Tag Archives: Quest story

Somewhere over the Rainbow (1978-79)

Sample Images

Somewhere Over the Rainbow 1aSomewhere Over the Rainbow 1bSomewhere Over the Rainbow 1c

Published: 20 May 1978 – 10 February 1979

Episodes: 36

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: Spanish translation as “Más allá del Arcoiris”, publication unknown

Plot 

Just as the end of World War II is in sight, Mrs Peters and her daughter Dorothy (Dorrie for short, 13 years of age) and son Max (seven) receive the dreaded envelope that means Dad has been killed in action. This somewhat dampens their V-Day celebrations shortly after.

Some time later, the Peters family attend a Wizard of Oz production. During the performance Mum tells Dorrie that she and Max will find happiness over the rainbow. Afterwards, the programme blows away and Mum gets run over and killed while trying to retrieve it. Now the Peters children are orphans. Dorrie takes Mum’s final words to her deeply to heart and from then on, The Wizard of Oz inspires them all the way to seek out rainbow’s end. But where the heck do they even begin to look for the rainbow?

It certainly isn’t at social welfare, which is now in charge of the children. None of the foster homes for the children work out for one reason or other. In fact, one foster mother, Mrs Soper, is more like the Wicked Witch of the West. Things get worse when social welfare puts them in separate homes because mixed sexes aren’t allowed. At least Dorrie can visit Max, who is taking this rainbow’s end thing a bit literally.

Then Dorrie and Max find out about a home in Scotland that really is called “Rainbow’s End” when it advertises for a housekeeper in the newspaper. They decide that’s where they must seek the end of the rainbow. So they run away from social welfare and make the arduous trek all the way from London to Scotland (no, not singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”). This means plenty of adventures, misadventures, dangers, injuries and illnesses, hunger, bouts of horrible weather, helpful people, not-so-helpful people, and hitching lifts on assorted vehicles, beginning with sneaking aboard a lorry to get out of London. Sustaining them along the way and helping out in a lot of scrapes is their natural talent for song-and-dance routines, especially – you guessed it – The Wizard of Oz. All the while they are fugitives from social welfare and keeping one step ahead of them. World War II, still fresh and raw, casts its own shadow over the whole enterprise.

The Wizard of Oz itself always seems to pop up in one form or another. In one occasion, the children defend a scarecrow from being burned. In another, the children make their escape from a suspicious billeting officer who is reminiscent of Miss Gulch. And now and then they hear snatches of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” when Dorrie isn’t singing it.

Not all of the twists and turns of their odyssey will described here because of the story’s length. However, some highlights and key points will be discussed.

On one occasion Max is forced to confront his wartime prejudices against Germans. It starts when they take shelter in an old army camp in an empty village, but are surprised by a man with a German accent. He’s a German soldier, and it’s soon obvious he is a fugitive in hiding too. He is not happy to find Dorrie and Max have taken over his bed, but kindly offers them breakfast in the morning. Max is too consumed by his hatred of Germans to have anything to do with him or his food, while Dorrie is less prejudiced and more receptive to his kindness. However, Max is so full of hate he rushes off to turn the German in. The German realises Max is running into danger – an unexploded mine – and risks his own life to save him. This has Max realise that “[not] all Gerries are bad…rotten!” and Germans are human beings too. From then on they’re friends. His name is Hans, a shot-down airman who was rescued by a British girl and they fell in love. However, she died before they could marry after the war, leaving him still a fugitive. Dorrie and Max persuade Hans to stop hiding, using their motto of “happiness over the rainbow”, and give himself up. They have high hopes Hans will be all right and get a fresh start in Germany.

Before long, Christmas is coming (issue-wise, a bit premature as this is three months before Jinty’s Christmas issue), but how to celebrate it while they’re on the run? Max buys Christmas decorations, but he forgot they have nowhere to hang them. Oh, dear. Dorrie does some busking with “Somewhere over the Rainbow” to raise cash for something for Christmas, which not only raises money for presents and Christmas treats but also lands her the lead in another Wizard of Oz production for Boxing Day. Performing it while keeping their fugitive status secret from the producer Mr Harris is not easy, but the show must go on. And it does, with “Shy Dorrie Makes Her Debut” in the newspaper because she can’t talk to the press.

Meanwhile, Max takes a plunge in freezing water because he unwisely tried out the ice. Dorrie hates leaving him alone while he’s still affected, but she has the show to do and the show must go on. But when she returns, the winter cold and plunge in freezing water have caused Max to develop pneumonia, which turns critical. Mr Harris helps him to hospital. Dorrie croons “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to him, which helps him to recover.

Unfortunately, Mr Harris is a social worker and it is his duty to return the children to the London home. However, at the station the children get away from him and stow away aboard a train going north. They get discovered and the conductor is set to turn them over, but he changes his mind when the children keep the passengers entertained when snow blocks the train. He lets them off at a station instead.

But the snow is thick, the cold is biting, Max is still weak from pneumonia, the children are starving and Dorrie has lost her ration books. Hunger makes Dorrie collapse, but they are picked up by a kindly man, Joe McDonald, who was in the same regiment as Dad. He owes Dad a favour, and taking in the children is his way of doing it. He also gets a mate from London to give them a lift further north. But the truck goes over a broken bridge and the children pull the driver to safety, but getting help means they get caught again. The police say sorry, but it’s their duty to turn them over to social welfare. But instead of London they take them to a children’s home, converted from an old army barracks, in Scotland.

Well, at least the children are in Scotland, but the home is definitely not the end of the rainbow – more like the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. The kids are tough and bullying, and the matron is an ex-army officer who runs the place like a sergeant major of the worst kind and the heart of the witch herself. She treats children like soldiers, not children, with merciless army-style discipline. For example, she forces Max to do 20 laps around the ground with an army pack, ignoring Dorrie’s protests that he has been weakened by pneumonia, and poor Max collapses.

