So who was Ferdinand Tuohy?
A brilliant reporter for the Daily Mail in World War 1, who later became a best-selling author.
Have you got a picture of him?
Believe it or not, I don’t. Although he was a high profile scribe for thirty years – and wrote a dozen books – I cannot find a single picture of him. Here’s his best-seller, which was just coming out when he and Rufus met
The ‘secret corps’ were undercover spies, of course. The Brits were good at spying – had had lots of practice after years of playing the ‘Great Game’ with Russia, a sort of cat & mouse cold war on Russia’s borders with Persia, Afghanistan and India.
And was Ferdinand Tuohy one of their spooks?
You would think so, because he knew so much about it. He started off as a Daily Mail reporter in France and managed to smuggle out articles, in spite of censorship. But Field Marshall Kitchener, the British war minister, got so angry about this that he expelled all reporters and threatened to shoot the next one caught in France!
My, he’s a miserable-looking old guy – no wonder Tuohy quit while he was ahead!
I think being a minister was too much for Kitchener – he couldn’t handle parliament, a place where he couldn’t lock up or shoot people who disobeyed him. He drowned in 1916, en route to St Petersburg to negotiate with the Tsar – his ship hit a mine in the North Sea.
I think he joined the army, yes – because he ended the war as a captain. I don’t think he could have been a spook because the Official Secrets Act would have stopped him writing books about it all.
Like this one, which he seems to have published in French.
He did – French spooks had had a terrible time in the war. By 1916 the Germans had caught – and shot – all the French agents (read ‘spies’) and the Brits had to share intelligence with them!
So why was Rufus meeting this guy?
His diary for 12 January 1920 reads: “Ferdinand Tuohy of the Daily Mail lunched with me at the club. He is writing anti-prohibition stuff.” That’s all. Rufus hated prohibition – that fall, after the 102nd Battalion banquet, he’d written in his diary: “Awful dull show – a reunion banquet without liquor is an impossible failure!” A few days later he went to the 16th Battalion banquet and wrote: “Generals Currie, Newburn and Leckie, etc., there, and about 150 all ranks – an excellent show – plenty of whiskey upstairs.” Even Currie, the army commander, was happily breaking the law! I’m sure Rufus and his friends at the club would have been happy to give Tuohy all the stories he could use.
Was that his only meeting with Tuohy?
No, the next night he dined with him, and with Hannen Swaffer, another high-powered Brit, editor of the Weekly Dispatch.
He wasn’t a very cheerful looking guy, was he. And he looks a good bit older than Rufus as well.
He was eight years older, but Rufus would have found him interesting. Swaffer was said to file a million words a year and, like Tuohy, had written many books. He was a theatre nut, and an actor too, so he and Rufus had plenty in common.
I guess the message for Rufus was: ‘journalism can be as interesting as you make it’.
I expect that’s what he was thinking as he saw Tuohy onto his San Francisco boat the following night.