Thursday 14 August 2014

Frank Bellamy and the first parachute jump!

So someone is talking to you about Leonardo da Vinci's parachute design and we agree we don't know whether anyone has tried it out, and then get to wondering, but who was the first person to jump with a parachute? Imagine you are the first! That big open space and a piece of cloth on your back. Who did it first?
Eagle Annual #5 p.37

Frank Bellamy knew the answer - he illustrated a story in the fifth Eagle Annual (published in late 1955 for the Christmas market) - "Pull the ring, and you're a caterpillar!"

So who was it?

A snippet from a longer Wikipedia article:

Leslie Leroy Irvin (10 September 1895 – 9 October 1966) made the first premeditated free-fall parachute jump in 1919. Irvin was born in Los Angeles. He became a stunt-man for the fledgling Californian film industry, for which he had to perform acrobatics on trapezes from balloons and then make descents using a parachute. Irvin made his first jump when aged fourteen. For a film called Sky High, he first jumped from an aircraft from 1,000 feet in 1914. He developed his own static line parachute as a life-saving device in 1918 and jumped with it several times.

Eagle Annual #5 p.38
"The crowd thrilled with excitement as the parachutist floated earthwards."

Eagle Annual #5 p.39
"All the experience that Irvin had gained
with balloons at fairs, death dives and stunt jumps,
was put into the design for the new parachute."

Eagle Annual #5 p.40
"A body came away from the plane and hurtled earthwards."

Looking up Reginald Taylor, the author of this article, was difficult (with such a common name), but it seems fairly likely he is the same one who wrote the "Andy and..." series for Hamish Hamilton's Antelope imprint and by association I'm guessing these other Hamish Hamilton books.

Andy and his Last Parade. Illustrated by B. Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1965.
Andy and the Display Team Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1959.
Andy and the Mascots Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1957.
Andy and the Miniature War Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1962.
Andy and the Royal Review  Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1963.
Andy and the Secret Papers  Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1961.
Andy and the Sharpshooters . Illustrated by Biro. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1959.
Andy and the Water Crossing, London : Hamish Hamilton, 1961.

The Boy from Hackston, N.E. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1962.
Circus Triumphant Illustrated by Tony Weare. London : Bodley Head, 1955.
A First look at Sailing. A beginner's manual Illustrated by John Robinson. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1964.
The Mad Martins Illustrated by Gilbert Dunlop. [A tale for children.] London ; Glasgow : Blackie & Son, [1953]
My Friend, my Enemy. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1965.
Wild Frontier. Illustrated by H. Bishop. London : Bodley Head, 1957.
Wings over Tewkesley ... Illustrated by Tony Weare. London : Bodley Head, 1954.

As the Andy series is about experiences in a military setting I wonder if the following references in the British Library catalogue might a) be him too and b) tell us his fuller name

Phantom was there. [A history of the G.H.Q. Liaison Regiment, 1939-1945. With maps.] Great Britain. Army. G.H.Q. Liaison Regiment. London : Edward Arnold & Co., 1951.

Something About a Soldier. [An account of the traditions of the British Army.] R. J. T. Hills, (Reginald John Taylor) London : Lovat Dickson, 1934.

As many of the illustrators listed above worked in comics or comic strips it might also be that this Reginald John Taylor Hills was also the editor of Boyfriend in the sixties, as stated on Steve Holland's Bear Alley

Lastly the first Express Annual was edited by a Reginald Taylor so could it be our Taylor too?

Interested in seeing more about Eagle Annuals? - see Ian and Sharon's fascinating Eagle Annual website


Norman Boyd said...

From Bill Storie:
Yet again you've come up trumps mate! I do recall having this at one stage but the book seems to have been lost during house moves at some stage so a welcome revisit! I seem to recall looking at the originals and thinking it looks like pure pencil art with no inks at all and - possibly drawn on cartridge paper or watercolour board? I can't imagine FB doing this art on CS10 unless he used charcoal pencils or summat like that - what do our other experts think??? Don't suppose the original art is still extant?
Cheers mate - and thanks again!

Norman Boyd said...

Tell us more about how you saw the original art because as far as I know it's gone to ground!
Thanks for writing

Norman Boyd said...

From: David Slinn:
Hi Norman,
Sometimes, too many clues can complicate things?

The Bodley Head books, illustrated by Tony Weare and Harry Bishop would, for the reasons you suggest, lend themselves to have been written by the same Reginald
as the Eagle Annual feature, ‘Pull the ring, and you’re a Caterpillar!’. Having come from Odhams’ Mickey Mouse Weekly – where he’d have first encountered Frank – to
work as a personal assistant to Marcus Morris, it’s quite possible he assigned this particular annual work to FB, himself.

I’ve never been absolutely sure just how long Reg Taylor was with the Hulton Press, but his subsequent departure down to Racquet Court interestingly coincided with the development of Express(Super Colour) Weekly into a serious market competitor with Eagle. Remaining with the paper until 1959 when, together with TV Comic, the title was sold to TV Publications Limited, he and editorial colleague, Ken Walmsley, spotting the increasing popularity of romance picture-libraries, decided to set up a small independent publishing company.

I can’t actually say, but perhaps this eventually led to his later involvement with City Magazine’s Boyfriend. I’d tend to go along with the assumption that, unless there’s definite
evidence to the contrary, Reginald John Taylor Hills, who appears to have been a specialist in regimental and military history, is a separate entity all together. Though intriguingly, the Andy
series of books, presumably were aimed at youngsters.

Kindest regards, David

Norman Boyd said...

Very clear thinking and also supplementary information. I've posted it here in case someone somewhere is researching Taylor
Thanks very much