Norman Collins asks for a sonnet (we’re getting a lot of these lately), not by a man on the loss of his lady’s locks, but by a woman commemorating her guardsman’s moustache (as it were). A high number of women entered this competition, allegedly, although they didn’t win it. Moustaches had started to fall out of fashion during the first world war, and, although they had not vanished (n.b. Hitler, Dali), they were no longer regarded as requirements (as they had been) in the army. It was thought more healthy for a young man to be clean-shaven. The winners are E.W. Fordham and Black Gnat (whom I persist in thinking is Seacape in disguise).
The B competition requires me to give you a lot of information for comparatively little return, I’m afraid. A New Year’s message was asked for (20 words) by any FOUR of the following: Dean Inge, Clara Bow, Mr. Montagu Norman, Lady Oxford, Mrs. Mollison, Sir J.M.Barrie, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, Lord Castlerosse.
Dean Inge – the ‘gloomy dean of St. Paul’s, but also a columnist in the Evening Standard, has featured in this blog before. Here’s a picture of him writing:
Clara Bow – ‘the IT girl’ – had been the biggest success of silent films. Born in 1905, she died in 1965. She had in fact made her last film, retired in 1931 (although the film was just about to be released at the time of this competition):
Montagu Norman (1871-1950) was chairman of the Bank of England throughout the twenties and thirties, indeed, from 1920 to 1044. He was an unapproachable man (he was also to be the stepfather of Peregrine Worsthorne). Recent research has suggested that he was pro-Nazi – see this article in the Telegraph.Lady Oxford was Margot Asquith (Asquith had died in the late 1920s, and she was in financial trouble thereafter). She was known for making pronouncements on society and fashion. She was also the mother of WR judge Elizabeth Bibesco (just about to set another competition), oddly enough.
‘Mrs. Mollison’ (1903-1941) is not a name that resonates any more, but here she is in a cigarette card:
and that might make you guess that she is in fact Hull-born aviatrix Amy Johnson (she reverted to the name ‘Amy Johnson’ after her divorce later in the 1930s). In 1933, she attempted a flight to Australia, with her husband, but only made a very creditable India. (In 1932, she had broken her husband’s record on a solo flight to South Africa.) She was killed when her plane crashed in still mysterious circumstances into the Thames Estuary in 1941. (Her body was never recovered.) She was a very popular celebrity in 1933.Sir J.M. Barrie (1860 – 1937) is of course the author of Peter Pan. He was to leave all but the PP legacy to his secretary, Cynthia Asquith, the daughter-in-law of Lady Oxford above.
(James) Ramsay MacDonald was of course the Prime Minister, but in 1933 he began to become physically and mentally unwell. His resignation in 1935 was followed by his death in 1937, by which time he was regarded as a traitor to the Labour Party whose first Prime Minister he had been.
And finally, Lord Castlerosse, Valentine Brown (1891-1942), the first aristo to write a gossip column – which he did for Beaverbrook’s Sunday Express (‘Londoner’s Log’) for two decades. He was eighteen stone, but thought to be compulsive reading in certain echelons of society:
You may have by now forgotten that the task was to come up with a witty New Year’s message of no more than twenty words from four of them.
Ramsay MacDonald proves the popular choice, with three losing entries being printed, and which suggest that he was an orator of the kind Peter Sellers later parodied (‘Grasp with both hands the future that is to come’): ‘Democracy is at the crossroads. All good democrats must guide the unwary travellers into the right path’ (Mac); ‘The National Government stands for National Prosperity. Let us look forwards not backwards.’ (A.H. Ellerington); ‘National Prosperity, just ahead, depends as never before upon the solidarity of a nation obdurately confident in its chosen leaders’ (Lester Ralph). An anonymous entry on Montagu Norman is given: ‘I am not Mr. Montagu Norman. I have nothing to say.’ On Clara Bow: ‘Well folks, there may be dangerous curves ahead, but thin times can’t last forever’.
The winner has sent in neither name nor address so I can only call him Not Known. He offers:
The other winner is a new and hyphenated name (was he titled?), Harley-Morlam
Hmmm. I’m not impressed!