Competition no. 202: results

Sir John Squire capitalises on a piece of news that had been running since early 1933 (although in fact the most famous item about it did not appear until mid-April 1934, so Squire is anticipating) – the suggestion that Loch Ness contained a monster, and that it had been seen. (There is a good blog about histories of sightings here.) He asks for a song written to the tune of ‘The Soldiers Of The Queen’, with the refrain ‘It’s The Monster of Loch Ness, My Boys’. (The Daily Mail cover that created the bigger fuss was purportedly taken on April 19 1934 and published on April 21).

Mail Apr 21 LNMUnpromisingly, Squire opens with the words ‘The standard was not very high …’ Apparently too many tried to be political, and many were unmetrical. It may incidentally seem odd that he is asking for ‘The Soldiers Of The Queen’ in 1934, but the song originated in an 1895 comedy musical called ‘An Artist’s Model’. Only more recently has it been taken up as a regimental song. The lyrics (by Harry Greenbank) they were trying to mirror went thus:

Britons once did loyally declaim
About the way we ruled the waves.
Every Briton’s song was just the same
When singing of her soldier-braves.
All the world had heard it–
Wondered why we sang,
And some have learned the reason why–
But we’re not forgetting it,
And we’re not letting it
Fade away and gradually die,
Fade away and gradually die.
So when we say that England’s master
Remember who has made her so
It’s the soldiers of the Queen, my lads
Who’ve been, my lads, who’ve seen, my lads
In the fight for England’s glory lads
When we’ve had to show them what we mean:
And when we say we’ve always won
And when they ask us how it’s done
We’ll proudly point to every one
Of England’s soldiers of the Queen.

The two winners (the first being ‘more singable’) are Arthur Oliver and Lt. Col. H.P. Garwood, who is evidently happy to read what is happening on the left, and has already defied my stereotype of him.


New Statesman’s poet MacFlecknoe had already published a poem on the subject that month.

Competition no. 142: result

Once again, under the aegis of Martin Armstrong on this occasion, we have a solitary competition – perhaps because the B competitions are starting to go down like ninepins, perhaps because the form requested – a ballade – is a long one. It asks for a ballade – three eight-line verses and one four-line envoi – ‘on the present difficult times’, having as its refrain the ‘Distinguished Invalids’ phrase ‘Lord Limpet passed a comfortable day’. This needs a bit of unpacking, and anyone who thinks I’ve missed something, drop me a comment.

There really were notices in prominent places in Victorian and Edwardian newspapers about the great and the good who were unwell. Here’s one about the Conservative PM from 1902 to 1905, Arthur Balfour.

DI Balfour

Lord Limpet – I can find published references to him as far back as 1839, so there must be many earlier – seems to be an all-purpose comic aristo, of plenty of income, and – in some instances – a habit of staying with acquaintances far too long (there are several Punch jokes that use him). I wonder if there is a political reference here to the way the National Government is hanging on (Lord Limpet is often characterised as a ‘Liberal-Conservative’). Or it may be an attack on the impotence of the House of Lords. Much later, in the 1950s, the phrase was wheeled out to attack Attlee, after his refusal to step down as Labour leader after losing (in a very Al Gore kind of way, incidentally, as he won the majority of the national vote) the 1951 election.

Here’s one of many descriptions of what you need to do to write a ballade. It was a popular form with comic poets like Belloc, Chesterton, Gilbert and so on. (Wendy Cope, a notable NS competitor, included one in her Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis.)

Armstrong enjoys himself by suggesting he has set such a fiendish task, he’ll be able to have a holiday. But after discarding those that aren’t ballades, and don’t apply themselves to the theme, he admits that there are still 38 in the running for the guineas. One of them, who is a runner-up, was H.S. Mackintosh, who actually produced a collection of Ballades:


Here is one of his:

Ballade to a Dentist
by H S Mackintosh.
Not for the instruments of this, your trade –
The pick, the whining drill, the probe and screw,
Not for the needless havoc you made –
The broken tooth patched up with dental glue;
Not for the perfect hell you put us through,
But for the fulsome sympathy you shammed,
The line of piffling prattle you pursue,
For this shall your immortal soul be damned.

Not for the work half-done, the tissues flayed,
Nor for the spotless molars that you drew
To find out if the roots were bunched or splayed,
Nor that you left us impotent to chew
Our daily bread; but this shall be your due
Because you quoted Kipling while you rammed
Right to the nerve some poison that you brew;
For this shall your immortal soul be damned.


Not for the lies wherewith you have betrayed
Our mouths to torment, and although you knew
Your “This won’t hurt” made Ananias’ shade
Turn green, yet not for that Hell gapes for you;
But since on one who had good cause to rue
Your handiwork last week, your door was slammed
Because you had a long week-end in view,
For this shall your immortal soul be damned.


Prince, to relieve my pain, the most you’ll do
Is this : “Next Thursday, though your day is crammed,
You’ll try to fit me in at half-past two” –
For this shall your immortal soul be damned.

But the winners are Lt. Col. H.P. Garwood, and Obispo. In addition, Armstrong prints a ‘commended’ (i.e. no money) which he says is the best poem … but not a ballade. It’s by Arthur Oliver.




Competitions nos. 129A and 129B: results

Next competitor to turn to judging is the suave and unflappable Seacape, of whose identity I have no idea. He asks for fourteen to twenty lines, in blank or rhymed verse, on the subject of ‘an angler fishing with wet or dry fly from a river bank’. H.C.M, P.G.G., William Bliss, Pibwob, Lester Ralph, R. Hartman and Issachar (definitely a she) are fishermen or women who do well, but the palm goes to E.W. Fordham and the second place to D.L.S. (a new name, or set of initials at any rate).


For the B competition, Seacape asks his pals for triolets containing the line ‘Take her jewels away’. Four times as many enter the triolet competition, but many of them heavy-handedly, as if ‘crushing a butterfly with a Nasmyth hammer’, or else forcing the form with too much content (fairly clear advice on how to write a triolet). To Seacape’s credit he gives the prizes. not to the regulars, though he name-checks Mariamne, William Bliss, James Hall, Olric, H.C.M., Lyn Carruthers, Sylvia Groves, Marion Peacock, John A. Bellchambers, and W. Hodgson Burnet. But the prizes go to two newbies, Lt. Col. H.P. Garwood, and Percy Lee.


Pembrokeshire-born H(enry) P(ercy) Garwood had joined the army in 1900, when 16 or 17, as a second lieutenant, had been an adjutant to the Royal Artillery in Hongkong (as it was then commonly spelled) in 1914, and was subsequently commended for gallant conduct in Salonika. He won a D.S.O. After World War I he seems to have retired, but to have enjoyed entering competitions – his name pops up between about 1925 and 1945 as a winner of competitions in The Spectator and The Listener. His address is given as 38 Hurlingham Court, S.W. 6. at first, and later in Wimbledon, where he died in 1956, at the age of 73. He had at least one child.