Competitions 87A and 87B: results

Naomi Royde-Smith asks for 300 words (for two guineas, one winner) on the subject of ‘Nerves’. This is a task redolent of the punishments I used to receive at school (which masochistically, I rather liked). But NR-S herself admits this is a failure, either because most couldn’t think of enough to make it near to the 300 words allowed, or found themselves drawn ‘to the dissecting-room’. T.E. Casson comes close; so do Xenos, S. Barrington Mclean and Axon.  In the end Valimus and Ichabod get to divide the two guineas, and are both published.




Walter Calé (1881-1904) is the subject of the next part of the competition. Who?

Walter CaleHe’s a German poet, that’s who, and all Miss Royde-Smith would like you to do is to translate these lines of his into modern English.


The combined but insufficient talents of A.J.Perman and J.W. Pepper, both winners earlier in the year, and the fact that one other entrant is ‘hors concours’ i.e. ineligible (why?) means that, along with a great deal of doggerel, this competition is abandoned, unprized. There is something of the matron about Naomi Royde-Smith, but then she is the doyenne of literary competitions.

The failure of this competition elicited a letter in the next issue, as follows:


Competitions nos. 86A and 86B: results

A new judge, Norman Collins, formerly an assistant editor at the OUP, but now literary editor under Robert Lynd at the News Chronicle, steps into the column. Collins was later to become famous, not only as a novelist (‘London Belongs To Me’) but later found success as the controller of the Light Programme (he was in charge when ‘Woman’s Hour’ started), as head of BBC Television in 1947, in time to take charge of the Olympic broadcasts in 1948, and one of the key people involved in setting up independent television in the early 1950s.

He asks firstly for the best replies to the following six remarks:

WR 83a1

Both the winning pseudonyms are new: Seton and Animula Vagula:



Apparently there was a Soviet plan to create a hybrid that combined the cow, the sheep and the goat. The sceepgoat, perhaps, although seven entrants independently came up with ‘gowp’. Nothing seems to have come of it (although peek at this blog). Collins asks for a parody of Blake’s ‘Little lamb who made thee?’ The prizewinnres are another newbie, Lyn Carruthers, and Ciel:



Competitions 85A and 85B: results

Sylvia Lynd sets a really hard competition – to give an account of The Gunpowder Plot by a) H.G.Wells and b) Hilaire Belloc. The limit for each is 300 words, which might be one reason why, in the end, there is only one prize-winner: a new name, Beatrice Rudall, whom you would have thought it easy enough to trace, but alas, not yet. It’s a tour-de-force:

WR 85

WR 85a

The B competition is to name six new bulbs after famous men (sic) of the present day. Lynd first cherry-picks four entrants (no prizes): Little Billee, James Hall, M.B.A., and also F(rederic) Wallace Hadrill. The latter was a schoolmaster, but his son was to become a professor of medieval history and his grandson is the world expert on Pompeii and the master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. I’m afraid we don’t know which of the four wrote which of the six. Four of the six are politicians, not surprising given the fall-out from the October election (we are now just into November).  James Maxton had been, until the election, the chairman of the Independent Labour Party, a post to which he returned in 1934.

WR 85ai

The prizes go to Prudence and to R.M.:

WR 85bi

Kaye Don may be an unfamiliar name, but at the time he was holder of the world speed record on water and had come close to gaining the land speed record. Born in Dublin (his original name was Donsky), he was found guilty of manslaughter after an incident on the Isle of Man in 1934, although he returned to found a motorcycle company. He died in 1981, aged 90.


Kaye Don

Competitions 84A and 84B: results

Kipling had published a book called Thy Servant a Dog, which you can read here, and which is in a long line of dog-narratives, from Faithful Ruslan (Vladimov) to Flush (Woolf), from Investigations of a Dog (Kafka) to Paul Auster’s Timbuktu. The setter, Benedict Nicholson, is by far the youngest – he’s 17, and the elder son of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. He asks for 300 words in a similar style to Kipling, but with any other animal ‘from an elephant to a flea’. For a seventeen-year-old, he is quite brusque and mature, brushing off the rule-breakers like Ciel who use dogs, and objecting to the absence of sentimentality in some of the Kiplingesque entries (and rejecting the non-Kiplingesque). This leaves him with a single prize-winner: L.V. Upward:

WR 83

The B competition is an epigram (hmmm) on the state of the pound. Snowden’s budget had backfired. There is a nice summary of calamitous budgets, of which Snowden’s is the first, in an Independent article here.

