Barry Ono—collector extraordinaire

barry-ono-pic-001Barry Ono (1876 – 1941 ) was both a comic ( in the Music Halls) and a collector of comics. This photo from the Collector’s Miscellany of August 1936 shows him lecturing at the ‘Barry Ono Penny Dreadful Exhibit ‘at Selfridge’s Hobbies Exhibition.

In a short article for the same magazine a trawl by Ono through the ‘ For Sale ‘ and ‘Exchange’ adverts in the Boy’s Standard of the 1880s recalls his own early triumphs as an avid collector of Penny Dreadfuls.

“There was a little shop in the Waterloo Road, London, that had stacks and stacks of the Chas. Fox publications when that firm passed out, 6d a vol. mint in wraps. “Spring Heeled Jack”, “Sweeny Todd” , “Turnpike Dick” and all the lot, plus quarterly divisions in wrappers of the Boy’s Standard, Boy’s Leisure, and Boy’s Champion at 3d each. At another second hand shop, also in the Waterloo Road, a shilling used to be my limit for such items as “The Boy Detective, or The Crimes of London”, “Gentleman Clifford”, etc, etc. Seems incredible now, and all a fantastic dream. Yes, my £20 would have gone quite a long way then, wouldn’t it? And many now completely unknown and unheard of rarities would have been saved. Well, since I acquired belated wisdom, many a tattered only derelict have I rescued from that oblivion it was hastening to, midst unfeeling and heedless vandals, carefully have I doctored it, gorgeous has been the half-calf overcoat in which I have had it arrayed, and now a more careful posterity I am thinking will least honour it on my demise as ‘Curiosa’. I am thinking I have been the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ of the ‘bloods’, rescuing not from the guillotine, but from the flames and the dust bin. Continue reading

Frank J. Minnitt (1892-1958)

FMinnitt_Bunter_sm Found in the Peter Haining archive this piece by his friend the tireless researcher W.O.G. Lofts. Both men noted in former jots. Minnitt is not  forgotten as long as Billy Bunter is still part of our culture and it is worthwhile recording this Lofts piece which appears not to have been published.

Frank J. Minnitt - Billy Bunter Artist in The Knockout.

By W.O.G. Lofts.

Every so often someone emerges from the shadows as it were to become the leading light of the show. An understudy replaces the star and becomes an overnight hit. A reserve footballer or twelfth man cricketer is promoted to the first team, and scores a hat trick, plus the winning goal, or a sparkling ceatury as the case may be. Another case in point: when Gerald Campion - a small part actor on the screen- landed the T.V. part of Billy Bunter. Completely unknown to the public at large, overnight he became a star. And so it was once with a comic artist named Prank J. Minnitt, who after years of plodding along, drawing the centre pages of small - now long forgotten strips - when was given the job of illustrating a character who today is a household word. The name of course being Billy Bunter the fat boy of Greyfriars School in Kent.

Although one can write the whole life story and history of Billy Bunter, almost nothing is known at all about the artist who drew him in Knockout except for his birth and death dates. Born in 1892, possibly at Warlord, nothing is known of him until his work appears on the scene in 1927 in several Amalgamated Press comic papers. His art work that featured in such top selling papers as Chips Jester, and Joker, with a curious rounded style (that was to stand him in good stead in later years) could be said to be competent enough to fill the centre pages. Never in the class of Bert Brown, Percy Cooking, G.W. Wakefield, or Roy Wilson, he was never even considered to duplicate like most artists for these great illustrators. His style was so distinctive that it is hard to see how he could copy any other artists work. Seemingly, he was just content to plug along, eking out a living for a few guineas a week, and never improving sufficent to get bigger commissions to draw the front pages.

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Barry Ono (1876–1941) collector of Penny Dreadfuls

440px-Barry_Ono_Songbook_coverBarry Ono was a British variety theatre performer,music hall singer and collector of Penny Dreadfuls. Part of his is collection was bequeathed to the British Library in 1941. It is still there and available for research. This obituary was found in Collectors Miscellany (Fourth Series Issue 3 – February, 1942). It was an ephemeral “paper for anyone interested in old boys’ books, type specimens etc.,” and was founded in 1917 by Joseph Parks.

Barry Ono

An appreciation by his friend, John Medcraft.

