Competition no. 224: results

Frank Sidgwick asks for a companion poem to go with Beachcomber’s ‘Epitaph on a Lighthousekeeper’s Horse’, which goes thus:


On December 13 1950, the poem cropped up in a radio broadcast on the Home Service, (recorded two days earlier) in which the poet W. R. Rodgers quoted it admiringly, and Dylan Thomas, chairing, said he couldn’t see why Rodgers though Beachcomber was a good poet. The show was reviewed for The Listener … by Martin Armstrong. Neither Armstrong nor Beachcomber (J.B. Morton, the Daily Express columnist for over 50 years and whose only rival as a humourist of this type is Flann O’Brien) would have been enamoured of Thomas’s work. Morton and Armstrong were NS judges. Thomas was an entrant!

Sidgwick suggested four-liners but gamely half-conceded this was not an absolute rule (not good! competitors hate it when the rules are not precise!). He had not bargained non the number of entries, however (54). The cause was easy to spot – there was a heatwave in July 1934, captured by this picture from the Getty Archive:

1934 drought

While George V stopped watering his gardens, a judge (Lord Merrivale) sat without a wig, and prayers were offered for rain. And NS readers in a mood of indolence, dashed off four line epitaphs to pass the time.

Sidgwick spends his time defining – how judges love doing this – what is not right about various entries. I don’t yet know which entrant was from Wimborne, in Dorset, but he or she sent in four entries that Sidgwick dismisses as being anything but companion pieces to Morton. They refer t0 a lighthousekeeper’s wife, girl, hens and debtors: but they don’t sound similar to Morton. He quotes approvingly two verses that are ‘hors concours’, which presumably in this case means he wrote them himself … a desperate strategy for any judge, although I confess I’ve done it once, as a TES competition judge. Here are Sidgwick’s efforts:


He quotes a failed entry by David Holland, but only out of admiration for the wonderful rhyme for 3d, he/ discrepancy. In the end he splits the prizes into five half-guineas and hands them out – now here’s a surprise! Out of retirement once more comes the veteran Seacape. He is joined on the podium by H.C.M., John Mavrogordato, Saumarez, and Alfred Holland (perhaps related to David? But if not, Alfred Holland was a Derby Methodist who became Clay Cross MP in the 1935 election, in succession to Arthur Henderson, the Labour Party leader (and first cabinet minister), who died in 1935. Holland, who was 35, won the seat as the third Labour MP for Clay Cross in four years. He died of spinal meningitis within a year.His last exchange in the Commons, in April 1936, was about head teachers refusing to allow fresh milk to be delivered. The Scots Conservative MP Frederick Macquisten picked him up on this – he suggested the milk being held back was pasterised, pasteurised milk being ‘devitalised’.

One of the entries has interruptions by Prodnose. A prodnose is an inquisitive person, but Sidgwick is referring to Beachcomber, whose columns were often ‘interrupted’ by Prodnose, playing the part of the readers who were bored with his rambling (in Flann O’Brien’s journalism as Myles naGopaleen, the same role is taken by ‘The Plain People of Ireland’).



Honours Board 1933

This year we can run to a top twenty (just). L.V.Upward (who is to feature for many years to come) is the first to claim Seacape’s crown, although not quite equal the number of his victories. The numbers at the end are previous placings. As the race for third, seventh and tenth place show, this was a close and far more even outcome than the previous three years.

1.    L.V.Upward              8 victories        £11.0s.0d     (-,9=,8=)

2.   E.W.Fordham           7 victories        £8.8s.0d       (6,-,-)

3=      William Bliss          9 victories       £7.7s.0d        (5,-,-)

W.Leslie Nicholls      7 victories       £7.7s.0d        (-,-,-)

T.E.Casson                 7 victories        £7.7s.0d       (-,-,-)

Black Gnat            5 victories       £6.6s.0d      (-,-,-)

7= Guy Hadley         4 victories        £5.5s.0d       (-,-,-)

 Southron              5 victories       £5.5s.0d       (-,-,-)

Lester Ralph        3 victories       £5.5s.0d      (10=,-,-)

10=  James Hall         5 victories       £4.14s.6d     (3=,-,4)

Alice Herbert      3 victories      £4.14s.6d     (-,-,-)

Marion Peacock  4 victories     £4.14s.6d         (-,-,-)

Redling                 5 victories     £4.14s.6d       (-,-,-)

H.C.M.                   3 victories    £4.14s.6d        (-,-,3)

