Is your surname Cockburn?

Research the Cockburn family

Claud Cockburn's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Francis Claud Cockburn

Also Known As: "Author", "novelist and journalist"
Birthdate: (77)
Birthplace: Beijing, Beijing, China
Death: December 15, 1981 (77)
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Cockburn and Elizabeth Gordon Cockburn
Husband of Hope Hale Davis and Patricia Evangeline Anne Byron
Ex-husband of Jean Ross
Father of Claudia Cockburn; <private> Flanders (Cockburn); Sarah Caudwell; Alexander Claud Cockburn; Andrew Myles Cockburn and 1 other
Brother of Louise Margaret Cockburn

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all 16

Immediate Family

About Claud Cockburn

Francis Claud Cockburn of Brook Lodge, Youghal, County Cork, Munster, Ireland ( /ˈkoʊbərn/ KOH-bərn; 12 April 1904 – 15 December 1981) was a British journalist. He was a well known proponent of communism. His saying, "believe nothing until it has been officially denied" is widely quoted in journalistic studies. He was the second cousin, once removed, of novelists Alec Waugh and Evelyn Waugh.

Life and work

Cockburn was born in Beijing, China on 12 April 1904, the son of Henry Cockburn, a British Consul General, and wife Elizabeth Gordon (née Stevenson). His paternal great-grandfather was Scottish judge/biographer Henry Cockburn, Lord Cockburn.

Cockburn was educated at Berkhamsted School, Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, and Keble College, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He became a journalist with The Times and worked as a foreign correspondent in Germany and the United States before resigning in 1933 to start his own newsletter, The Week. There is a story that during his spell as a sub-editor on The Times, Cockburn and colleagues had a competition to devise the most accurate yet boring headline. Cockburn claimed the honours with "Small Earthquake in Chile. Not many Dead." However, this is apocryphal; no copy of The Times featuring this headline has been located.

Under the name Frank Pitcairn, Cockburn contributed to the British communist newspaper, the Daily Worker. In 1936, Harry Pollitt, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain, asked him to cover the Spanish Civil War. He joined the Fifth Regiment to report the war as a soldier. While in Spain, he published Reporter in Spain. In the late 1930s, Cockburn published a private newspaper The Week that was highly critical of Neville Chamberlain and was secretly subsidized by the Soviet government[5] Cockburn maintained in the 1960s that much of the information in The Week was leaked to him by Sir Robert Vansittart, the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office.[5] At the same time, Cockburn claimed that MI5 was spying on him because of The Week, but the British historian D.C. Watt argued that it was more likely that if anyone was spying on Cockburn, it was the Special Branch of Scotland Yard who were less experienced in this work than MI5.[5] Cockburn was an opponent of appeasement before the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In a 1937 article in The Week, Cockburn coined the term Cliveden set to describe what he alleged to be an upper-class pro-German group that excerised influence behind the scenes. The Week ceased publication shortly after the war began. Much of the information that The Week printed was false and was designed to serve the needs of Soviet foreign policy by planting rumours that served Moscow's interests.[6] Watt used as an example the claim that The Week made in February-March 1939 that German troops were concentrating in Klagenfurt for an invasion of Yugoslavia, which Watt pointed out was a completely false claim with no basis in reality.

Cockburn was attacked by George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia (1938). Orwell accused Cockburn of being under the control of the Communist Party and was critical of the way Cockburn reported the Barcelona May Days. According to the editor of a volume of his writings on Spain, Cockburn formed a personal relationship with Mikhail Koltsov, "then the foreign editor of Pravda and, in Cockburn's view, 'the confidant and mouthpiece and direct agent of Stalin in Spain'."

In 1947, Cockburn moved to Ireland and lived at Ardmore, County Waterford, and continued to contribute to newspapers and journals, including a weekly column for The Irish Times. In the Irish Times he famously stated that "Wherever there is a stink in international affairs, you will find that Henry Kissinger has recently visited."

Among his novels were The Horses, Ballantyne's Folly, Jericho Road, and Beat the Devil (originally under the pseudonym James Helvick), which was made into a film directed by John Huston with script credit to Truman Capote (the title was later used by Cockburn's son Alexander for his regular column in The Nation).

He published Bestseller, an exploration of English popular fiction, Aspects of English History (1957), The Devil's Decade (1973), his history of the 1930s, and Union Power (1976).

His first volume of memoirs was published as In Time of Trouble (1956) in the UK and as A Discord of Trumpets in the U.S.. This was followed by Crossing the Line (1958), and A View from the West (1961). Revised, these were published by Penguin as I Claud in 1967. Again revised and shortened, with a new chapter, they were republished as Cockburn Sums Up shortly before he died.


Claud Cockburn married three times: to Hope Hale Davis, with whom he fathered Claudia Cockburn Flanders (wife of Michael Flanders); to Jean Ross (part model for Christopher Isherwood's Sally Bowles of Cabaret fame), with whom he fathered Sarah Caudwell Cockburn, author of detective stories; and in 1940 to Patricia Byron (née Patricia Evangeline Anne Arbuthnot (17 March 1914 - 6 October 1989), married firstly on 10 October 1933 to Arthur Cecil Byron, son of Cecil Byron, by whom she had a son Darrell Byron, who died in Ireland aged two, divorcing in 1940, daughter of Major John Bernard Arbuthnot and Olive Blake)[7], who wrote the book The Years of the Week and also wrote an autobiography, Figure of Eight, with whom he fathered Alexander, Andrew (husband of Leslie Cockburn), and Patrick, all three of whom are also journalists. His granddaughters include RadioNation host Laura Flanders, BBC Economics editor Stephanie Flanders, and actress Olivia Wilde.

view all 12

Claud Cockburn's Timeline

April 12, 1904
Beijing, Beijing, China
Age 28
Age 33
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom
June 6, 1941
Age 37
January 7, 1947
Age 42
London, England, United Kingdom
December 15, 1981
Age 77