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Maurice McLoughlin 1916 – 1970
A Memoir by his daughter, Angela Buckley
Many of you will know of Maurice as the author of the Billy Bunter Christmas plays produced in London between 1958 and 1963, but before he became a playwright, he was a successful cartoonist and had many drawings published in Punch and other magazines in the 1930s and 40s. He started writing plays for the local drama group that he and my mother belonged to, The Guildhall Players, based at the local Catholic Club in Ilford, Essex. This ran for many years, right up until his death in 1970 and he would write and direct the plays, while my mother, a very good actress, appeared in most of them,. As did my brothers and I when we were old enough, and when he died, I myself took over the running of the group for a while.
His first professional venture, in 1954, was a TV series starring John Slater, called “Johnny You're Wanted,” which was also made into a film.
At some point in the 1950s, he was approached by City Stage Productions, run by Michael Anthony and Bernadette Milnes, who commissioned him to write a play for Christmas, “Billy Bunter’s Mystery Christmas” which played at the Palace Theatre, London, in December 1958 - January 1959. This was so well received, by both the public and the critics, that five more were commissioned. (These are listed elsewhere on this website and in the magazine) My father was delighted to receive the approval of Frank Richards himself, who had been a God-like figure to him since his schooldays. My brothers and I were introduced to the stories of Charles Hamilton at an early age ourselves and I still have several old Holiday annuals, their battered nature evidence of their having been read over and over again.
As well as writing the Bunter plays, he went on writing for the Guildhall Players and one of these plays, “Letter from the General”, was produced at The Edinburgh Festival in 1961 and then on TV in 1962 with Anna Neagle in the lead role. Another TV play, “Shadow in the Sun” followed in 1963, again starring Anna Neagle, and there was talk of a film of “Letter from the General”, but due to a mix-up with the rights, this never came to anything.
City Stage Productions also toured several other plays, including “Snake in the Grass” and “Brush With a Body”, which went into the West End at the St Martin’s Theatre in 1962.
After this, there was another TV play, “Confession”, a murder mystery this time, but after that, things began to slow down. He still went on writing for the Guildhall Players and had many plays published, which have been performed by amateur groups all over the world, but died in 1970.
During the time he was a professional writer, he continued to work at Billingsgate Fish Market as a partner in a fish merchant's company. He always had a sense of insecurity, due I think to the fact that his own father had died when he himself was only 17 and he had been responsible for supporting his mother, his disabled sister and his young brother from that very early age.
He was a man well-loved and respected by everyone who knew him and you can imagine how distraught we all were when he died suddenly at the age of only 53. He has left a huge legacy, however, not just in the work, but in his wonderful sense of humour, evidence of which can be found in his comedies, and which has been passed on, not only to me and my brothers, but to his grandchildren. As Charles Hamilton himself might have said:
“Ridere, et mundus ridet vobiscum”.
Angela has kindly supplied scans of letters her Father received from Frank Richards. You can read them by clicking the links below.
FR-Maurice McLoughlin letter 6th December 1958
FR-Maurice McLoughlin Letter 6th January 1959
FR-Maurice McLoughlin Letter 10th February 1959
FR-Maurice McLoughlin Letter 9th December 1959
FR-Maurice McLoughlin Letter 8th December 1960
FR-Maurice McLoughlin Letter 19th December 1960
Frank Richards included a signed copy of Punch magazine with his letter dated 8th December 1960 which contains an article by him. Thanks to Naveed you can read the article here.