When Dorrie rises up in rebellion against their treatment, Matron locks her and Max in detention while taking the children on a long march. This turns out to be a blessing, because while the others are out, waters from thawing snow flood the establishment, which helps Dorrie and Max escape on an old air bed. The home looks well and truly washed out and half-submerged, a nice surprise for bully Matron when she returns. With any luck it will be the end of that establishment. Later, the children learn from a newspaper that the authorities think they drowned when the home got flooded, so the police and social welfare are off their backs now. They can carry on unmolested.

They journey further into Scotland, but fresh trouble is never far off. It happens when Dorrie sprains her ankle. No further trekking until it’s better, and they have to camp out in an old German plane. Max is reluctant to do so because it is German but relents when Dorrie reminds him of their encounter with Hans and not all Germans are bad.

It’s up to Max to get the food while Dorrie is recovering, but again his actions are not well thought out. For example, his idea of disguising himself from nosey coppers is to buy a scary Halloween mask! Worse, he puts the food right where dripping rainwater ruins it.

Then it looks like Max takes a hit from a man shooting rabbits. Fortunately, it turns out Max just took a fall and a bump on the head and the man is another helper. But he advises them to move on fast because the authorities take a hard line on squatters.

So the children have to move on although neither of them are fit for the road because of their injuries. Fortunately they meet a friendly ex-soldier who helps them get a lift to Glasgow where his grandmother can put them up. The children note that Glasgow has had its own share of bombing (watch this space). But things go wrong when they get there and the children are on their own again. Then they finally see a rainbow and hope rises again.

They get a lead that the home they are looking for is near Iverness, which means even more trekking north. They get more help from friendly people, and even a palm reading from a gypsy, who is surprised to see both children have a rainbow in their palms. If that weren’t omen enough, they find an old chair labelled “Rainbow’s End Home”.

Five miles on, they finally make it to Rainbow’s End Home. There they show Matron the ad for the housekeeping job that prompted their journey. However, they are dismayed to find Rainbow’s End is an old folks’ home, not the children’s home they were expecting. It looks like it was all for nothing and skies aren’t blue for them at all. But it leads to their being adopted by a lovely couple who lost their own children in the Glasgow bombing and are look-alikes for their own parents. So they find happiness at Rainbow’s End after all.

Thoughts

Comixminx and I have balked at doing this one for a long time because of its supreme length. At 36 episodes, it is the second-longest running serial in Jinty’s history, which makes it a challenge to summarise. However, an entry on this story was way overdue, and as we are in lockdown with plenty of time at home, what the heck.

Rainbow belongs to a long line of Alison Christie/Phil Townsend pairings for emotional stories to warm your heart or bring tears to your eyes. It also shares many roots with other Jinty stories, notably “Song of the Fir Tree” and “For Peter’s Sake!”, both of which are lengthy stories where the protagonists set out on quests with fugitive elements attached. Like Rainbow, Fir Tree is set in the aftermath of WW2 where a brother and sister (Solveig and Per Amundsen) are also fugitives, from a Nazi out to kill them. In addition to outwitting his numerous attempts to kill them, they have to contend with other dangers and obstacles, just like the Peters children. They have a more clearly defined goal than the Peters children: make it home to Norway. As in Rainbow, we have an elder sister who is the pillar of strength and a younger brother who is less strong. In both stories, the children are not only sustained by a title; the title of the song is the title of the story as well. It could be that Alison Christie wrote Fir Tree too. We have no confirmation of this, but it would not be surprising.

The journey in “For Peter’s Sake!”, also written by Alison Christie, is the reversal of Rainbow: Corrie Lomax is making her journey with Old Peg the pram all the way from Scotland to London while the Peters children are doing the exact opposite. She is on a mission of mercy for her baby brother with Old Peg, but it turns into a fugitive story with the police and then social welfare on her tail. As with the Peters children, she has to make an escape from a horrible children’s home en route. She also gets weakened by pneumonia, just as Max does. Like the Peters and Amundsen children, Corrie meets more helpful people than not. In fact, we could almost swear that a number of these people have guessed these children are runaways but are turning a blind eye to it.

The endings of the two stories share similarities in that the children make it to the end of their journey, only to find everything seems to end in a big let-down because the initial outcome did not meet their expectations (Rainbow’s End being a home for olds, not children, and Old Peg not curing Peter). However, the twist is that it does bring about what they wanted in the end, just not in the way they expected.

The story takes time out to comment on the hardship and knock-on effects of WW2, even though peace has come. Food rationing continues, food shortages e.g. a sign saying “Sorry no spam”, and the war posters saying things like “Plan your meals to avoid waste” and “Careless talk costs lives” remain in place. Buying sweets on rations is a real treat. Make-do-and-mend is still the rule e.g. Mum making best dresses out of old curtains. Mum feels the change in women’s lot once peace comes; during the war she worked in a munititions factory, but afterwards, she struggles to find a job because preference is given to returned servicemen and women. Eventually she finds a part-time cleaning job at a theatre, where the fateful Wizard of Oz evening unfolds. Bombed-out planes and buildings are still visible on the landscape. So are old air-raid shelters, one with “We won the war” scrawled on it. We also see the mental effects it has had on some people. For example, they meet a kind lady who unfortunately has a screw loose; she thinks Dorrie and Max are her own evacuee children and a scarecrow in her husband’s old army uniform really is him. Post-wartime rebuilding is also evident; for example, we see a “Prefabs Homes for the Homeless” to help meet the housing shortages. And the Hans storyline is a clear message about confronting the demons of WW2 and not letting old hatreds consume you.

