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


Mike Nicoll said...

Nice one yet again Norm!! The hi res scans are particularly appreciated as they show that FB seems to have used a lot of pure brushwork in these earlier illustrations - maybe he had yet to discover the joys of his beloved Gillot 1950 pen nibs at this time? Would also be nice to know the size of the original art in these earlier pieces and the media used - as the line art looks a bit "thicker" than one might expect from the dip pen or even the brush suggesting that maybe the art was done on cartridge or watercolour board which allows a bit of bleed instead of the traditional clarity we've come to expect from CS10 board - that's just my humble opinion tho and I'd be interested to know what other FB fans think.
Thanks again Norm!!
ps - I have been told that CS10 is no longer made - anyone know if that's true - my local art shop certainly can't locate a supplier.

Norman Boyd said...

Good to hear from you Bill. I too have heard CS10 is no more but proof? None here. Hopefully someone might trip over this and answer.

Yes the art execution is interesting and follows his Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph cartoon style more than later work. But in the early fifties he did use this style until coming to MMW and "Monty Carstairs" where, I presume, he had to produce in the sort of house style
Thanks for writing