15=  N.B.                   4 victories    £4.4s.0d         (-,-,-)

W.A.Rathkey       3 victories       £4.4s.0d      (10=,-,-)

Eremita                 5 victories    £4.4s.0d        (10=,-,-)

P.S.C.                     2 victories    £4.4s.0d        (-,-,-)

Seacape                 2 victories   £4.4s.0d         (1,1,1)

20= Rosellen Bett        3 victories   £3.13s.6d       (-,-,-)

Prudence              2 victories   £3.13s.6d        (-,-,-)


A few points:

The major absentees are W.Hodgson Burnet, who won no prizes (but did judge a competition), and who died in the last month after what must have been a severe illness; Pibwob and Little Billee, both of whom managed three wins, and both of whom will return with a vengeance; W.G.; Valimus and Non Omnia.

Black Gnat and Seacape are one and the same, so if they had entered as one, they would have come equal second.

T.E.Casson, in his fourth year, has finally seen rewards for his persistent, weekly entries.

W. Leslie Nicholls is the major new name.

It will be interesting to see who decides to keep going when the WR is taken over by New Statesman and Nation. At least three of the above were still winning prizes in the 1950s.

In 1933, there were 90 winners (down from 114, perhaps a sign of failing circulation) who won £192 (down from just over £201 – not least because of several prizeless B comps). The number appearing behind initials had shrunk from 15 to 8, and the number of pseudonyms was down from 45 to 30. So 50% of the entrants are now providing their names.





Competitions no. 196A and 196B: results

Guy Hadley is the latest regular to be offered the judging seat. He observers that most accounts of battle are reviews from the fireside. He wants an account of Waterloo, given 12 hours after the battle by one of the Old Guard after Ney’s last stand. Quite serious!

NeyHadley is not very convinced that he hears the authentic voice of veterans, and – a little too testily – says he is surprised only two competitors have mentioned Grouchy, Napoleon’s ill-fated lieutenant, who was the source of much (unfair) opprobrium for the rest of his life.

In the end, Hadley is drawn to the entry sent by Seacape. ‘He must meet his Waterloo elsewhere,’ comments Hadley. The runner-up is William Bliss, who is ticked off a little for sending an extensive footnote (this is something he was prone to do). He does mention Grouchy, mind you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe B competition is for an American epitaph on Prohibition. The twenty-first amendment to the constitution (the only one to repeal an earlier amendment) had been passed into law on December 5 1933, a week before this competition was set).

end of prohibition

The winners are Armand B. Du Bois and Redling. The first of these two looks like a pseudonym, but isn’t. Armand Budington Du Bois was a historian, specialising in medieval history, and publishing several books in the late 1930s.


This competition was published on the penultimate day of 1933, and brings the fourth year to a close. Competition number 197 awaits in the New Year, and Competition 198 has already been set. But this is also the penultimate edition of the Week-end Review, as we shall see, although not the end of the competition. For Seacape, however, this really seems the swan-song. (Not to worry – he is to make a sudden return late in 1934!)

Competitions nos. 188A and 188B: results

Anthony Bertram, in perhaps the first competition that requires no more than 150 words, wants the text of the missing letter from Jane Austen’s character Lady Catherine de Bourgh, onlearning of her nephew’s marriage. (It’s in the penultimate paragraph of Pride and Prejudice

Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her nephew; and as she gave way to all the genuine frankness of her character in her reply to the letter which announced its arrangement, she sent him language so very abusive, especially of Elizabeth, that for some time all intercourse was at an end. But at length, by Elizabeth’s persuasion, he was prevailed on to overlook the offence, and seek a reconciliation; and, after a little farther resistance on the part of his aunt, her resentment gave way, either to her affection for him, or her curiosity to see how his wife conducted herself; and she condescended to wait on them at Pemberley, in spite of that pollution which its woods had received, not merely from the presence of such a mistress, but the visits of her uncle and aunt from the city.

With the Gardiners, they were always on the most intimate terms. Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.)

Observing that several have her style, but none her wit, he gives the prize to a Mrs. Rutter, and the runner-up is W.M.G. Both are new competitors. (Curiously, both Penelope Lively and Olivia Manning later deployed a first-nameless character called Mrs. Rutter. Manning was at this time writing novels and short stories under pseudonyms. Just a thought …). However, Bertram likes L.V. Upward‘s effort as much as W.M.G.’s, so he takes a half-guinea from Mrs. Rutter to supplement a consolation prize.