Max is the weaker of the journeying pair because he is younger and less mature, but he does not have a weak constitution like his counterpart in Fir Tree. Until his bout with pneumonia he remains a healthy kid. And he does have his bright moments, particularly when he wants to cheer Dorrie up. Some of them are more thought out than others, such as buying flowers in honour of Dad. But as he is a very young, spirited boy, more often he makes ill-judged decisions, one of which leads to him developing pneumonia. He is also more prone to being emotional and losing his temper, for example, when he meets Hans.

Jinty produced a number of journey/quest/fugitive stories, such as “The Darkening Journey” and the aforementioned “Song of the Fir Tree” and “For Peter’s Sake!”. They all ran for a while, a testament to how popular they were. But “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is by far the longest. It was so long that it holds the record for second-longest serial in Jinty’s history. This shows how popular it was, and there are so many elements to make it popular: the backdrop of WW2; the fugitive elements; the Wizard of Oz theme, which has always been popular; the adventures and dangers; and above all, the emotional elements to tug your heart and make you really feel for these children.

Another thing to make this story popular is that nobody knows what to expect at the journey’s end, not even the children. All they know and believe is, they will find happiness. Okay, happiness, but in what way? What form will it take? This is a suspenseful mystery element, and we are holding our breath to see just how it all turns out at rainbow’s end. This sets it apart from the other journey stories Jinty has run. In those case, everyone expects the outcome that the protagonist expects. But not in this case. Neither we nor the children know just what to expect at the end of the story, which keeps us in suspense all the way. Also keeping us in suspense is the nagging doubt as to whether the children’s home they expect really is their key to happiness; after all, the other children’s homes they encountered in were bad experiences, so would they be all that happy with another? We are so glad it ended in a happy adoption with new parents instead.

Story Theme: Journey Story or Quest

The Journey Story or Quest was a popular story theme at certain points in Jinty and in other titles. Indeed, at some points in 1976, it would have been possible to be reading an issue of Jinty which included three or even arguably four journey stories in the same week’s comic (see 24 April 1976 for an example). It’s a story framework which allows the creators to vary the setting and characters as much as they like, and to experiment with a range of local touches if desired (Scottish kilts, Welsh mountains, or European stereotypes could be brought in depending on the story). Within a Quest theme the dramatic tension is kept up, too – the protagonist is always thinking of the thing that keeps them on the journey – the danger they are avoiding or the goal they are trying to reach.

The journey story is of course focused around a lengthy journey, but it is also something of a quest, as the protagonist has someone she needs to find or something she needs to do before she can stop journeying. She does not just head out for the fun of it or to see the sights; there is some motivating reason for her to keep moving. Apart from the journey element, the other themes of the story can be fairly varied: there are journey stories in Jinty which are rooted in science fiction, humour, love of aninals, and more.

Core examples

Song of the Fir Tree” (1975-76). This story has siblings Solveig and Per traveling across Europe after they are released from the concentration camp they were held in during WWII. They travel from Germany to Norway under their own steam, constantly having to keep one step ahead of their enemy Grendelsen (though at the same time, unknown to them, their father is chasing after them also).

This was the first journey story printed in Jinty. Clear precursors outside of British girls comics are “I Am David” and “The Silver Sword”, both of which feature long journeys and have child protagonists dealing with the aftermath of WWII.

Fran of the Floods” (1976). After her home town is overwhelmed in flooding, Fran Scott travels the length of an apocalyptic Britain to see if her sister is alive and well in Scotland. This popular and well-remembered journey story is one of survival against the odds and courage in the face of barbaric behaviour on the part of other survivors.

Bound for Botany Bay” (1976). Betsy Tanner is transported to Australia; in addition to the lengthy sea journey, once she gets to Botany Bay she runs off and travels across dangerous countryside, eventually finding her father who was sentenced to transportation earlier on.

For Peter’s Sake!” (1976). Set in the 1930s, Carrie Lomax has a brother who is seriously ill. Her grandmother’s pram has rocked many babies back to good health in a seemingly miraculous way and she hopes that it will do the same for little Peter. However, Carrie and the pram are in Scotland and the rest of her family is in London, and she needs to push the pram all the way back to him on foot.

The Darkening Journey” (1977). Thumper has been separated from his owner Julie, who is moving house with her family, across Britain to the west country. To add to the pathos, both of them are going slowly blind: Julie because she needs an operation to cure her, and Thumper because of an accident at the time they were separated. Together with his friend Beaky, a clever talking rook, he travels towards the setting sun to see if he can be reunited with his beloved owner.

Race For A Fortune” (1977-78). This is a humourous take on the journey story: Katie McNabb must race her snobby cousins in a journey to inherit her skinflint great-uncle Ebeneezer’s money. The one who reaches Ebeneezer’s home village of Yuckiemuckle first, starting out from the south of England with no money to help them, will win the race and the terms of the will. Katie and her cousins battle it out, each overtaking the other at various points on their travels.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (1978-79). This is the longest, most epic of all the journey stories in Jinty (indeed so long is it, at 36 episodes, that to date I have quailed before the mighty task of writing a story post for it!). Dorothy and Max are an orphaned brother-sister pair who run away from the state care they are put into when their mother is killed. Inspired by the Wizard of Oz song, they travel from the south of England all the way to Scotland, hoping to find happiness at a care home called Rainbow’s End.

Updated to add: a post on this story has now been added.

Edge cases and uncertainties

The core stories listed above all feature epic, dangerous, and long journeys as a central aspect of the story. There are other stories in Jinty which feature travelling on the part of the protagonists, but without it being such a central part of the plot.

