Save Old Smokey! (1976)

Sample Images

Published: Jinty 7 February 1976 – 17 April 1976 

Episodes: 11 

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Billie Stephenson and her grandfather live and work at the local railway line of Whistledown, and for years grandpa has run Old Smokey, the commuter steam train between Whistledown and the big city. But then Councillor Gresby sets up a garage, offering rival commuting by car, and is trying to push out Grandpa. He even puts up an ad outside the railway station (cheek!) saying, “It’s cheaper by far, to travel by car!”. His selling point is cheap petrol, and, as the Stephensons soon discover, his scheme is making the villagers so dependent on car travel they lose interest in the trainline, thinking they don’t need it anymore. 

Before long, Gresby is pinching not only Grandpa’s customers but his staff as well. Grandpa has to cover their jobs as well as his own, and it’s wearing him out. A flu epidemic closes the school, enabling Billie to help with Grandpa’s workload. But Gresby sends in a railway official to inspect things, and after seeing how poor custom has become, he closes down the railway line altogether. And Gresby still isn’t through; he tries to buy out Grandpa by offering him a job at his garage, and then he buys all the railway cottages for his garage employees. This pulls out the Stephensons’ home right from under them, and now they’re homeless. Gresby’s game is clear to Grandpa: “Take a job from him or get out!” 

Still, it’s not all going Gresby’s way. The housewives have wised up to how Gresby pulled strings to close the railway line. As they need the train because they don’t have cars, they rally around for Old Smokey and launch the fight to reopen the line. This gives Grandpa the resolution to fight as well. He soon finds a way to stay on living at the railway line – buy an old railway coach and convert it into a home. Billie organises a petition to Save Old Smokey.

But Gresby is finding his own way around the difficulties, and he seems to be cutting off the Stephensons at every turn. People are treating the Stephensons’ railway home as a joke, and Gresby takes advantage. He pays off the girls at school to really bully Billie over it. He then deals with the housewives by offering them a luxury bus to take them to the shops. Now they now say they don’t need Smokey and won’t bother with the petition. Billie only gets a handful of signatures. She also finds the closure of the railway line has driven more people to buy cars because there’s no other way of commuting, so now they don’t think they even need Smokey anymore. Gresby has the Stephensons’ water supply cut off, and the neighbours seem too scared to give them water (probably under threat of losing their jobs). Gresby sends in a scrap merchant to have Smokey scrapped. However, Billie manages to get a letter from British Rail telling Gresby he does not have the authority for this because Smokey is their property, not his. When the railway home springs a leak, giving Grandpa bronchitis, Gresby has the sanitary department around to inspect the home. They tell them to make the place damp proof or find another place to live. 

On the bright side, Billie finds a surprise ally – Gresby’s son Simon. Simon says he loves trains and stands up for Billie against the bullies who were paid off to pick on her. At first, Grandpa doesn’t trust Simon, but Billie thinks she can. Another friend is Farmer Miles of Whistledown Farm, who helps with water and other supplies.

Simon soon proves he can be trusted. He repairs the leak in the railway carriage as the Stephensons can’t, and seeing how poorly the petition is going, comes up with an interesting way to help it along – take the petition and get signatures himself. He gets into a fight with his own father over it, right in front of everyone in public. The rough way the enraged Gresby treats Billie and Simon shocks everyone so much they rally around with support and signatures. Hmm, did Simon plan it this way, or did it just happen?

The fight is not the only reason why the villagers have turned against Gresby; they are finding his service and maintenance charges are too high, so they’re looking at Smokey again. His petrol is the only thing that is cheap, but Billie knows that will increase too, once Gresby has gotten rid of them.

Gresby tries to destroy the petition by having one of his mechanics setting fire to the railway carriage. The arson does a pretty good job of making a mess of the place, but Grandpa was one step ahead of Gresby on the petition – he hid it inside Smokey in case Gresby tried to destroy it. Gresby is seething to see the petition being posted to the railway company. 

Billie soon gets warning Gresby is up to something else, and she also sees his garage is doing extremely well despite people turning on him after the public fight. He takes over the village dump site for his new car show room, so what’s going to be the new dump site for the old rubbish? Yep, you guessed it – the railway station. Billie and Grandpa are horrified to wake up to find themselves woken up surrounded by rubbish, and Gresby renames the old railway station “Whistledown Scrap Yard” (more of that cheek!). He is confident that as the railway line is closed, the railway company will not make a fuss about all the rubbish dumped on its property.

But Gresby soon finds he has miscalculated. When Mr Martin, a representative from the railway company, comes in response to the petition, he has Gresby remove the rubbish or face legal action. What’s more, as the council won’t remove the rubbish, Gresby has to pay a private firm to remove it, and there’s nowhere to put it but his own front garden! The Stephensons really have the last laugh on him this time. 

Mr Martin says they will reopen the line, but only if they can find a guard and a station master. So the Stephensons advertise, but Gresby is onto it with his own advertising, to tempt the jobseekers away with better jobs at his garage. However, the railway company find the men to do the jobs. Gresby bribes the coal merchant not to sell them any coal for Old Smokey, but the villagers overhear and rally around with their own coal. 

Grandpa insists on fixing up Old Smokey for the big day despite stormy weather, which makes him ill again. Gresby takes advantage by telling everyone they can’t have a sick old man like that as a driver, makes the train service unreliable, and they’re far better off with cars. Grandpa overhears, and this time he wonders if Gresby is right; he’s old, getting sick, and Smokey needs a young driver although it seems unthinkable that anyone but Grandpa can drive her. Though he recovers, he grows depressed and loses interest in everything, even in Smokey. 

Then, on another stormy night, matters come to a head when Gresby comes to the Stephensons begging for help. Simon’s got appendicitis and the storm has blocked the road, so no cars or ambulances can get to the hospital. Grandpa and Smokey are his only chance of saving Simon, as the railway line is the only other way to the hospital. So, Gresby is now forced to use the very steam engine he’s forced into retirement for months. And now he has discovered the hidden folly of making everyone in Whistledown – including himself – too dependent on just one means of commuting to the city and putting all their eggs in one basket.

Of course, the mission of mercy to the hospital on Smokey is how it’s all resolved. Simon is saved, and a grateful Gresby apologises, makes peace with the Stephensons and leaves them in peace, and concedes there’s room for both the railway and the garage in Whistledown. Smokey and Grandpa become heroes in the press and are back in business. Smokey is now tooting merrily along the railway track again.

Thoughts

According to Comixminx, at the time of publication, the story illustrated the increasing move to car usage. Nowadays, nearly fifty years later, we live in an age where increased car usage is causing multiple problems: too many vehicles, traffic congestion, traffic jams, parking problems and costs, increasing pollution, environmental damage, carbon footprints, fuel shortages and increasing petrol prices. These are driving us more and more to alternative forms of transport, preferably ones that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly. 

None of this was really in vogue at the time of publication, and none of it comes up in the story. All the same, the themes that come up in the story – too much car usage, not enough alternate means of transport, discarding existing means of transport that are still serviceable and could be upgraded, profitability at the expense of welfare and common sense – now seem more relevant today than in 1976.

The only major concern at the time of publication was rising cost of petrol. This is probably why Gresby’s cheap petrol is such a selling point. His other selling points include reliability, convenience, and cars being cheaper to run. Against this are his exorbitant charges for car maintenance and services. The petrol is the only thing that is cheap, but that will rise too, once the Stephensons are out of the way. If it happens, Gresby could well price himself out of the market.

