Paul Graney’s Memories of Lost Early Drafts of the Play of Love on the Dole (Tapes 1960s? / One Bloke, 2011)

Paul Graney (1908-1982) was clearly an important Manchester character – an activist in the thirties and forties, and a working-class collector of folksongs and histories from the nineteen-twenties until the nineteen-eighties (see: Once they became more readily available in the nineteen-sixties, Graney became an obsessive user first of reel-to-reel tape recorders and then of cassette recorders, through which technologies he collected not only folk-songs, but also his own memories (on sixteen cassettes), which on their own made up a rich oral history of Manchester, mainly in the nineteen-thirties and forties. I came across Paul Graney earlier this year when looking for any photographs of Walter Greenwood or Greenwoodiana I didn’t know of via that later generation of new technology – the internet and Google Images. To my surprise one day I found not only the usual visual results for this search, but also a sound file accompanied by a photograph of Paul Graney and the description ‘Paul Graney on Walter Greenwood and Love on the Dole’.

(To listen to the recording which is 7 minutes 35 seconds in length see:

Paul Graney recalled knowing Greenwood and reading for him what Graney identified as drafts of at least two early versions of a play of Love on the Dole. These drafts seemed to have been very different from the play as we have it. Naturally, I was fascinated, and did some more searching, which led me to the archives of Manchester Central Library, where Graney’s recordings have been preserved in a digital format (catalogue number GRANEY/1024/3), and also to a published book transcribing a large selection of his personal histories, including the Greenwood material. This is One Bloke – a Manchester Man’s Tale of Two Decades (Paul Graney, edited by Barry Seddon, with a Preface by Ruth and Edmund Frow, The Bluecoat Press, Liverpool, 2011).

Barry Seddon is a Manchester folk-music journalist, and was a friend of Paul Graney’s in the nineteen-seventies and eighties, who, with others from his circle, made sure Graney’s recorded memories were preserved after his death in 1982.

This article then is an account of Paul Graney’s recollections of Greenwood and of his play-script/s, with what I can add in the way of potential contexts (and a few questions and speculations) about these otherwise unknown versions of Love on the Dole, which presumably preceded the very successful co-written play with Ronald Gow completed in 1934. Graney explains in a chapter titled ‘Left-winging’ about his membership of the Manchester Hyndman Hall social club, where he met Greenwood and often had long discussions with him. Graney says Greenwood was an ‘intellectual’, unlike himself, who was a more ordinary working man who had not read ‘the so-called essential books’ (classics of leftist analysis, I take it). In Graney’s view, this distinction between them made Greenwood someone who knew about contemporary life from books, and not necessarily from experience (p.221). This view may perhaps also inform Graney’s judgement on the writing he says Greenwood offered him for comment:

I had mentioned during one of our many discussions that I had been to see one or two left-wing plays by the Theatre of Action, and Greenwood obviously remembered, because one night he told me he had written a one-act play . . . I argued that the Theatre of Action couldn’t possibly stage it, because the characters didn’t ring true, for a start. They were ordinary people out of work and he’d got them talking meaningless, wishy-washy dialogue, with tennis club accents, the sort of thing you hear in a Sunday school pantomime. It was terrible.

It was a weak story anyway, involving a bloke falling down and banging his head on a counter and whilst unconscious having a dream about a labour exchange in which the clerks address everybody as ‘Sir’ and give them cups of tea and the dole is enough to live on.

It could have been a good satire at that time, but not the way he did it. He was getting his characters talking before they made an entrance. Couldn’t get his characters on, couldn’t get them off. Everything was wrong. He had a cast of about 40 and only about seven or eight speaking parts. He wanted a complete labour exchange building with big desks, filing cabinets and cupboards and long queues of people, reaching off stage (pp.221-2).