The winners are Seacape and Heber:

WR 83a

Competition 83: result

Gerald Bullett takes the judge’s seat for a single competition. He quotes a private letter (I assume it’s real): ‘We have never had so many goods in the world before; therefore we must all economise. We must balance our Budget by letting people have less to spend and so creating more unemployment. Wemust save money by reducing unemploymentvrelief, and lose it (lose far more than we save) by increasing the number of unemployed persons . . . Even industrialists may learn one day that their interest is not the same as the financiers’ interest’ – he asks for not more than twelve epigrammatic couplets in the manner of Pope. The context is, of course, Snowden’s budget. Three prizes: two guineas, one guinea, half-a-guinea. In the event, he splits the two guineas between Dermot Spence and Little Billee, gives the third guinea to Geoffrey Vickers, and the bonus half-guinea to W.G. Vickers is the only new name here, and he is probably the Geoffrey Vickers (1892-1984) who had won a Victoria Cross in The First World War in 1915. He went on to become a lawyer, and in 1931 was working for Slaughter and May. In later life he had a successful career as a social scientist – at some times associated with The Open University. Seacape and T.E.Casson are among those in the running. Spence is effectively docked his guinea because of the run-on in line 2, which Bullett points out is not consistent with Pope.


Geoffrey Vickers

 WR 83 really

WR 83 really1

Competitions 82A and 82B: results

Humbert Wolfe wants a poem dealing with the Austrians having transported some stranded swallows across the Alps to Venice. One of the entrants, Rex Boundy, took a Wolfe poem as the basis for his entry, and ‘improved on it’ – Boundy appears to have been Australian, and perhaps in England for a decade, as he has had poems published in Pearson’s Magazine in 1922, and turns up in the compendious diary of Mrs. Mollie Walker, a doctor’s wife who travelled the world and who was in England in 1931 and 1932. D.C.R.Francombe sent in a Latin entry, which Wolfe thinks Barry should publish. But the winners are W.B., whose third verse Wolfe says he’d cut; and Marion Peacock, whose third verse Wolfe considers weak.

WR 81




The B competition six titles of novels, with blurbs, and marks for pretentious silliness. Over a hundred people entered this competition, turning up all the following titles:

Maiden Into Flea, From Protoplasm to Puberty, The Missing Finger-Joint, Scalene Triangle, Bathsheba’s Boyfriend, Ye are to declare it, A Plumber In The Midst, Strong Silent Mannequin, Daisy on the Dole, Holly Pillows (‘the sex life of a laundress’), and others.

The winner is R. Barton, and the runner-up is the successful playwright John van Druten (1901-1957), who had a hit play, London Wall, running in the West End at the time (‘romantic entanglements in a firm of solicitors’!). He was best known for his adapted play ‘I Am A Camera’ in 1951, his version of Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye To Berlin’ which was in turn used as the basis for Cabaret.



John Van Druten


Competitions 81A and 81B: results

J.C.Squire asks for a narrative introducing as many English place-names as ordinary words e.g. How can I stoke the furniss when I’m reading? In principle this is exactly the same as Competition 2502, in 1978, which was the first one I entered (on that occasion it was poet’s names used as ordinary words).  the entry is predictably huge, with one competitor managing nearly a  hundred place-names in his allotted 300 (too many, says Squire, but gives him the ruinner-up spot).  D.A.M. is commended for his line  ‘She sat alone under the County Oak thinking that if a Manchester she would not be able to run Bacup the Busby lane because she was afraid of the Blackpool’ (My introduction to Martin Fagg, who gained the top prize in 2502, was his final couplet ‘A ralegh pleasant afternoon;/ I’m surrey though to have to leave sassoon’). The list of also-rans is huge; the winners are M.C.Trench and Dythe.

WR 81 really WR 81 really 2

The B competition, the winning entry of which Squire particularly admires, is for a sonnet ‘When I consider how my days were spent’ written by a young man or woman looking for a job after finishing their education. The linguist Dermot Spence is the winner and Kikine the runner-up.

WR 81 really 2a