Finleg the Fox (1975)

 

Sample Images

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Published: Lindy #14, 20 September 1975 to #20, 1 November 1975; continued in Jinty and Lindy merger 8 November 1975 to 20 December 1975

Episodes: 14

Artist: Barrie Mitchell

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Una Price has been left orphaned and lame from a car crash and is in delicate health. Authorities send her to Blindwall Farm in the hope the country air will improve her health, but they have not counted on the Drays who are running it. The daughter, Dora Dray, bullies Una and lumbers her with all the work, despite Una’s bad leg, while she indulges in riding. Una soon gets the impression that Dora is a sadist who enjoys hurting animals and people. Mr Dray is a sourpuss who doesn’t have a good attitude towards Una either. They both push Mrs Dray around and take her for granted, so she is the only one who is kind to Una.

Dray is not pleased when Una rescues a fox from one of his traps. He also warns her about his landlord, Sir Arthur Stollard, who is a master of fox hounds. Una secretly nurses the fox, named Finleg because of his leg injury, in the barn.

Dora finds out and starts blackmailing Una. Soon Una has had enough of this and stands up to Dora. So Dora brings in her father, all set with a shotgun to shoot Finleg. But Finleg has recovered enough to escape, so Dray finds nothing and Dora gets a clip around the ear from him. Finleg is now back in the wild, but he is not forgetting the girl who saved him.

Meanwhile, Sir Arthur is trying to buy out Blindwall Farm when the Drays’ lease expires. Dray does not want to sell the farm he has worked on all his life, but feels he may have no choice because Sir Arthur is a powerful man.

Soon after, suspicious things start happening. Una finds a blood trail after Dray takes a shot at something in the night. The trail leads to a shed and a strange man, whose left hand is wrapped in a bloodied bandage. He knocks her out and runs off. When she describes the man to Dray, he gets oddly worked up and goes off on a hunt for the man – with his shotgun. He does not seem to have much success, but after this he softens towards Una and even spares Finleg when he has a brush with him at a disused railway track, where he has set up a den in the embankment.

But Sir Arthur’s fox hunt isn’t sparing Finleg. Dora has been invited, not realising Sir Arthur plots to get at Dray through her because she would know his weaknesses. Dora is eager to use the hunt to kill Finleg. Una helps a bunch of fox hunt protesters foil the hunt. Dora finds out and threatens to beat Una, but Finleg steps in to save her. Dora is even more narked when Sir Arthur tells her she is not good enough to join the hunt, so she gets even more vicious towards Una and Finleg.

That night Dray goes hunting for the man again and Una follows. The man knocks Dray out and is searching the embankment at the railway tracks. He finds Finleg’s den. Finleg and Una manage to scare him off and he tries to escape in a passing car, but the driver doesn’t stop. For some reason Dray is against the idea of going to the police and Una wonders what he is hiding. Una also loses her crutch at the scene and starts using a stick, which helps to strengthen her leg.

Dora again joins Sir Arthur as they prepare for another hunt, and Una is following. They stumble across the strange man, who has been shot dead. Sir Arthur finds a list of names on him, which he finds interesting and hides from the police. The man turns out to be an escaped prisoner named Stephens, and his death is a murder inquiry. Afterwards, Sir Arthur uses the list and Dray’s suspicious-looking head injury to blackmail Dray into selling the farm, with insinuations that he will have the police suspect Dray Stephens’s murder. Later Dray tells his family that they are leaving the farm at the end of the month. Seeing no further use for Dora now, Sir Arthur tells her not to bother with their next hunting date. Dora blames Una and hates her even more now.

Surmising that the driver of the car Stephens tried to jump into is the real murderer, Una goes back to investigate. Finleg leads her to the embankment, where she finds a huge cache of hidden money. She shows the money to Dray, who clearly recognises it but won’t have a bean of it. Una hides it in the barn.

Una sees the strange car in town, which is driving dangerously and nearly knocks her and another woman over. When Una helps the woman, a Mrs Pargeter, Dora tells her everyone says Mrs Pargeter is a witch (because Mrs Pargeter is psychic and treats animals with herbal remedies). Una rubbishes such nonsense, especially from Dora.

Dora seizes another opportunity to spite Una when she finds the crutch with blood stains on it and takes it to the police, claiming it is evidence that Una is linked to Stephens’s murder. The police realise Dora is a spiteful minx but they still have to investigate the bloodstains. The blood group belongs to Dray, but he doesn’t tell the police the full story of what happened and Una wonders why as she is sure he is innocent of Stephens’s murder. The police also search the property, but Finleg takes the sack of money before the police find it and puts it back in his den. The police leave, but Dray is still under suspicion.