Then There Were 3…” (1976). This is more of a mystery story: ten girls hire a narrowboat and travel on the water for some time, but the plot primarily focuses on the mystery of what is behind the occurrences that spook the girls. Is it something supernatural in origin, or is it down to a purely human villainy?

“The Big Cat” (1976-77) When her grandmother dies and she is evicted from the gypsy camp she lives in, Ruth travels with the big cat Ayesha that the story is named after. We do not currently have a story post about this to confirm if this is more of a journey story, or a fugitive story where the protagonist runs away and spends time in hiding rather than in travelling towards a clear goal.

Not to be confused with…

There are plenty of stories that include an element of journeying or travelling, such as those ones where the main character runs away: for instance Jinty‘s first issue includes the story “A Dream for Yvonne“, where Yvonne runs away from the circus to become a ballerina. She does not travel throughout the story unceasingly until she reaches her goal, though: she runs away multiple times, loses her memory, is threatened by jealous rivals, and is eventually accepted by both her family and the ballet school. The journeying is not the main point of the story, but rather her challenge lies in how to be accepted by family and friends.

Likewise in many stories there is a dramatic finale where the protagonist runs away either to elicit sympathy or to enact some specific deed: Gail in “Gail’s Indian Necklace” and Lee in “Daddy’s Darling” are two such examples from Jinty‘s early days. I am not counting these either, as the main focus of the story is again not on the journey itself, which is pretty limited in the span of story time that it takes up.

Fugitive stories may overlap considerably with the journey story, but again the key question in my mind is whether the fugitive keeps running, or mostly hides away somewhere. “Always Together…” (1974-75) has an orphaned family (well, almost – read the story summary for more detail) who run away from the welfare state mechanisms which are threatening to split them up. They do not keep running continuously, but instead camp out in a few locations and fend for themselves throughout the bulk of the story.

There are a few stories with castaways (“Desert Island Daisy“, “Girl The World Forgot“): if you are going to be cast away on a desert island you can hardly avoid having travelled, somewhere along the lines! But the focus is then on the predicament of the main character, not on a prolonged journey. The same goes for “Alice In A Strange Land” which has a transatlantic plane journey at beginning and end of the story, and a dramatic crash landing in an early episode, but which does not focus on those elements in the core plot.

Elsewhere…

Journey-themed stories were of course not confined to the pages of Jinty, though the April 1976 spike in popularity of these stories is perhaps only seen in this title. The following stories are not meant to be a complete list of journey stories, but just to give a flavour of the prevalence and the variety of them across both IPC and DC Thomson. (Many thanks to Mistyfan for providing scans of the below and other stories, and also to Lorrbot and the Girls Comics of Yesterday site, which I checked for mention of journey stories.)

  • Glen, A Dog on a Lonely Quest (Tammy, 1971)
  • Janet and her Travellin’ Javelin (Debbie, 1974)
  • Towne in the Country (Tammy, 1976-77)
  • The Ride-Away Randalls (Debbie, 1978)
  • The Wandering Starrs (Bunty, 1978-79)
  • One Girl and Her Dog (Tammy, 1978-79)
  • Jumbo and Jet (Tracy, 1981)
  • Jet’s Incredible Journey (Suzy, 1986)

Other thoughts

This post is already rather long, but I have more thoughts about the theme. Another post will follow, discussing aspects of how journey stories actually worked in more detail, looking at some of the stories mentioned above.

Race for a Fortune (1977-78)

Sample Images

Race 1

Race 2

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Race 3

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Publication: 19 November 1977-28 January 1978

Artist: Christine Ellingham Unknown Concrete Surfer artist

Writer: Unknown

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #20 as “The Inheritance

Plot

Katie McNab and her parents are on their way to the annual get-together for Uncle Ebenezer’s birthday. It is an occasion they do not look forward to because Uncle Ebenezer is an unpleasant miserly type who is disliked by the entire family. But he is rich, and the parents hope to inherit from him, especially as their shop is doing badly. Their hopes drop when Katie arrives in a state for the party because she had to roller-skate all the way after helping out elsewhere and no buses. It looks like Ebenezer’s money will go to their snooty cousins Rodney and Caroline because of this.

However, Uncle Ebenezer told them all that whoever gets his money must work for it, just as he did. And when his will is read out after he dies a few months later, they discover he meant what he said. Whichever relative reaches his home village of Yuckiemuckle first, under their own steam and starting without any money, will inherit his fortune.

And so the race to Yuckiemuckle begins, between Katie and her roller skates, and Caroline and Rodney, who pull every dirty trick they can to sabotage her and get there first. And they don’t start under their own steam either – they get a lift for the first thirty miles and then cheat Katie out of a fancy dress prize when she was trying to raise money because she was not allowed to start with any. This happens every time their paths cross – they try to cheat her, but she always manages to win one way or another. Sometimes she gets her own back on them as well, such as tricking them into ‘volunteering’ for medical research, where they have to agree to catch a cold as part of the research.

Katie also starts a diary of all her adventures. It has plenty to record; as well as the threat of the cheating cousins, other perils come into play along the way, including bad weather, vultures and Roman ghosts. And there are surprises, such as the legendary Loch Yuckie monster. And is it a plesiosaur? Is it a giant catfish? No, it’s a fraud the Yuckiemuckle residents perpetuate to pull in the tourists.

