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Life Span: Born
1905; Died 12th August 1976, London, UK
Star Sign: Unknown
Famous As: British
journalist and MP
Tom Driberg was from a middle class family
but was very aware of poor living conditions of
the local working class families in his village.
His father, John James Street Driberg, spent his
entire career in India, first in the Army and then
in the Indian civil service where he became Chief
of Police and Inspector of Jails for the Province
of Assam. He died in 1919 when Tom Driberg was 14.
His mother was Amy Mary who belonged to the Bell
clan of Dumfriesshire. He had two brothers, Jack
Herbert and James Douglas Driberg, who were 15 and
17 years older than him.
Driberg was sent to the independent fee-paying
boys' preparatory school at Crowborough, Sussex.
He then went as a day-boy to a local school called
the Grange. It was here at the age of eleven where
he began sexual experimentation with other boys.
He then went to Lancing where he came to know
Evelyn Waugh. While at Lancing he started to take
an interest in politics and to develop socialist
leanings. During one of the holidays he joined
the Brighton branch of the Communist Party of
Great Britain. Two of the other boys at Lancing
complained to the housemaster about Tom Driberg's
unwelcome advances. He was punished and left Lancing
a term early under a cloud. For a few months he
worked as a schoolmaster, teaching English at
a preparatory school in Bournemouth. He went to
Christ Church, Oxford, and began to take part
in the decadent lifestyle.
He wanted to become a journalist but could
not see a way of achieving it. He moved to London
and took a top-floor room in Frith Street. He
signed on with Jay theatrical employment agency
in Shaftesbury Avenue. One of the jobs he was
given was to sit as an extra in the audience of
Queen's Hall for a concert in the silent film
The Constant Nymph, directed by Basil Dean. However,
he soon had no money to pay rent, but was fortunate
to find an all-night café in Church Street
(later Romily Street) where he was given a job
as a waiter from 6 pm to 6 am. He slept upstairs
with the two other workers. Above them was a brothel.
He found that he was having to deal with a motley
bunch of customers and to some extent this cured
him of his shyness. This was a happy period for
him but when Edith Sitwell got to know of his
circumstances she was horrified and arranged for
Beverley Baxter, who was managing editor of the
Daily Express to consider him for a job, and in
January 1928 he was taken on as a reporter. Within
a month he had a scoop when he discovered the
arrival of the Moral Re-Armament movement. The
story was run on for several days starting on
the front page on 28th. February, 1928. He continued
to take an interest in the movement and in the
1950s was invited to lecture on the subject at
Oslo and Göteborg universities. His friend
David Ferrer of Secker & Warberg also commissioned
a book which came out in 1964 as The Mystery of
After a few months Tom Driberg was transferred
to help Peter Sewell write his column of social
gossip Talk of London. After Peter Sewell retired
Tom Driberg took over. In May 1933 the proprietor
Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken) decided that the
column should be replaced by something in the
style used by Time magazine in the USA. The new
column was headed These Names Make News. Then
Lord Beaverbrook decided that it should be signed
pseudonymously as William Hickey after the late
eighteenth century diarist. Tom Driberg wrote
the column until 1943, but also did much travelling
to cover major news stories.
In about 1941 Tom Driberg was expelled from the
Communist Party, although he was never told why.
However, this turned out to be useful when he
was campaigning to become an MP. In 1942 he was
elected as an independent MP for Maldon in Essex.
Three years later he held the seat as a Labour
MP, and in 1950 he was elected as the Labour MP
He left the Express in June 1943 after being sacked
by the editor who thought that his parliamentary
activities conflicted with his journalism. He
was then given a job by Bill Richardson, the editor
of Reynold News, a left-wing Sunday newspaper
belonging to the Co-operative movement. He wrote
a column under his own name which was more political.
The paper became the Sunday Citizen in 1962, but
in 1966 Tom Driberg was sacked because the paper
could no longer afford his salary. The paper closed
in 1967. He subsequently worked freelance and
contributed to the "London Diary' of the
New Statesman, and wrote book reviews for the
monthly Books and Bookman.
In 1949 the Labour Party conference elected him
to the National Executive Committee, and he was
re-elected every year from 1950 to 1972. In January
1954 he visited Rupert Croft-Cooke who was in
Brixton prison after a conviction for gross indecency.
In 1956 Tom Driberg was temporarily out of Parliament
and was working more or less full-time as a journalist.
He travelled to Moscow to see the spy Guy Burgess
to get the story of his disappearance from London
with Donald Maclean. The story appeared in Guy
Burgess: A Portrait with Background.
Tom Driberg was chair of the Labour Party in 1957-58
and in 1965 he was appointed as a Privy Counsellor.
He had been an MP for thirty years when he retired
in February 1974. In the early 1970s he anonymously
compiled the crossword puzzles for Private Eye.
In 1975 he was made a life peer and became Lord
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