Friday 8 March 2024

Raymond Sheppard and Blackie's Boys' Annual 1940?

Blackie's Boys' Annual (1940?) p.174
"Beats me", he muttered

"The Great One" written by T. C. Bridges appears in the Blackie's Boys' Annual below. Raymond Sheppard has two illustrations in the story, the first at the head of this article.

Blackie's Boys' Annual (1940?) cover by D. L. Mays


The story concerns Dick and Lawrence who are cousins staying near the Zambezi with Dick's Uncle who it appears is almost bankrupt. The two teenagers are always in competition until one day a native tells of a lion that swam across the half-mile wide river. Lawrence does not believe it but Dick volunteers to go and shoot it when it is discovered there are tracks on the other side of the crocodile-infested river, but Lawrence feigns a fever to stay behind.  Dick is accompanied by local men whose livestock are being attacked. Unfortunately the lion appears suddenly and Dick finds his ammo has been tampered with. Luckily the palm stems (see second illustration) give Dick time to recover and fire at the brute. In the midst of the adventure Dick falls down a pit and discovers something that will save his Uncle: gold! Lawrence is sent home to England in shame for nearly getting Dick killed .


Trying to date this book is hard (as are a lot of Blackie & Son plus Odhams' titles) but I feel it's 1940 (which is like predicting the future - prone to easy criticism). Stella and Rose's Books date it as 1924 - but there is no interior evidence and indeed it can't be as Sheppard would be 11 years old. Although he was prolific and did draw a lot around that age (see for example here) it's very unlikely he was employed by Blackie in 1924. I wonder if they, like me, looked through the stories to guess how old any historic stories were - and came to 1924 because, there's a tale of "Pasha Peake" and as Wikipedia tells us, 

During the summers of 1921 and 1923, Peake organised the 150-man Reserve Mobile Force, which formed the nucleus of the Arab Legion. 

A Galway bookseller says it's 1930 but I can see no evidence to be that certain and anyway they also state there are "42780 pages" here! There are in fact 208 pages.  I can just see an inscription in my copy - which sadly has been rubbed out - which looks to be 1940.

On the back cover Blackie advertise various titles. The Douglas V. Duff authored "Jack Harding Adventure Series" is one listing, 4 titles being available. Checking dates of these, I found

  • Harding of the Palestine police 1938 [not on the linked list]
  • Harding's Mountain Treasure, 1938
  • Harding and the Screaming Mantle, 1939
  • Jack Harding's Quest, 1939

So I'm going for 1940, but am happy to be contradicted.


Here's the entry for the rather interesting author of the tale, T. C. Bridges, from Lofts and Adley's "The Men Behind Boys' Fiction". 

Bridges, Thomas Charles
Born in France 1868, the son of a clergyman and was educated at Marlborough College. In 1886 he went to Florida to work on an orange plantation, but after much hard work and many adventures he returned to England in 1894, almost penniless, and decided to try his hand at writing. His first two articles on fishing in Florida appeared in
The Field, then, after contributing freelance items to many magazines, including Answers - where he joined the latter as a sub-editor - he resigned after about four years to concentrate on freelance writing.
In 1902 he wrote his first boys' story. Gilbert Floyd, who was the editor of
Boys Realm, suggested that he write a serial for the paper, and the result was 'Paddy Leary's Schooldays' - the adventures of an Australian boy at an English public school. It was so popular that he wrote two further long sequels and several short stories about the characters.
He also wrote the first story in the new series of the
Union Jack, 'With Pick and Lamp'. Apart from being a prolific contributor to many boys' papers, he also wrote books for boys, mainly adventure stories.
In the early 1900's, Bridges and his wife (whom he married in 1899) went to live at Dartmoor, only two miles from the prison. This, no doubt, is why he was fond of writing tales featuring prison life. He wrote Sexton Blake stories for the
Union Jack and as late as 1939 he was still contributing to B.O.P., Scout, and Children's Newspaper, where he was affectionately known as T.C.B. In 1928 he published his autobiography 'From Florida to Fleet Street'. His recreations were fishing, golf and gardening, and he was a good friend of Sidney Gowing. He died in Torquay, where he lived during his declining years, in June 1944.

The second illustration by Sheppard is on page 177 and is the rather dramatic image of Dick and the lion.

Blackie's Boys' Annual (1940?) p.177
Dick flung himself sideways
Finally here are the contents page listings for this annual to help researchers.

"Pinnacle Ridge" is credited to the author "Hubert Walker" and the accompanying illustrations  to George R Day. Unfortunately someone has listed the colour illustration which is signed by Day as drawn by Walker for page 96.

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