A new judge, Philip Jordan (later better known as a war correspondent) sets a competition for American style tabloid headlines (he wonders what will happen ‘if tabloid newspapers ever reach this country’ and suggests that there is headline-making talent aplenty, although the commended and winning entries seem quite long-winded to a modern eye). The competitors had to come up with headlines for any two of the following historical events: the landing of the Ark on Ararat; Drake’s game of bowls; the death of the Earl of Chatham [Pitt the elder]; Queen Victoria being ‘not amused’; the execution of Katherine Howard. Let’s leave aside the fact that the first two didn’t happen, and the fourth is thought to be an invention. Pitt the elder’s death is variously reported as containing different anti-American epithets.
The flood is the most popular subject, and Jordan likes what he sees: YID ZOO HITS HIGH SPOT (Lester Ralph) and ARARATTA BOY! (W.G.Fraser) But he also commends the very long SHOWBOAT CHEATS PROHIBITION FAN (Seacape). Drake (not so successful says Jordan) includes BIG SHOTS QUIZ HIJACKER FOR SLANT ON ARMADA RACKET (C.G.M.) and – ‘more of a tabloid length’, which shows you how times have changed, DRAKE RAZZES DAGO FLEET AT PLYMOUTH WHOOPEE PARTY: “SIT IN THE GAME, THEM SAPS CAN WAIT”, SEZ FRANKY (M. Pigott). Almost nobody tries Pitt (perhaps, like me, they couldn’t recall his last words). Queen Victoria becomes VICKY and ENGLAND’S HEAD GIRL and he commends David Waycher’s QUEEN VIC RASPBERRIES COURT SAP (better, says Jordan, if he’d left out QUEEN or VIC). Howard’s death gives us ROYAL BLUEBEARD EUCHRES NAP-HAND GIRL FRIEND (Ophelia).
The next task is to write a joint obituary notice in the style of Hannen Swaffer and James Douglas, after (oh the perpetual fantasy of the WR journalists) Rothermere and Beaverbrook have been killed in a car accident. One of the winners professes not to know much about Swaffer (although Swaffer has already featured in 34B and 39A as the butt of jokes – he was the Daily Express gossip columnist); James Douglas had been the Sunday Express’s editor until a year before this. The winner is ‘Anonymous’ (who is asked to supply an address, which wouldn’t be enough, I suspect). Jordan speculates that it may be Douglas himself, the style being ‘exactly as though one had read it all before while sitting in a hot bath sipping warm creme-de-menthe out of a teacup’, a long epithet I very much admire. Douglas can be seen here, head in hand, so probably thinking about the censorship of The Well of Loneliness, one of his obsessions. Here is Swaffer:
And here is Anonymous (some of the text is corrupted so I’ll complete the entry):
templating it. Caught in the fine steel meshes of a materialism they sought to avoid, their death is a tragedy that cannot be paralleled even in literature: a tragedy that ascends to the highest heights and descends to the deepest depths. The malevolence of circumstance bewilders one. Faith reels beneath such a blow. Yet one’s reason absolves God from guilt. Materialistic machinery is the malignant machination of morbid man, not the work of his Creator. These men, prophets, imperialists were martyrs at the stake of American unspirituality and speech. Fate mocks …
The runner up is H.A. L. Cockerell:
Cockerell – Hugh Anthony Lewis Cockerell – was the most prolific and populist expert on insurance in the twentieth century, incidentally. All the guide books, from the professional manuals to Teach Yourself Insurance (1958) were his work. He was born in 1909, and married in 1939. He was the son of a managing director of a bedstead-making firm, was born in Fulham, and died in Brent in 1997. With his wife Fanny, he was a leading light in anti-censorship campaigns. Their son Michael is the BBC political documetary-maker.