Lara the Loner (1981)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy 10 October 1981 to 5 December 1981

Episodes: 9

Artist: Juliana Buch

Writer: Alison Christie

Plot

Ever since she can remember, orphan Lara Wolfe has had a fear of crowds (ochlophobia) and panics like nobody’s business whenever she gets caught in one. Lara has no idea why she has this phobia. Gran says she will explain why when she feels Lara is old enough to understand. But when Gran finally decides the time has come, she dies of a heart attack before she can explain. Well timed, Gran.

Living in the country, where things are less crowded, has made it easier for Lara to cope with ochlophobia. But after Gran’s death, social welfare moves her to the city. In the city, things are even more crowded, both at school and at the children’s home Lara now lives in. This makes Lara’s phobia even worse. Then, after a bully at the home publicly humiliates Lara over her phobia, she vows she won’t tell anyone else about it. And she has the added frustration of still not knowing the reason for it all. 

So now the stage is set for the setup that follows until the end of the story: Lara’s phobia, which drives her to either avoid crowds or flee from them in a blind panic, combined with her refusal to explain the problem, gets her into a whole heap of trouble. It leads to misunderstandings and spoiled opportunities and friendships that make her increasingly unpopular, both at the children’s home and at school. The girls all think Lara shuns them and doesn’t mix in anything (because of her fear) because she’s an antisocial, stuck-up loner. So they call her “Lara the Loner”. Lara can’t make or keep friends or do activities she would love to do because her fear keeps messing everything up. 

The misunderstandings reach the point where the girls, both at the home and at school, turn right against Lara. A wonderful opportunity to be adopted is also spoiled by her phobia – and nearly gets her wrongly charged with shoplifting as well. Lara’s phobia even puts her in hospital – twice. But not even these hospitalisations or running off because she’s so miserable do anything to improve her popularity. Neither does nearly dying of pneumonia, which Lara contracts because of her phobia (forced to take a long walk in pouring rain because the bus is crowded). Matron has to force the girls at the home to make the “welcome home” banner for Lara.

Lara has only one friend at the home, a little girl named Susie. But Susie gets adopted – by the same couple who rejected Lara after the false impression she was a shoplifter. Now Lara has nobody and crying at how her phobia is ruining her whole life.

Another couple, the Maxwells, take an interest in adopting Lara. This time, when Lara gets into a panic in front of them, she tells them about her phobia before rushing off. Lara is astonished to find them very understanding because Mrs Maxwell has ochlophobia too. Now Lara and Mrs Maxwell have found they are kindred spirits, they draw even closer together.

Then Lara stumbles across a newspaper cutting at the Maxwells’. It informs her that when she was a baby, she, her parents, and the Maxwells’ daughter Susie got caught in an accident where a bus mounted a crowded pavement. She was thrown clear, but her parents and Susie were killed. So Lara and Mrs Maxwell have ochlophobia for the same reason!

Moments after Lara discovers the reason for her phobia, the accident is re-enacted when a van mounts a crowded pavement. Fearful that Mrs Maxwell has been caught up in it, Lara dashes out and, forgetting her fear, pushes her way into the crowd in search of her. Seeing Lara push her way into the crowd, a concerned Mrs Maxwell does the same. After this, they are overjoyed to find they are not scared of crowds anymore. 

Now ochlophobia is no longer a barrier and there are no more panics from it, there is nothing to stop Lara mixing at school. She is now the biggest mixer of them all there, she has friends at last, and her popularity is on the rise. 

Naturally, the Maxwells adopt Lara and she becomes Lara Maxwell. 

Thoughts

Serials about a whole string of misunderstandings and unfair unpopularity caused by a phobia were more commonly found at DCT than at IPC. One example is “A Dog’s Life for Debbie” from Tracy. A fear of dogs keeps messing things up for Debbie Bruce and, like Lara, makes her increasingly unpopular because of all the misunderstandings her phobia causes.

A story with this format in an IPC title makes it more refreshing, as it appeared less often at IPC than DCT. Also of interest is that the story format deviates from DCT where a misunderstanding caused by Lara’s phobia always ends on a cliffhanger. It is not until the next episode that we see how it turns out. And until the final episode it is not in Lara’s favour! Had this story run at DCT, each misunderstanding would have been shown in a self-contained episode until the penultimate episode. 

Lara’s phobia sure is one that can make life really difficult, for unless you live in serious isolation crowds are virtually unavoidable. And it is a serious barrier to socialising or even doing everyday things in public areas. Lara panicking in a crowd is also dangerous, not only for her but for others as well. This is shown on several occasions in the story. For example, in one episode Lara accidentally hits a girl with her hockey stick while she panics to get out of a crowd. In another, she causes a pile-up at the school disco – with her at the bottom.