Finally, Yuckiemuckle beckons, and the race for a fortune goes into the final hurdles for Katie and her cousins. They try to stop Katie by stealing her roller skates, but things backfire when the skates run away on Rodney. He ends up on the same bull that Katie is riding rodeo to make money. She takes back the roller skates and shares the prize money with Rodney, saying she comes from the honest side of the McNab family. But they don’t appreciate it – they are still trying to cheat her as the race goes across Loch Yuckie. Katie beats them once again with the help of the Loch Yuckie monster (she has agreed to keep its secret because the McNabs are respected in Yuckiemuckle). On the last lap, Rodney tries to outrace her on a skateboard (a foreshadowing of Concrete Surfer?), but again things backfire and Rodney ends up in a dirty pond.

Katie reaches Yuckiemuckle, beating her cousins by a margin. But Uncle Ebenezer has one last surprise for them (trust him!). After taxes and lawyers’ expenses were deducted from the fortune, all that is left of it is enough money to pay for their train fares home. It was all Uncle Ebenezer’s sense of humour and his wish that his young relations learn the meaning of hard work. Katie and her cousins are not impressed; Katie even more so when she loses the diary of her journey on the train home.

However, a publisher finds the diary and finds it so amusing that he wants to publish it. It is published as “Race for a Fortune” (presumably the part about Lake Yuckie monster was altered a bit) and Katie gets a fortune after all. Her cousins turn up for the book signings looking like they are trying to put a brave face on it, but not having much success.

Thoughts

 

In girls’ comics there have been two types of ‘quest’ stories. The first is the serious one, filled with perils and life-and-death situations and deadly enemies, such as “Fran of the Floods” or “Song of the Fir Tree”. The second type of quest story is one played for light humour. Though it still has its perils, it is not life threatening or the villains as dangerous as they would be in the serious type of quest story. In fact, much of the humour can come from the villains. This is the case with Katie’s cousins, who often land themselves in sticky situations when their tricks backfire or Katie gets one up on them. Or the humour may come from the good guys, such as in Tammy’s “One Girl and Her Dog”. Most of the laughs come from the goofy dog companion who has to be taught to growl.

Though goofy is not the word to describe Katie, she is still meant to have a dash of humour about her that heightens the fun of the story. For example, the gap in her front teeth gives her a slightly Alf E. Neuman look. And some of the scrapes she gets into, such as skating all the way to Ebenezer’s in her best clothes and ending up a mess when she gets there, also provide laughs. But Katie is not meant to be a klutzy character who provides loads of laughs every week, nor is she gormless or stupid. She is a very resourceful character who can survive on her wits as she makes her way to Yuckiemuckle.

Humour can also come from the situations the heroine and villains can encounter on the way. For example, Katie unintentionally has fun with Roman ghosts because she doesn’t realise what they are; she thinks it’s another of her cousins’ tricks. It’s only afterwards, when she finds out her cousins weren’t around, that she finally gets a shock!

Finally, you have to hand some of the laughs to Uncle Ebenezer himself. Though his miserliness is not meant to be played for laughs (such as in Judy’s “Skinflint School”), there is a dash of humour about him, such as the burr in his r’s, and his insistence that his heirs must work for his inheritance. And of course, there is his own sense of humour that gives the story a surprise ending. Or maybe not so surprising, as you might have known there would be some catch when you inherit from a man like Uncle Ebenezer.

For Peter’s Sake! (1976)

Sample images

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Publication: 13 March 1976 – 31 July 1976

Artist: Ana Rodriguez

Writer: Unknown – but see “Thoughts”.

Update: My “thoughts” were correct – Alison Christie (now Fitt) wrote this story.

Summary

In pre-WWII Britain, Corrie and Dawn Lomax are delighted when they are presented with a baby brother, Peter. But then disaster strikes. First, Mr Lomax dies in a work accident. Then Peter falls ill. Peter’s illness is resisting effective diagnosis or cure, and he has to be treated as an outpatient because the hospital is short of beds. To add to the Lomax household stresses, money is tight (bread and dripping for tea every night now), and Mrs Lomax has no time for Corrie and Dawn. So Mrs Lomax accepts an invitation to send Corrie to Granny Mackie in Drumloan, Scotland, where Corrie can receive motherly attention.

Granny has a pram called Old Peg. She uses Old Peg for community work (carting soup, delivering mail, laundry and other uses). But what is really strange is that Old Peg also has a reputation in the community for possessing curative powers for infants. Any sick infant rocked in Old Peg seems to recover immediately. Corrie’s mother has always been sceptical about this, but Corrie and Granny believe Old Peg will do the same for Peter if only they can get the two together.

Then Granny dies. Corrie finds a note in Old Peg saying “Push it to Peter”, and the pram is equipped for a long journey. So Corrie begins a long journey of pushing Old Peg all the way from Scotland to Peter in London, sleeping in her at night, and having all sorts of adventures, mishaps and dangers on the way. She also has to keep ahead of the law, as she has been reported missing in Drumloan.

Corrie’s first misadventure is falling foul of tinkers. They pretend to hide her from the police, but then blackmail her into slaving for them. She escapes by pretending to have a game with Peg and their children, and then shooting off down a slope.

Unfortunately Corrie lost her tin opener to the tinkers and she is hungry. She finds some escaped chickens. She rounds them up and a girl at the farm gratefully gives her a meal. But the girl’s father, who is a bully, takes a dimmer view of her and throws her out.

Another problem arises when Peg loses a wheel. Corrie takes her for repairs, but the man recognises her as the missing girl and calls the police. Corrie makes a fast exit, with Peg still unrepaired. She rescues a boy from drowning and his grateful family repair Peg. And they do not turn her in when a policeman knocks.

Corrie is off again, but she has run out of food and money. She tries to find work at a village, but people turn her away and one woman cheats her because they think she is a tinker. Eventually Corrie and Peg stumble into a circus where the folk are far kinder. They pay Corrie well, and Corrie and Peg are even part of a circus act. But the circus is going north and Corrie needs to go south. It’s back to pushing Peg again.