This evaluation is a mixture of points about verbal style and stagecraft, about both of which Graney seems confident. While the novel of Love on the Dole (1933) and the play with Ronald Gow (1935) were particularly praised for the authenticity of their representations of Hanky Park, including the dialect of its people, Graney is sure that this version he saw was weak in this respect. It seems important to value this memory, but I do have some doubts about the likelihood of this stylistic flaw. Greenwood was brought up in a very poor part of Salford and received very poor schooling from which he thought he learnt nothing, and as is clear in the few surviving recordings of his voice and speech, he did speak in a distinctive Salford mode, though he could readily switch between more dialect and more standard inflections of it. (1) Of course, knowing a specific language and being able to recreate it in a fictional text may not be an automatic process, but presumably Greenwood had already written the novel of Love on the Dole before this point, and it shows a thoroughly developed version of Salford speech for the characters of Hanky Park (even if bracketed ‘translations’ sometimes show the author nervous that some readers may not understand the dialect).

The practical points about stagecraft may have more evident force since they do raise real issues, even though Graney here claims only the expertise at this stage of having seen some Theatre of Action plays. Theatre of Action was a Manchester left theatre group put together by a collective which included Ewan Mccoll (Jimmy Miller) and Joan Littlewood, and which was active between 1933 and 1934 (2). Graney became more involved in this backstage after his conversation with Greenwood about his draft play, as he makes clear in the next chapter of One Bloke titled ‘Curtain Calls’ (p.224). Nevertheless, his points about how well this playscript would work on stage are surely valid: did its author at this point understand the practical parameters of cast size, of set design and of entrances and audibility? Did he understand the performance spaces used by Theatre of Action or the genres of theatre which matched with the group’s ideas and ambitions? Graney expands further on these points in the subsequent paragraph:

When the Theatre of Action went barn-storming with their agitprop verse-readings and one-act plays, it might be in a little Labour Party front room with an audience of only about 40 or so. The stage would be a sort of raised platform one foot high and ten feet square, and Greenwood wanted them to stage all this lot on it! (p.222)

These seem reasonable queries, and might simply stem from Greenwood’s inexperience of writing for theatre, and perhaps even more for improvised performance spaces. However, it is notable that this piece by Greenwood, even if unperformable by Theatre of Action (at least), and not in its characteristic verse agitprop style either, equally does not appear to be in the more-or-less conventionally realist mode of the eventual Gow and Greenwood play of Love on the Dole. On the contrary, it is about an almost unimaginable ‘unreality’ which would be far more humane and normal that what passes for reality for many people during the Depression. In fact, as ‘a satire’, in Graney’s words, or a dream sequence and temporary reversal of an all too harsh reality, it seems more like some of the non-realist theatrical approaches of the later London-based Unity Theatre, including their 1938 satirical Babes in the Wood (which in fact included a song called ‘Love on the Dole’, giving a lyric interpretation of Greenwood’s story in a duet – see image below of the record scanned from a copy in the author’s collection). (3)

Though Greenwood is remembered as a relatively conventional realist novelist and playwright, some of his earliest writing is not so easily characterised, as I argue in another article: It is interesting then to see this recollection of another text in a less obviously realist mode. One feature Graney is critical of might be seen as also having some radical potential for working-class involvement: perhaps Greenwood intended that some of the cast of 40 queuing off the stage to sign-on would indeed be actual unemployed people, something which was indeed done later (if with smaller numbers) for a chorus of extras in productions of Gow and Greenwood’s play (see: Who Went to See the Play in the Thirties? The Reception of Love on the Dole Revisited). However, Graney simply records that when he showed the play to the Theatre of Action people ‘they just laughed’.

Graney also says that despite his negative reaction to the draft Greenwood ‘conned me into taking it home and typing it up for him’. This seems a little odd because Greenwood could type and had famously taken home a typewriter ‘in lieu of wages’ from his last clerk’s job in 1929 (although it is true that the surviving volume of what is probably his early trilogy of novels about the industrial revolution in Lancashire, The Prosperous Years, is handwritten). When he returned the draft play to Greenwood with verbal comments, Graney recalled that the would-be dramatist was not cast down – ‘He announced: “I’ve started writing a full-length play”. Greenwood eventually:

Brought in a dozen pages of what eventually became Love on the Dole. It was worse than the one-act play! . . . I read it. It was hopelessly written. He was doing little character sketches of the people he knew in Hanky Park, Salford, which was very laudable, but he didn’t have them talking as though they came from the poor areas of Salford, the back end of Ellor Street. I said, ‘I’ve had enough with the other. I don’t want to be bothered with this’. He got the hump at this, came in the odd time or two but eventually disappeared (pp.222-3).