These misunderstandings could have been sorted out and Lara not so unpopular if she had simply explained. But she has sworn not to tell anyone about her phobia after the bullying incident. So people continue to jump to the wrong conclusions about Lara and she becomes even more unpopular and miserable. It is fortunate for Lara that for once she forgot that vow and told the Maxwells. If not, it would have been another miserable misunderstanding for her. The message is clear: if you have a problem with a phobia, tell someone about it and try to get help for it. 

Getting help with the phobia is something Lara never does. Gran does not help Lara overcome the problem either, although she is sympathetic and knows the reason for it. But help for phobias is available if you care to look.

Added to Lara’s misery is her not knowing why she is scared of crowds. In most other phobia serials the girl at least knows why she has the phobia, but not in this case. It also gives the element of mystery to the story to unravel, and girls just love mystery. So the mystery would have made them eager to follow the story even more. And when the reveal comes, we suspect it will hold the key to solving Lara’s problem. It’s no surprise to find it’s linked with how Lara got orphaned. The cure is also associated with the original incident: a re-enactment of it, which has both Lara and Mrs Maxwell face their ochlophobia. And they did it without even thinking about it because other thoughts overrode their fear.  

Tammy and Misty 5 July 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

Donna Ducks Out (artist Diane Gabbot(t)) – final episode

Tina’s Telly Mum (artist Giorgio Giorgetti, writer Alison Christie)

The Sea Witches (artist Mario Capaldi)

Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)

Something in the Cellar (artist Tony Coleman) – Strange Story from the Mists in text

Peggy in the Middle (artist Tony Coleman)

Lucky by Name (artist Julian Vivas)

The Cover Girls are on a trip to the safari park, and for once the older girl has an upper hand over the younger one, with the aid of the monkeys. The monkey on the roof of the vehicle sure looks like he’s poking the Tammy logo with that stick!

Bella is trying to make her way to the Moscow Olympics, but her efforts aren’t meeting with much more success than her 1976 bid for the Olympics. She has got stranded (again), this time in the US. She has no way to get to Moscow or back to Britain, no equipment to train on, no money, and no coach. She has taken a job to help raise funds, but it’s in rhythmic gymnastics, which is not helping her usual gymnastics – and she’s entered a gymnastics tournament.

We sense there’s going to be a raft of new stories starting soon. One story finishes, one is about to, and another is reaching its climax. 

Donna Ducks Out is the one to end this week. A bathroom duck has somehow given Donna Desmond the power to swim, but she’s so dependent on the toy that she gets shot by duck hunters while trying to retrieve it when it is taken on holiday, and the duck has taken damage too. In this sorry state, she has to win a swimming championship with a sinking duck. It’s never quite clear whether the duck actually gave Donna the power to swim or just the confidence to do so, but ultimately she finds she no longer needs the duck and retains her ability to swim. The duck ends up in the hands of another non-swimmer who feels the same confidence rising. Donna will be replaced next week by the return of Molly Mills, who has been absent from the merger until now.

Lucky By Name is the one on its penultimate episode. Lucky Starr has run away with her beloved pony Fortune in the mistaken belief her father will sell him because of money troubles. Of course it doesn’t take long for the police to catch up, but there’s a bonus – it all leads to them foiling a couple of robbers and recovering stolen loot. Hmm, we smell a reward coming up that will solve everything!

The Sea Witches is reaching its climax. It looks like the witches have had enough of the American air-base interfering with their nesting grounds and they’re going to bring out their big guns. That can only mean something really bad now. Katie, the only one trying to help the situation, is being sent away at this crucial point, but we know she’ll be back to stop the witches somehow.

Tina’s Telly Mum is on part two. Tina Mason persuaded her grieving mother to take a television announcer job to take her mind off things, but now she’s beginning to regret it because it’s backfiring on her. Mum’s now too wrapped up in her job to think of anything else – including Tina, who’s been left behind, being neglected and missing Mum so much. Worse, Mum left the wrong person in charge of Tina: a nasty old bat who’s deliberately coming in between everything Tina has left of her mother or any respite Tina tries to seek. She even makes Tina do housework that she is being paid to do herself. What a cheek!

By popular demand, the Tammy & Misty merger revived the spooky text stories that Misty used to run, but it didn’t seem to last long. This week’s one is “Something in the Cellar”, about a cellar haunted by an Alsatian that got suffocated by a delivery of coal, poor thing. It leaves the babysitter so spooked she’s never going to babysit at that house again.

Peggy in the Middle is caught in a custody battle between her mother and her father and his new wife Mitzi. Peggy and Mum suspect they’re being watched as part of the custody battle, but discover the watchers were in fact burglars waiting for their moment to strike – and the burglars not only rob the place but totally trash it as well!