However, from the outset we can see Gresby is so greedy at making his the only means of commuting to keep his garage profitable that he fails to see the folly that has been there from the start – having only one means of commuting puts too many eggs in one basket, which makes people over-reliant on it. But there will be times when it fails for one reason or other, and can’t always be available. He finds this out the hard way at the story’s climax. Besides, not everyone is willing or able to use that particular means of transport and may prefer others. Trains and cars have their pros and cons; rail has advantages that cars don’t have, and vice-versa. Therefore, both have ended up complementing each other, and this is what happens at the end of the story.

The Stephensons, in their own way, are as short-sighted as Gresby. The reason they want people to continue to use Smokey is that she is their life and blood, and they can’t live any other way. Moreover, to them, Smokey is not just a train but a person and their dearest friend, and they will move heaven and earth to save her. However, they are not looking all that much beyond this, to look at other reasons why Smokey should carry on, or if not, what else she could be used for. There are so many arguments they could use for public appeal. Over-dependency on one means of commuting has already been discussed. Heritage value and tourism could be another. This was used in a Button Box story (also written by Alison Christie) where a railway company closes down a railway station for economic reasons, to the devastation of the dedicated station master. As with Grandpa, the station was his life. However, the station’s heritage value comes to the rescue. A railway enthusiast converts it into a railway museum, beginning a whole new life for the station and its station master. There are also people like Simon who just love trains, and an old steam engine would build up on nostalgia appeal. And of course, there are people who prefer to be taken along the scenic route and avoid the traffic.

The villagers get so annoying in the way they constantly change back and forth between supporting Smokey and not doing so because of Gresby’s crafty manoeuvres to keep their custom. One minute they begin to see the pitfalls of the garage and the switch to cars, and even see Gresby for what he is. Then they change their minds in a flash once they receive yet another lucrative offer from Gresby or, in some cases, an off-panel threat from him. However, in the times when they do support Smokey, they always leave something behind to help. Ultimately, this takes the form of the filled petition. The petition in itself does not save Smokey, but it opens up the avenue to what ultimately does – prove to everyone, including greedy Gresby, that there is still a use for rail in Whistledown and they should not rely on just one means of commuting.

Jinty and Lindy 21 February 1976

Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)

The Jinx from St. Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)

Friends of the Forest (artist “B. Jackson”)

Fran of the Floods – (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alan Davidson)

Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)

Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)

Wanda Whiter Than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)

Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)

Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)

Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)

Lori, “Miss No-Name”, makes her first attempt to run from the horrible Crabbs. But instead of dragging Lori back, Ma Crabb resorts to more crafty means. She sends a shadow, Fingers, on Lori’s tail. His job is to pull some sneakiness on Lori to make her come crawling back. Will he succeed? She’s found a good refuge, but he’s watching outside. 

Katie wants to see a big football match, but she’s been jinxed by bad chilblains. Poor Katie. Will she miss out on the match or find a way around things? 

Sally and Maya are hiding a deer, Star, from the circus. But nasty types are after Maya and are on their tail. 

Talk about a farewell concert! Fran is tearfully singing “We’ll Meet Again” at the school concert, to say goodbye to her parents the only way she can. The floods are now claiming her hometown as the reservoir bursts. The concert hall is quietly evacuating while the headmistress orders the concert to bravely carry on to avoid panic. 

Ma Siddons turns her hand at painting this week when she agrees to look after a famous artist’s dog in exchange for free art lessons. The results are a dog’s dinner, and Mrs Siddons is even more annoyed when Dora ends up reaping the benefits.  

A disastrous trail of mess-ups and misunderstandings have made Sara distrustful of Nell. But this week, when Sara sees the horrible orphanage Nell was raised in after her horse was sold to its cruel matron, they come together again. Trouble is, how to get the horse back?

Susie suspects there’s more to Wanda than being the biggest tattle-tale and most self-righteous prig you ever saw, but her conduct is just impossible. Then, Susie discovers the truth when she stumbles across an old newspaper, and from the sound of it, she’s astounded. 

Betsy Tanner begins her transportation to Botany Bay. She’s been warned, “You’ll be lucky if you get to Botany Bay alive!” And for her, it’s not just the usual convict ship conditions. Everyone, from her arch-enemy Lady De Mortimer to a fellow convict named Judy, is out to make her life a living hell. At least Judy turns around when Betsy shows her a kindness, and Betsy still has her farewell present, some art supplies, to help her survive.  

Grandpa and Billie Stephenson are fighting to hold onto their railway home against the greedy Councillor Gresby. Grandpa isn’t impressed with the new flat they’ll be moved to, for all its conveniences. Then, he turns up trumps by buying a railway coach for them to live in, so they can stay where they are. But will Gresby give up that easily?

Dot’s invited her friends around for ping pong, but practice gets her into trouble with her Dad. In the end, the ping pong balls are used for bingo games. Even Dad is impressed after being annoyed with Dot.

Jinty and Lindy 27 March 1976

Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)

Penny Crayon (cartoon)

For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez, writer Alison Christie)

Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alan Davidson)

Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)

The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)

Friends of the Forest (artist “B. Jackson”)

Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)

Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)

Dora’s doggy problem this week is a dog who’s named Custard because he’s such a coward that he has to wear earmuffs as loud noises make him leap thirty feet in the air and has no clue how to stand up for himself. Then Custard finds the courage he never knew he had when he sees the nasty Ma Siddons bully Dora. She gets such a fright at his barking and growling that she takes refuge in a cupboard and comes out crawling to Dora for the rest of the evening.

Meanwhile, another cupboard is used as torture in “Bound for Botany Bay”. Poor Mary has been locked in a dark cupboard as punishment for blowing the whistle on Miss Wortley’s cruel treatment of Betsy, and it’s driving her mad with terror. This is the last straw for Betsy, so she decides it’s time to run off, with Mary too, and seek out her father. However, it’s not going to be easy to avoid recapture. Miss Wortley’s screaming for them to be brought back in chains and is going to turn Australia upside-down until she finds them. 

Nasty Ma Crabb has been forcing the amnesic Lori to practise dangerous climbing on an old tower. Now Lori finds out why – Ma Crabb’s training her up to commit forced robberies that involve high wall climbing!

The latest threat to survival in “Fran of the Floods” is a tinpot dictator group called the Black Circle. They operate a boot camp, which they operate as slave drivers. Now Fran and her friends are prisoners of the Black Circle and forced to do hand ploughing in the still-falling rain at the crack of a whip. Then a swarm of crazed birds attacks. Could it be their chance of escape?

Carrie’s in Scotland with her kindly gran and Old Peg, the pram that seems to cure any sick baby that’s rocked in it. Carrie is yearning for Old Peg to cure her sick baby brother Peter. 

There’s no Jinx from St Jonah’s at the moment. We presume she’ll be back when another story finishes, which could be “Friends of the Forest”. It looks like it’s nearing its end, and there’s a surprising revelation about our gypsy girl Maya – she’s an heiress!

Councillor Gresby is demonstrating he will resort to any means necessary to get rid of the Stephensons – including setting fire to their railway coach home and destroying the petition to “Save Old Smokey!”. Now he’s cleared out the village dump – and guess where he’s dumped the rubbish.

