Competition no. 240: results

Sylvia Lynd, perhaps with a distant eye (another ten or eleven months) on the General Election, asks for a marching song for the Conservative Party. Several songs, she says, should have been sent straight to Pall Mall Chambers (the headquarters of the Conservative Party was The Carlton Club, then in Pall Mall; the club was bombed almost to the ground in October 1940 – with half of the war cabinet there). She suggests they put in for a fiver, rather than the paltry two guineas she has to offer.

Lynd has a curious, and I suspect unironical style of address – competitors are Miss or Mr, and first names are not always supplied. Mr. Upward comes near as does a Miss Horsey, and ditto Mr. Summers. The victory, however, goes to William Bliss, who is in good form. Xerophyte gets the bonus prize:


I am not sure they would have caused Baldwin much loss of sleep.


Competition no. 237: results

Richard Church hits on the subject of car accidents and speeding police cars. They were much in the news. The Road Traffic Act of 1934 reinstated speed limits (incredibly they had been removed in 1930) – 1934 was the year in which the 30 m.p.h limit was introduced (as was a compulsory driving test). The Minister for Transport was Sir Samuel Hore-Belisha, and it was in 1934 that half of his surname was attached to roadside beacons. The numbers of injuries had risen each year by about 8% since 1930.

Ford Police car

Church’s idea is to ask for a poem to speed-cops, who he says he admires as they cruise about. He wants the poems to be based on Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind – two stanzas’ worth.

The judging errs on the side of literary appreciation. All but one of the near-misses are from regulars who won in The Week-end Review – L.V.Upward, H.C.M. (carelessly unmasked as Sir Horace Munro), T.E. Casson, E.W.Fordham, Chauve-Souris. It is therefore no surprise that William Bliss is the easy winner.


The runner-up is W. Summers. I suspect very strongly that this is Walter Summers, a screenwriter who had recently switched from scripting silent films to scripting talkies. He had once been a colleague of Hitchcock’s. One of the films he had made (not highly regarded) in 1934 was The Return of Bulldog Drummond. As perhaps you can see, it starred Ralph Richardson. If you look at this DVD cover, however, there is a serious mistake. The actors John Lodge and Victor Jory appeared in a 1937 film, Bulldog Drummond at Bay – so the title here does not match the performers.



Walter Summers, 1892-1973


Competition no. 220: results

The setter of Competition no. 1 returns again: Martin Armstrong. He is fond, as ever of setting mind-bending (or -numbing) instructions. The premise this time is thart a benevolent dictator has abolished the radio and the printing press. Thirty years later a visitor to the States sends back a letter recalling what has happened. Why is the letter-writer in the States? Why is it thirty years later? I despair. Armstrong has been hoping for a Swift or a Montesquieu or a Voltaire, and ‘inspired frivolity’. However …

‘There were ten fairly good entries,’ says Armstrong, wearily. He quotes Guy Hadley and T.S. Attlee, but suddenly breaks off and awards the prizes to William Bliss and to Molly. Bliss characteristically appends a note, and on this occasion, it’s printed.


The thirty year rule and the USA location (which Molly exploits) don’t seem to add much.

Competition no. 214: results

Philip Jordan has the curious idea of asking for a republican anthem for Britain, assuming the monarchy has been tossed out, and also assuming that the republic has nationalist tendencies that the new government has no wish to disguise when commissioning the usual mediocrity to write it. This means entrants have to be cunningly mediocre – always hard to do on purpose, but easy to do without thinking.

‘I asked for mediocrity and I got it,’ he admits. He eliminates all the tunes based on ‘God Save The King’ (a reasonable idea, for, as he argues, if the words went, so would the tune). I don’t really understand his logic at this point. He decides who is going to come second – someone with the sobriquet Joshaway – and then works his way through four candidates for the top spot – Allan M. Laing, William Bliss, Olwen Lawton (note that she’s entered just after winning for the first time, and is presumably enthused), and Trevor Lloyd. He cuts these four down to Laing and Bliss (wouldn’t this mean that one of them ought to come second? Eh? Never mind …).

William Bliss nabs the two guineas (probably because he has sent in a note that says his words ‘are not quite such drivel as Land of Hope and Glory, but as near as I could get’).

Land ofH&G


Here’s Bliss:




Competition no. 201: results

Sylvia Lynd (her husband was New Statesman and Nation‘s most popular columnist) offers this one (variations of which have appeared since, although not set at the same social level) – a letter of thanks to a ‘Useful Hostess’ from a weekend guest who has on arrival, either ‘met with a slight but disfiguring accident’, had no sleep, has a bad cold, has made a gaffe at tea, or (this is the giveaway phrase about the world the judges inhabited!) ‘from whose baggage in repacking, a servant has omitted an important item of apparel’.

Lynd nearly always goes her own way with competitions, but this one is completely different. She notes that it had to sound like a letter (many didn’t), and combine thanks with a sense of humiliation or misery (many didn’t manage this). What she then does is to print four extracts and give each of them half-a-guinea, before awarding second prize (another half a guinea) to a pseudonymous Thomas Truefitt, whose entry is mentioned but not printed. Since the extracts are buried in her commentary, the only way I can do this is to print her report. (It is interesting to note that Non Omnia‘s gender is revealed. She had been one of the original signatories of the congratulatory letter on the founding of the Week-end Review.) The other three ‘winners’ are E.B.C. Thornett (wrongly noted as ‘F.B.C.’), William Bliss and (W.) Leslie Nicholls. (Ernest) Basil (Charles) Thornett was a prolific writer, with two pesudonyms: Rupert Penny, and Martin Tanner. He worked at Bletchley in the war, and was in a senior position as a cryptologist. He was born in 1909, and died in 1970 (he had also edited the annual book belonging to the British Iris Society). As Rupert Penny, he produced a series of police novels in the late 1930s, one of them, Policeman’s Evidence, containing a fiendish cipher.


We start with Non Omnia:


As the runner-up is only patted on the head and slipped 10s 6d, I can’t add him in.

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!)