Una goes to consult Mrs Pargeter, who says the money must have come from a train robbery ten years back, when the tracks were in use. On the way back the strange car actually tries to run Una down, but Finleg saves her. Later the strange car intercepts Dora, who says she is laying down poison for foxes (Finleg of course). The man tells her that if she comes across anything else to leave a note for him at Cobbett’s Mill.

The police are also investigating Cobbett’s Mill because a lady reported seeing a light there in the night. They find nothing, but their dogs got excited so they know there must be something. Later we learn that Cobbett was on the list of names Sir Arthur found, and so was Dray’s, but he can’t figure out what the other names mean. Realising the police are not charging Dray with Stephens’s murder at this stage, Sir Arthur again ingratiates himself with Dora to get at Dray.

Dora’s attempt to poison Finleg succeeds. Una finds him, and realises Dora was responsible when she bumps into her. Una takes Finleg to Mrs Pargeter, who has skills in healing animals. Her herbal remedies do the trick and Finleg is soon on the mend.

Meanwhile Dora finds the money in the den and leaves a note about it in Cobbett’s Mill for the man. Una sees Dora leave the mill. After a fight with Dora she finds the note and realises Dora has put herself in danger because of it. Sure enough, Mrs Dray tells Una that she saw two men kidnap Dora, but Dray refuses to call the police. However, he finally tells them the whole story. Two men who robbed the train came to his farm and coerced him into hiding some of the money. The gang was rounded up and imprisoned. One of them, Stephens, escaped and came back to look for the money. The man who killed Stephens must have been “The Boss”, the only member of the gang not to be caught, and his true identity is unknown. Realising “The Boss” must be the one who kidnapped Dora, Una, with Finleg’s help, keeps watch over the den where the money is hidden, figuring the kidnappers will come for it.

But Una is in for a big surprise at who shows up for it – Sir Arthur! Una follows him (her leg is now fit enough for her to do this) while giving Finleg a note explaining things to take back to the farm. The police have finally been called and when they see the note they go in pursuit, with Finleg leading them.

At the hideout Una overhears Sir Arthur and his accomplice (his estate manager, Bert Randle) planning to kill the bound and gagged Dora because she knows too much. Una unwisely goes in to tackle them and gets captured too, but it’s Finleg to the rescue with a bite on Sir Arthur’s leg. Sir Arthur is arrested and confesses to being “The Boss”, and Randle was his right-hand man in the robbery.

So the threat of Sir Arthur is no longer hanging over the farm and the Drays want Una to stay. Dora reforms, apologises to Una, and starts treating Una like her very own sister. Una now walks properly thanks to Finleg. Finleg becomes part of the family, but eventually the call of the wild summons him away while Una looks on.

Thoughts

This was one of two Lindy serials to make the transition into the merger with Jinty, so it has some distinction for that. It was also the only fox serial in Jinty, even if it is one that came to Jinty half way through its run. Jinty had some stories featuring an animal from the wild, but this was the only one to feature a fox.

Finleg shares some similarities with the 1984 story “Rusty Remember Me”, which started in Princess series 2 and was also completed in a merger, the last one in Tammy. Its protagonist is also a crippled girl who gradually overcomes her disability and walks properly again thanks to the friendship she strikes up with a fox. Perhaps it was the same writer.

However, Finleg has much meaner and crueller opponents than Rusty (a surly caretaker who is nasty but not downright evil). Finleg is up against a cruel and vicious girl who tries to kill him on several occasions, and that’s only the start. He is also up against fox hunters, who combine forces with the threat from Dora. The man leading the hunt isn’t just threatening Finleg; he’s a greedy, unscrupulous aristocrat who will resort to fair means or foul in order to get his hands on the Drays’ farm and force them off into a council house. Such villains are very common in girls’ comics. What is unusual is that Sir Arthur is also a mastermind behind a train robbery. That does sound a bit odd; you’d think such things would be beneath a snobby aristocrat like him. On the other hand, it says a lot about what makes him so rich.

The menace of Sir Arthur over the Drays, Dora’s cruelty towards Finleg and Una, the fox hunt threat, the problems of Una’s disability, and her friendship with Finleg make a durable combination for a good plot. But what really heat it up and keep it going are the introduction of the mystery elements, the murder of Stephens, and Dray being suspected of it, which means Una now has the additional task of clearing his name.

There’s also a horrible but fitting comeuppance for Dora when she is kidnapped by the very man she thought was her friend – Sir Arthur. When she heard them plotting to drown her in the marshes her life must have flashed before her eyes. The shock of it lends some plausibility to her change at the end, even if it does come across as a bit quick and pat. It’s a real twist for her that she is rescued by the efforts of Finleg and Una, the ones she had tried to destroy out of spite. Gratitude must have also been a factor in her change for the better.

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