While sleeping in Old Peg, Corrie takes a drenching in the rain. As a result, she develops pneumonia. She makes it to a house before she collapses. She is taken to hospital, where she is recognised as the runaway girl. Once she recovers, the doctor is going to take her back to Drumloan. But then he discovers what she is trying to do. He takes pity on her and gives her a train ticket to London. Unfortunately, Corrie discovers that Peg is not allowed to travel free and she has no money to cover the extra cost. She discards the ticket, but it is picked up by a woman who does need it, and she pays Corrie half fare.

But Corrie is now back to pushing Peg, and she has not recovered enough from the pneumonia. She takes a rest in the park and is feeling depressed. A Salvation Army officer gives her one of their news sheets. There is an item about Peter, which says he is still sick and Mum is taking him to the seaside in the hope of a cure. This renews Corrie’s strength to get Peg to London.

Another thing is worrying Corrie – how to write to Mum, who thinks she is still in Drumloan and will be surprised to see a different postmark. Then she bumps into an old woman, Jessie, who happens to be an old friend of Gran’s. Corrie confides in Jessie, who helps her with a cover story for writing to Mum. Jessie also gives Corrie new supplies, including the beeswax polish that is always used for Peg.

However, a new problem strikes – blistered feet because Corrie’s boots have worn through and need repair. While Corrie bathes her feet, a gypsy woman comes along with a sick baby. Her medicine does not work, but Old Peg’s magic touch soon has the baby better. The grateful gypsies help Corrie out in a number of ways, including repairing her boots and hooking Old Peg to their wagon so Corrie can ride in her for a while and rest her feet.

Soon it is back to pushing Peg. Corrie takes a rest in a park when some schoolgirls take an interest in Peg and start sketching her. But one gets suspicious that Corrie is not in school and calls social welfare. When a social welfare officer finds Corrie sleeping in Old Peg, he wheels her to a children’s home. It has the feel of a prison, with locked gates, uniforms and a detention room with a barred window. Corrie tells them her story in the hope of help, but they do not believe her. Corrie finds herself falling foul of the strict matron and a blackmailer while boisterous children bounce in Peg (and keep getting tipped out every time they do it). Corrie manages to escape the home with Peg, but the police are alerted immediately. She manages to evade them with the aid of old clothes someone throws into her pram, but now the police search for her intensifies.

At the next town, Corrie calls in at a house to get water for her hot water bottle. The people are kind to Corrie, but she soon finds it is pretence. They are antique collectors who are after Peg. Corrie has to do a bit of breaking and entering to get Peg back.

Corrie and Peg do another family a good turn, and as a reward they give them a lift to London. But when Corrie arrives in London, she finds her family has shifted to a place nearer the hospital. While trying to find them, she comes across a headstone which looks like Peter’s. It turns out to be coincidence, but the shock has her running out into a road and being hit by a car. Mrs Lomax then finds Corrie. Corrie only has minor injuries and is soon discharged to her new address and reunited with her family.

Now it is time to rock Peter in Old Peg. But Corrie is surprised and disappointed when it does not have the curative effect that it had on other babies; Peter remains as sick as ever. Mrs Lomax explains that Peter is dying. His only chance is an American clinic, but she does not have the money for it.

Feeling Old Peg has let her down, Corrie shoves her down the road in a fit of pique. The crash rips the mattress in Old Peg, revealing that Granny had sewn her life savings into it. There is over £300, so now the Lomaxes can afford Peter’s treatment in America. Soon Corrie and Dawn, together with Peg, see Mum and Peter off on the plane. Then Corrie finds herself surrounded by reporters who want the full story of her trek from Scotland with Peg. She tells them that Peg will be giving Peter a victory rock when he comes home cured. And of course he does.

Thoughts

The writer is not known, but there are clues as to who it may be. “For Peter’s Sake!” bears some strong similarities to a 1983 Tammy story, “Room for Rosie”. Both stories feature an old boneshaker of a pram that is a real workhorse and famous in the locality for community work. Both are owned by grandmothers who bequeath them to their granddaughters upon their deathbeds and charge them with a special mission for it. Towards the end it looks as if the granddaughters have failed in those missions despite all their efforts, and they are heartbroken. But an unexpected turn of events at the last minute changes everything and ensures a happy ending.

As Tammy was running credits at this stage, we know that Alison Christie wrote Rosie. Did Christie write “For Peter’s Sake!” as well? The stories Christie was credited with indicate she specialised in emotional, heart-warming, tear-jerking stories, and this story certainly is one. Analysis of Christie’s other credited serials in Tammy (“A Gran for the Gregorys”, “Cassie’s Coach” and “It’s a Dog’s Life!”) also imply that Christie liked to end her serials with a surprise last-minute turn of events that turns a moment of black despair into a happy ending. And this is precisely how Peter’s story turns out happily…hmm. We cannot credit this story to Alison Christie without confirmation, but we would not put it past her.

Update: Alison Christie (now Fitt) has now confirmed that she wrote this story.

Stories about missions of mercy were always popular in girls’ comics. And when it’s a baby that needs saving, you can’t miss with winning the hearts of readers. We’ve also got fugitive elements, right down to a prison escape with the children’s home segment, adventure and adversity, life-threatening situations, people and situations in all shapes and sizes on Corrie’s long journey, and even a hint of the supernatural with Peg’s supposed curative powers for babies. There’s something for everyone in this story.

