Monday 17 March 2014

Frank Bellamy and Winston Churchill - original art

UPDATE: I see the seller has reduced the price to £900 Buy It Now (27 March 2014) - sale ends 4 April

I was searching eBay and tripped over this item for sale for £1400 ('buy it now'). Why don't eBay's search alerts work properly? Seller 'fredy1237' appears as a new identity on eBay and has this rather unique piece for sale: "Frank Bellamy Original Artwork Winston Churchill Coulur [sic]Technique Experiment" . The seller states:

Original rare artwork by Frank Bellamy which is related to the Eagle As far I am unaware this is unpublished, I can provide a letter of provenance detailing how I purchased the artwork from Nancy Bellamy after Franks death. A mounted part page in original folder and mount. Folder size 50cm x 34cm

This is the first I ever heard about this. It's known that Bellamy often did a character outline for a new series and we know that he was nervous about drawing the first living personality to appear on the back page of the Eagle (in the seven year's of this feature). The feature was about Winston Churchill and called "The Happy Warrior". Maybe he felt he needed to show Marcus Morris, the editor, how his likeness of Churchill would look. The seller says this is a colour experiment and this actually lends authenticity as this was Bellamy's first work in colour for the Eagle comic, although this does look faded - particularly when compared to the rich colour used in the published drawings.

It is reasonable to assume that Bellamy was nervous about this commission, especially as he learned that Churchill was to get final approval (and before the comic was delivered the front cover 'Dan Dare' was removed as Churchill didn't like space adventures). Bellamy used references from the Imperial War Museum to get accuracy in weapons, uniforms etc. and found it "a real punishing job".

But if you look at the whole run of the story (from 4 October 1957 to the last episode which is often missed in the reprints, of Churchill's full face portrait (6 September 1958), you'll see Bellamy's confidence growing and his beautiful shaped panels becoming more and more like graphic designs and less like comic panels.

Episode 32

Episode 38

A recent reprint is available - I haven't yet seen a copy - of the whole Churchill saga and other repints have appeared since the first near-complete hardback reprint in 1958. Have a look at the website listing

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Frank Bellamy and BBC Children's Hour

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952]
Cover by Gilbert Dunlop
Children's Hour was broadcast from 1922 to 1964, the slim Wikipedia article tell us. The name of the radio programme (and subsequent TV series) is better known these days than any memories of the radio programme as is the name 'Uncle Mac' (or to give him his real name Derek Ivor Breashur McCulloch).

In 1951 / 1952 Bellamy was coming to the end of his Home Notes run and starting to illustrate stories for Boy's Own Paper and Gibbs tooth powder adverts which appeared in the Eagle comic. Before he took on "Monty Carstairs" for Mickey Mouse Weekly in July 1953 as a regular weekly strip we find Bellamy illustrated a story for the BBC Children's Hour Annual

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 80
Title panel illustration

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 81
Ship beached

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 82
Small plane landing

The British Library lists the BBC Children's Hour Annual as starting in 1951. This makes some sense as McCullloch resigned from the BBC in 1950 taking up a job as Children’s Editor at the News Chronicle, (1950–53) and eventually returning to the BBC to compère Children's Favourites

In the 1952 version of this annual (edited by May E. Jenkins, Head of Children's Hour at that time) Angus MacVicar compiled an interview article with Duncan Newlands, "cox'n of the Campbeltown lifeboat" and also Captain David Barclay "of the British European Airways ambulance flight at Renfrew Airport". These were part of a series called "I'm proud of my father" which, it appears, were short pieces broadcast on Children's Hour (as well as appearing here). May and Patricia are their respective daughters who help MacVicar to get their fathers onto the radio. Why? Both men are rescuers of those based in the North West of Scotland and beyond to the Western Isles. 

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 83
Photos of the people mentioned

MacVicar states "Mr Churchill, in the first volume of his War memoirs, The Gathering Storm, describes how Captain Barclay was killed!" - I should think MacVicar was glad Churchill got it wrong! Barclay was the pilot in a war-time flight accident at Kirkwall and had "a slight limp to remind him of the accident".

The author also takes a friendly tone with his audience telling them what a problem travelling around Scotland to collect material is (remember this is 5 years after the War!). He proudly places his latest script in his glove compartment and Bellamy illustrates how MacVicar's car skids on an oil patch.  

BBC Children's Hour Annual [1952] Page 85
Car skids and turns a somersault
MacVicar's first thought was "What if the car went on fire and [the script] was destroyed?" and he grabbed it before exiting the upside-down car. It was broadcast 6 weeks later and "few people realised how nearly it had never been broadcast"

Angus MacVicar mentions in the article his serial (presumably on Children's Hour) called Tiger Mountain and Amazon shows us pictures of covers of his later works, and the man himself. I remember reading one of his children's Science-Fiction novels when I was a kid and enjoying it, but which title is lost in the mists of time!

Bellamy's pictures here are rather bound to the time in which they appear and his style has more of his 1940s large linework than his later subtleties. However, having browsed a lot children's literature from this time I can see his work is very clear and shows kids what they need to see in the story