Miss Bigger reveals some Bigger family history in this week’s Wee Sue story. We learn the Bigger women were ones for big ideas such as cycling up Mt Everest and civilising the American Indian nation (that one looks like it got a tomahawk in the head from behind). But their ideas clearly lacked common sense and invariably failed – just like the measures Miss Bigger takes to economise at school this week. Predictably, it’s all at the expense of the girls, but Miss Bigger loses out in the end, and Wee Sue puts things right.

Tammy 1 January 1977

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

The First-Footer – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edit the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – final episode

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby) – final episode

Welcome to our first entry for 2021! And there’s no better way to begin than with a New Year’s issue from the past.

The Tammy annual was often a running gag at Christmas/New Year time during the Cover Girl era, and this cover is no exception. The advantage of the Cover Girls and regulars such as Bessie and Sue meant Tammy could make in-jokes about the Tammy annual, to the amusement of readers. 

Wee Sue, Edie, Bessie and the Storyteller all have New Year-themed stories as well. Miss Bigger finds bats in the belfry (literally) when she’s in charge of ringing in the New Year. Later, Sue needs the bells for more than ringing in the New Year – saving juniors from a nasty accident! Edie makes 16 New Year resolutions, and even she knows she won’t keep them all. Bessie’s class dress up in fairy tale costumes for a New Year party, with Bessie as Humpty Dumpty. In the Strange Story, Nina Prentice scoffs at superstitions and fortune-telling but is left wondering after something strange happens with the first-footer custom for New Year. The happy ending of Molly’s “Season of Goodwill” story with Lord Stanton willing to save the children’s home from closure rounds it off nicely as well.

Cathy is now a full actress, but all she feels is terror because of whoever is trying to drive her off, and they are very nasty about it. Their latest is switching Cathy’s makeup kit with that of her mother Constance, who’s been dead for years. Now, how did her enemy get hold of that anyway? Could it even be a clue to their identity?

Robert Le Mal’s fulfilled his threat to take control of birds, animals and people. But now he goes one further – taking control of power lines! 

Val gets a lift from Spain to Gibraltar. Now she has to cross a desert by camel train. But she doesn’t realise that some male members of the camel train are offended by her not being covered Muslim style and they fear it will incur Allah’s displeasure.

The bossy head prefect, along with the snobs, sends Babe & Co on a hare and hounds paperchase, which crosses paths with a fox hunt. When Babe hides the fox in her bag, it causes everyone to get chased, with the antagonists getting stuck in the mud.

It’s the final episode of “Olympia Jones”, and I used to read it over and over. The villainous Rotts must have been as surprised as they were shocked to meet their Waterloo at Olympia’s trial when they thought they had her stitching all sewn up. But Olympia’s old friend Amanda Fry changes everything with some detective work. Olympia is fully exonerated at the trial and goes on to win her Olympic gold after all. However, there’s no doubt the best scene belongs to lousy Linda Rott the horse-beater when she discovers she’s been caught out (below).

Linda the horse-beater destroys herself in court. From “Olympia Jones”, Tammy 1 January 1977/25 July 1981. Artist Eduardo Feito.

Personally, I’ve always wished the material in the final episode had been expanded into a story arc lasting a few more episodes. There’s so much jam-packed into the episode that so much gets short shrift or omitted, such as the final fate of the Rotts and the full story of Olympia at the Olympics. Maybe Anne Digby intended to develop things further with more episodes but ye Editor wouldn’t agree. 

Replacing Olympia next week is a non-Bella John Armstrong serial, “Katie on Thin Ice”. Bella tended to start in the second quarter and finish late in the year, but 1981 and 1982 were exceptions to this.

Tammy 25 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (Mario Capaldi)

Gran’s Christmas Message – Strange Story (artist Audrey Fawley)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Kevin Rowan of “Our Kid” – feature 

The issue is actually dated 25th December. Did Tammy/Jinty readers actually get their 25th December issue on Christmas Day itself? Was the issue postdated and distributed early, before the Christmas holidays? Or did readers have to wait until after the Christmas holidays for their 25th December Tammy/Jinty to arrive? Where I come from, the Christmas issue didn’t arrive until March (that’s how long it took for girls’ comics to ship), so I wouldn’t know.

Bessie, Molly, Wee Sue and Edie all have Christmas-themed stories. I like the Bessie Christmas story so much I’ve reproduced it below.

The Strange Story is also a Christmas story. The Christmas spirit is lost on Cathy Summers, who is grieving too much for her grandmother. Then she has an accident while decorating the Christmas tree and her condition is very bad. In hospital there is a strange visitor – grandma – and Cathy makes a miraculous recovery.

