A handwritten memoir by Fred Roy, who spent the last ten years of his life in Manchester, lay for 23 years after his death in 1999 in an old captain’s chest. Finally rescued and transcribed by this reviewer as a lockdown project it is a fascinating glimpse into a vanished world. Born in South London in 1907 to working class parents, Fred was a lifelong socialist, and a member of the ILP and the Communist Party in the 1920s and ’30s. His adventures in activism form the backbone of his invigorating memoir.
The book abounds with anecdotes and acerbic wit. He crossed paths with Marie Lloyd and Ivor Novello and crossed swords with the infamous Lord Haw Haw, helping to regularly break up Blackshirt meetings in the 1930s outside Dulwich Library. He also went on the road as a tramp at one point when work was sparse. His story is redolent with imagery of horse drawn trams, music hall stars, long working days, unfathomably long cycle rides, and survival through the Blitz.
Leaving Elementary school at 14 he was self-educated through books, politics, and eccentric friends who, like him, disdained convention and took the less traveled road. Describing the days of his youth with a visceral intensity this is both a delightful and a very funny read by a man who loved life and made good use of it. An inveterate letter writer, he kept the South London Press and other papers busy with a bombardment of missives, often using vitriol instead of ink.
I really enjoyed Longer Days. The work of a wonderful humane and funny man with a sidelong observant humour – it is full of great evocative descriptions and brilliant political insights, together with pithy one-line character descriptions.
It brings to life the atmosphere of London and of a working man growing up amidst joy, temptations and observations of injustice and inequality. Beautifully written in a flowing style it is hard to put down, it leaves the reader with a sense of inclusion and warmth from the pen of a wonderful man who constantly challenged injustice, and the rise of racism and fascism in his lifetime – JEREMY CORBYN MP
This book really impressed me. What a character, what a life! A rattling good read by a superb storyteller. Longer Days left me heady with history, politics, art and culture, and a sense of the fleeting nature of even the longest life. It made me want to live better, more fully, as the best memoirs often do! – JULIE HESMONDHALGH.
If you want to buy Longer Days it is stocked by the following book shops:
Alternatively you can contact Hazel Roy direct on firstname.lastname@example.org The book retails at £12.99
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