Competitions 25A and 25B: the results

The first new judge (apart from the anonymous crossword editor), either already, or about to be Assistant Editor of the WR, has set this one. He’s E.M. – ‘Max’ – Nicholson, already a leading ornithologist and destined to be a key environmentalist. He has asked for a hundred words of tact that unconsciously and incidentally crushes the person addressed. This first shot at a competition ends in disaster since he claims that only one person understood it (Lester Ralph) and that only three others came close (including T.E. Casson, for whom I am now beginning to feel quite sorry), and regretfully not only has to give an example of what he meant, but is unable to award anyone a prize, and suggests the prize money be put aside to purchase punkahs for fanning ‘deserving competitors the next time they are invited to rack their brains in a heatwave’ (August 1930 was a very hot month, with headlines in the paper pointing out that there were days when the British weather was hotter than that of India).

The second competition was little more successful. He asked for an epigram written by an un-English businessman whose workers had been distracted by the Ashes tour, which had ended in victory by Australia. Once again, Nicholson blamed the heat. There is a small stream of hapless far-misses (yes, including Casson) and two victories, both of which are handed down with a bad grace to Pibwob (‘too literary’) and C.D.B.E. whose ‘savagery might have found more scope closer to home’.

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You can watch a casual interview with Bradman during his visit to England in 1930 here.

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Competitions 24A and 24B: results

For 24A, Ivor Brown has set the task of writing a Wordsworthian sonnet on riding a motorcycle up Scafell Pike. One of the winning entries refers to ‘Clarkson’ … However, I can’t find an obvious news report of anyone taking a motorbike up Scafell (over 3000 feet) in 1930, so I’m not sure if this was a topical reference (it sounds it). The list of also-rans is lengthy (including the luckless T.E.Casson), and Brown is more than a but surprised that there’s such little mischief. He gives the top prize to the best of the ‘reverents’, C.M.R., and the second to the best of the parodists, William A. Jesper.

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Only one William A. Jesper is listed in the births and marriages register, which would suggest that this is William Alfred Jesper of York, born in 1878, and in 1911 a railway clerk in the same city.

24B asks for four rehearsed opening conversational gambits to be prepared for a Mr. Tremble (‘a modest author’) when at a party given by a literary hostess (‘Lady Booming’). The date of the party is given as August 23 1930. I’m not sure of the significance of the 23rd, but it was two days after the birth of this little girl:

Princess Margaret

Princess Margaret Rose, a few years later …

Brown awards the guinea to N.B. for a suicidal set of suggestions:

(1) I do hope you like Jane Austen.

(2) Tell me about your home life.

(3) Do tell me how one sews on buttons.

(4) Don’t you just adore Woolworth?

(None of these raised a smile in my case.)

The half-guinea goes to Hutch, and I do, like Brown, admire the fourth stage (Gilbert Jessop, by the way was regarded as the finest cricketer of the pre-WW1 years; a serious medical accident during World War I prevented him from playing again. Hobbs rated him the equal of Bradman).

INTRODUCTORY

“I hope we shan’t have an experience like the one I had last week at a dinner when the lights all went out

during the soup course.” (Failing a counter-reminiscence, you enlarge on an imaginary experience.)

SPORT

The Test Match… “I have the advantage over you of being able to remember when Jessop …”

HUMOUR

“I heard a rather amusing remark on the way here this evening.” Here follows some joke culled

from an old Punch. It is unlikely that your victim will remember it; if she does, “Is that so?

How truly Wilde said that Nature imitates Art!” If, however, she fails to see the joke, you

pass on to

OMENS

“Do you believe in the lore of numbers? Someone has discovered that our new little Princess is

the second daughter of the second son of the second son of the second child of Queen

Victoria, and was born on the second day after the second decade of the second month of the

second half of the year.” To stop this kind of thing, she will have to start some subject of

her own.

[It actually took me a while to get this, as ‘decade’ is being used to mean ten days, i.e. two plus twenty days into August. I don’t know if it’s a better joke for getting the date of her birth wrong by one day, or a worse one, but it entertained me.]

Competitions 23A and 23B: the results

I’ve been looking forward to showing you this one. It is a fiend. Set by the Weekend Crossword Editor (no name provided), you are given a template for a crossword, and the words that fit into it horizontally, and vertically – but not where they fit into it. So before you go anywhere you have to fill in the words. By (almost happy) accident, there was a misprint, too. When you’ve done that, you have to invent amusing clues. This is by far the hardest and most enjoyable competition to do.