No Christmas celebration for Babe of St. Woods, but she still has a ball sorting out some stuck-up boys from a boys’ school. The boys also like to play rotten pranks and eventually try pouring white paint on Babe and her friends, but Babe makes sure they hit the wrong targets – namely, the mounted police! 

The “Nightmare at Grimm Fen” began when Patty and Mark Stephens did a brass rubbing of an evil knight, Robert le Mal, which brought him back from beyond the grave. The ghost has powers over birds, animals, people, telephone wires and airwaves to spread his influence and make everyone do his bidding, and our heroes are being surrounded by it. He’d have influence over the Internet too if it had existed at the time. Wow, not many ghosts in girls’ comics are that powerful, and it didn’t take our medieval knight long to to discover how to use 20th century technology.

Bella spent a lot of 1976 stowing away, getting stranded in foreign countries and having all sorts of adventures in order to get to the Montreal Olympics. Now Val in “Towne in the Country” is doing the same while trying to join her father’s veterinarian expedition in Africa. Right now she’s stranded in Spain and is shocked at the cruelties of bullfighting. 

In “Curtains for Cathy”, Cathy Harley is the daughter of a famous actor but wants to make her own way as an actress, right down to working under another name. But she has an enemy trying to stop her. Whoever it is has left a dummy of her to frighten her. It doesn’t stop her from a brillant performance, which gets her four curtain calls.

Olympia Jones has just made it to the Olympics team, only to face her darkest hour (what a cruel irony in the Christmas issue). She’s under arrest for horse theft and (in effect) animal cruelty, she’s lost her horse Prince, and her hopes of getting to the Olympics look dashed. It’s all a frameup and conspiracy, hatched by her old enemies, the Rotts, to get their hands on the fortune Prince is now worth. Olympia hasn’t got one iota of evidence to prove she’s telling the truth and everything looks hopeless to her. However, the last panel of the episode should make things obvious to readers how that’s all going to change and they’ll all be hankering for the next issue to see exactly how it all pans out.

Tammy 18 December 1976

Artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

The Family Feud – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edie the Ed’s Niece – Joe Collins

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and the Season of Goodwill – first episode

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Christmas craft feature

Tammy really is gearing up for Christmas now. Her Christmas craft feature is on how to make Christmas decorations. Edie is writing out her Christmas present list (with the Tammy annual included of course). Wee Sue’s class is putting on A Christmas Carol with Sue cast as Tiny Tim, and she takes quick action to stop a Christmas tree from starting a fire. Miss Bigger was cast as Scrooge (perfect role for her) and is given an offer of a role in a pantomime. Sue doesn’t tell Miss Bigger what kind of role it will be in case she turns into the Christmas grinch. As part of Christmas Bessie & Co are repairing old toys for the children in hospital, but a rocking horse leaves Bessie champing at the bit. Stanton Hall is being decorated for Christmas – but trust Pickering to act the grinch. Then Molly discovers the local children’s home is facing closure, and Pickering, of all people, gives her an idea on what to do about it.

Babe at St Wood’s goes to the fair but falls foul of a conman. He leaves her and her friends stranded on the roller coaster with the help of the snobs before going off on business of his own – stealing silverware. Then he falls foul of Babe and her gangster-taught skills. Babe proceeds to take revenge on the snobs, who have unwisely hidden themselves in the human cannonball cannon…

Val puts her vet skills to good use on the ship she stowed away from when she cures their mascot dog of an illness. In return they don’t hand her over to the authorities. Unfortunately a storm blew them off course and now Val is stranded in Spain.

A shot makes Cathy faint, but it didn’t come from the gun she bought – so where did it come from? Back at the theatre, Cathy again hears that voice telling her to leave the stage, and that person knows her real name. To make their point clear, they throw down a dummy placard of her, and it’s hanging by the neck. We have to wonder along with Cathy – is this a sick joke or a final warning?

In the Strange Story, dressing up as a cavalier (the brother) and Puritan girl (the sister) for a pageant has them arguing – which is nothing unusual for them. Then they have an encounter with a real cavalier whose brother became a roundhead. The brothers recognised each other too late in a cavalier/roundhead fight and ended up killing each other. The cavalier has regretted ever since that he never got the chance to make things up with his brother. After this, the brother and sister patch up their quarrel very quickly and become good friends.

Mark is still sceptical about Patty’s claims that the evil Robert Le Mal is back in business despite what is happening, including finding Robert Le Mal’s coffin open, chains broken and his body gone. However, Mark is finally convinced when a gang of brainwashed fisherman in the grip of Le Mal start attacking their refuge in Le Mal’s castle, chanting “Seek! Seek! Seek and destroy! … We must do our master’s bidding!” These guys have really got our heroes trapped. Can they find a way out?