The recent sad death of Frederick Valentine Harrison, better known as Barry Ono, at the comparatively early age of 68, came as a shock to his many friends. Although apparently in good health at the time, he had a severe heart attack at 11pm on Wednesday, February 5, 1941, and died from angina pectoris four hours later. An able and talented man, Barry Ono had the ability to shine in more than one profession, nut his activities and interest were many, and his life too full of permit just that little extra effort necessary to reach the top. An ex-councillor of Camberwell, he was also an active member of the Water Rats, the well-known music hall charitable organisation. Music hall audiences will remember his dual act with Maud Walsh, billed as Barry and Walsh, and afterwards as a solo turn in ‘An Old-Time Music Hall in 12 Minutes,’ which heralded a boom in the old songs about ten years ago. Latterly, he had retired from the Halls and devoted more of his time to the old Bloods and Dreadfuls he loved and with which his name will ever be associated. Known to the book trade as the ‘Penny Dreadful King,’ and to collectors and sentimentalists as the high priest of the cult of the penny dreadful, Barry Ono was proud of having attracted many new collators to the hobby. His fine collection contained many extremely rear items, some of which were probably unique, and was a never-failing source of wonder, admiration, and good-natured envy to those who were privileged to view it. Barry Ono retired to Barnstaple in September, 1940, but keenly felt the severance from his old friends and the haunts and interests of a lifetime. His collection is stored for the duration of the war, and will probably be handed over to the British Museum at the end of hostilities. Wartime railway restrictions denied Barry Ono a last resting-place in his beloved London, and he was buried at Barnstaple, on February 10, 1941.

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The Eric Parker Story

From the files of Peter Haining this draft of a piece by W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts on the great Sexton Blake illustrator Eric Parker (1898 - 1974). It was published in the early 1980s in the Australian magazine Collector's Digest.

The Eric Parker Story.

By W.O.G. Lofts.

For over twenty years, it was my good fortune and privilege to meet many Directors, Editors, sub-editors, authors, and artists, not only down Fleet Street, but in the home of it all at Fleetway House in Farringdon Street, the home of the mighty Amalgamated Press. I use the expression 'fortune' in the sense, that living in London, it was quite easy for me to make these short trips.

Always firmly believing in sharing information with others not so fortunate, I used to write up many of these events in the various magazines circulating at the time. Nearly all personalities I'm glad to say, freely gave me information not only about themselves, but about the papers they were connected with in pre-war days. Papers that gave so much pleasure to us, as they do even today in some cases over a half a century later. Indeed, in time by so many meetings, many became good friends, when they probably gave me real inside information, that they would not have revealed to the ordinary interviewer. The very sad fact today, is that with all of them considerably older than myself-practically the majority of them have now passed on.

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Charles Hamilton and ‘The Modern Boy’

Found among the extensive papers of Peter Haining this article on an old magazine for boys The Modern Boy by the late Tom Ebbage, an Australian book collector also known as Harry Wharton and part of a long gone Sydney 'hobby circle.' The article appeared in the defunct magazine Golden Hours in 1987.

"THE MODERN BOY" - AHEAD OF ITS TIME
- Tom Ebbage

  As we all know, Charles Hamilton with the help of a number of "substitute" authors, wrote most of the Greyfriars and St. Jims school stories in the "Magnet" and the "Gem" commencing in 1907 and 1908.

  From February 1915 until April 1926 he also wrote nearly all of the 524 Rookwood school stories which appeared in "The Boy's Friend". Thus for over eleven years he kept three different schools going simultaneously, which was a remarkable task.

  When the Rookwood school saga concluded in 1925 he was allowed only a little less than two years to concentrate on the Greyfriars and St. Jims stories. Then on 11th February 1928 commenced THE MODERN BOY, and from the first issue, and with some intervals, Charles Hamilton wrote so many different yarns in this paper, that it could truly be said that he was the leading author in three different "companion papers" until they terminated in 1939 and 1940.

  Hamilton began his career in THE MODERN BOY with “King of the Islands”, a stirring yarn of adventure by air, land and sea. In all, C.H. wrote 209 stories of Ken King, and they made absorbing reading matter for the boys of the time. From September 1937 until February 1938, Hamilton wrote a series of Stories of "The Rio Kid", which were western adventures.

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Bill Lofts – the journey of a collector and researcher

More material from the Haining archive, this by his friend and colleague W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts. Some of it is covered by Bill's piece on market places. As a researcher pre-internet he haunted the British Museum and saw himself as a kind of knowledge sleuth (hence the title).

INVESTIGATIONS UNLIMITED
by W.O.G. LOFTS

  Like most normal children I started reading the coloured nursery comics at an early age:    'Chicks Own' and 'Tiny Tots', for example. With their hyphenated script underneath they helped us a great deal in learning to read. W. Howard Baker recently - and without any prompting from me related how it taught him to read in his home in Cork, Ireland. Later I went on to the older, 'Rainbow', 'Tiger Tim's Weekly' category, and later still to the black and white comics such as 'Chips’, 'Comic Cuts', 'Larks', 'Jester' and 'Funny Wonder'. I think my favourite was 'Larks'. That had Dad Walker on the front page, and was drawn by Bert Brown whom I was to meet many decades later, and whose originals I greatly treasure.

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