This week, “The Slave of Form 3B” is hypnotised into sabotaging one of Stacey’s rivals, Edna. Edna guesses the mean trick and who was responsible, but nobody will believe her. Stacey’s free to strike again, but the blurb for next week hints it won’t go so smoothly.

Miss No-Name (1976)

Sample Images

Published: Jinty 24 January 1976 – 29 May 1976 

Episodes: 19 

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Lori Mills is a brilliant athlete at Fleetwood Athletic Club, her specialty being the pole vault, and she is selected for the county trials. A jealous rival, Rachel, sabotages Lori’s pole vault during training to put her out of the trials. The ensuing accident causes Lori to lose her memory. Rachel is swift to seize upon this to get Lori to leave the club. The amnesic Lori wanders the streets, trying to get help, but gets mistaken for a shoplifter. Thinking she is now a wanted fugitive, Lori runs like hell from the town and ends up taking shelter in a junkyard.

Unfortunately for Lori, the junkyard is run by the evil Ma Crabb and her daughter Stella. They are cruel and abusive, and they also work as fences for a criminal known as Fingers. When the Crabbs find Lori and see she has lost her memory, they promptly take advantage to make Lori an unpaid slave – and worse. Begging acts and criminal acts are all part of what they want out of Lori as well as making her a drudge. Ma Crabb tells Lori she’s her niece Polly, dresses her in rags, and crops her hair to make her unrecognisable from Lori’s “missing” photos. Lori is not convinced she is Polly Crabb but can’t remember the truth. Lori’s only friend is the Crabbs’ donkey Neddy, which they abuse as much as they abuse her. The Crabbs use Neddy for blackmail purposes over Lori – do what they say, or the donkey suffers. Other times they use the whip, chain her up, starve her, make her slog, and other forms of abuse. 

Fingers also helps to keep Lori enslaved. For example, when Lori makes a run for it, Ma Crabb has Fingers tail her. But he’s not to bring her back – Ma Crabb’s plan is for him to make so much trouble for her that her will breaks and she will come crawling back. This works just as Ma Crabb planned, beginning with Fingers stealing a vase and putting the blame on Lori. But when Lori discovers the vase at Ma Crabb’s, she sees through the whole charade and breaks the vase over Fingers’ noggin. From then on, Lori declares war on the Crabbs and Fingers, such as foiling Fingers’ pickpocketing at a market when he tries to drag her into it though she knows she will suffer for it later. 

Lori is quick to find her athletics and that she has a desire to keep in training. Her athletics becomes her weapon against the Crabbs, whether it’s to try to escape or just annoy them, particularly when they try to punish her for her defiance or break her will. In the course of the story we see Stella taking a number of hilarious falls whenever she makes a lunge for Lori but Lori is so fast and nimble she dodges them every time. 

When Ma Crabb sends Lori out to sell logs, Lori meets people could be her tickets to freedom. She tells a kindly old lady about her problems, but the old lady doesn’t offer anything but sympathy. She sees a boy in training and gives him some tips, which makes her realise she must be trained. The boy belongs to a posh school, and at the school Lori is challenged to compete in a hurdling event, which she wins hands down. The headmaster is interested in her to help with coaching. But Ma Crabb does not want that headmaster sniffing around. She has Lori put the headmaster off, threatening to beat Neddy if she doesn’t.  

Next, Ma Crabb forces Lori, under threat of more donkey abuse, to climb a dangerous tower as practice for a job. Lori soon finds this means being forced to help Fingers’ gang rob a jewellery store. Lori manages to snatch the jewellery back and return it to the store. Then she just runs until she collapses, and is surprised to wake up in a proper bed. It’s the lady who was kind to Lori earlier. But the Crabbs aren’t far away and hatch a cunning plan. Ma Crabb feeds the old lady lies about Lori being a thief and Fingers plants of the old lady’s jewellery on her. The old lady falls for it, and Lori is forced to leave. She soon guesses who was behind it, but she has no choice but to go back to Ma. 

Lori finds Ma’s latest punishment is to sell Neddy to a knacker’s yard. To save him, she has to raise money in record time to buy him back. She succeeds, but again the Crabbs have been tailing her, guessing what she was up to. But Lori isn’t having them take Neddy back – and neither is Neddy, who knocks Stella into the canal. Lori hunts around to find him another home and finds a good one at an orphanage. Neddy is now safely out of Ma’s clutches and she has lost her source of blackmail over Lori. That’s that problem solved, but Lori soon finds she is not yet rid of the Crabbs.

As Lori returns from the orphanage, she passes a shop that seems familiar. Realising it must be linked to her past she goes in, but the shopkeeper does not recognise her. Lori realises it is because of her shorn hair and now understands why the Crabbs cut her hair off. This confirms her suspicions she is not Polly Crabb. 

Lori confronts Ma over this, and says she knows what to do. She would have been wiser to have kept her mouth shut, for she has alerted the Crabbs. And if she had done some investigating in Ma’s caravan she would have found the answer – a newspaper report of the missing Lori Mills, which Ma had the whole time. Instead, Lori goes in search of a wig resembling her old hairstyle so someone might recognise her, but the Crabbs are onto her immediately. What’s more, Lori has no money to buy a wig. 

Then Lori spots a silver trophy as a prize for an open athletics event. Her plan is to win the cup, sell it, and buy a wig with it. But again the Crabbs are onto it and block her from entering. Undaunted, Lori enters the competition under a blackface identity (perhaps not very PC today, but the disguise works well enough to get past Stella). She wins the event, but as the reporters take her photos, they spot the blackface starting to run from sweat. Lori she has to make a fast exit with the trophy. She manages to hide it when she gets back to the junkyard, but her disguise is still there for the Crabbs to see through. When they read the newspaper report about Lori’s win, they want to know where that cup is. They fail to find it, but Fingers later snatches it when Lori tries to sell it. 

Lori follows up on her only hunch – if she was trained, she must belong to an athletics club, and the only one around is Fleetwood. She goes to Fleetwood, but the two girls she meets don’t know her. She wanders around town, which does seem familiar, and asks if anyone knows her. Nobody recognises her as Lori, a policeman nabs her for obstruction, and then Ma Crabb shows up to take her back. 

But in a dream, Lori recalls the accident at Fleetwood that caused her to lose her memory. She realises the two girls may not have known her because they were new to the club. So she heads back to Fleetwood. To make herself recognisable she needs the wig. There’s no money to buy it, but a wig shop owner agrees to let her borrow one. 

This time, Lori is recognised at Fleetwood, but jealous Rachel snatches the wig, exposing her cropped hair, and tries to have them believe it’s not Lori. The club coach gives Lori a chance to prove her identity – do the pole vault in the way only Lori Mills can do. Lori succeeds, and they are convinced of her identity. At this, Rachel makes herself scarce.

But Lori still does not have her memory back. Then the Crabbs catch up again with those phony claims she’s Polly Crabb, and try to drag her back. But not this time. During a struggle with the Crabbs, Lori takes a crack on the head, which restores her memory. Now the game is up and Lori is threatening to tell the police how she was treated, the Crabbs follow Rachel’s example, saying they won’t go near Lori again. 

