Love on the Dole very quickly became a novel everyone was urged to read on its publication in 1933. But the play version was probably even more influential. The play-adaptation was the only thing Greenwood ever co-wrote and he did so because a playwright with one critical success in the theatre, and more experience of theatrical production, wrote to him to suggest they collaborate on adapting it for the stage. It was certainly a rewarding collaboration for both. The playwright was Ronald Gow, who went on to sustained success as a writer for theatre, radio and film (and to marry Wendy Hiller who starred as Sally Hardcastle in the first production of the play of Love on the Dole). Gow and Greenwood arranged to meet up to discuss the idea of co-writing the play version in 1934. Gow later wrote a number of accounts of their meeting for newspapers interested in the genesis of the play (something Greenwood never did). These accounts are similar, with the odd variation in the telling. But only one of them mentions Walter Greenwood’s tie. In the version Gow wrote for the New York Times (23/2/1936, pp. 154 and 156), he gave details of how he was to recognise Greenwood. Greenwood has said in a letter: ‘Watch out for a hungry-looking chap with a red tie’. They were to meet in the lobby of the Manchester Repertory Theatre and then go to a nearby coffee shop: ‘There was a long wait in the rain. And then the red tie appeared. But chiefly I remember Greenwood’s eyes. They were those of a man who had suffered and looked upon suffering’. See also Walter Greenwood’s Creative Partnerships
Of course, it is not unusual in Britain for Labour Party MPs and supporters to wear red ties, and Greenwood’s red tie surely also indicated his socialist sympathies. I recall being very pleased to find this article by Gow in 2017 (I had to take out a subscription to the New York Times first), as I was putting my book to bed, but was able to add a quotation from it. (1) I was pleased because it added a little to the story of how Greenwood and Gow became co-authors of the play, but also because it perhaps validated MY Walter Greenwood tie. In 2016, I had bought a first edition of the novel of Love on the Dole (sadly without the fine and pretty much unobtainable dust-wrapper), but with a number of associated objects and an inscription by Greenwood (in black ink on the title page). (2) The inscription says: ‘To Mrs Henrietta Russell and other Comrades from her frequent guest, Walter Greenwood, August 5th 1933.’ Associated objects included a white envelope containing three photographs, a one-page letter from Greenwood, Greenwood’s election leaflet when standing as councillor for the Seedley ward of Salford in the November 1933 local elections, and a red tie in a plastic bag.
I have not identified Henrietta Russell, but it sounds as if she put him and others of similar political beliefs up, either on a commercial, semi-commercial or comradely basis (perhaps in London where presumably Greenwood had business after the publication of his novel?). I take it that the book and the other objects were given to Henrietta as souvenirs by Greenwood. One photograph is undoubtedly of Greenwood himself (though he hasn’t yet grown the moustache which he retained for the next forty-odd years). The other two photos are of the same woman, but I have no idea who she is (though they were taken by a studio in Salford as a stamp records: ‘Graham Brown, 162 Eccles New Road’ – I wonder without any evidence if she is his later fiancée Alice Myles?). See ‘Walter Greenwood’s Finances and Love on the Dole’ for more about their relationship: Walter Greenwood’s Finances .
(Images scanned by C. Hopkins 10/4/2020). Here Walter is wearing a striped tie – perhaps not red?
The letter is certainly of interest since it was written by Greenwood from Gracie Field’s villa on Capri, the Villa Canzone del Mare, to ‘Hannah’ (not Henrietta). The letter expresses great pleasure in the plants of the island (‘olives grow wild + lemons attain 4 ft in height!’) and declares, ‘this is a divine place’ and ‘a magic villa’ (after all, how could the unemployed Walter of a few years earlier have ever imagined he would stay at the villa of a stage and film star in the Med?). Gracie, herself of course of humble Lancashire origins, had made him very welcome and said he could stay for six months. But he regrets that he can’t – he has to go home in a week’s time for the rehearsal of his ‘new one act play’. The letter is undated, but Greenwood only wrote a single one-act play: The Practised Hand, which was first performed in Manchester on Monday 1st July 1935. The Daily Herald reports this forthcoming appearance of his new play and that Greenwood is to fly home from Gracie Fields’ villa in Capri for it (I calculate from the letter and details in the newspaper article that the letter was written in the week beginning 24th May 1935).
This record cover (I think from the nineteen-sixties) shows Gracie against the background of her villa. Record is Decca spa-82.
The election leaflet also has a photograph of Walter Greenwood and a quite substantial election address which, in that it reproves Salford voters for voting in the National Government and the associated ‘Tory-Liberal Independent’ councillors in 1931, resembles the political speech given by Larry Meath in the novel and play. (3) Since these councillors and the National Government were elected, the address argues that housing, slums and education have all got even worse than they already were in Salford, while the current system of rates is completely unfair – ‘an anachronism’ – which over-charges ‘the working man with a family to rear’ and under-charges business. The leaflet ends by declaring that: ‘Capitalism means slums, disease, unemployment, and war. Sincerely I believe Socialism to be the only hope of the world’. (4) In fact, Greenwood was not elected, though he was the following year in the St Matthias ward. (5)
This could be Walter in his red tie?
Finally, then, the tie. It has a little moth damage but is otherwise well-preserved. Assuming that Greenwood gave it to Henrietta Russell, he must have had another or others for every-day committed wear. In many ways, it has less meaning, less to contribute to recovering Walter Greenwood’s story than the more textual association pieces described above and perhaps it is no more important or meaningful than Flaubert’s Parrot (but equally no less significant?). (6) Nevertheless, I am very glad to have it, and might one day take the advice of colleagues who say I should wear it whenever I give a talk about Walter Greenwood, working-class writer.
Note 1. Chris Hopkins, Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole – Novel, Play, Film, Liverpool University Press, 2018. See p. 221.
Note 2. Purchased with pleasure from J and M Books, Towcester.
Note 3. Penguin edition, 1992, pp, 85-6.
Note 4. The address is dated 12/10/1933.
Note 5. For fuller details see my book, p. 209.
Note 6. See Julian Barnes’ novel, Flaubert’s Parrot, Picador: London,1984.