The conclusion has a surprise twist that does give us our happy ending – but it does not come in the way we expected and leaves things to our imaginations. We are left wondering as to why Peg’s curative power not work on Peter when it seemed to work on every other baby that was rocked in her. Was there something to Mrs Lomax’s scepticism about Peg’s curative powers after all? Was Peter’s illness beyond even the power of Peg to cure? Or was the cure withheld because something better (the money) was planned? The money not only saves Peter but also helps to ease the Lomaxes’ financial burdens following the death of Mr Lomax. Whatever the answer, it is a brilliant piece of plotting that gives the happy ending while avoiding trite clichés and schmaltz, and it leaves the readers wondering what statement the writer was trying to make with it.

 

 

Bound for Botany Bay (1976)

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Publication: 31 January 1976-5 June 1976
Artist: Roy Newby
Writer: Unknown

Summary
In the early 19th century, Betsy Tanner is the daughter of a farm labourer, but has dreams of being a famous artist. In a school inspection, this draws the scorn of Lady de Mortimer, who says Betsy is too old for school, although Betsy is a star pupil and clearly an artistic genius, and should work in her kitchens. Later, Betsy’s father forbids her to take the job: “No! She treats her servants worse than slaves.” Lady de Mortimer is a cruel, spiteful woman and, as we shall see, it runs in her family. And Betsy will soon discover that the classroom encounter is just the beginning of Lady de Mortimer’s persecution of her that will go all the way to the other side of the globe and the end of the story.

Fallout from the Napoleonic wars has led to economic hardship for England, and this leads to Mr Tanner being laid off. The threat of starvation has him unwisely turning to poaching from Lord de Mortimer and he gets seven years’ transportation in Botany Bay. Betsy promises him she will join him.

Lady de Mortimer has Betsy evicted because she is the daughter of a convict. Nobody will employ Betsy for the same reason and hunger drives her to steal a loaf of bread. She gets caught, but part of her welcomes it because transportation means she has a chance of finding her father. But she is sentenced to death instead for helping another prisoner, a gypsy called Liz escape, and a beadle gets assaulted in the process.

Fortunately for Betsy, Liz’s gypsy tribe knows Philip Cartwright, the editor of a powerful newspaper. Mr Cartwright uses his editorial power to start a petition, which has the sentence commuted to transportation (it also has Lady de Mortimer encountering some very angry people who pelt her!). Before Betsy departs, Mr Cartwright gives her some art materials as a parting gift.

However, Betsy is warned “you’ll be lucky if you get to Botany Bay alive!” And Lady de Mortimer is making certain of this by giving special orders to the captain to be extremely harsh with Betsy, whom she deems a troublemaker and a desperate case. She also gives orders for special letters to be delivered to her Australian cousin, the Honourable Adeline Wortley. Betsy survives the voyage through courage, wits, kindness and, and resourcefulness with her artwork, such as doing people’s sketches in exchange for things, and her determination to find her father.

During the voyage, another convict, Judy, throws herself overboard when she is wrongly accused of stealing a necklace from paying passenger Miss Braithwaite (the real thief was her maid). Betsy throws her a barrel in the hope of it being a life-preserver. The captain does not bother to rescue Judy. But in the panel (below) where Judy throws herself overboard, there is another ship sailing not far behind. Hmmm….

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Upon arrival, Betsy becomes bonded to Lady de Mortimer’s equally cruel cousin, Miss Wortley (as per instructions in the aforementioned letters). Miss Wortley takes great pleasure in inflicting harsh punishments on Betsy to break the “wickedness” of the girl who she labels a dangerous convict and a desperate case. These include confiscating her art supplies, forcing her to work in the hot sun until she collapses from sunstroke, and locking her in a dark cupboard. Miss Wortley treats her other servants, Miss O’Flaherty, and an Aborigine girl named Mary (a slave who was bought by Miss Wortley) just as badly. Eventually Betsy and Mary run off, along with the art supplies. As Betsy makes ready to escape, she learns that a Judge Denver is married to Miss Wortley’s sister (who is another nasty piece of work). Miss Wortley hates Judge Denver because he is a humanitarian and also, he recently rescued Betsy from one of her tortures.

When Miss Wortley discovers the escape, she is furious and means to drag the girls back in chains. And so the hunt for Mary and Betsy begins. The pursuit includes redcoats and an Aborigine tracker, Kangaroo Joe. Joe finds the girls but decides to help them by faking their deaths. The ruse works and the search is called off.

Betsy has also been making enquiries about her father and gets some leads. From the sound of them, he has also escaped and on the run. Unfortunately the trail has them falling foul of another nasty rich lady, Mrs Mallaquin. Mrs Mallaquin kidnaps escaped convicts and makes them slave in an opal mine. Betsy discovers her father fell foul of Mrs Mallaquin too, but escaped the mine. When Mrs Mallaquin discovers Betsy is his daughter, she takes revenge by trying to kill Betsy and Mary in the mine with an explosion. But they not only escape but finish the racket by sealing the entrance to the mine and removing the guards’ weapons to ensure the other prisoners can now escape.

They then find Mr Tanner. Mr Tanner tells them he has found gold, and Mary has some opals from the mine to add to the savings. Mr Tanner uses it to buy a farm, under the assumed name of Johnny Flynn. Everything goes well until Miss Wortley catches up with Betsy and drags her back. Mr Tanner and Mary go to the rescue.

Miss Wortley stops at an inn, and Betsy is bound and locked in the attic. But when she looks out the window, she is surprised to see Judy! It turns out that the barrel did save Judy after all. It kept her afloat until she was picked up by a trading schooner (aha!), married the skipper, and is now doing well. Once Betsy alerts Judy to her situation, Judy helps her escape.