Thoughts

Whenever a girl loses her memory in girls’ comics, a villain out to take advantage of this is never far behind. In some cases the true identity of the amnesic girl and how she lost her memory is kept a mystery to the readers e.g. “The Double Life of Dolly Brown” aka “The Double Life of Coppelia Brown” from Mandy or “Sadie in the Sticks” from Tammy. In such cases, unravelling the mystery is part of regaining her memory and freeing herself from her abusers. However, this isn’t always the case, and it’s not the case here. We know from the outset who Lori is and how she lost her memory. And regaining her memory is the key to freeing herself from her oppressors. No matter how many times Lori tries to escape from the Crabbs, they always catch up one way or other with their false claims she’s Polly Crab, they’ve come to claim her, and she’s an out-of-control girl who is best left to them. 

The only way for Lori to beat the Crabbs for good is to discover her true identity. Unlike some amnesic heroines, such as Katrina Vale from “Slave of the Swan” (Jinty), Lori has the advantage of not really falling for her abusers’ lies. From the outset, she is not convinced she is Polly Crabb, and she grows increasingly sure she isn’t. After all, Ma Crabb is not treating Lori as if she were her own niece. Ma Crabb also made the mistake of not operating in a more insidious manner to enslave Lori psychologically as well as physically, as in “Slave of the Swan” or “No Cheers for Cherry” (Jinty), and fool her so well she may not even realise what’s going on. No, it’s straight out abuse from the beginning. The harsh treatment Lori gets from the woman who is supposed to be her aunt makes her increasingly suspicious that Ma Crabb is no relation of hers. For this reason, the Crabbs can’t enslave Lori fully and have her swallowing all the lies she’s told until she doesn’t know which way to turn except to her captors. 

However, though Ma Crabb doesn’t fully enslave Lori, she still has crafty ways to keep Lori under her thumb. Her secret weapon is Fingers, whom she instructs to shadow Lori when she first escapes but to play tricks on her to break her will and make her come crawling back. And it all goes like clockwork for Ma – until she slips up and leaves the vase where Lori can find it and rumble the trick. But if Lori hadn’t discovered the trick and turned into a rebel against Ma because of it, it could have enslaved her altogether. And no matter how often Lori tries to escape, the Crabbs always catch up. They already have a pretty good idea where to look from what they know about Lori, and Fingers is a very capable shadow. Their biggest weapon is using Neddy to blackmail Lori into doing what they want. For this reason, selling Neddy is ultimately a mistake for them. It not only frees Lori from the blackmail and gives her more scope to escape but eventually frees Neddy from the animal abuse as well. 

Eventually, Lori’s suspicions she is not Polly Crabb are fully confirmed. But being convinced of it is one thing – proving it is another. There are many stories where protagonists have their identities stolen and are trapped in a false one, such as “The Stranger in My Shoes” from Tammy and “The Imposter!” from Bunty. It’s bad enough for these girls to prove their identities while fully knowing who they are. How the heck can Lori prove her identity when she can’t even remember it herself and Ma Crabb doing such a good job of disguising her that nobody recognises her as the missing girl, Lori Mills? Her only clues are her original hairstyle, indications she’s a trained athlete, gradual memories that begin to resurface, and everything progressively pointing to Fleetwood Athletic Club. 

The abuse from the Crabbs does tend go over the top at times, such as keeping Lori dressed in that ragged dress, making her sleep on sacks, and even chaining her up. Moreover, their grotesque faces and dark, coarse appearance, which makes them so reminiscent of fairy tale witches, not only adds to the excessiveness but should also alert anyone to the sort they are straight away. You would think the Crabbs have a reputation around the town, and the police would already be suspicious of their activities and watching them closely. Yet Ma Crabb finds it so easy to fool anyone who gets too close with her lies about her “niece”. 

When Lori threatens the Crabbs with the police over the way they treated her, they beg her not to, promising they’ll leave her alone, and beat a fast exit. Yes, but aside from their treatment of Lori and Neddy – which they go unpunished for – there’s still the matter of their criminal activities, and that should be reported to the police. We’re left feeling the Crabbs are yet another bunch of villains who got off too easily, and Fingers is still at large.  

It is touching to read the blurb at the end of the story. Instead of telling us what’s coming next week, it closes with a final word about Lori: “Lori had courage and talent – but it was her courage that helped her in the end!” Yes, it was the courage to not only remain steadfast and determined but defiant as well, and fight back any way she could. On many occasions, the way Lori strikes back has us laugh and cheer, such as sending Stella into dirty puddles. So Lori Mills must stand as one of Jinty’s most feisty heroines.

Jinty & Lindy 17 January 1976

 

Slaves of the Candle (filler artist)

The Jinx from St. Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)

Friends of the Forest (artist “B. Jackson”)

Win Your Very Own Hairdryer! (competition)

Fran of the Floods – first episode (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alan Davidson)

Ping-Pong Paula – final episode (artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie)

Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)

Wanda Whiter Than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)

The Haunting of Hazel (artist Santiago Hernandez)

Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)

Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)

Make it Easy…A Nightdress Case – feature 

This issue marks the start of the Jinty classic, “Fran of the Floods”, a tale that has more relevance in today’s climate change environment and rising sea levels than when it was first published in 1976. Rising temperatures and melting ice caps are causing non-stop rain worldwide, and flooding problems are everywhere. Fran Scott is treating it as a joke, but Dad senses it’s something more like the Apocalypse. 

Ping-Pong Paula ends this week. Paula is in hospital in a coma after a road accident, but not even this brings her quarrelling parents together. It takes a telling-to from a nurse that they have to put everything aside and go in together if they want Paula to recover for things to come right at last. 

Poor Nell can’t do anything right. This week she tries to protect Sara’s horse Mister Flicker because she mistakenly thinks he will be destroyed. But her ignorance in horse care has resulted in him becoming seriously ill. More tears for the girl who’s “Too Old to Cry!”.

Lyndy Lagtree, who has finally escaped from the “Slaves of the Candle” racket, realises the villainous Mrs Tallow is out to steal the Crown Jewels and is hot on her trail. Unfortunately, she fails to stop Mrs Tallow from putting her plan in motion at the Tower of London.

In “Friends of the Forest”, Sally and Maya are trying to keep a tame deer, Star, from the circus. Sally is discovering how Maya lives in the forest – in a tree house. But it looks like the welfare busybodies don’t approve of this. They grab Sally, thinking she’s Maya.

In “Song of the Fir Tree”, our fugitives catch up with their old friend Rachel from the concentration camp, who’s now a bit of a fugitive herself. But their enemy Grendelsen catches up too, and now he’s got all three at gunpoint.

Hazel finds out why Black Crag Mountain is angry – greedy developers are out to disturb the dead as they dynamite the old mine workings for silver, and they’ve been scaring the villagers off their land to do it. No wonder the mountain’s a bit pissed! Wouldn’t we be?

That self-righteous prig Wanda White is too much this time. She’s kept Susie awake all night by reading “Pilgrim’s Progress” aloud – her nightly habit of reading a self-improvement book – through those thin walls between them. It’s the last straw in Susie working herself into exhaustion, and the exhaustion gets Susie into trouble in gym class next day.

Dot’s putting on a bit of weight and is making do-it-yourself gadgets to lose it. She eventually turns to a do-it-yourself Turkish bath, which solves the weight problem. Trouble is, Dot forgot to undress first!

Katie is getting a cup of tea for her friend Sue, who is in hospital. Should be straightforward? Not when you’re the Jinx from St. Jonah’s. And that’s just the start of the jinxing that gets Katie banned from the hospital. The ban isn’t stopping Katie from getting some sweets to Sue – but with a fishing pole? Oh dear, watch out for jinxing hijinks at the hospital next week!

