Tag: Youghal

Claud Cockburn’s Cork literary colony

Thursday, 2 February, 2017 0 Comments

At the height of the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell wrote Homage to Catalonia and in it he accused Claud Cockburn of being under the control of the Communist Party. Was the star journalist a Stalinist? The debate raged through the 1940s and when it became uncomfortable the suspected “Red” moved his family from England to Ireland and the Cockburns set up home in Youghal, County Cork, in 1947.

With a household to maintain and a dodgy reputation to contend with, Claud needed to be agile and he was. He created his own “literary colony” and proceeded to type a constant but uneven income stream under a variety of names. In his memoirs, he recalls a visitor to Youghal describing the hive of creative industry thus:

“He claimed to have met Frank Pitcairn, ex-correspondent of the Daily Worker — a grouchy, disillusioned type secretly itching to dash out and describe a barricade. There was Claud Cockburn, founder and editor of The Week, talkative, boastful of past achievements, and apt, at the drop of a hat, to tell, at length, the inside story of some forgotten diplomatic crisis of the 1930s. Patrick Cork would look in — a brash little number, and something of a professional Irishman, seeking, no doubt, to live up to his name. James Helvick lived in and on the establishment, claiming that he needed quiet and plenty of good food and drink to enable him to finish a play and a novel which would soon bring enough money to repay all costs. In the background, despised by the others as a mere commercial hack, Kenneth Drew hammered away at the articles which supplied the necessities of the colony’s life.”

And it was James Helvick who helped the family win the lottery, as it were, with the novel Beat the Devil. Helvick, aka Cockburn, met John Huston in Luggala and sold the film rights to the Hollywood director and this advancement from penury to prosperity is recalled by Claude’s late son, Alexander, in Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era. As we’ve been pointing out here this week, Luggala, the outstanding 18th-century Irish house and estate in County Wicklow, is now being offered for sale by Sotheby’s International Realty for $29 million.

What did Helvick/Cockburn do with the fat film cheque when it eventually arrived in Youghal via Luggala and Hollywood? Champagne and a bicycle were involved, as we’ll find out tomorrow.

Luggala


When Hollywood came to Cork

Wednesday, 1 February, 2017 0 Comments

On Monday and yesterday here, our topic was the impending sale of Luggala, the beautiful 18th-century Irish house in County Wicklow. Sotheby’s International Realty want $29 million for the estate, an incomprehensible sum for many people today and an unfathomable amount for the creative types who once found refuge in Luggala.

Claud Cockburn was one of these and his Wicklow adventures were recalled by his late son, Alexander, in Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era. Claude, author of Beat the Devil, met John Huston in Luggala and made a pitch for the novel’s screen potential. The Hollywood director was impressed and soon afterwards he made his way to Youghal, the ailing port on the Cork coast, where the Cockburns lived precariously:

“By the time Huston and his wife came down to Youghal to talk more about the screenplay he couldn’t read Beat the Devil on the phone, not ours at least, because it had been cut off for non-payment of bills. Telegrams shuttled back and forth between Youghal and Hollywood and finally the offer came: £3,000 for rights and screenplay, or a lesser sum up front, against a greater, but as yet insubstantial reward — the famous ‘points’ — in the distant future. My father naturally took the lump sum on the barrel, used some of it to plug the roof and appease the bailiffs and then went to work with Huston on the screenplay.

The film had a sumptuous cast: Bogart, Peter Lorrie, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley. When it finally got to Youghal there was a great to-do in the form of a grand screening at Horgan’s Cinema. The people of Youghal, not entirely without reason, found it incomprehensible but applauded heartily, none more so, I imagine, than the bailiffs and other representatives of the commercial sector of the town.”

But there was a fly in the ointment. As the film’s credits rolled, the screenplay was attributed to Truman Capote, “from a novel by James Helvick.” Who was this James Helvick and how was he related to Frank Pitcairn, Patrick Cork, Kenneth Drew and Claud Cockburn? Or were all they the same person? The answers can be found here tomorrow.

Beat the Devil