A way out is something Olympia could really do with right now against the Rotts’ frameup. She does succeed in a temporary escape from the Rotts’ first attempt to seize her beloved horse, which lasts just long enough for them to make the last qualifying event for the Olympics team. The Rotts are now forced to go through police, a court case and “a lot of fuss” to get their hands on the horse and the fortune he’s worth when they expected a quick and easy killing handed to them on a plate. Still, they think it’ll be just an inconvenience to their plot, not a threat. Couldn’t possibly become their Waterloo. After all, there is nothing Olympia can prove. And Olympia fears the same when she’s arrested on the Rotts’ trumped-up charge of horse theft.  

Tammy 11 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Ring in the New Year with a New Bike – competition

The Charioteer’s Dream – Strange Story (artist John Armstrong)

Edie the Ed’s Niece (artist Joe Collins)

Bessie Bunter

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Countdown to Christmas – feature

Oops, looks like the Cover girls are having a little trouble with what is probably an early Christmas present. Inside, Tammy adds a Christmas/New Year competition to her buildup towards Christmas. Her Christmas crafts feature this week is how to make gifts for little children. 

The school rowing teams are out in Babe at St Woods this week, and a rival school team is not playing fair. But of course they haven’t counted on Babe and her gangster skills. This week Babe draws on motorcycling skills the mob taught her. 

In this week’s episode of “Towne in the Country”, the whole focus of the story shifts from an “All Creatures Great and Small” theme to a journey theme. Val even gets a new hairstyle especially for it – a bob – much to her father’s consternation. Dad accepts a job in Africa, but Val is not accepting that she has to stay behind at boarding school. Oh, no, she’s going to follow him to Africa. In fact, she stows away on his ship. Then she finds out it’s the wrong ship and worse, she’s been caught.

Gee, now what was the thinking behind this abrupt change in the direction of the story – someone inspired by the 1976 Bella story where she stows away all the time and ends up in all sorts of places to get to the Montreal Olympics? Personally, I feel it would have been more logical to just end the current story with this episode and start the Africa saga with a sequel under a different title. Besides, “Towne in the Country” was the perfect title for the original story theme, but I don’t think it really suits the change in direction.

Cathy was warned there was a dark side to theatre: jealous types, dodgy types, mean types, etc. Now the reality must be sinking in. Trixie hates Cathy and is making her life a misery. She gets even worse when Cathy jumps from assistant stage manager to take Trixie’s part in the production. At least Cathy will get some money now. There is a second girl, Hermia, who looks like she’s out for trouble too. Added to that, there’s this other enemy out to make things curtains for Cathy and they look a lot more dangerous than Trixie and Hermia. But Cathy’s day is really ruined when she is sent out to find a rifle for the play and thinks the gun is unloaded. All of a sudden there’s a bang and she’s lying on the ground!

In the Strange Story, a Roman charioteer keeps having a recurring dream and goes to a soothsayer about it, who advises him to get a golden talisman if he is to win the event. He thinks he has found it in a slave child and buys her. Then he has to make an agonising decision between his desire to win and his conscience over slavery.

Edie goes to a fancy dress party dressed as Molly Mills – but a bully goes dressed as Pickering, and Edie does not have Molly’s talent for getting the last laugh over Pickering. She comes back with a black eye. Poor Edie.

Bessie tries to keep the boiler from being repaired in order to stall an exam. The boiler gets repaired in the end, but for once Bessie foils an exam and the other girls are pleased with her.

The seal saga ends this week for Molly Mills. Claire goes in to the lake to rescue Smiley after he gets tangled in fishing wire, but he ends up saving her. After this, Claire is allowed to keep Smiley and it’s a relief they no longer have to hide him.

Sue agrees to collect an animal from the zoo for a youth club fete – but nobody told her it was going to be a baby elephant! She is drawing a lot of laughter and hijinks as she tries to get him to the youth club, but a mouse scares him right back to the zoo. A toy shop manager comes to the rescue and allows Sue to take a giant toy elephant instead. Much easier to manage.

In “Nightmare on Grimm Fen” we finally get the backstory of Robert Le Mal. He had black magic powers, which he used to make dark birds terrorise everyone. The people eventually rose against him and killed him. But even as they did so, he said he would return, and watch out, because when he does, he will control all birds, animals and men, who will make him ruler of the land. And here come the birds already!

“We’ll handle it all with discretion” said animal welfare guy when he agreed to take Olympia Jones’ horse off her (without police involvement) on behalf of the Rotts after being tricked into thinking she mistreated the horse and then stole him from the Rotts. Well, that’s not how would describe how he’s handled it. “Professional”, “well planned” and “knows what he’s doing” are not descriptions I would use either. In fact, he’s bungled it so badly that he ends up chasing a fleeing Olympia and horse down the road, right in front of everyone. So much for discretion.