Again, Graney’s negative response is based on the judgement that Greenwood had not captured the ordinary voices and speech of Hanky Park. The dramatic mode of this draft seems though different again from the One Act satirical dream-sequence, with a more realist emphasis on portraits based on actual people, and the description ‘character sketches’ perhaps suggesting that plot was not a priority (though of course this was only a brief segment of the play at this stage). This could be a germ of the final version of the play version of Love on the Dole, where certainly the clearly differentiated characters are an important element, or perhaps is more like the character-centred stories which were eventually put together as The Cleft Stick in 1937. Again, though, I am sceptical about the suggested complete inability to create a convincing voice for Hanky Park people. By this time, Greenwood had surely written twelve of his earliest short stories, later published with three more recent additions as The Cleft Stick (1937), and the origins of which he dated to ‘1928-1931’ in his ‘Author’s Preface’ to that work, calling them ‘products of the ‘prentice hand’ (p.9). These stories have what I would regard as a reasonably accomplished style for his characters’ Salford voices. For example, there is the speech of the pregnant Amy Wilkinson’s father in an angry exchange which prefigures the argument between Mr Hardcastle and Sally in Love on the Dole: ‘Why, y’ bloomin’ little fool, haven’t you got no respect for your mother and father?’ (p.75). This is perhaps slightly less fluent than the speech in the novel of Love on the Dole, but then that prose too must surely predate this conversation about a draft of a version of the play.

There follow directly two more sections in Graney’s narrative about his exchanges with Greenwood, which round off as a kind of punchline his portrayal of him as a would-be dramatist, who is unable authentically to represent the working people of Salford or make a play. This is the first section:

But 18 months later, what should we see at the Salford Hippodrome, at the top end of Cross Lane, but Love on the Dole. There was a Councillor Crabtree in it, playing the part of a workhouse master. In real life, he was actually the master at Salford workhouse, which was a real hell hole; and here he was performing in this play.

Well, I had to see it, and it wasn’t bad. But it was billed BY WALTER GREENWOOD AND RONALD GOW. Gow was a schoolmaster in Altrincham and he had obviously managed to re-write the dialogue and stage the thing properly. It went round the northern theatres and was quite popular. I think it was the Fortescue Players, a repertory group from Rusholme, who toured the North with it and started to make money for Greenwood. Eventually it got to the West End. It was revolutionary, a kitchen sink drama as they were later called. They’d never seen anything like it and it took off (p.223).

This is packed with further Graney interpretations, but also has some references which may help date the Graney-Greenwood exchanges. Gow and Greenwood’s play was first performed by the Manchester Repertory Theatre at the Rusholme Theatre in Manchester in February 1934, but Paul Graney clearly saw it at its first Vernon-Lever company production at the Salford Hippodrome, which was in September 1934 (as reported for example by The Era on 12 September). If that was around 18 months after Graney and Greenwood’s last conversation about the draft of the play, then that exchange would have taken place in April 1933, pre-dating by a couple of months the publication of the novel of Love on the Dole by Jonathan Cape. Just to complicate things a little further, though we know that Gow and Greenwood first met in 1934 to discuss collaborating on a play adaptation of Love on the Dole, since Gow wrote an account of it for the New York Times (23 February 1936, pp. 154 and 156), we do not know what month in that year they met up, though it must have been early in the year since they jointly produced a theatre adaptation by February 1934 (see: ). The novel had been published in June 1933, so there was space for Greenwood to have written and discussed an earlier sole-authored draft play before that important 1934 meeting with Gow. Graney clearly thinks that it was Gow’s input which made the play adaptation into a viable and successful work for theatre, but we do not know in much detail how Gow and Greenwood collaborated on their co-authored play, so this seems an assumption based in Graney’s earlier lack of faith in Greenwood’s writing for stage. One thing which might support Graney’s supposition that Gow was the leading author is that the play was actually always billed not as Graney reports here, but the other way round as ‘By Ronald Gow and Walter Greenwood’. Gow did record that he found it very easy to collaborate with Greenwood, perhaps suggesting some equity of input between them:

