website. Most scion societies welcome new members, but the BSI does not accept applications for membership -- instead, membership and the awarding of an "Irregular Shilling" comes as an honor to those who have made a name for themselves in local groups or in Sherlockian publications. The BSI has published The Baker Street Journal, an "irregular quarterly of Sherlockiana", since 1946.
Influence on other popular culture
- Dorothy L. Sayers's fictional sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey employs a similar organization in the 1920s and 1930s known as the "Cattery" a secretarial agency that sends women on undercover assignments. Like Holmes, Wimsey makes use of a class of persons who can go anywhere without being suspected - in the case of post-World War I Britain, unmarried or widowed women between the ages of 20 and 60.
- Robert A. Heinlein picked up the idea in his novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Those irregulars carried out similar surveillance in the run-up to a revolution, working for a computer named Mycroft, named after Sherlock Holmes' smarter older brother.
- A 21 year-old Sherlock Holmes is inspired to use street urchins to form the Baker Street irregulars during an incident found in Enter the Lion: a Posthumous Memoir of Mycroft Holmes, a manuscript "edited" by Michael P. Hodel and Sean M. Wright (1979).
- The irregulars appear in the animated series Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, though these are teenagers, and presumably older than the ones of the Doyle canon. As in the stories, the unofficial leader is named Wiggins, an aspiring pugilist and soccer player. Holmes practically deduces his entire life story simply by noting his walk and the stains on his clothes during their first meeting. A self-styled cockney girl and a parapalegic computer nerd form the other members of the group.
- The irregulars also appear as the main characters in Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars: The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas, a 2006 novel by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin. Wiggins is again the leader of a gang of street urchins. Other major characters include Ozzie, a scrivener's apprentice; Rohan, an Indian boy; Elliot, from an Irish tailor's family; Pilar, a Gypsy girl; and little Alfie. The Irregulars help solve the mysterious deaths of three tightrope walkers at a circus.
- Two BBC television series have been made starring the irregulars: The Baker Street Boys (1983) and Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars (2007).
- In Justin Richards' Invisible Detective books, Art, Jonny, Meg and Flinch act as the Baker Street irregulars to private detective Brandon Lake, whom they made up to use as a cover for their own crime fighting egos, since nobody's going to trust four kids to solve mysteries.