Tammy 4 December 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry)

Countdown to Christmas – feature 

Lucky Heather – Strange Story (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Bessie Bunter

Molly Molls – A Friend from the Sea (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t))

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

It’s the first Tammy December issue for 1976, and Tammy sure isn’t wasting time building up to Christmas. She has a feature on how to make Christmas presents for the men in your family for the benefit of readers who are a bit cash-strapped for presents. It is the first instalment of a Christmas countdown feature.

Babe hasn’t taken much interest in athletics so far at St Wood’s, and now she’s got to contend with a head prefect who is running it all like an army drill sergeant – with help from Babe’s archenemies the snobs of course. The episode also gives us more of the Olympics theme that’s been running through Tammy during 1976. 

Speaking of the Olympics, what’s up with Olympia Jones?

Uh-oh! Olympia Jones doesn’t realise her hopes of an Olympic gold are under threat from the evil Rotts. They’re out to get their hands on the fortune her horse Prince is now worth as an Olympic prospect through their mug from LOLA (animal welfare society). They tricked LOLA guy into thinking Olympia mistreated Prince (it was themselves). Now they’ve tricked him into thinking she stole Prince as well, and is he able to please, please, get Prince back for them, as they don’t want the police involved.

LOLA guy says no problem, we’ll just walk into her next event, take Prince and drop him off to you, no need for the police. Groan…looks like LOLA guy will do anything for the Rotts. He should be asking serious questions about all this – like what the heck were the Rotts thinking in allowing this (as LOLA guy thinks) animal abuser to just make off with the very horse she was abusing in the first place and do absolutely nothing about it until now? He also says “we’ll handle it all with discretion”. But LOLA guy’s first move at the event isn’t exactly discreet – or smart – and puts Olympia on the alert before he’s even made his real move.

In “Towne in the Country”, that pesky pedlar who’s been selling fake animal medicine and cheating a lot of people finally gets cornered – by the tiger everyone else has been trying to find! Val, the only one who has gained the tiger’s trust, is going to step in.

Cathy starts her new job as assistant stage manager. She has already made an enemy, Trixie, who suspects where she has really come from. Worse, Cathy is nearly broke after being forced to use up so much of the allowance her father gave her. Well, it was her idea to do that assistant stage manager job for nothing! And now this other enemy who made that threatening phone call to Cathy’s father is now making whispered threats to Cathy herself. And it looks suspiciously like they nearly made her fall off a train as well.

The “Nightmare at Grimm Fen” is intensifying. It reaches the point where everything breaks down and Grimmford is cut off. Patty blames the evil knight, Robert Le Mal, she and her brother Mark unwittingly brought back to life. Mark is still sceptical about Le Mal, but then their father claims to have seen him.

Miss “Stackers” Stackpole is giving a lesson on the 21st century and anticipates that robots will be doing more and more of the things that used to be done by people. This has Bessie drifting off into a dream of what that would be like…robots bringing her grub and doing her lines for her, a robot Stackers teaching her class…well, her dream soon turns into a nightmare. Bessie’s dream sequences are among my favourite Bessie Bunter episodes. 

The Storyteller asks us if we believe in fairies. Heather Silver is wondering about that after an encounter with a strange woman who claims to have fairy descent. This is followed by curious events that get Heather’s redundant father a new job and Heather fulfilling her dream of going to vet college.

Miss Claire and Molly find a helper to help hide Smiley the seal, but keeping him secret is still proving problematic and Pickering is still on the hunt for him. And now it looks like a couple of fishermen have caught Smiley.

In “Wee Sue”, two girls have a fallout over netball on the eve of a netball final, so it’s vital to make them see sense fast. Unfortunately Sue’s efforts to patch things up only seem to make it worse. So she has to resort to a bit of cunning, which has the bonus of bringing extra custom to a coffee bar.

Tammy 27 November 1976

Cover artist: John Richardson

Babe at St. Woods (artist José Casanovas)

Towne in the Country (artist Mario Capaldi)

Curtains for Cathy (artist Douglas Perry) – first episode

The Unseen Hand (Strange Story) – artist Robert MacGillivray

Bessie Bunter

Molly Mills and a Friend from the Sea (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)

Wee Sue (artist John Richardson)

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (artist Diana Gabbot(t)) – first episode

Olympia Jones (artist Eduardo Feito, writer Anne Digby)

Two new stories begin this issue: “Curtains for Cathy” and “Nightmare at Grimm Fen”.