Collaboration between two authors is generally supposed to be a temperamental battle, but Greenwood and I were able to work in perfect harmony. I think there are two main reasons for that. The first is that Walter Greenwood is an extraordinarily patient man, and the second is that I spent several weeks reading and re-reading Love on the Dole and studying the conditions of Salford people before I set to work on the play (‘Love on the Dole’, Hull Daily Mail, 9 June 1934, p.12).

However, the next sentences do make it sound slightly as if Gow (in his view) led the writing and Greenwood (class-deferentially?) followed (4).

One detail which does though certainly seem to be mis-remembered is that about Councillor Walter Crabtree’s appearance in the play of Love on the Dole at the Salford Hippodrome. This was the Vernon-Lever touring production and Councillor Walter Crabtree does not appear in any cast list for that production which I have seen. Indeed, the play of Love on the Dole does not have a ‘Master of the Workhouse’ character, but Greenwood’s next (and undoubtedly sole-authored) play, Give Us This Day, does have a character better meeting this description. Give us This Day was the play adaptation of Greenwood’s second novel, His Worship the Mayor (1934), and was first performed in March 1936 by the Manchester Repertory Company at the Rusholme Theatre, Manchester (following in the footsteps of Love on the Dole). This did have an important scene set in the ‘workhouse’, though strictly-speaking it is an appearance of the unemployed miner Joe Shuttleworth in front of the ‘Public Assistance Committee’, which will determine how much ‘assistance’ he will be given after he has exhausted his entitlement to the ‘dole’ or unemployment benefit. The review in the Stage (26 March 1936, p.10) helpfully gives a full cast list which does indeed record that Councillor Walter Crabtree played the part of Councillor Hopewell. The review praises the ‘highly realistic means test scene, which strikes a compelling note of drama’, and, noting that Walter Crabtree really is a Salford Councillor, says that he ‘adapts himself’ well to his part. A review in the Era similarly sees this casting as adding to the play’s authenticity:

The scene depicting the operation of the ‘means test’ by the Public Assistance Committee seemed so incredible to the players at rehearsal that they questioned the accuracy of certain details, despite the assurance of Councillor Walter Crabtree of Salford, who brings realism into the play by appearing in it as a Councillor, that every little detail was correct’ (25 March 1936, p3).

Other newspaper reports suggest that Councillor Walter Crabbe developed quite an association with the play through his unusual participation as an actor. Three years later the Manchester Evening News published a story about a Salford magistrate who did not believe that thousands of Salford households had no supply of hot water. Councillor Walter Crabbe led the magistrate on a tour of a sample of the many houses (some 250,000) in this dismal situation. At the end of the article, Walter Crabbe notes how large the gap is between Salford’s plans for slum improvement and its actual achievement, and makes a link to Greenwood:

The other day the producer of the screen version of Walter Greenwood’s story His Worship the Mayor came to Salford and I showed him cellars where people live (28 June 1939, p.11).

This film version was sadly never made, but had been commissioned by Michael Balcon for Ealing Studios, with the documentary film-maker Ralph Keene as director (and there is a surviving script with a scenario by the communist film-maker and critic Ivor Montague and dialogue by Greenwood in the Walter Greenwood Collection: WGC 1/3/3). I assume it was Balcon himself who was shown round Salford’s still remaining cellar-dwellings by Crabtree. The Daily Mail film critic Seton Margrave announced the project, saying that he had ‘recommended this novel as a grand film project when it was first published’ (21 March 1939, p.8). However, in the play Give Us This Day, the character played by Walter Crabtree, Councillor Hopewell, is not, as Graney says, chair of the Public Assistance Committee, which is chaired instead by the lawyer and councillor character Sir William Chetterby, played by D.W. King (who, said the Stage review, ‘heads the domineering committee convincingly’, 26 March 1936).

