Wilfred Fienburgh was born in Romford, Essex 1919. He was brought up in Bradford, his father been a textile mill worker. He attended Belle Vue Boys School, Manningham and left there aged fifteen. He then worked as an office boy, and as a mill-hand in one of Bradford’s many woollen mills. It is possible he would have worked at Drummond Mills or Lister Mills, as both were local to the Manningham area where he grew up.
At the onset of World War Two he joined in Rifle Brigade in 1940, serving in the ranks. In 1944 he was part of the landing force of the Normandy Invasion, which took part in Operation Overlord, often refereed to as D-Day. Upon demobilisation after been wounded twice, he had attained the rank of Major.
Back in civilian life, after the war had ended, Fienburgh entered the civil service, been employed as a trade union official in their Clerical Association. In the general election of 1945 he stood as a Labour Party candidate in the Welsh constituency of Pembrokeshire. He was unsuccessful. He lost to the Liberal Party candidate Gwilym Lloyd George by only 168 votes. Following on from this experience, in 1947 he joined the Labour Party’s research department, and was for four years the secretary of the party’s policy committee, and was involved in drafting various articles of party policy during this period. He eventually became head of Labour’s research department.
Political victory finally came his way, when in 1951 he won the seat of North Islington in London as a Labour M.P. While in the House of Commons, he often spoke on matters of defence, pertaining to his previous military experience, having also been a Major in the Territorial Army at this time. He finally made his first Front Bench speech in 1957, which has been described by one source as ‘brilliant’.
Wilfred Fienburgh also made time during his busy political career for writing essays, newspaper articles (The Sunday Express) and books. He was highly successful as a writer, with his books including Steel Is Power – The Case for Nationalisation and 25 Momentous Years: A 25th Anniversary in the History of the Daily Herald. Perhaps his most celebrated work is the novel No Love For Johnnie, which has been described as ‘a cynical portrayal of British politics in the late 1950s’. It was later made into a film starring Peter Finch as the lead character. He also had something of fledgling media career, becoming an executive at Granada Television in the mid 1950′s. He was however convinced to give up his post there in 1957, when he decided to undertake social research work in London’s East End.
This bright light was swiftly extinguished when the Rolls Royce he was travelling in collided with a lamp-post at Mill Hill, London in early February 1958.
He left behind a wife, Joan and four young children.
A new public library in Islington was opened by Joan in the July of 1960 as an official mark of respect for her late husband. There is also a block of flats on Carleton Road near Tufnell Park named after him.