Clennell Wilkinson returns with two chatty news items, and receives a huge response. ‘I suppose,’ he writes ‘that it is possible to set too easy a competition … accustomed to rack their brains over literary problems of such difficulty that the very men who set them would, in most cases, be lucky to win a consolation prize, they find it hard to take you seriously when you offer them a couple of clippings from the daily press.’
For the A competition, he has picked a story about a crate full of live poultry being sent from Blackpool to London by air. A short poem, in any form (not excluding free verse) is asked for, condoling with the alleged birds upon their humiliating situation. The judge’s report is quite short, apart from noting that many competitors had the idea that pullets might be air-sick, and that many also went for the over-obvious joke about ‘foul play’. The prizes go to J.W.A.Hunt and E.W.Fordham. There was in fact a comic poet called E.W.Fordham, and it’s tempting to speculate that this is a relative (the poet died in 1925), but this E(dward).W(ilfred).Fordham is a barrister aged 57, who lived in Hampstead, and wrote a book in 1950 called Notable Cross-Examinations. Shortly before that he’d joined in a debate on instances of ‘literally’ in a running correspondence (April 1949) in The Times: Sir,Perhaps the most picturesque use of ‘literally’ was that of a writer who asserted that ‘for five years Mr Gladstone was literally glued to the Treasury Bench.’Yours faithfully, E.W. Fordham. The next letter in sequence is from Gerald Barry!
J.W.A.Hunt is Joseph Wray Angus Hunt (1898-1976), known as ‘Wray Hunt’, and a writer of academic books (Medieval Studies in 1931), a co-writer with his wife Molly of children’s books (two in the late 1930s, Fairy Corner and The Toby Inn) and also a novelist.
Whether the two novels below, one from 1931 and one from 1970 are both his work I am very unsure – but it seems likely!
The B competition refers to the early morning of Sunday May 3 1931, when an earthquake had been felt on the outskirts of Manchester, centring on Eccles. Various chimney pots had been dislodged, book-cases had fallen over, and The Guardian reported (very much in the tradition of underwhelming tales) that a golfer, out early, had missed his shot. Curiously enough, and the subject of the competition (epigram wanted), was a Times report of another golfer, at Chorlton, who had seen his ball shaken by the earthquake into the hole. Mind you, perhaps there was a season for earthquakes. Only a fortnight later there was a much larger earthquake across the country:
Sylvia Lynd wrote an article about this larger earthquake for the WR.