Paul Graney has one final set of memories about Greenwood – mainly relating to how much money he made out of the film adaptation of Love on the Dole, though with some further mainly money-based aspersions on his character and his leaving Salford behind him:

Finally it became a film and made Greenwood a heap of money. I never saw Greenwood again and neither did the girl from the next street who had subsidised him, buying him clothes and fags when he was out of work. He married an actress and took off to Capri. The last I heard of him was a couple of letters only a few years back, just before he died. He wanted some Salford children’s songs for a musical he was doing. He was in the Isle of Man then, tax-evading (p.223).

I am not sure how much money Greenwood made from the film because I have not so far uncovered any evidence about that, but it does seem a reasonable assumption that the income was considerable. The girl in the next street clearly refers to his one-time fiancée, Alice Myles, to whom he paid an out of court settlement in October 1935, after she brought a breach of promise case (see: Walter Greenwood: a Biography). Before things went wrong, she certainly was devoted to him and in employment as the manager of a Co-op dairy, so she might well have helped him out when he was at his lowest point – though this is the only evidence we have at this level of detail. Green did marry ‘an actress’, Pearl Alice Osgood in September 1937 (though I am suspicious of the prejudicial way Graney deploys the term here), but in fact several years after his sole and relatively short visit to Capri as the guest of Gracie Fields in June 1935 (see: Walter Greenwood and Gracie Fields). Greenwood was interested in children’s songs from Salford in the late sixties, which I would connect primarily to material on this topic in his 1967 memoir There Was a Time (see letters in the Walter Greenwood Collection which responded to his appeal for information in an interview on Woman’s Hour in 1968 – WGC/2/22), though he was also considering a stage version in this period. Greenwood said in an interview in 1971 that he could never lose a sense of financial insecurity dating from the years of poverty he experienced until the age of thirty, when he published the novel of Love on the Dole (see: Walter Greenwood: ‘Old Habits Die Hard’ Interview (George Rosie, the Radio Times, 1971)). I think it is fair to say that he was always careful with money thereafter, and his retirement to the Isle of Man, when he was probably living mainly on royalties rather than new projects, probably was partly to do with the island’s independent tax rules. Overall, the way Graney tells his memories of Greenwood do rather build up a picture of someone who had an undeserved success, and was glad to leave his class roots behind him. I perhaps naturally enough do not think this is wholly fair, but the points are part of the Graney-centred narrative which he makes out of his Greenwood memories.

Point of view, perspective and interpretations apart, some of Paul Graney’s memories related to Greenwood are not completely accurate in points of fact – but that is the nature of memory and a factor in oral histories. It does not mean that his recollection of two early drafts of Love on the Dole is necessarily without basis. Greenwood was not an instantly successful writer, though newspaper accounts of his success with the novel Love on the Dole in 1933 sometimes told that story as if he were. He himself saw his early writing in his three-year period of unemployment as in the nature of an apprenticeship, as he says in his memoir:

My discouraging and growing pile of rejected manuscripts had one positive quality – the undeniable proof of practice. The regrets that each brought from the Editors, while momentarily disheartening, did not deter. Hope’s tiny gleam, though it burned very low betimes, was never entirely extinguished. Patience. Keep at it. One of these days . . . [sic] (There Was a Time, Jonathan Cape, 1967, p.209).