Too Old To Cry! (1975-76)

Sample Images

Published: Jinty 8 November 1975 – 6 March 1976 

Episodes: 18 

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot 

Nell (short for Eleanor) has grown up in Blackthorn House, a very grim pre-WW2 orphanage run by the cruel Mrs Arbuthnot, who is also very cunning and can lie her way out of any situation. Nell has the additional problems of being plain and having crooked teeth and a lame leg, which makes her a bit clumsy. Children have to toughen up fast to survive in the orphanage, and Nell has developed serious toughness. She is not tough to the point of scorning tenderness; the other children respect her for being kind and helping them as much as she can. A newcomer at the orphanage gives Nell a gold necklace in return for helping her.

Then Nell stumbles across her orphanage record. It informs her about a Mrs Grace, a woman who is her legal guardian, her mother maybe, and paying for her upkeep. This and the gift of the necklace prompt Nell to run away from the orphanage in search of Mrs Grace. She seizes her chance while the hawk-eyed Mrs Arbuthnot is on temporary absence from the orphanage. Along the way she swaps the necklace for a dress she plucked from a washing line and lands a washer-up job at a café. This earns her enough money for the train fare to the town where Mrs Grace lives. 

However, Nell is shocked to see what she finds at the address: Academy of Beauty and Grace for Ladies. Being no beauty, she is at a loss as to how to introduce herself. She watches the academy for a while. While doing so, she observes the arrival of one very reluctant newcomer, Sara Wellby, who will play a big part in her story. Sara’s mother is forcing her to attend the academy to forget “all that nonsense” i.e. horse riding, which she disapproves of for snobbish reasons and also because (with more justification) she thinks Sara’s head is too full of it. 

Eventually Nell decides to just go for it after seeing Mrs Grace looks a nice person. But right on Nell’s heels are Mrs Arbuthnot – who claims Nell is a bad lot and stole the necklace from her – the owner of the dress Nell took, and policemen! Once Mrs Grace realises who Nell is, she kindly sorts things out and arranges with Mrs Arbuthnot to let Nell stay at the academy. Mrs Arbuthnot seems only too happy to do so, saying she does not want Nell back. So Mrs Arbuthnot is gone (for now, anyway) and everything looks a lived-happily-ever-after fairy tale ending for Nell. 

However, Nell is soon down to earth with a bump when she discovers she is not welcome at the academy. She overhears Mrs Grace saying she just took her in for personal reasons but wants her kept out of sight, downstairs, because of her looks.

When Nell confronts Mrs Grace about what she overheard, Mrs Grace is impressed by her spunk. But she refuses to explain the mystery and tells Nell the story is she will take her on as a pupil. Nell realises Mrs Grace is just keeping her out of charity and she will be beholden to her. This offends her pride, but there’s not much option. 

But really – is a beauty academy seriously taking on an ugly duckling with a limp and a rough ‘n’ tough attitude from her harsh orphanage upbringing as a pupil? In an establishment where the other pupils are glamour and grace and posh? And Mrs Grace never really wanted Nell in the first place because of her physical shortfalls? If this is not a joke, it’s a recipe for trouble. Not surprisingly, things get off to a bad start for Nell with the other girls. Nell is quick to realise not to let word get around about her orphanage origins. Nell has many angry/crying fits at feeling unloved and unwanted at the academy, and her reactions at being perceived as an embarrassment by the establishment because she’s a rough kid become aggressive.

Things begin to look up when Nell makes a friend in Sara. She loves her horse, Mister Flicker; she wants to be a professional show jumper, but, as already stated, her parents disapprove. She only agreed to come to the academy if Mister Flicker came too, but is angry at Mrs Grace because there’s no sign of him. Nell strikes a friendship with Sara, and it is the only thing making life at the academy bearable for Nell where she’s an unwanted misfit. 

Mrs Grace, offering to be more friendly with Nell, explains that Mister Flicker’s arrival has just been delayed by a vet check, but she does not approve of the growing friendship or either girl getting too interested in horses. Nonetheless, Nell covers for Sara in class when Mister Flicker does arrive and she wants to help him settle. 

Unfortunately, those lovely hair products in class are too big a temptation for a scruffy kid from an orphanage that did not offer much in the way of decent body wash products. And when Nell uses them to help clean Sara up from the stables, things go a bit wrong. Sara unwittingly uses hair dye and ends up looking like a piebald pony. She takes it in good part and gets a short haircut to go with it. But when Mrs Grace hears what happened and why, she orders Nell not to mix with the other girls. However, this does not stop the girls’ friendship.

Next, Sara wants to secretly enter gymkhanas with Nell’s help. The event is being held at near a contest the school is entering, one to find the prettiest hands for an advertising campaign at Wickley Factory. Nell is surprised to hear from Sara that though her face is plain, her hands are pretty enough for enter. So the plan is for Nell to enter the hand contest under Sara’s name while she sneaks off to the gymkhana – where she fails dismally. Not enough preparation, rushing her horse, not putting him first, say the judges. Worse, Sara hadn’t bargained on Nell actually winning the hand contest in her name! 

Of course the deception is discovered. Nell cops worse punishment than Sara (such as getting a whacking on her hands in front of everyone but Sara doesn’t) though Sara is to blame too. The girls blame Nell for the trouble Sara got into, and discovering her orphanage background turns them even more against her. Now she’s even more isolated at the academy, with nothing but her rough ‘n’ tough hide developed from her orphanage years to keep her going. Sara is banned from seeing Mister Flicker for a month or speaking to Nell, and her friendship with Nell sours.

Despite everything, Wickley is still interested in Nell for their campaign. Hearing this, Nell’s hopes rise again, but she has to work with them in secret. 

Then disaster strikes again when Nell overhears a conversation in the stables about a horse being destroyed and mistakenly thinks it’s Mister Flicker. She tries to hide him in a shed, but her actions make him ill. Sara thinks Nell tried to kill Mister Flicker out of spite for ending their friendship. She has the girls cut Nell so dead they draw a death head on her door. This has a spooky, frightening effect on her. Nell feels the death head is cursing her, and it shows in her performance. Worse, her deal with Wickley falls through because it would expose the secret to Mrs Grace. And she needed the money from the job to pay for Mister Flicker’s treatment, but now she can’t afford it. 

Next, it’s Open Day, and Nell sees a chance to use some of the goods to raise the money. Again things go wrong when a policeman spots her selling cheap food to poor kids. He means to escort her back safely to the academy, but the embarrassment wrecks the Open Day and the story of the orphanage child at the academy now circulates among the stuck-up parents.

Nell sneaks into Mrs Grace’s office to find out the truth about herself, but accidentally starts a fire that almost burns the school down and Mrs Grace is injured. Sara, who saw Nell sneak into Mrs Grace’s office, thinks Nell started the fire on purpose and won’t listen to Nell’s pleas that it was an accident. The school is temporarily closed and the girls are sent home. Nell, who has nowhere to go, is taken in at none other than Sara’s house! 

The long, messy trail of disasters and misunderstandings at the academy is not making Nell’s stay at the Wellbys’ a happy one. Sara now thinks Nell is strange and dangerous; her distrust of Nell has her spending far more time with Mr Flicker than ever, which has Nell thinking Sara cares more about Mister Flicker than her; Sara’s snobby parents are mortified to find Nell is a common kid; Nell tries to run away when she discovers this, but this just leads to more misunderstandings and trouble with Sara; and Nell thinks all she can do is put up with things under yet another luxurious but hostile roof with everyone against her.

