Frederic Mullally and Sexy Socialism

So there I was on the perennial search for obscurity. In the world of old Television shows there is one that remains elusive. It is “Looking For Clancy” a five part series for the BBC starring Robert Powell. Apparently it is available here but I am somewhat nervous of the whole thing as this site has been around for a while and the material would surely have leaked elsewhere by now and of course it hasn’t.

The series was based on a book called Clancy written by Frederic Mullally

Mullally turns out be quite a character! Of Irish descent he rose from a working class London upbringing to be a newspaper editor in India at 19. He was a journalist up until the 1950s when he formed his Public Relations business. In 1949 he abandoned a prospective candidature of the Labour Party for the constituency of Finchley and Friern Barnet. He began writing novels in 1958 with his first hit, Danse Macabre and wrote many more along with some freelance journalism in his retirement.

Check out Mullally’s wedding reception picture from his days in public relations when he had names like Sinatra and Hepburn on his books. There are  three major players in postwar British Socialism present. Bevan’s wife Jenny Lee was the Scottish leftwing pioneer who introduced the Open University to British education. Herbert Morrison, then Deputy PM and standing to the left of  Mullally was grandfather to Peter Mandelson that dark practitioner of the Blair and Brown years of New Labour.

Reading into Mullally’s biography one can see elements that would be portrayed in the Clancy book and TV series.

“CLANCY, Frederic Mullally’s major novel to date is about a man and his city and the events that shaped this man’s life from childhood to middle-age. The city is London, which is to say that the city is as complex and evolving a ‘character’ in the story as the central character himself; for this is London, chronicled with love, from the ‘shingle’ of the twenties to the thigh- boots of the sixties, from the crystal set to ‘The Box’, from the General Strike to the Student Revolt.

The story of CLANCY is the saga of an Irish policeman’s son who makes an odyssey upwards through the English g class—structure and onwards through his own achievements, only to discover, with John Donne, that a man must ‘Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail’. He has drunk at every spring, plundered every orchard along the way. He has sinned and been sinned against, brushed shoulders with greatness and wallowed in the fens of an irrepressible sensuality. Finally, when the peaks he had aspired to are at eye-level all around him, a girl younger than his own daughter leads him to the chasm’s brink. What Clancy sees when he looks down is not the death—pit beckoning a social maverick but the broken corpse of the alter ego he has betrayed on the way up.

CLANCY is about politics, the Old Left and the New. lt is about journalism and the working-class and the bourgeoisie and young love and old lust and lrishism and family feuds and the catalyst and catastrophe of Vietnam. It is also about hope. lt is many stories in one. ‘To attempt a synopsis of it,’ the author warns, ‘is to try to squeeze a half—century into a quarter-column obituary. And Clancy lives!.”

His anti-fascism would reveal itself in “The Battle of Ridley Road” article he published where he was challenged to attend these rallies himself.  He was attacked and rescued by the Jewish 43 Group. This would lead him to write the book “Fascism Inside England”.

He also seemed to have the ear and also the measure of George Orwell and his socialism. Here he is quoted about his friend in a Washington Post article on the centenary of Orwell’s birth.  “A Seer’s Blind Spots”

“Novelist Frederic Mullally, now 85, met Orwell a few years later at the Tribune, the left-wing Labour Party weekly that Mullally co-edited. Orwell served as literary editor and wrote a short weekly column, “As I Please,” on politics, popular culture and anything else that struck his fancy, all for the princely sum of 10 pounds a week — less than a junior reporter made on a mediocre British daily in those days.

“George was a very complex person,” Mullally recalls. “He was ramrod-straight, never a smile. He wasn’t scowling, just solemn. He had a high-pitched voice, and an upper-class British accent with just a little cockney overtones that he introduced into it.

“He dressed working-class, an old sweater and shirts that had seen better days and a too-tight jacket. He rolled his own cigarettes. There was no emotion in his face at all. Nobody who I know — and this applied to me as well — ever got close to George. But the mind was working all the time.”

When World War II broke out, Orwell joined the Home Guard, but his lungs already were riddled with the pulmonary disease that would kill him a decade later and he was consigned to civilian life. He churned out 100 or more essays and small pieces a year, living with his wife, Eileen, in a series of shabby apartments across north London. Mullally recalls being invited around for a meal at 27B Canonbury Square in Islington — then a quasi-slum, now a model of urban gentrification. Orwell walked down four floors to the basement to get a load of coal and four floors up again. “I said, ‘George, surely you can afford to a pay a boy to do that?’ He couldn’t see it. It’d be exploiting the proletariat. He didn’t know what socialism was about. He was totally naive politically. He took himself out of the middle class, but he couldn’t take the middle class out of himself.”

He couldn’t quite remove the anti-Semitism as well. Mullally recalls complaining one day, when they were having pints at the pub near the Tribune offices, about the difficulties he was having turning German Jewish writer Ricky Loewenthal’s tortuous prose into readable English. “What do you expect,” Orwell replied, “with all these Middle European Jews practically running the paper’s politics?”

Mullally says he waited for the grin that would signal Orwell was joking. It never came.

He was also a writer who refused to be edited. “I’d been told by everyone: Never ever muck about with George’s copy, and I never did,” recalls Mullally. “I didn’t need to; it always came in perfectly. Even the commas.””

Mullally wrote and  helped produce a spoken word history recording on LP called  The Sounds Of Time featuring selections of spoken word taken from over two hundred hours of BBC Radio Recordings including Churchill, King George VI, Attlee, Montgomery, Nehru, Bevin, Hitler, HG Wells & many more.

He also was involved with writing a softporn satirical stip called “Oh Wicked Wanda” for Penthouse magazine in the 1970s.  While being exploitative fare and NSFW, some of the images are interesting in their use of a variety of oil, watercolour, poster paint and tempura by Ron Embleton, a veteran comic book artist,  who had worked extensively for TV Century 21 comic, illustrating stories based on the television programmes Stingray, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, amongst others.

Much of this article has been taken from the Frederic Mullally website created by his son Micheal Mullaly to whom All Rights are reserved.


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