Tag Archives: Orphans

Always Together… (1974-75)

Sample images

1 March 1975 - final episode

1 March 1975 - final episode
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1 March 1975 - final episode
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Publication: 27 July 1974 – 1 March 1975 (29 episodes)
Artist: Phil Townsend
Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: translated into Greek and published in Manina; translated into Dutch and published in Tina.

Synopsis

The story starts with Nell Harvey burying her husband; her 12 year old daughter Jill stands alongside her at the funeral to support her in this grim time. Over the years, Nell works hard at all jobs that come her way, to fulfill her dead husband’s dream of buying a home for them all to live in together. But the constant working at all the job possibilities that comes her way is too much. She disappears, and isn’t seen again for several days – until the local news report that the body of a woman has been found in the river, a woman answering to Nell’s description! The kids have no other relatives and so Jilly, now age 15, is put in the position of primary carer – if the authorities will let her, of course.

Their life in the shadows begins once they realise that the cottage that their mum had put a deposit on is too expensive for them to keep up the payments on, given that their only income would be a paper round or similar odd jobs. Of course they want to stick together – bearing in mind their mother’s prophetic last words to Jill the morning that she disappeared. The question for the rest of the serial is whether they will be able to do this. Firstly they go back to their old lodgings as squatters (the council won’t put them on the list for a council house as they are too young) but it doesn’t take long before a local bully informs the social workers about them. And of course if they are taken into care, it means splitting them up – Jilly, Beth and Johnny all into different children’s homes…

As soon as she turns 16, Jilly is determined to leave school, get a job, and to do what she can for her little family. Presents and treats for them bought with her wages only twist the knife further in the wound when she has to go at the end of the visit. It’s not long before she chucks in her job and comes to get the kids so that they can all run away together – where at least they can be a family again. It does mean living in a cave – a cave that Jilly remembers from stories that their dad told her about, from when he stayed in it many years previously.

At first it is hard for the kids to adjust, and of course there are lots of difficulties to overcome – the weather, finding food, getting money. They find friends – an artist who gives them a meal and sympathy. But if it’s not one thing it’s another – the stream near the cave turns out to be polluted, the kids are chased away from a nearby village for being “thievin’ gypsies”, and Beth still thinks their mother is only “away” rather than drowned and never coming back.

On the plus side, Jilly develops her skill at sketching and starts to sell charcoal drawings at the market, which brings in money – and they make friends with the local gypsies, which means that Johnny can go to the local school, disguised as one of them. But winter is coming and outdoor living is only going to get harder… It’s not the only danger, as Beth has one accident after another (living in a cave is hardly as safe as houses! first she falls down a quarry and later on she gets too close to the fire and is burned!). There are also close shaves with the authorities, who they are constantly afraid of being caught by. There are plenty of strokes of luck – rather implausibly on occasion (for instance the headmaster who bans all the gypsies from the local school, including Johnny of course, until Jilly accidentally knocks the headmaster over with an old pram, saving his life from a large brick that dropped down at just the right time…).

When they meet a local nosey reporter who wants to use them as a human interest story, it seems the game may be up. They manage to outsmart him, but the next challenge is Christmas – which they manage to make much more festive than is entirely likely. It’s a heartwarming sight nevertheless, to see them feasting and making merry in their “little stone palace”, still managing to stay together!

The village sees a visitor who may be positive or negative for them – it is an old friend of their father’s, come to visit his childhood haunts. The little family save him from the inclement weather and grow closer as a result. Close enough that the family friend even offers to take them home – he and his wife have never had children and have always longed to. Could this be a fairy-tale ending? In some stories, yes; but in this one, little Beth has never-ending faith that her mummy will still come home for her – and so the family must stay, for her sake.

Not long after, it comes to an even more heart-tugging ending. Beth is desperately ill and unresponsive to treatment, but a nurse recognizes Beth’s face from a sketch kept by a patient in a local convalescent home. The patient in question lives in a daze and initially doesn’t recognize them, but Jilly and Johnny recognize her – it is indeed their mother! And once she sees little Beth, all is well again.