Things couldn’t get any worse? They do when Mrs Arbuthnot shows up again. She’s after Mrs Wellby’s money, as “donations” for the orphanage, and forces Nell to help her. She also gets hold of Mister Flicker to sell on for a good price. When Sara finds out, she has Nell take her to the orphanage. Sara is shocked to see what a horrible place Nell has come from, and finds the treatment of Mister Flicker just as bad. He’s in the coal shed with nothing but stale bread – which he only got because the orphans kindly smuggled it in. Mrs Arbuthnot had no intention of feeding him. Sara is all for removing Mister Flicker right then and there, but Nell, who knows it is technically stealing and Mrs Arbuthnot can lie her way out of anything, persuades Sara that they have to find another way. They strike a bargain: Sara helps Nell prove Mrs Grace is her mother and Nell will help get Mister Flicker back. The orphanage kids will keep an eye on Mister Flicker. Unfortunately Sara’s parents are caught up in party preparations to celebrate their anniversary, so it’s a bad time for Sara and Nell to approach them about their little problems. 

During the party, one of the orphanage kids arrives with bad news: Mrs Arbuthnot has suddenly advanced her plans for Mister Flicker and he’s gone. Fortunately, another orphanage kid, Tim, sneaked into the horse box and laid a trail, enabling them to find Mister Flicker, and discover Mrs Arbuthnot sold him to a racket. Sara gets the police, the racket is sorted out, and Mister Flicker is back. What happened to Mrs Arbuthnot is not clear, but angry remarks from Mrs Wellby give the impression she is now sorted out too. However, Sara’s parents are more concerned about the embarrassment this has caused them and send Nell back to the academy. They are definitely not going to help Nell discover her past, and Sara is so wrapped up with Mister Flicker she forgets her side of the bargain to Nell. This has Nell feeling let down and unloved again.

Nell discovers the fire she accidentally started at the academy has destroyed Mrs Grace’s private papers, dashing her hopes of proving her past. The housekeeper snaps at her in anger for starting the fire. This is the last straw for Nell and she runs off, leaving a note. She heads to the shed where she hid Mister Flicker but breaks her leg, and it’s pouring rain. She’s in serious danger but manages to crawl into the shed.

Nell’s note is discovered, and a search party finds her in the nick of time. Sara realises this is partly her fault for the way she failed Nell, and she apologises. Also shocked by what happened, Mrs Grace tells Nell the truth. Nell’s mother was a servant employed by Mrs Grace, but she unwittingly caused the mother’s death. She then sent Nell to the orphanage, paying for her upkeep, without realising how cruel the orphanage was. Mrs Grace now officially adopts Nell, arranges treatment for Nell’s lame leg and crooked teeth, and gives her a complete makeover. The academy is converted into a decent orphanage for the orphans. Nell and Sara go to college, and they will help run the place when they return, complete with horse riding.  

Thoughts

The story could easily have taken the route of Nell enduring the harshness at the orphanage while trying to do something about it, failing time and time over but never giving up, and ultimately succeeding. The formula has been frequently seen in girls’ comics, such as Jinty’s “Merry at Misery House”, “The Worst School in the World” from Judy, and “The School for Unwanted Ones” from Bunty. 

Instead, when Nell first escapes from the orphanage, the story takes the unusual route of not having her dragged back there and face terrible punishment, which does not stop her from trying again. The cruel matron, rather than being the main antagonist throughout the story, is used to help set up the early episodes and then the resolution of the story. In the meantime, Nell’s first escape attempts succeeds, only to lead her down the ugly duckling/misfit route where she just finds herself more and more of an outcast, and her efforts to do something helpful or find out who she is just get her into ever-increasing trouble. For all the luxuries her new life brings her, it is not bringing her the love or happiness she craves. She finds herself actually pining for the orphanage; grim and cruel though it was, at least she was among her own and had friends. She discovers that “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it” (Proverbs 15:17) is all too true. 

Nell’s story shares similarities with Little Orphan Annie: an abused but feisty orphan (Nell/Annie) running away from an orphanage to find her parents and strikes it good with rich people; the orphanage run by a cruel woman (Mrs Arbuthnot/Miss Hannigan) who abuses her and then takes advantage of the adoptive rich people to make money; the orphan failing to reunited with her birth parents but is adopted by the lovely rich person (Mrs Grace/Daddy Warbucks). As with Annie, Nell has no given surname (at least, not in the story), which further adds to the mystery. 

But unlike Daddy Warbucks, Mrs Grace does not really want Nell. She is only taking her in because she is responsible for her and, as we ultimately discover, she is also feeling guilty about the death of Nell’s mother. Even so, she could have done a lot more to help Nell instead of making Nell feel she’s an embarrassment to the establishment and best kept out of the way. Giving scruffy, plain Nell a makeover, particularly after she discovers Nell’s hands are beautiful, would have gone a long way to making Nell feel a lot more confident and giving her a sense of belonging in the academy. When she finally does give Nell a makeover at the end of the story, ugly duckling Nell has turned into such a swan the readers would be hard put to recognise her. 

Nell is surrounded by snobby girls who look down on her because she’s rough and common. Being an outcast in a posh place because you’re not posh is a common thing in girls’ comics, but in Nell’s case it is even more heart-breaking because she’s a lonely orphan who came to seek the love she craved, only to find herself in a gilded cage, in the lap of luxury, but nobody cares for her. At Sara’s house, things get even worse for Nell because even Sara has turned against her. The irony is that at the orphanage, Nell dreamed of luxury, only to find that luxury without love is meaningless. The grim orphanage becomes preferable because at least she had friends, but there is no crawling back to it. 

The snobs also find it suspicious as to why Mrs Grace has her at all. When they find out Nell’s orphanage background, they are not surprised to find out it is a form of charity. Nell does not like the charity either. This is not just because it hurts her pride; it’s also because it’s not what she wants. She wants the love and caring she believes she should be getting from the woman she thinks is her mother. But why the hell isn’t she getting it? She feels so let down, which adds to her misery.

Nell’s rough reactions to the snobbishness against her, borne of the toughness she developed in the orphanage, are not endearing the people at the academy to her. And in some ways, Nell’s tough conduct is making things worse for her. It does give the impression she is too tough, maybe even delinquent. So, when things Nell does keep going wrong, it is all too easy for even Sara to get the idea Nell is a bad lot. But to the reader, Nell’s feistiness is admirable. She has beans and backbone while most protagonists in girls’ comics tend to take things in silence.  

Sara could almost be in the role of Sandy the dog, Annie’s faithful friend. But unlike Sandy, Sara is not doing much to help Nell beyond being her only pillar of support in the academy. And she isn’t that much of a pillar of support or a friend either. In fact, Nell does more to help Sara (or at least tries to) than the other way around. It is not until the very end that Sara at last seriously helps Nell and becomes a real friend.

In some ways Sara is a sympathetic character; her snobby mother is forcing her to give up riding, just because she disapproves of it. To do so, she drags Sara off the beauty academy, which Sara quite understandably hates. We have seen similar things in girls’ comics time over, such as “Battle of the Wills” from Jinty. And in the end, riding wins out. 