Here is the information entrants were provided with:

* a symmetrical crossword with fifteen squares each way, sixty-three blank squares, and no two blind letters together

* the words across, and remember, in no particular order: passive, lupin, audible, nonsuit, stilted, stook,
winnings, royally, dole, rags, chevron, immense, rotunda, Kiel, steamer, torpids, tenaces, lino

* the words down are aback, reunion, négligé, rumbled, National Gallery, whisper, stone, shudder,
third party risks, initial, E.P.N.S,  atom, inns, sheathe, espy, candour.

Correctly numbered, this comes out like this:

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As you’ll see, ‘winnings’ was the wrong’un in the original instruction. OK, now you’ve come this far, you have to come up with thirty-four clues.

There are are lots of proxime accessits. They include (third) E.P.C. Cotter (Edmond Cotter), who in later life became an expert player and writer about both bridge and croquet; R.O. (Robert Ormes) Dougan, who was to become an expert librarian and an expert in particular on the Book of Kells; R.D.Jebb, later a political essayist; as well as regular competitive obsessives like Pibwob. But they are beaten to the punch by Cassandra, who has to be reminded to provide his or her address, and who completes all the clues as rhyming couplets, thereby staving off into second place R.L., whose winning entry is confined to a few clues. (This is the way to win a competition. Imagine what everyone else is doing and then do something harder that you haven’t been asked to do …).

Photos exist of the third-placed Cotter (here in 1956 in the centre of the front row of a croquet team):

Cotter 4 BR 56

However, it is Cassandra‘s entry that needs the fanfare:

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and let’s not forget the footnotes:

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R.L., as mentioned is given space to show just some of his suggestions:

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The second competition is to parody Lewis Caroll. Our anonymous crossword editopr notes that not all the fates of the crew of the Snark are described, and invites four verses on the fate of the billiard-marker. L.V.Upward is in the running again, but two new names, Janhope and Geraldine win the guinea and half-guinea (one wonders if Geraldine is the dissatisfied crossword entrant who wrote in during the sequence of ‘Gerald’ letters). The penultimate line of Janhope’s is only partly available. I will try to source the full line.

Both these efforts seem to me to be very talented – this is certainly, overall, my favourite competition so far.

The first verse is the standard opening; the subsequent for are the inventions.

They sought it with thimbles, they sopught it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

Then the Billiard-marker, with passion intense,
Shouted “Ninety-eight plays Ninety-nine!”
And explained how at Thurston’s the opposite sense
Of the problem was due to the vine.

“For,” he said, “it is plain as a spot in the sun
That all efforts to snooker a Snark
Must be wholly anachronous, just under-done,
And inclined to be dim in the dark.

They knew it at Harrods’, they knew it at Scott’s
And I told them at Brookman’s Park,
When announcing a series of ‘Geraldine Shots –
Some hazards of  potting the Snark!’ ”

But the Bellman retorted: “The facts as reported
Show clearly where Vanity works
[illegible] to depart from the view
Of His Majesty’s Office of Works.

JANHOPE

Brookman’s Park is a village in Hertfordshire with a golf course, but I don’t know – and after all, this is a nonsense poem – if Scott’s is or was a club, nor if there is any meaning behind the phrase ‘Geraldine Shots’. Anyone any idea? (Thurston’s is the name of the snooker supplier founded in 1799.)

The Billiard-Marker

The Billiard-Marker from The Hunting of the Snark

Here is the second prize entrant:

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Competitions nos. 22A and 22B – the results

Dyneley Hussey returns to the fray with a curious idea. Entrants are to imagine that they are dispossessed aristocrats who have been invited back to the family seat by the nouveau-riche owner. They have to sign the visitor’s book in verse. It’s such an odd competition that one suspects that it is a little marker being set half-unconsciously down about the decline of certain land-owning families. David Cannadine’s survey, The Decline And Fall Of The British Aristocracy effectively locates the change in the power of the landed gentry to the years between (especially) the marginalisation of the House of Lords by Lloyd George and the extension of the franchise – and we’re only looking at competitions set under two years after universal suffrage.