Thoughts

This is the first Phil Townsend artwork published in Jinty, and it is likewise the first Alison Christie story in these pages too. The combination of these two creators working on heart-tugging stories was clearly popular from the start – this one ran for much longer than the other comparable serials with clear start and end points, such as “Make-Believe Mandy” and “Gwen’s Stolen Glory”. It never had the most prominent position in the story paper – first or second story or a cover spot – but then during most of this period Katie Jinx claimed the lead spot by right.

The tear-jerking element is very effective; by the end of the story even I was ready to wipe away a tear or two. The characters struggle with extreme poverty and the things that often come with it – ill-health, envy at others’ possessions, irregular schooling and even irregular heating and eating. The threat of official condemnation and sanctions is always close, with officialdom breathing down their necks. The length of the story suggests to me that it probably was spun out a little longer than it might otherwise have been, due to its popularity – I think some of the accidents towards the end are arguably a little forced and may betray a story that was getting a little over-stretched. Having said that, I think this is probably also an impression received from reading the whole story in one sitting, which is not the experience that the original readers would have had of the story on first publication. I wonder if any of the reprints or translations trimmed the length of it at all?

I quibble with the ending. Is it realistic that the mother should have been lying in a convalescent home for all that time, only to be found just at the right point to save little Beth’s life? Well, no – not that realism is the be-all and the end-all, I appreciate, but I do feel it stretches credulity a little far. The decision to turn down an adoption into the possible new life in Canada is pretty poignant though, and that could not have worked without another, happier ending just round the corner, so I can certainly see the point of the eventual ending.

There is quite a bit of overlap with “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, which was written and drawn by the same team some years later (published in 1978-79). “Rainbow” is also very long (36 episodes, so even longer than “Always Together…”). The orphaned family in the later story is not quite as large – there are two children rather than three, and the eldest is not as old as Jilly’s sixteen – but once again their father dies off-camera and their mother is shown much more close-up (though not for long), and the children decide they must keep together come what may. There are also more adventures in the latter story, partly due to the wartime setting and partly because the children do more travelling – from England to Scotland. The scenes where the protagonists squat in a pillbox during the depths of winter are particularly reminiscent of similar wintry scenes in “Always Together…”, though. To my mind, “Rainbow” has the slight edge on “Always Together…” in terms of giving us an ending that is both neater and (slightly) more plausible. I realise however that may just be because I have more childhood memories of reading the later story, and living it as it happened.

Go On, Hate Me! (1976-1977)

Sample images

Jinty cover 8

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Hetty 1.jpg

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Hetty 2.jpg

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Publication: 2 November 1976-22 January 1977
Artist: Keith Robson
Writer: Len Wenn

Summary
Hetty Blake loves athletics, especially running. She and her friend Carol are picked for a 400m relay at their athletics club. Hetty starts training hard and pushes Carol to do the same. She does not listen to Carol’s pleas that she is feeling unwell. Too bad for Hetty – if she had listened, she might have saved herself the nightmare that is to follow.

Carol ends up collapsing and is rushed to hospital. Hetty blames herself, but Carol tells her not to; she collapsed because she had a heart condition that she had not told Hetty about and did not have long to live anyway. Before Carol dies, she makes Hetty promise to win the relay and to look after her younger sister, Jo.

Afterwards, Hetty still blames herself and a doctor reassures her it was all due to Carol’s weak heart. Jo overhears what was said but believes the former, not the latter, and shouts hatred at Hetty. Soon Jo starts spreading the word around that Hetty caused Carol’s death by driving Carol too hard. Nobody listens to Hetty’s pleas that Carol just died of a weak heart; Jo says Carol would have told her if that was the case. Worse, Hetty is stuck with looking after Jo because she promised Carol. And Jo is adamant about staying so she can make Hetty’s life miserable.

Hetty’s athletics club has turned against her, but Hetty is adamant about staying and winning the relay as she had promised this to Carol. And she is determined to run, despite the hatred and secret tricks from Jo – one of which damages her feet. She does win, but gets no applause or thanks.

