John Angus Macnab
Born 1906
London, England, United Kingdom
Died 1977
Madrid, Spain
Nationality British
Citizenship British
Education Rugby School
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Known for Writer, translator and fascist politician
Home town London
Toledo, Spain
Political party British Union of Fascists
National Socialist League
Religion Roman Catholicism
Spouse(s) Catherine Collins

John Angus Macnab (1906 - 1977) was a British fascist politician who was a close associate of William Joyce who later became noted as a Perennialist writer on Medieval Spain and translator of Latin and Greek poetry.

Early life

Macnab was born in London, of New ZealandScots parents. The son of a well-known Harley Street eye doctor, MacNab was educated at Rugby School and the Christ Church, Oxford.[1] A convert to the Roman Catholic Church[2], he was also noted as a mountaineer.[3] A gifted translator, when he graduated, he chose teaching as his profession.

Political involvement

During the 1930s Macnab shared a flat in London with William Joyce and the two built up a life-long friendship that was to determine his political involvement.[4] A witness at Joyce's second marriage[5], Macnab joined the British Union of Fascists and served as an official in the BUF's Propaganda Department, editing the party journal, Fascist Quarterly, and contributing a weekly, bitterly antisemitic column, 'Jolly Judah', to its newspaper, The Blackshirt.[6] A loyal lieutenant to Joyce he complained directly to Oswald Mosley about Joyce's dismissal from the BUF in 1937 and was himself forcibly removed from the group as a result.[7] Indeed, such was the bad feeling between Mosley and Joyce that the BUF leader threatened to physically attack Macnab for his complaints and ultimately had him ejected by his Blackshirts.[8]

Following this incident Macnab joined Joyce and John Beckett in forming the unashamedly pro-Nazi National Socialist League. The group made little headway and he travelled with Joyce to Belgium just before the war where they met with Nazi agent Chrisitian Bauer.[9] Macnab joined Joyce and Bauer, a journalist with Der Angriff, in travelling to Berlin immediately afterwards.[10] However whilst Joyce remained in Germany Macnab returned to the UK immediately after the outbreak of war, claiming that he would not be involved in aiding Britain's enemies.[9]

In the early stages of the Second World War he served as an ambulance driver, although before long his previous Nazi sympathies saw him detained under Defence Regulation 18B.[11] He was the first one to identify Joyce as 'Lord Haw Haw' (the radio broadcaster's identity initially being a mystery) when his old university colleague the Marquess of Donegall, who was a journalist with the Daily Mail at the time, had Macnab listen to some recordings after he suspected that Joyce, rather than the other leading suspect John Amery, might be behind the broadcasts.[12] Macnab remained loyal to Joyce after his capture and he joined Joyce's brother Quentin in a failed attempt to appeal the death sentence passed on 'Lord Haw-Haw'.[11]

MacNab married Catherine Collins, a former BUF activist, in 1945 and after the war the couple settled in Toledo, Spain.[13] They had four children in Spain and Macnab made a living by teaching and translating English and as well as writing.[13] For much of the remainder of his life he maintained correspondence with A. K. Chesterton although he took no further role in active politics.[14]

Later writings

He is the author of two classics on Medieval Spain: Spain under the crescent Moon and Toledo, Sacred and Profane. He also authored Bulls of Iberia. In an article in the British journal 'New Blackfriars',[15] William Stoddart pays tribute to Macnab as a leading Catholic intellectual who was the author of a fascinating study of the Spanish Middle Ages. Of Bulls of Iberia[16] the prominent English critic Kenneth Tynan described it as 'awesomely good'. Macnab's also contributed to the British journal "Studies in Comparative Religion", in the 1960s.

In 1938, under the influence of G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, Macnab had embraced scholastic philosophy and traditional Catholicism. At about the same time, he developed an interest in Spain, and in 1945, at the end of World War II, he learnt Spanish and decided to make Spain his home. For many years he lived with his Irish wife Catherine and their three children (all born in Spain) in the charming Plaza de Santo Tomé (opposite the church of the same name) in Toledo. He made his living as a translator.

In the mid-1950s, he read Marco Pallis's book Peaks and Lamas. He immediately understood and accepted Pallis's traditionalist "message", and wrote to him to express his gratitude. In his reply, Pallis suggested to Macnab that he might find profit in the writings of René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon. Macnab at once ordered their books, profoundly assimilated their contents, and was totally and joyfully convinced by their expositions.

Macnab visited Schuon in Lausanne in 1957, and remained in touch with him until his death, in Madrid, in 1977.

For some, scholasticism and traditional Catholicism might have been an intellectual straitjacket but, in conjunction with his classical roots and his later assimilation of the metaphysical doctrines of René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon, they provided Macnab with a fine philosophical tool for a subtle examination of the two traditional cultures (Christian and Islamic) of Medieval Spain.

While in Spain, Macnab received a number of distinguished visitors from Britain and America including novelists Evelyn Waugh and James Michener, publisher Tom Burns, and his friend and intellectual benefactor, Marco Pallis. Macnab was affable and unassuming, seemingly unaware of his learning, and he talked fascinatingly and enthusiastically, holding his listeners spell-bound. As he spoke, Kings and Sultans, Christian saints and Muslim Sufis, silently marched through his living-room.

The fruits of Macnab's studies in the history of Moorish Spain were his books Spain under the Crescent Moon[17] and Toledo, Sacred and Profane (unpublished), as well as a number of articles published in the London journal "Studies of Comparative Religion", during the period 1965—1968.

Spain under the Crescent Moon is a remarkable book, the most entrancing book on Moorish Spain since Washington Irving's Tales from the Alhambra. It is highly relevant to the pressing contemporary problem of how to relate to the Islamic world. The history of Moorish Spain shows that the question is not a new one, and it seems beyond doubt that the solutions reached during the many centuries of Christian-Muslim co-existence were more intelligent — because springing from a deeper level — than the superficial and often ill-informed blundering so common in this area today.

Macnab writes deftly on art and history, chivalry and religion, Christian and Muslim kings, and Christian and Muslim holy men. His narrative is an open window onto an age of faith. He describes Arab accomplishments in poetry, music and fine manners, as well as in the more familiar domains of architecture and calligraphy — the Alhambra at Granada being (with the possible exception of the Taj Mahal) the most renowned Islamic building in the world. He paints a fascinating picture of Islamic mysticism in a manner that recalls Ibn Arabi's account (published in English as Sufis of Andalusia) of the spiritual guides and masters that he knew as a youth in 12th century Spain.


  1. M. Kenny, Germany Calling - A Personal Biography of William Joyce, Dublin: New Island Books, 2003, p. 64
  2. Kenny, op cit, p. 64
  3. Kenny, op cit, p. 127
  4. Kenny, op cit, p. 130
  5. Kenny, op cit, p. 132
  6. S. Dorrill, Blackshirt – Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism, London: Penguin, 2007, p. 413
  7. Dorrill, op cit, p. 413
  8. F. Beckett, The Rebel Who Lost His Cause, London, 1999, p. 146
  9. 9.0 9.1 Dorrill, op cit, p. 464
  10. Kenny, op cit, p. 155
  11. 11.0 11.1 Kenny, op cit, p. 286
  12. Kenny, op cit, pp. 181-2
  13. 13.0 13.1 Kenny, op cit, p. 314
  14. Kenny, op cit, p. 315
  15. New Blackfriars, Vol. 76, No. 1, October 1995, pp. 461-462.
  16. Bulls of Iberia, Heinemann, London, 1957.
  17. Spain under the Crescent Moon, Fons Vitae, Louisville KY, 1999.

External links

See also

pt:Angus Macnab

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