John Wells

Claud Cockburn

Meeting Claud Cockburn in the early Sixties, at a time when I was trying very tentatively to contribute jokes to Private Eye, was like meeting the authentic past. The hat cocked on the back of his head as he sat in the pub in Greek Street hadn’t actually got a ticket in it saying ‘Press’, but it looked battered enough to have been through the Spanish Civil War; the flickering eyebrows, bobbing cigarette and amazingly long and tapering fingers – they always reminded me, for some reason, that Claud had been born in China – the hacking cough and unique style and timing of his story-telling, all seemed to me to be the Real Thing: the creator of The Week, the survivor of Berlin in the Thirties, the lover of Sally Bowles, the noble communist who had had The Daily Worker shot from under him by the Hitler-Stalin pact and had retired hurt to Ireland, now triumphantly to re-emerge.

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