In the former, Cathy Harley wants to make her own way on the stage, not because she’s the daughter of a famous actor. She’s even willing to do it the hard way and take all the hard knocks she’s been warned about. So she takes an assistant stage manager job under an assumed name at a rundown theatre, and she even agrees not to be paid for it. But no sooner has Cathy gone when Dad receives a threatening phone call saying he won’t see Cathy again and the curtains are coming down for her! We don’t think Cathy counted on that as part of the hard knocks she was willing to risk – but can she take it anyway when whoever it is starts their game?

In the latter, Mark and Patty Stephens make a brass rubbing of an evil medieval knight, Robert Le Mal. Then there are warning signs they shouldn’t have done that and they return to the place to reverse the damage. But as they do so, the weather grows stormy and there’s a horrible flapping sound.

It’s unusual for Robert MacGillivray to draw a historical story, but he does so with this week’s Strange Story. The story appears below for those who like MacGillivray artwork.

The snobs are cooking up trouble for Babe – literally – this week. It must be said that the gangster know-how she pulls to foil their scheme really does stretch credibility. 

There’s a hunt for a loose tiger in “Towne in the Country”, and there’s a hunter after it with safari ideas. Val spots it first and, realising it’s hurt, decides to risk herself to treat it. 

Miss Claire is trying to hide a baby seal with Molly’s help, but of course it’s a load of trouble for them both. Now there are further complications. The first is Pickering, who mistakes the seal for a monster and has all the staff hunting it. The second is another man finding the seal – and Molly doesn’t like the look of him! 

Sue plans a party. Unfortunately Mum accidentally scratches the new LP she was going to use for it, and the stores are sold out because it’s so hot. Then a stroke of luck and Sue’s habit of doodling bring her to the pop star himself, who agrees to perform live at her party after she does him a favour. 

Bessie Bunter pulls a crooked raffle to raise more food for herself, but of course she gets caught out. Her punishment is a notebook to be filled with lines. She never seems to get expelled for those naughty schemes of hers.

In this week’s episode of “Olympia Jones” it’s the long-awaited (and dreaded) return of her archenemies, the Rotts. We get the satisfaction of seeing that sacking Olympia for Linda Rott’s animal cruelty to escape prosecution from animal welfare has rebounded on them: “Takings down again…Sometimes I regret sacking Olympia Jones. She certainly knew how to train the animals.” They overlooked that Olympia was too valuable as animal trainer for Linda’s horse act, and her absence has caused the circus to suffer.

Then the Rotts discover the circus horse they mistreated has now become a show-jumping Olympic prospect under Olympia – which makes him worth a fortune. Now new cruelty is underway as the Rotts plot how to get their hands on that money.

The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.
The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.
The Unseen Hand. Strange Story, Tammy 27 November 1976.

Jinty and Lindy 27 November 1976

Go on, Hate Me! (artist Keith Robson, writer Len Wenn) 

Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit! (artist Paul White)

Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)

Rose among the Thornes (artist Jim Baikie) – final episode

Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)

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

The Big Cat (artist Ana Rodriguez)

Girl in a Bubble (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Pat Mills)

Is this Your Story? (artist John Richardson)

Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (Ken Houghton)

In part two of “Go on, Hate Me!”, Carol dies in hospital, and her last words to Hetty are to win a race at their athletics club. But now we begin to see what the title’s about: Carol’s sister Jo wrongly blames Hetty for Carol’s death and she’s turning everyone at the club against her.

Ruth Lee has vowed to get back the family horse, Captain, who has been sold as part of a rough eviction. Her gran has passed, and her dying words were “take care of the big cat”. Now what’s that about? This week “The Big Cat” makes its appearance: a circus cheetah!

Sue has figured out there’s something about her new handbag, which she has named Henrietta. Whenever she puts something in it, something strange – and hilarious – happens…

Of late, Stefa’s efforts to turn her heart into stone have been really laughable. She runs away from home but can’t part herself from her precious statue – so she takes it with her on a wheelbarrow! Needless to say, that soon gets her tracked down. Now she’s sleeping on the lawn beside her statue rather than in the same bedroom as Ruth – even though she damn well knows it’s cold outside. She wakes up soaking wet and shivering from the dew, the silly girl. Then Stefa is taken aback to discover that Ruth has suffered an even greater loss than hers – three family members, yet Ruth is taking it far better and more bravely than Stefa is with just one loss. Will this finally melt that stubborn, stony heart of hers? It’s certainly time enough. 

In “Is This Your Story?”, Georgie Jones has a very bad temper and flies off the handle like nobody’s business, and her classmates suffer for it. They give her a day in Coventry to drive the point home that she must work on her temper. After that, Georgie counts to ten more when she feels her temper rising. 

