No Mean Affair

No Mean Affair tells the story of a Glasgow housewife’s journey from the poverty of the tenements to the centre of British political power in Westminster. The woman was my grandmother

No Mean Affair combines historical facts and family rumour to intertwine her life with that of John Wheatley, an MP whom many Glaswegians revere as one of the ‘Red Clydeside’ heroes. It has elements of romance, corruption and political intrigue that resonate today.

This novel is published by Foxwell Press, a small but dynamic indie publisher in Birmingham.

You can order No Mean Affair from your local bookshop or from Amazon in either Kindle or paperback:

No Mean Affair

Mary Ireland’s story is told in four parts each seen from the viewpoint of the men in her life: her husband, her protector, her lover and her son. The following extracts are the opening paragraphs of each section.

Part 1 – William

Saturday February 19, 1912

The dark mood settled its claws into William’s shoulders as he bent over the milk churns at the end of his working day. In the cold of the Glasgow winter, he had lost all feeling in his hands and his flesh-empty fingers looked as if they had been stained with ink. He had already sluiced down the platform of the handcart and was now shining up the insides of the containers ready for the morning.

At this time of year, William had only one round a day but Charley, his sister’s husband and his boss, always laid off half the workforce in October so the rounds took twice as long. William kept his job but resented the extra work.

On the walk home, the pain from his hands put a grim look on his thin features. He pushed through a group of street-corner wasters to turn into Duke Street and felt the men’s resentment cling to his back like a swirl of fog. He was an incomer who had robbed one of them of work. He could swank along with his pockets clinking with silver, while they, having started the day with a futile vigil at a factory gate, had to pin their hopes for a night’s drinking on the generosity of others, or the speed of a horse on a distant English racecourse.

They marked him as different…

Part 2 – Danny

Sunday June 30, 1912

Mary Ireland edged into Danny McAleer’s vision carrying a soapbox. She was hugging close to next door’s garden wall and stopped as if she recognised that she now encroached onto the bigger house’s stretch of pavement. Danny watched the tendons in her delicate wrist strain as she swung the crate down on the Yorkstone slabs. She stepped onto it, ignoring the hands of the men who had followed her as they proffered them in support. She raised her black-bonneted head and harangued the backs of the mob. ‘Come on, then – I’ll take on the lot of you. Come and smash another face. Take on the smallest woman in Parkhead.’ One by one, as her screech swept over them like a wave, they turned back to face her. She stood like a statue, arms rigid, fists clenched at her hip.

‘Who’s that, JW?’ Danny said…

Part 3 – John

Sunday November 19, 1922

On the Sunday following the election, the ten new Glasgow MPs strode at the head of a swarm of hundreds of working men and their women who had come to give them a send off. An even larger assembly had gathered in front of St Enoch’s station, the men and women clapping, stomping and hollering.

The new members shouldered their way through the crowd. John Wheatley was distinguished by his heavy coat and bowler hat, while the others were in belted raincoats and trilbies. The men and women around them thumped their representatives’ arms and backs and shouted cries of encouragement. John detected an air of envy. These men were taking the fight to London and being paid £400 a year for the privilege!

He absorbed all this as he was swept through the station entrance and towards the London platform. And there she was: Mary Ireland. Her dark eyes wide and bright beneath a black bonnet and her gloved hands clutched to her chest. They acknowledged each other with the briefest flick of the eyelids…

Part 4 – Ronny

Wednesday May 14, 1930

Ronny had never crossed London in a taxi before. It was difficult to keep up with the sights passing the window. He skittered from side to side in the back of the cab, pointing to each famous building and asking his mother to confirm its identity. But the adventure, the knowledge that they were to travel the length of Britain in a train, only became certain when the taxi drove through the arch at the entrance to Euston station. He had only ever seen structures like it in books about Rome. Here in London, the arch’s columns, which rose high above the side of the taxi, were black with soot.

The driver stopped the motor and, without leaving his seat, unhitched the leather strap that secured their bags in the open platform alongside him. ‘Here you take your case, Ronny’, Mary said.

She led him across the hall to the Scotland platform. His heart thumped in his chest…


You can order No Mean Affair from your local bookshop or from Amazon in either Kindle or paperback:


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