For the B competition, Bertram asks entrants to wonder what they will be sentimental about when they are old. He asks for verses in the manner (but not as parody) of Locker, Praed and Calverley, three light versifiers who are now not at all well-known. Frederick Locker (1815-1894) wrote cheery light verse, as did Winthrop Mackworth Praed (1802-1839), whose collected works are here. Charles Stuart Calverley (1831-1894) completes the trio of light versifiers. All three had associations with Cambridge.

The competitors let the judge down: he complains that they just write sentimental poems, rather than sentimental poems from the viewpoint of 1980. The winner, after stints as Black Gnat and “Seacape II” is Seacape, whose comeback is announced in ironised inverted commas. The second prize goes to Lyn Carruthers but is held over. I’ve restored it.



There is a footnote to this competition. One of the runners-up to the B competition is one ‘Allan Laing’. This is his first appearance in the competition columns (he has written a letter to the editor). It is only a matter of time before he wins (as Allan M. Laing, normally). This is the quiet debut of the competitor who ruled the late thirties, forties and fifties (unless he’s been entering under pseudonyms!)

Competitions nos. 171A and 171B: results

Another new judge for us: R.Ellis Roberts, who (like Clennell Wilkinson) had been New Statesman‘s Literary Editor – and who was the only writer whom Kingsley Martin could not bear as a writer –  says he has a friend who can remember a punchline to a story, but not the story itself. The punchline is ‘And then he said “Call that good spitting?”‘ The short story is asked for (no word limit given). Most go for an American story. Some turn Roberts’ stomach. Lester Ralph is admonished for ‘sordid realism’. James Hall, William Bliss and James Henderson get close but the winner is ‘Seton C‘. Now there’s already a competitor on the books called Seton, so I am going to take a wild stab and suggest that they are one and the same. The runner-up (doing very well, incidentally) is Southron.



The B competition is for an acrostic sonnet, to spell out PSYCHOANALYSIS.

One of the runners up (mis-spelled as Blarraid) is the Irish poet and playwright Blanaid Salkeld, who had just brought out her first collection of poetry, Hello Eternity. Born in what would become Pakistan in 1880 (where her father was a friend of Tagore), she grew up in Ireland, married, returned to India with her husband, who died in 1908, and came back to Ireland in 1909. She worked as an actor. She wrote five collections of poetry, and verse plays. She encouraged Flann O’Brien and Patrick Kavanagh, and her grand-daughter married Brendan Behan. She died in 1959. There is a brief synopsis of her life here.

Roberts prefers poems with models (and he believes they have missed a trick by not using Donne, but doesn’t explain why). He therefore goes for Eremita and Black Gnat (Seacape).



Competitions nos. 151A and 151B: results

A new judge, Dorothy Avery (about whom I can find nothing whatsoever, so any help appreciated), asks for a rhyming English translation of the following lines from Cyrano De Bergerac:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe says she hoped the tricksiness would deter entrants, but reports that scores have risen to the challenge. There are many commendations – Valimus, T.E. Casson (of course), a couple of entries who are following the vogue for reversing the letters in their name (Yram, Nagal Mac), Non Omnia, and Evan John (whom I suspect is the actor and screenplay-writer active at this time – born 1901, died 1953). But the winners are Black Gnat (Seacape) and William Bliss – note how the latter is now winning, usually by coming second, almost every week:


The B competition suggests that, in the current economic crisis, and where have I heard that term before, a case of whisky be used as the unit of currency. What would be the effect in Feb 1934 if this measure were to be adopted in Feb 1933 (prose or verse)? Why, asks Avery, is everyone so shy of the B competition? (the answer is threefold: it is often cancelled, rubbished, or just plain dull, and this one is no different). Casson has sent in a ballad, which she commends as a ballad, but says is not much to the point; Bliss, Nagal Cam and Ronald Bargate are commended, but the winners are reliables: W.A.Rathkey and Guy Hadley:


And at this point, Dorothy Avery disappears. She seems to have written no books, no articles, no letters. It may be that she is a pseudonym.

Competitions nos. 146A and 146B: results

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).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACollins jovially calls the middle of Black Gnat’s effort ‘disgusting’.

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):

Clara Bow

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.montagu normanLady 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.

Margot AsquithLady Oxford

‘Mrs. Mollison’ (1903-1941) is not a name that resonates any more, but here she is in a cigarette card:

Mollinsonand 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.amyjohnsonSir 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.

Barrie(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.

Ramsay McDonald, Prime Minister. (1866-1937)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!