The Back Story
“Can I have half a pound of Ox’s Tongue please?”, Frankie asked.
It was 1974, and I was working in my mum’s corner shop, near the Noble Art Boxing Gym.
Frankie regularly came into the shop, as he lived next door in Southampton Row.
He and some of the other boxers would come in to get milk, rolls, Ox’s tongue and corned beef.
I was Eleven years old. Frankie unnerved me because he always looked me direct in the eyes, said please and thank you and smiled, at a time when children were seen and not heard. Then he stopped coming in and that was that.
In 2017 I was asked to write a short story about food. I wrote about Frankie’s lunch orders and our encounters over the deli counter, and wondered what happened to him.
A quick google search led me to an article and radio show by Steve Bunce who had an obvious affection for Frankie. Steve’s work told an amazing and tragic story, full of self determination, courage and love. It inspired me to write and produce a short film:
Going for Gold, which picked up a couple of awards in the US.
Then late in 2021 I found out Frankie had a son Michael, who in 2012 posted a comment on Youtube that his dad was alive and well. So I rang my mate Skully, who reckons he can contact any person in London, and in twenty minutes we were on a three way call. Michael explained Frankie was recovering from brain cancer and in a coma but he would phone us as things progressed…
So we waited and at Christmas 2021 Michael rang to say that his dad was recovering, had seen the film and wanted to talk. We went to visit Frankie a few times and spent time talking about his life, boxing and his family. I explained I wanted to turn the short film into a play and Frankie gave us his blessing:
“I don’t care what you write about me” he said “But leave Michael and Gene alone”
And then he gave me a list of people to contact and trusted me with his tale. For three months we travelled around interviewing the people on the list, the eldest being 97. We were grateful for the warmth, time extended to us and for the good wishes and respect extended to Frankie. It took me nine months to write the play and we embarked on this production journey in February 2023. Michael came to the first reading and approved the content but I was both nervous and excited for Frankie to hear his voice and see the play.
Sadly Frankie died on 8th April 2023 and so this play is dedicated to his life and his generosity. To me, he will always be a gentle soul with a sharp, humorous wit and a twinkle in his eye. It was an honour to have met him.
RIP Frankie Lucas, 15th August 1953 - 8th April 2023