The title “Rose among the Thornes” takes an unexpected twist in this week’s final episode: Rose and the Thornes work together to stop a cylinder containing poison from releasing its deadly contents. Then the Thornes beat a fast exit from the village once people begin to realise what they’ve been up to, so our Rose is now Thorne-less. Let’s just hope the Thornes don’t get up to the same tricks elsewhere.

In “Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud”, Maud is learning to ice-skate at the posh finishing school, but an employee named Georges has realised she’s not Lady Daisy De Vere. And from the looks of things, he’s going to pull blackmail on her. Meanwhile, the real Daisy, mistaken for a servant, is trying to escape from the cruel household she’s landed up in. After several failed attempts at escape she’s now going for the extremely dangerous one that’s been on hold for some time – climb the household chimney! 

Gertie Grit visits the court of King Arthur this week. Caractacus declares a wizards’ strike to demand Gertie back, so Merlin can’t intervene when arch-enemy Mordred marches on Camelot. Gertie tries her own hand at wizardry to help King Arthur win, but instead of her messing things up as usual, Caractacus sabotages her efforts.

After escaping from the bubble Helen has reached home – only to find another girl in her place. And her parents call this girl Helen too! Miss Vaal informs Dad that our Helen has escaped from the bubble, but he isn’t saying a word to Mum. In fact, he doesn’t even want Mum to see our Helen. Weirder and weirder! Then Mum really does spot our Helen. What will her reaction be?

We’ve heard of concrete shoes, but this is ridiculous – Alley Cat lands his feet in two buckets of wet cement and they get stuck. Fortunately he manages to make use of it, but we think it would be a good idea if he can get his feet back by next week. 

Jinty and Lindy 13 November 1976

Jassy’s Wand of Power (artist Keith Robson) – final episode

Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit! (artist Paul White)

Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)

Nature’s Wonderful Ways (feature)

Rose among the Thornes (artist Jim Baikie)

Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)

Sisters at War! (artist Trini Tinturé) – final episode

Girl in a Bubble (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Pat Mills)

Is this Your Story? (artist John Richardson)

Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (artist Ken Houghton)

“Heap big Injun trouble for Gertie Grit” says the cover. Heap big trouble for the Injuns more like, knowing our Gertie. Sure enough, she unwittingly causes another historical catastrophe, which in this case is Custer’s Last Stand. And it’s all because Custer put her on KP duty.

“Jassy’s Wand of Power” and “Sisters at War!” both end this week. The drought breaks when the power plant that’s causing it is shut down. Blimey, it’s been so long since a rainfall that Jassy’s little friend Mark doesn’t even realise what it is when it finally falls! Well, Jassy can retire her water-divining rod now. Story artist Keith Robson moves on to a new serial next week. Meanwhile, the sisters are still at war with constant arguing, but their uncle has decided he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Another story ended last issue, but nothing new starts this week. Instead, we have a full page informing us that three stories start next week. We just love it when we have a nice big run of several stories starting at once. 

Meanwhile, poor Daisy has to do ironing with a broken bone in her hand (and it doesn’t look like that hand is getting any medical attention – ooh, that horrible household!). But Daisy finds a way to get the ironing done despite her hand and is surprised to be rewarded with a cat brooch. Unfortunately the other servants are still mean to her, and that brooch has made them jealous too. If only Daisy could see what Maud has learned about dealing with nasty types who bully servants – throw water all over them.

In “Is This Your Story?”, Freda has a bad habit of telling lies, but she gets caught out when she tries to pull a fast one over her teacher. She spends a horrible weekend dreading what punishment awaits her on Monday, which could be expulsion. What is teach going to do?

Ouch! Rose gets a faceful of stings while foiling the Thornes’ latest scheme this week. Gran’s herbal remedies sort out the stings, but then the bryony blooms – which is a warning of disaster. Sounds like the story is about to reach its climax.

Groan…not even Stefa’s own birthday softens her “heart of stone”. She throws all the presents she gets in the faces of everyone who gave them to her. Stefa, the day will come when you look back on this birthday with deep regret. Later in the episode, Stefa finds it’s going to be a lot harder to steer clear of Ruth – her parents are inviting Ruth over to their house and going to parents’ night to see her work. Stefa thinks it’s a cheek; she is their daughter, not Ruth. Huh, considering the way you’re carrying on with your folks, you’re the one who’s got a cheek, Stefa!

Helen manages to break free of Miss Vaal and shut her in the bubble for a change. On the advice of her teacher she goes home to tell her parents what’s going on. The very parents who never once visited her while she was in the bubble, come to think of it.

Alley Cat borrows a library book on how to “nab nosh”, but everything backfires and he ends up having to exchange it for a first aid book.