But Sara has one serious problem – she is selfish. She is too absorbed with Mister Flicker and cares for nothing and nobody but him. As a result, she is not thinking of others, which limits her ability to make friendships because she is too selfish to reciprocate them. The way she keeps getting Nell to help her carry on riding against orders is on the verge of taking advantage of her. 

Sara has to learn that riding is not everything. It takes shock treatment, which Sara gets at the final episode, to make her realise this. In the end, Sara is still riding, but she is doing it in a more sharing and caring manner at the new orphanage, and showing that she is now looking beyond herself and riding. Mrs Grace is now looking beyond her narrow horizons too, and putting her efforts into something really caring and loving as well as giving Nell the love she has been expecting for so long.

Tammy 28 February 1976

Cover artist John Richardson

Sarah in the Shadows – (artist Mario Capaldi)

Sit It Out, Sheri – (artist John Armstrong)

The Spanish Knight (artist Manuel Benet) – The Strange Story

Pancake Recipes – feature 

Claire’s Airs and Graces – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Aviator – artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon

Wee Sue – artist John Armstrong

The Fairground of Fear – artist Diane Gabbot(t)

A Lead Through Twilight – (artist Douglas Perry)

Pancake Fun Time

In honour of Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day, we bring you a Tammy that commemorated it. The Cover Girls start things off. Oh dear, talk about a burnt offering. Inside, Tammy provides recipes for pancakes. Let us hope that anyone who tried the recipes had better luck than little sis on the cover. Tammy finishes off Pancake Tuesday with a page of pancake jokes on the back cover. They are probably reprinted from some other Pancake Tuesday issue. 

Over the previous three issues, Tammy had progressively started five new stories in honour of her fifth birthday issue. But that’s over now, and all five stories are up and running.

The first to open was “Sarah in the Shadows”. Sarah is trying to raise the money to get her uncle out of debtor’s prison, but she is fast learning that greedy types, particularly the debt prison governor, are making as much money as they can out of her and any money she tries to raise. This is giving her no chance at all to clear the debt. We get the feeling that even if Sarah does clear the debt, her uncle will never be free with that prison governor around.

Starting in the same issue was “A Lead Through Twilight”. Carol is trying to conceal that her sight is failing because she is terrified her sourpuss Uncle Matt will pack her off as useless. Really, how long can you hide a thing like that? And how long can Carol hide the stray dog, Twilight, who she is using as a guide dog, from Uncle Matt, who hates dogs? Not long. People have already detected both secrets, and we’re only four episodes in. 

The next issue started the next two stories, “Sit it Out, Sheri” and “The Fairground of Fear”.

In the former, Sheri’s having problems with her see-sawing confidence from the strange chair she has acquired. It’s swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other, from arrogance to her old wallflower self who couldn’t say boo to a goose. And now her horrible stepmother is trying to sell the chair off. Sheri managed to stall the buyer this time, but he’ll be back. 

In the latter, the snobbish Sir Whitland is out to get rid of the fair after Julie has an accident there, and he sends in a magistrate to do the job. But the Fairground of Fear won’t be closed down so easily with that creepy clown around, who traps the magistrate in a terrifying hall of mirrors! 

“Claire’s Airs and Graces” was the last of the five, starting in the previous issue. It was the only serial Hugh Thornton-Jones drew for Tammy. His artwork for Tammy was seen more often in Wee Sue later on, along with some Strange stories and one complete story (the only Hugh Thornton-Jones story to receive a credit during Tammy’s credits run, which is how we know his name). Claire is pretending at her new school that she comes from a posh background when in fact her parents have suddenly gone down in the world. But close calls, complications and prices to pay for the sham are already starting. 

A snooty type, Sylvia Hill, is causing trouble in Wee Sue when the class is on holiday at Craigmore Sports Centre. As with Claire, it turns out Sylvia is living a lie and fooling the other girls into thinking she’s a posh girl. Sue figures Sylvia out but graciously helps her to put things right. Incidentally, the episode gives Wee Sue’s height as four feet, assuming it’s not a figure of speech. 

In Bessie Bunter, Cook is having problems with a new soup tureen and all food’s on hold until she works out what. The girls have to cook their own, and Bessie is demonstrating that she is brilliant at eating food but terrible at cooking it! Nobody realises it’s due to a faulty gardening syringe, which accidentally squirted plant food into the tureen. 

In the Strange Story, a strange Spanish knight helps Maria Fernandez and her family out of financial trouble and gruelling jobs by leading her to a find of Spanish coins. But who was the knight, once Maria establishes it’s not her brother playing Don Quixote again?

Lord Stanton’s niece Serena is an aviatrix who is brilliant at landing – in trouble. This time she’s got Molly and herself locked up by a nasty bloke called Arnold Wharton, who is very interested in her plane. Charlie manages to get Molly out, but they run into more trouble while getting away. Meanwhile, Wharton still has Serena. There is also something very odd about him, and it’s increasingly suspicious.  

Tammy 16 February 1974

Cover artist: John Richardson

The Clothes Make Carol – artist John Armstrong

Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie – artist Robert MacGillivray

Ballerina in Blue Jeans – artist Escandell Torres

The Girls of Grimleys Grammer 

‘Those Jumps Ahead of Jaki’ – artist Eduardo Feito

School for Snobs – artist J. Badesa 

Little Lady Jane

Granny’s Town – artist Douglas Perry, writer Pat Mills

No Tears for Molly – artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon

For Valentine’s Day, we bring you the very first Tammy Cover girls cover that commemorated this event. Ironically, the gag about big sis feeling pissed at little sis getting more Valentines than her would also be used for the last Valentine cover featuring the Cover Girls, which appeared in 1980. They could have used a different colour font for the heading, though. The yellow can be hard to read.

Inside, the Wee Sue story also uses the Valentine theme. Miss Bigger gets a Valentine. Now who the heck in their right mind would admire her? Nobody, of course. It’s Wee Sue trying to put her in a better temper, and also because she feels sorry for her after discovering she has a lonely heart. 

Two stories, “Those Jumps Ahead of Jaki” and “Granny’s Town”, are on their penultimate episodes, the former with a double episode. Jaki has to win an all-important riding trophy to bring her friend Isabel out of a coma – which requires her to beat a near-impossible time set by the favourite. Also, the nasty Miss Stockland does not want Jaki to win and is trying to stop her – but why? Definitely a mystery here. In the latter, Jen Young must be the only young person left in Granny’s Town. Her Ladyship has removed all the other young people by condemning their houses. It’s all in the name of her campaign to turn Granny’s Town into the town where only grannies rule.

The Ballerina in Blue Jeans, rough Cockney kid Jessie Grub, has been spotted as a ballerina and even been taken on as a pupil. Now the Duveen Ballet has spotted Jessie as well. Unfortunately, so have the police. She just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when some toughs attacked a shop, but the police won’t believe it.

For once, Uncle Meanie’s mind is not fixated on screwy penny-pinching schemes. Instead, he lands the role of MacBeth! How did it happen? It’s all Jeannie’s plan to keep a long-standing feud between the McScrimps and the McScrams, who have moved in for a holiday, away from home and give everyone some peace until the McScrams return home. It’s a pity this was not turned into a two-parter to show us how Uncle Meanie actually performs as MacBeth.

