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Monday, November 04, 2013

Margot Bland

Margot Bland was the authoress of Julia, about an American GI who meets an English woman while on holiday with his wife in Austria. The book was banned in Australia in July 1953 by the Literature Censorship Board.

On 4 August 1953, Police Constable Alan Killip became a member of Boots Library in Victoria Street, Douglas, Isle of Man, and selected The Philanderer by Stanley Kauffman and Julia by Margot Bland from their lending library. He told the manager, Kenneth John Brown, that he believed the books contained obscene passages and two charges of unlawfully keeping an obscene book for the purpose of lending upon hire were brought against Boots Cash Chemists (Lancashire) Ltd.of Douglas.

Boots had 400 branches of its Boots Booklovers Library throughout the UK and this was the first time any complaint had been made against them.

The case against Boots came to court on 11 August 1953 but was adjourned after extracts had been read out, the High Bailiff, Mr Howard D. Lay, saying that he wished to read the two books in full to gauge the context from which the extracts were taken. When the case resumed on 4 September, John James Ray, who was assistant head librarian for Boots, said he was responsible for purchasing the books on behalf of the libraries and had read both titles which, in his opinion, were serious literature. Inspector Cringle, prosecuting, objected to this comment but it was allowed because Ray had been bought on as an expert witness, having been a buyer for Boots for 30 years.

The High Bailiff found himself in a tricky position when passing judgement on 18 September. The dictionary definition described obscene as "offensive to modesty, expressing or suggesting unchaste or lustful ideas, impure, indecent, lewd."  If the books came within that definition, the only defence was that the books were written for the public good. Inspector Cringle had earlier been quoted as saying: "How anyone can say that the two book 'Julia' and 'The Philanderer' are for the public good is beyond me."

To the High Bailiff, the two titles were "ordinary novels written only to afford the ordinary enjoyment of reading to whoever might peruse them and to provide financial remuneration for their authors." Neither of them, in his opinion, was published "as being necessary or advantageous to religion or morality, to the administration of justice, the pursuit of science, literature, or art, or other objects of general interest." He had come to the conclusion that both books were obscene within the meaning of the [Obscene Publications ] Act. He did so with reluctance because he was satisfied that the defendant company had acted in perfectly good faith throughout. He was also satisfied that the representatives of the defendant company had no improper motive in buying and hiring out these books.

He imposed a nominal fine of £1 in each case.

Julia was subsequently prosecuted as an obscene libel at Clerkenwell Court on 18 May 1954. Authoress Mrs Kathryn Dyson-Taylor, the publisher T. Werner Laurie and the printer Northumberland Press Ltd., all pleaded guilty.

George Charles Greenfield, a former director of T. Werner Laurie and the editor who chose to publish the book and who signed a contract with Mrs Dyson-Taylor for her novel, and Alan Palmer Caldicott, who was managing director of Northumberland Press, both pleaded not guilty.

The book had sold 2,450 copies between March and September 1953 of its 3,500 print run; following the Isle of Man case in September 1953, a further 3,500 copies were printed and in the three months between October and December 1953, a further 1,297 copies had been sold.

Greenfield and Caldicott were found guilty but Greenfield was discharged absolutely on payment of five guineas costs and Caldicott was fined £5. Kathryn Dyson-Taylor was fined £25 plus five guineas costs, T. Werner Laurie was fined £30 plus 10 guineas costs and Northumberland were fined £15 plus five guineas costs.

Following the court case, Margot Bland published no more novels for a decade. She was born Kathryn Macauley Owen, on 27 November 1914, the daughter of Ernest W. and Jessie Macauley Owen and granddaughter of Mr. T. B. Macaulay of Montreal. Ernest was born in Wales and later lived in Canada where he married and had a daughter, Henrietta. After moving his family from Calgary to Detroit, Michigan, in 1912, Ernest became a district manager for the Sun Life Insurance Company. It was here that daughter Kathryn was born.

The family retained its links with England and are known to have visited in 1926 and 1932; they also travelled to Canada in at least 1926, 1932 and 1936. Jessie and Kathryn were listed as living in Canada when they arrived in London in October 1926.

Kathryn was married to John Dyson-Taylor, an insurance broker, in Chelsea on 29 July 1937.

She lived at 1 Chesterfield Gardens, Westminster, London [fl.1939], The Oast Ho., Hale, Farnham, near Guildford [fl. 1941/42], 30 Bourdon Street, Berkley Square, London [fl. 1944/58]. It was during this period that she wrote her first known novel, Festered Lillies (1950) as K. Dyson-Taylor and also penned Julia.

She subsequently married Frank Seay Greenlee (1913-1986), a divorced American insurance broker, in Westminster in 1955. The couple travelled separately to America – both giving as their home address 30 Bourdon Street. They returned to the UK separately in 1957, Kathryn arriving from New York on 21 September 1957. Frank S. Greenlee is subsequently listed in the telephone book at Porch House, High Street, East Grinstead [1960/62]; he later lived at La Casa Del. Porche, Carretera, Panoramica, Benalmadena, Malaga, Spain; he died on 12 July 1986, aged 73.

Kathryn Greenlee remained better know under the pen-name Margot Bland under which name she wrote Business and Desire (1964), Brandy for Breakfast (1966) and Madame of Marrekech (1968) during the 1960s.


  1. Surely Douglas is on the Isle of Man, not Isle of Wight...

  2. D'oh! Yes, of course it is. I've now made the correction. Well spotted.