Nor was he unwilling to take advice – he only turned from the genre of short story to the novel when the popular novelist Miss Ethel Mannin:

a complete stranger to me at the time was good enough to read the collection [of rejected short stories] and to advise me to write a novel using some of the characters. I followed her advice and Love on the Dole was the consequence (‘Author’s Preface’ to The Cleft Stick, Selwyn & Blount, 1937, p.9)

Equally, he only returned to those early short stories – many among his most striking writing I would say – with the support of his collaborator, the artist Arthur Wragg. The matter and content of these early drafts of a play version would, of course, be so much clearer if we had the surviving manuscripts (or typescripts). On the whole Greenwood did preserve the majority of his work, as the invaluable and extensive Walter Greenwood Collection in the University of Salford Archives shows, even where it did not make it into print or performance. However, there are gaps. For example, again in the ‘Author’s Preface’ to The Cleft Stick, Greenwood refers to his hitherto rejected collected short stories in the material form of ‘their shabby brown-paper parcel’ (p.9). Perhaps not these papers exactly, but a presumably related ‘The Cleft Stick mss’ were referred to in a 1972 letter from Greenwood as being in the possession of his sister, Mrs B.H. Evans, but none of these papers ever arrived in the Archives when, after considerable negotiation, Greenwoods papers were purchased in 1974 (5). We know that one of these stories – the first he ever wrote – was in his sister’s possession until 1973 when Greenwood wrote to A.C. Bubb, the Librarian at Salford University Archives, to say that ‘his sister no longer wants to part with his short story, “Jack Cranford’s Wife” ‘[later titled ‘The Cleft Stick’] (1 October 1973, WGP2/37/4). She and Greenwood seem close, judging from his memoir, so this was presumably for sentimental reasons.

In the end I can only speculate on what part these lost apparent early drafts of a play related to Love on the Dole might have had in Greenwood’s writing career. Perhaps he was discouraged by Paul Graney’s critiques, so that when Ronald Gow contacted him to suggest a co-written play adaptation of Love on the Dole, he made no mention of his own attempts at a play, but accepted the leadership and help of this writer with a certain amount of theatrical experience? The play certainly brought Greenwood and Gow both fame and a considerable income, setting them both up to pursue professional careers as writers with a fairly secure income for the period from at least 1935 until the outbreak of war (See: ). I no doubt tend to feel some bias towards Walter, but I am still not very willing to believe that these lost drafts had NO literary merit nor ability to portray the people of Hanky Park. Perhaps they would have showed him pursuing experiments rather different from the mainly realist mode in which he made it as a writer.


NOTE 1. These are: ‘Those Turbulent Years’ (John Tusa, BBC Radio 4, 1971), ‘The Kersal Flats Interview’ (unidentified interviewer, video, 1973). See Walter Greenwood: ‘Those Turbulent Years’ Interview (John Tusa, BBC Radio 4, 1971) and Walter Greenwood: the kersal Interview (1973).

NOTE 2. For some introduction to the Theatre of Action see Ewan MacColl’s Wikipedia entry and the Working Class Movement Library entry (part of MacColl’s own account of the group in Raphael Samuel, Ewan MacColl and Stuart Cosgrove’s Theatres of the Left 1880-1935: Workers’ Theatre Movement in Britain and America, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985): and

NOTE 3. For an introduction to Unity Theatre see the Wikipedia entry:,_London . The ‘Love on the Dole’ song lyrics were by Geoffrey Parsons and the music was by Berkeley Fase. The British Library holds a score (Music Collections VOC/1938/FASE) and there was a 1938 78 rpm recording by Decca (DR3201/F6933), where it was sung by Vicki Miller and Bill Rowbotham). This recording is also included on a CD (Opal CD 9856, nd, track 16), called The Rise of Communism. See my discussion of this homage in Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole – Novel, Play, Film, 2018, p.7.

NOTE 4. I first discussed this article by Gow in Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole – Novel, Play, Film, Liverpool University Press, 2018, pp.136-7.

NOTE 5. Letter from Walter Greenwood to A.C. Bubb, Librarian of the University of Salford, 24 October 1972. An item formerly catalogued as WGP2/33/6 before Greenwood’s papers were freshly catalogued circa 2016 under the WGC headings. I rather neurotically printed out the entire list of records before the new catalogue and its web presentation, however this had some value as it turns out, for some of the correspondence about the acquisition of Greenwood’s papers by the University of Salford is not listed in the current catalogue displayed on the website. It was perhaps unusual for such correspondence about the acquisition of literary papers to be publicly available.