What’s the feud about, anyway? Generations ago, a McScrimp and a McScram accused each other of cheating in a card game. They were probably both cheating, seeing as Uncle Meanie and Mr McScram are as bad as each other at feuding – and playing the bagpipes.

Carol Carter is nicknamed “Scarecrow” because of her scruffy clothes, which she has to wear because her uncle and aunt give all the best to her cousin Sheila. Then Carol is given a magnificent blazer that’s giving her confidence. But spiteful Sheila has noticed and is trying to ruin the blazer, and finally succeeds with a whitewash boobytrap – or has she? There are already hints that there is something odd about that blazer. 

In Molly Mills, bully butler Pickering has gone too far (making a man work until he collapsed). That’s usually when his bullying comes back to bite – for a while, anyway. In this case, Pickering’s being scared shitless by spooky things happening to him, and he’s been hearing stories that if the man dies he will return to haunt. 

In “School for Snobs”, bossy snob Georgina always fancies being headmistress and even goes to the lengths of kicking out the current one. She even does it to Hermione Snoot when she arrives at the School for Snobs for treatment. Has Hermione met her match at last? “Not on your conkers, mate! There’s gonna be a surprise for Lady Muck!” 

Tammy 5 February 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St Wood’s – artist José Casanovas

Towne in the Country – Mario Capaldi

Curtains for Cathy (final episode) – artist Douglas Perry

Call of the Sea (The Strange Story) – artist unknown

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Economy Drive (first episode) – artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (final episode) – artist Diane Gabbot(t)

Edie the Ed’s Niece – artist Joe Collins

Wee Sue – artist John Richardson

Katie on Thin Ice – artist John Armstrong

The cover features a common running gag in the Cover Girl run: being the first to read the issue and be able to finish it, and sneaky attempts from the other to grab the issue or sneak a peek. 

Two stories finish this week, opening up space for the next stories in the New Year’s lineup. The curtains come down on the person who’s been trying to drive Cathy off the stage, who turns out to be her own mother. It seems she was one of those misguided parents who doesn’t want their offspring pursuing the course of their dreams because it was disastrous for themselves. Dad quietly deals with Mum, telling her that all she’s done is prove Cathy’s determination to pursue the theatre. In “Nightmare at Grimm Fen”, the evil Robert le Mal is destroyed by the very thing that brought him back in the first place – the church brass of him. 

This week’s Wee Sue story is a lesson in not leaving things too long, as this can leave things too late. Sue meets an old lady who left it too late to approach an old friend over a squabble, and now there’s no way to know if things are forgiven. Sue decides on a little white lie to put the old lady’s mind at rest, but she is confident it is the message her old friend would have given if she had been able to.

Babe and friends go to a restaurant, but a pickpocket swipes their purse, leaving them to wash up to pay for their meal. But of course the pickpocket has made a big mistake in crossing a gangster’s daughter and gets his just desserts – literally.

In “Towne in the Country”, Val has a new companion, Clarissa Keene, in her quest to find her father. But Clarissa is the dead opposite of Val in many ways: arrogant, spoiled, hard on animals, and the original trophy hunter. Talk about the odd couple. This is going to be some fellowship!

In the Strange Story, two Victorian children help a wheelchair-bound girl who is on the run from a cruel institution. Okay, but what’s so strange about that? The children find out when they bring the girl to the coast where she was originally picked up. 

Bessie is hearing odd remarks about the Fish and Chips, the White Mice, the Gorillas and the Strawberry Jam. After a series of misunderstandings and hijinks she finds out they’re all the names of pop groups Court House is taking care of after they got flooded out, but everything ends happily. 

In the new Molly Mills story, Pickering is afraid for his job because Lord Stanton is facing money problems, so he is going to start an economy drive at Stanton Hall. Knowing bully butler Pickering, this does not bold well for Molly and the other servants. 

Mrs Winter forces Katie to help raid a treasure ship. But it goes badly wrong and Katie’s friend Susie has been caught. How can Katie get Susie out of this one?

Jinty 4 February 1978

Come Into My Parlour – artist Douglas Perry

Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones

Two Mothers for Maggie – Jim Baikie

Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee

Waking Nightmare– Phil Townsend

Concrete Surfer – artist Christine Ellingham, writer Pat Mills

The Jam – feature 

Rinty ‘n’ Jinty – cartoon

Paula’s Puppets (first episode) – artist Julian Vivas

Land of No Tears – artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills

Darling Clementine – artist Richard Neillands, writer Alison Christie

You Really Take the Biscuit! – feature

In this issue, two stories are clearly on their penultimate episodes: “Come Into My Parlour” and “Land of No Tears”.

In the former, Mother Heggerty’s spell forces Jody to set fire to the Kings’ store. But she’s been caught in the act. She could be facing criminal charges, but the blurb for next week says fire will strike at something else other than the store. Maybe someone is going to burn the old witch at the stake or something?

In the latter, Cassy comes close to losing the vital swimming marathon the Gamma Girls need to win because of a forced bargain with the ruthless Perfecta. Fortunately Perfecta injures herself from over-exertion in the race and drops out, freeing Cassy from all that and enabling her to catch up in the nick of time. Everyone is cheering her on, much to the villainous Hive Inspector’s chagrin. His response to secret helper Miss Norm’s delight in Cassy catching up – “What do you mean, Miss Norm? It’s a disgrace!” – cracks me up every time. Now Cassy is duking out the final length with two others and it’s so close. Everyone except the Hive Inspector and Perfecta is on the edge of their seats to see if Cassy will win. 

“Two Mothers for Maggie” looks like it could be nearing its end as well. Mum is critically ill. It looks like the crisis has actually aroused a bit of conscience in Maggie’s horrible stepfather, but he’s not treating Maggie any better because of it. 

A new story starts, “Paula’s Puppets”. Paula Richards is a spoiled, selfish girl whose rocky road to redemption starts when her father’s toy factory burns down and he is arrested for it. Her life turns upside-down while he protests his innocence. We believe him though nobody else does, but we know the poor bloke’s going to go down for it. Meanwhile, Paula finds some weird puppets at the burned-out factory, which seem to possess some kind of power. 

People should really watch what they say with Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag around. Two pitying women whisper what an “absolute dragon” poor Jenny’s got for an aunt and she needs a knight in shining armour. Henrietta obliges, but she has taken it a bit literally and hijinks ensue. But of course it sorts out the old dragon.

Ella is not making much progress with her training for the waterskiing event she wants to win for her family, nor with convincing others she was not to blame for her cousin Clem’s accident. Then Ella makes progress with something else – finding the girl who really caused Clem’s accident. But when she confronts the girl, the miscreant makes it clear she is not going to own up and clear Ella’s name. 

Alley Cat gets freebies from the sausage factory, but trust Spotty Muchloot to make trouble. Fortunately it all turns to the advantage of the factory and Alley Cat is rewarded, much to Spotty’s consternation.

Phil is trying to work out how break into Hardacre House, where she believes Carol is being held prisoner. It’s still very odd that Carol’s family clam up about it. It gets even odder when Phil learns Hardacre House and its owners are very mysterious, and she does not like the look of them when she sees them. After an accident with a tractor she is finally inside. The blurb for next week hints she will not like the look of what she finds there either.

Skateboarding is the only thing that gives Concrete Surfer Jean Everidge the upper hand over her smarmy cousin Carol. Jean’s about to start her new school with Carol, but the leadup to it is not going well, and Jean senses Carol is behind it.