Len Doherty was born in Maryhill, Glasgow. Some time around 1954, Doherty was a working miner at Thurcroft pit in Yorkshire when he first met and engaged with Frank Watters (see separate entry), the Yorkshire coalfield organiser of the Communist Party. Subsequently, Doherty joined the Party joined the Party and became active in it.
A talented person, with a great interest in literature and writing, Doherty gravitated towards the work carried out by the Party’s Yorkshire District Cultural Committee, most of the activists of which were in Leeds, with a heavy bias towards lecturers at the local university. Doherty found himself mentored by Professor Arnold Kettle (see separate entry), a lecturer in Literature.
This resulted in the 1955 publication of Doherty’s novel, “A Miners’ Son” by the Party’s publisher, Lawrence and Wishart. From a political point of view, it is notable for its depiction of the character of the Communist Party’s intense and impressive full-time political worker, Frank Wells, a very thinly disguised version of the real life Watters.
It was Frank Watters who would later opine that Doherty had found himself so lionised by the Party’s London-orientated literati, and some of their fashionable and famous friends, as the ultimate proletarian writer, that this had caused a sense of subsequent disillusionment in Doherty. This especially as, for all the declarations of amazement at the miner’s feat, most of his new-found literary mentors both dropped him and the Party as the cataclysmic political events of the 1950s unfolded.
Sadly, there was little outlet for Doherty’s socialist realist writings by any mainstream publisher and Lawrence & Wishart’s 1950’s project of developing a line in socialist novels came to an end with the political and financial challenges of the post-1956 era. With this, Doherty’s short-lived and narrow fame faded and he was left adrift, unable to return to the pit after the experience.
He eventually became a long-standing reporter on Sheffield Star and, whilst his life and work now avoided open political expression, he and Watters remained on good terms throughout until Doherty’s death in 1983.
GS personal knowledge and letter from Frank Watters to Sheffield Star July 29th 1983