Competitions nos. 124A and 124B: results

J.C Squire sets this one. Earlier in 1932, in March, Eamonn de Valera had risen to be the ‘President of the Council’ i.e. Prime Minister of the Irish Free State, as it then was. It was Fianna Fail’s first triumph, just five years after first contesting an election, and the party took very nearly half the seats (and 47% of the popular vote).

Fianna Fail government 1932

Fianna Fail government, 1932, De Valera in centre of front row

Squire asked for a song about Dev (he was fond of asking for songs) to the tune of ‘The Spanish Cavalier’, not one I know, but dating to the 1870s and running thus:

A Spanish cavalier stood in his retreat
And on his guitar played a tune, dear
The music so sweet, they’d ofttimes repeat
The blessing of my country and you, dear

Say darling say, when I’m far away
Sometimes you may think of me, dear
Bright sunny days will soon fade away
Remember what I say and be true, dear

I am off to the war, to the war I must go
To fight for my country and you, dear
But if I should fall in vain I would call
The blessing of my country and you, dear

And when the war is o’er to you I’ll return
Back to my country and you, dear
But if I be slain you may seek me in vain
Upon the battlefield you will find me

You can hear the song here.

It turns out that the song was already rather forgotten in 1932 – Squire attracts a small entry (unusual), an ‘even’ level, and no decent songs. He reproaches himself a bit for not having spelled out the bleeding obvious (De Valera was to stand in for The Spanish Cavalier), but all the same only hands out a lucky first prize to W.R.Y. who provides some Oirish:


The B competition asks for six titles, as yet unpublished by Waugh, Chesterton, Belloc, Kipling, Shaw, Walpole, Wodehouse, Priestley, or ‘Francis Iles’. Squire was obviously having a poor day at the office, because he has to apologise for not stating the bleeding obvious again – six by any one of them, not a pick and mix.

To take the last of the nine first, ‘Francis Iles’ was Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893-1971), a crime writer who also wrote as Anthony Berkeley. He had in fact just published, as Francis Iles, ‘Before the Fact’, which you are forgiven for not having heard of, but which was the basis for Hitchcock’s film ‘Suspicion’ (the end of which was notoriously changed so that Cary Grant did not turn out to be a wrong’un. Well, that’s what Hitch said, and what I’ve always believed, but the latest biography claims this was a gigantic fib being perpetrated by Hitchcock. Two other oddities about ‘Suspicion’ – Nathanael West co-wrote a screenplay that was discarded, not long before West died, in a car crash, on the same day as F. Scott Fitzgerald; and ‘Suspicion’ was the only film that garnered a Hitchcock actor an Oscar (Joan Fontaine)).

Seeing Waugh on the list (‘much belaboured but evidently widely-read’) is a surprise – he’d only just published his third novel, Black Mischief. (Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies were its only predecessors, and Waugh was only 28 going on 29 at the time.) The other writers were respectively 76 (Shaw), 68 (Kipling), 62 (Belloc), 58 (Chesterton), 50 (Wodehouse), 48 (Walpole), with only ‘Iles’ (39) and Priestley (37) within a decade of Waugh’s age. I don’t think anyone would disagree that it’s Walpole whose reputation has vanished – as noted in an earlier commentary on a report, he was holed beneath the waterline by an attack on him by Maugham in Cakes And Ale. Although Walpole published more than thirty novels – his most recent was one of the Cumbria-set ‘Herries’ novels (one suspects a TV producer will get round to them), The Fortress – as well as five volumes of short stories, two plays and three collections of memoirs, it is hard to think of a title of his that resonates, and I’ve only ever read one of his books. Still, I think it’s a hard job to come up with imaginary titles for any of them, Wodehouse perhaps excepted. Nevertheless, it’s Kipling and Walpole who win for Majolica and (new name) Saevio respectively (the money is split equally between them):


Squire is always generous with naming the also-rans, and in this case, they include A.H. Ellerington and H.A.L. Cockerell, who have already been mentioned in more detail. Another is (Miss) K.T. Stephenson, a veteran of the Edwardian Saturday Westminster competitions (I think she is one and the same as the Miss K.T. Stephenson who was principal of St. Gabriel’s CofE college in Rochester between 1913 and 1930).  There is a raft of others who look traceable: J.J. Nevin, Violet I. Kemp, Diana De Vaux, and the figures hiding behind the initials C.E.V.O and T.W.I.H. But no luck. I can tell you that Ronald Bargate, another proxime accessit, was Ronald Arthur Bargate (1906-1990), but other than that he was the Fulham-born son of a Middlesbrough-born architect, I can’t get closer. Over to you.


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