Competitions nos. 156A and 156B: results

Time to reveal the identity of another famous competitor. The judge this week is W.R. Hughes. But W.R. Hughes (full name, William Ravenscroft Hughes) is the real name behind Little Billee, who continued to win competitions well into the 1950s, and I think the early 1960s too. He gives his address as Shepton Mallet in Somerset in the 1950s, but he lived before that in Welwyn Garden City. He appears to have had several books published including The Seeker (1945) and Ye Cheerful Saints: verses, translations, trifles and toys (1959). He was also a Quaker who wrote a book on a famous Quaker called Corder Catchpool, published in 1952, and an equally famous, abolitionist Quaker, Sophia Sturge. I am now sure of the William Ravenscroft Hughes connection (there is a photo here if you click on the name and move down the page).

Hughes was born on 11 February 1880 in Barton Regis, Gloucestershire (which confirms the Shepton Mallet link). In 1911, he is the warden in Mansfield House, Canning Town, a ‘university settlement’, as he had been since 1908. His full name is given as William Ravenscroft Hughes in the 1911 census. He had been a student (Mathematics) at Jesus College Cambridge, after leaving Clifton School in Bristol. In 1906 he was called to the Bar, Middle Temple, on November 19. He was a member of West Ham Borough Council from 1909-22, and chairman of its Education Committee for five years. In 1945, his address was 21, Elmwood, Welwyn Garden City, Herts.; in 1945, he was a member of Welwyn U.D.C. as he had been from its from its formation in 1927. (Most of this information comes from the University of Cambridge’s records.)

Product Details
The A competition is to write the last paragraph of a ‘surprise-ending’ story, involving a policeman, a cat, and a lady scientist. The cats, says Hughes, fell into two camps. One was a vicious lot, as likely as not to have poisoned claws; the other lot suffered (the combination of ‘cat’ and ‘lady scientist’ apparently gave rises to several vivisection themes – ‘by no means a rich vein’, as Hughes remarks. The problem with the competition, reckons Hughes, is that many gave an anecdote, or supplied endings that were incomprehensible. He can’t help quoting two uncredited last sentences (both of which I like): (a) ‘Mrs Gray looked sadly at the husband she was murdering’, and (b), with no warning, [Brabbles the policeman] ‘looking into her smiling face, took hold of both her wrists and whispered ‘Joanna!”
Lester Ralph, S. Barrington Maclean, Bydand, and the pretty all-conquering William Bliss are all commended. But the winner is James Hall, edging Lapin (who is female) into second place.
For the B competition: it is said that the advertising departments of both Aberdeen Council and Ford Motor Company have established a joke manufactory. Hughes asks for new and original jokes on Aberdonian parsimony and on the Ford motor car. ‘On the whole, no,’ admits Hughes, agreeing that it has been cruelty to ask for jokes on such well-worn subjects. He gives a first prize to … William Bliss (but do not prepare to hold your sides). He does manage to work both Aberdeen and Fords into one story.
Aberdeen, 1930 - no joke, but I think that's a Ford.

Aberdeen, 1930 – no joke, but I think that’s a Ford.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s