About a hundred people entered this one, mostly offering rude retorts from the former owner to the new incumbent. But Hussey is less than happy at this froth of witty bile. In fact he gives the top prize to H.C.M. (second week running for him!) precisely because ‘he alone has expressed himself in terms which the host would find flattering, and the guest a relief to outraged feelings’. He adds that new peers are not all ‘guttlers like Gnatho’, a phrase not often now heard (nor then – Gnatho is a parasitical companion in a play by the Latin writer Terence, but I guess Hussey is thinking of Rabelais, who borrows Gnatho in Pantagruel:

…  Gnatho and others of a like Kidney, when in the Wine-shops and Taverns, in which Places
they ordinarily kept their Schools, seeing the Guests served with some good Meats and delicate
Morsels, they would villainously spit in the Dishes, so that the Guests, disgusted at their
infamous Spittings and Snivellings, might desist from eating the Meats set before them, and
the Whole should be left to these villainous Spitters and Snivellers.

A guttler means a glutton, and it’s a word that deserves a comeback.

What a nouveau-riche owner of a mansion is not necessarily like

What a nouveau-riche owner of a mansion is not necessarily like

After that, the winning entries may come as a let-down. James Hall sneaks second place from William Bliss.

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22B – it is now the end of August 1930 – asks for the kinds of letters which would be good fodder for the silly season. One (not quoted) letter by a J.M. is about renaming the days of the week, and that sounds quite amusing, but the winners – nearly H.C.M again – but Fair-Play and G.D.Hadley instead, are a bit inconsequential for me. Hadley’s had a PS about Turkisg baths that I will restore when I relocate it, but don’t build your hopes up.

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Neither of these would win a prize today, I am fairly sure.

Competitions 21A and 21B: results

The setter, George Blake – his second time – has set one competition for a rhymed “address to a Press Baron on his Being Elevated to a Still Higher Rank in the Peerage” (with an injunction that he be ‘imaginary”, as the scope for libel being encouraged is obviously considerable – and this is the WR’s second pot-shot at press barons, of whom Rothermere – the Mail and Mirror owner, and Beaverbrook – the Express and Evening Standard proprietor – were pre-eminent); and one competition for an epigram in verse or prose on “A British Heavyweight”.

The competitors have duly risen to the challenge, but Blake slags them off for using bludgeons rather than rapiers. T.E. Casson is once again – he still hasn’t won – picked out as a notable loser, with Glenda Graham and James Hall coming closer. But the winner, a regular, is H.C.M. with this:

WR21a

Thereis no second prize.

As for 21B, boxing was in the doldrums in 1930 – there was no world heavyweight champion in the 1930 for financial reasons – and in Britain, a few top boxers had been making a habit of being knocked out early (in Jack Bloomfield’s case, earlier in the 1920s, in suspicious circumstances). The British title-holder at the time the competition was set was Phil Scott, and he had only weeks earlier suffered a technical knockout at the hands of Young Stribling. There’s a newsreel here of Scott being knocked out in two rounds within a year of this competition. So no witty paeans were expected.

Among the best known boxers in the 1920s were brothers Jack and Joe Bloomfield, both of whom had held a heavyweight title (then as now, there were a variety). Jack had retired in ignominy after a notorious early knockout (i.e. he went down). Joe was still active, but was in the middle of a series of defeats. (In 1928, he and another boxer had had their match declared null and void by the referee because they weren’t doing their best!)

Jack and Joe Bloomfield

Joe and Jack Bloomfield

In the event Blake, pausing to commend a variety of entrants, but including L.V.Upward, who was to stick at the competitions for a good few years, he splits the one-and-a-half guineas three ways, between O.H.T. Dudley, W. Snow, and the often-present James Hall, successful in this competition where he’s come close in the other –

WR21b

O.H.T. Dudley was Oscar Hugo Thornton Dudley, born in 1877 in Staffordshire, and a man who had spent about a quarter-of-a-century as a leading inspector of schools in India, until at least the early 1920s. His family were clergy – his father was the vicar of Ticehurst in Sussex, and his great-uncle had been the chaplain on one of the first four ships that took settlers to New Zealand in 1850. I suspect he was retired by this time: he was a literary scholar on the side, and erudite articles about, for instance, Jane Austen and Keats were published in scholarly journals just before and during the existence of the WR.