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Len Doherty


Guest Old Canny Street Kid

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Guest Old Canny Street Kid

Len Doherty was a well-known Shefield journalist with The Star some 20 or so years ago, and he was also an outstanding novelist. The best of his novels was The Good Lion. In fact, if he hadn't got so involved in journalism and had been able to concentrate of his novels, he might well have gone on to become one of Sheffield's literary giants --and that's no exaggeration. If you can find a copy of The Good Lion, it is well worth reading.

Len, a former miner, was a Bill Linacre 'discovery' in the 1950s (Linacre was then Star editor), and became a feature and leader writer on The Star. In his time he produced some brilliant articles and series on a wide range of subjects. He deserves to be remembered.

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hilldweller

Len Doherty was a well-known Shefield journalist with The Star some 20 or so years ago, and he was also an outstanding novelist. The best of his novels was The Good Lion. In fact, if he hadn't got so involved in journalism and had been able to concentrate of his novels, he might well have gone on to become one of Sheffield's literary giants --and that's no exaggeration. If you can find a copy of The Good Lion, it is well worth reading.

Len, a former miner, was a Bill Linacre 'discovery' in the 1950s (Linacre was then Star editor), and became a feature and leader writer on The Star. In his time he produced some brilliant articles and series on a wide range of subjects. He deserves to be remembered.

My father worked down the Nunnery pit and then Handsworth pit from being demobbed from the Navy after WW2 until about 1958.

I remember that he used to rant on whenever he saw a Len Doherty by-line in the Star. Apparently he had worked with him down the pit. He apparently used to call him "Downhill Doherty" because of some shortcoming in his mining technique. At that time the coal was all "won" by pick & shoval. I gained the impression that Len was a Bevin Boy, my father had a very poor opinion of the abilities of Bevin Boys.

hilldweller

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Guest henri

I was browsing to find a copy of "The good lion" and found the post by Old Canny Street Kid and Hilldweller's reply - posted two years ago - but thought if you are still participating in this history forum that I ought to add the following reply and questions:

(I still haven't found the book anywhere except in a bookshop in Australia and it's a bit expensive!)

Hilldwellers' father maybe didn't like Len Doherty because he was associated with the Communists, although critical of the way they went about things. And he supported the attempts to organise strikes for better conditions and wages. Another book to read of his, is "A Miner's sons". And "Weekend in Dinlock" with Clancy Sigal, the American author who fled McCarthyism in the 1950s. This latter is about a "Pitman painter" but has a very well-described account of what it is like to go down the pit, which kind of focused his (Sigal's) mind...

Perhaps in Doherty's case life follows fiction. In "Miner's sons", the miner contemplates suicide at one point but decides against it. I believe that Doherty actually did commit suicide. That may explain why he just disappears from history so undeservedly. He might well have been "bipolar" as they call it today or manic-depressive? Which could also explain the difficulty some may have had in getting on with him - but also his brilliance. I wish I knew more about him and was surprised to discover he wrote for the Sheffield Star? Is there any more information available? Is there an archive of this paper with his articles/column or whatever?

Yes, I agree, he deserves to be rediscovered and republished.

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hilldweller

I don't for one minute think that my father's animosity to Len was anything to do with politics. I think it was purely down to economics. I think most miners of that era would be very left wing.

Coal in those pits was all won by hand with pick and shovel. The men worked in teams and any shortcomings by any individual would result in lower bonus payments, hence lower wages and less to spend on beer, fags and the gee-gees.

If Len was a Bevin Boy he would have drawn the short straw in the National Service lottery and sent down the pit instead of serving in the armed forces.

For someone of a literary bent, this must have come as a shock, and perhaps his performance on the coal face wasn't up to the expectations of the more experienced miners.

His nick-name of Downhill Doherty perhaps gives a clue to his ability to keep an even level on the coal seam face.

I had an older cousin who had to serve as a Bevin Boy and big strong lad as he was, he found it very hard going.

HD

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frankbaldock

I was a reporter at The Star working with Len in the '60s. He was a great guy and proud of his coal-mining background. One of his books was The Man Beneath.

I think he was manic depressive and in turns brilliant and then incredibly melancholy and depressed.

Lonely in a way in the journalistic world and seeking salvation in too many pubs around the Star.

A real people person, he was sensitive and proud and talented. We'll all miss him.

Frank Baldock

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