Jo proceeds to turn the whole town against Hetty. Hetty loses her job and cannot get another because nobody will dare to hire her. Now Hetty cannot afford the rent, and lack of income raises problems in looking after Jo. So Jo is now faced with the prospect of ending up in welfare. Hetty has been advised to leave town and does so, still lumbered with Jo. They end up roughing it and even getting a brush with the law. Jo does not understand that these are the consequences of her own malice towards Hetty and goes on blaming her.

In another town, Hetty finds a school where she gets a job as a fill-in PE teacher and Jo becomes a pupil there. Hetty starts an athletics team. But Jo starts spreading the word about Hetty, and this causes many of the girls to drop out. Hetty is worried that she may be forced out of yet another district. However, enough of the girls remain in the team for Hetty to train.

Hetty gets a shock when she finds they will be competing against St Viner’s – Jo’s old school! The Viners girls recognise Hetty and are waiting for her with a nasty surprise – a hate-filled demonstration. This is the last straw for Hetty and she runs off in tears. However, Jo’s attitude towards Hetty has softened towards forgiveness and she runs after Hetty. This has Jo almost getting knocked down by a motorcyclist; Hetty pushes her out the way but takes the brunt.

In hospital, Jo tells Hetty that she found an entry in Carol’s diary that she had not noticed before because the page got stuck down. The entry proves that Hetty had been telling the truth about Carol. Jo explains that she ran after Hetty because she had forgiven her, but now she knows she had been wrong all along and apologises. She wants them to be friends and stay together, and Hetty is very happy.

The reaction of the hatemongers is not recorded.

Thoughts
Stories where girls conduct a hate campaign against someone (or sometimes an institution, such as a school or hospital) because they wrongly blame them for something were common in girls’ comics, and could be told from the POV of either the persecutor or the victim. Sometimes there is a mystery involved, such as the victim trying to unravel why the person is persecuting them, as in Jinty’s “Cursed to be a Coward!”. But one thing remains constant – it always turns out that the victim was wrongly persecuted and the persecutor made a ghastly mistake. Usually, though, this comes to light at the end of the story, often with the victim not realising who and/or why until the end approaches. But here it is at the beginning. Jo did hear the doctor tell Hetty that Carol died of a weak heart and she should not blame herself. And presumably he did try to reason with Jo during the few days he kept her in hospital following her angry outburst at Hetty. But apparently none of it made any impression on Jo, who continues to blame Hetty until the final episode.

Another unusual feature of this story is that it is told from the POV of both the victim and the persecutor. Usually it is one or the other. It is even more unusual that it is not just one person doing the persecuting but whole groups of people. This makes the story even more disturbing, and it must make one strongest statements about how hideous hate can be when you see it in the face. The hatred Hetty encounters is truly frightening, ugly and even dangerous, with people going as far as to pelt her. And in the final episode, it puts Hetty’s life in danger as well. Keith Robson does a brilliant job in illustrating the hatred on people’s faces with his heavy line work, especially on their eyes and twisted expressions. And it is hatred that Hetty cannot escape from because she is bound by a promise to look after the girl who hates her.

The only thing that can counteract hate is love, and this is the statement that the story makes as well. The penultimate episode tells us that next week an act of hate will produce an act of love at last. And love is the key that makes the ending so powerful. It could have ended with Hetty just having the accident because the bully girls drove her out into the road, and then Jo finding the diary entry and just apologising to Hetty. But instead the story makes a powerful point about love and forgiveness, with Jo finally seeing past her hate and forgiving Hetty, and then running after her to try to put it right. And once she had forgiven, Jo must have felt an enormous difference as the hatred left her and learned a lesson about the value of forgiveness. Not to mention getting her facts straight before accusing people and the consequences of spreading nasty rumours!

It seems a bit odd that there seem to be no parents or relatives for either Hetty or Jo. Moreover, Hetty looks hardly old enough to have her own flat or job; she does not look much older than fourteen. The same goes for Carol. All right, so it was not uncommon for girls to be drawn younger than they actually were to be in girls’ serials. For example, Greta Jones in Tammy’s “Nurse Grudge” was eventually revealed to be twenty years old, but she looks like she is still in her mid teens. But it is stretching credibility a bit that both girls are apparent orphans with no grown relatives and looking hardly old enough to be independent. Ah, one of the things we are probably best not to think about too much in girls’ comics.