Betsy makes her way back home, but then finds her father and Mary have gone after her. So she goes after them, and meets up with Mary. They head off to Miss Wortley’s to find Mr Tanner. Meanwhile, Mr Tanner gets a job at Miss Wortley’s under an assumed name – but is then shocked to see Lady de Mortimer arrive! Lady de Mortimer recognises him and gives chase. Mary and Betsy save him and they head off on horseback. They meet up with an Aborigine tribe who disguise Betsy and her father as Aborigines. But Mr Tanner realises that they cannot keep running forever, and they cannot lead normal lives because they are escaped convicts.

Then a bush fire starts. The people of Port Jackson (where Miss Wortley lives), will be caught napping, so Betsy and her father head back to warn them, although they will be risking recapture. Judge Denver listens to their warnings, and the Tanners lead a fire brigade to put out the fire.

Afterwards, Miss Wortley has the Tanners arrested as escaped convicts. She tells the authorities that Judge Denver ordered them (he did not) to receive the sentence for escaped convicts and slaves – fifty lashes. Lady de Mortimer herself is eager to watch: “villains must never get the upper hand.”

But Judge Denver rescues them in the nick of time. He has just been elected governor, so he has the power to grant the Tanners free pardons, and he does so for saving the town from the fire. He then frees Mary by buying her off Miss Wortley: “Take [the money] or I’ll make life in Port Jackson most uncomfortable for you, sister-in-law!” Miss Wortley has no choice: “Even that old dragon won’t cross swords with the new governor,” Denver gleefully tells the Tanners.

The Tanners can now return to their farm as free people and they legally adopt Mary. Betsy is now free to pursue her art career as well, and Judge Denver gives her a good start – painting for his official residence.

Thoughts
The Jinty & Lindy merger seemed to be big on period stories that commented on the harshness, cruelties, and exploitations of previous centuries. This story follows straight on the heels of another Roy Newby story, “Slaves of the Candle”, which deals with a Victorian racket where girls are kept locked in a basement room to make candles. Others included “Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud” (cruelties of Victorian domestic service) and “Bridey below the Breadline” (aftermath of the Great Fire of London). This may have been a carryover of Lindy, which seemed to have an emphasis on such stories. Two examples were “Nina Nimble Fingers” and “Poor Law Polly” – both of which were drawn by Newby.

Convicts. Now, normally when strips discuss convicts, they are either escaped criminals or wrongly convicted people. But here the people did commit the crimes they were convicted of. Yet they were not bad people, black hearted villains or dangerous criminals that the judiciary and gentry label them. They were victims of circumstance, poverty, discrimination, working class oppression, and 19th century law which inflicted harsh punishments for even minor offences and had little tolerance for mitigating circumstances. The Tanners are driven to crime by the threat of starvation inflicted by harsh people and economic times. Liz is driven to stealing the watch that landed her in gaol because nobody would give her a job because she was a gypsy. Judy was convicted of robbery, has a more violent streak, and her tendency to bully and lash out at the other convicts does not make her popular with them. To be fair, though, she would be traumatised by the loss of her sister (to the gallows) and now transportation. And she mellows when Betsy shows her kindness (getting medical aid when Judy is flogged) and then throwing her the barrel that saves her from drowning. When we see Judy again, she is barely recognisable as the snappy sourpuss she was on the convict ship. She is wearing fine clothes, happily married, and has a far more cheerful disposition.

The real villains are the people who keep labelling the Tanners and other convicts as such. Lady de Mortimer, Miss Wortley and her sister, the gaolers, the captain of the convict ship, the Beadle, Mrs Mallaquin and Miss Braithwaite – all of them are cruel, unfeeling, bullying people who get away with cruelty and exploitation because of their high positions in society. And they are all hypocrites; they label the Tanners and other convicts evil, black hearted villains, but they are the ones who are black hearted and evil, and take delight in inflicting their cruelty in the name of self-righteousness and morality on the people labelled convicts.

Jinty sure was making a big statement on the inequities that arise from class distinction as the harshness of 19th century law with this story. But it goes further; Jinty makes strong social commentary on humanitarianism and reformists and 19th century issues. In prison, Betsy does not just want hope of a reprieve – she wants improvements in the prison system and gives Mr Cartwright sketches of the prison conditions to help. It so happens that Mr Cartwright is a friend of 19th century prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, so Betsy’s pictures will indeed be a big bonus in the campaign for prison reform. We also see condemnation of slavery: Miss Wortley bought Mary, so she is a real slave; once the convicts arrive in Botany Bay, Betsy is informed that they will become slaves all but in name, and the way she is bonded to Miss Wortley is akin to slavery; Mr Tanner compares Lady de Mortimer’s treatment of her servants to slavery. And finally, there is comment on the evils of racism, which would have been more endemic for the times. Liz cannot get a job because she is a gypsy, and Mary becomes a slave because she is coloured.

But of course all these injustices are never allowed to triumph altogether in this story. Courage, resourcefulness and kindness always win through one way or another and the oppressed people in this story always seem to get laugh one way or another. Liz was sentenced to hang for being a gypsy as much as a thief – but she got away in the end. Judy threw herself overboard when Miss Braithwaite’s maid had her carry the can over the stolen necklace – but she triumphed by surviving long enough to be picked up and ending up in a good marriage. Betsy suffered torture after torture through the machinations of Lady de Mortimer and her various agents, but she never allowed Lady de Mortimer to break her spirit. She always survived and slipped through the net somehow, and in the end she won her freedom while Lady de Mortimer and Miss Worley walk away defeated and furious. And Judge Denver, the only one to show any kindness in the family he married into, gets the last laugh as well over them. He becomes governor, and in a position where he is in a position to teach his nasty sister-in-law and her cousin a lesson.

Like you said, Lady de Mortimer – villains must never get the upper hand!