Comic Book Character Charms

Here is some info on the beloved British Comic Chara tors Pip Squeak and Wilfred – along with the early Disney, Popeye, Life with Father, Blondie etc characters they make for great theme bracelets – Sunday mornings in the living room floor pouring over the funnies with sibling squabbling over who gets what first and the smell of Mom’s dinner in the air…

Gateway is published by Paul Edmund Norman and used with his kind permission.

MARCH 2006 ISSUE 90
PIP, SQUEAK AND WILFRED

By Mary Cadogan (originally published in “Pip,Squeak and Wilfred” (1990)

One of the more engaging phenomena of British newspaper publishing is the popularity of an unlikely trio of animals – a mongrel dog, a fully grown penguin and a baby rabbit. Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, as they were respectively named, were anthropomorphic and extremely domesticated. They were at first supposed to live in the care of their (human) Uncle Dick and his maid Angeline in a little house on the edge of London and near the country. Within this set-up, however, the animals formed their own family unit with Pip assuming the fatherly role, Squeak so often clutching her handbag and shopping seeming to be the archetypal mother, with Wilfred the baby at the toddler stage. Later on the three animals were to have their own miniature house, Mirror Grange, designed for them by Maxwell Ayrton, F.R.I.B.A. which with interiors enriched by furnishings and pictures from distinguished artists, was used to raise funds for the Heritage Craft Schools for Crippled Children at Chailey in Sussex.

In fact Pip, Squeak and Wilfred were great supporters of charities. The Wilfredian League of Gugnuncs (W.L.O.G.) was founded in 1927, nine years after the charismatic trio first appeared in the children’s corner of the Daily Mirror in the May of 1919. The Gugnuncs soon numbered 100,000 members, who filled the Royal Albert Hall at their annual rallies there, and whose meetings, parties and fêtes raised money for several children’s hospitals and charities.

The driving force behind the Gugnuncs was the originator of the trio, Bertram J. Lamb (1889-1938). He was ‘Uncle Dick’, the editor of the Daily Mirror’s children’s spot. Probably inspired by the pulling power of Teddy Tail of the Daily Mail (who was created by Charles Folkard in 1915) Lamb dreamed up two pets – Pip the dog and his companion Squeak the penguin. (In the first panel of all on 11th May 1919 Pip was shown uncharacteristically as standing on four legs rather than upright on two, and wearing a muzzle.) Uncle Dick expressed the certainty that readers of his columns, then known as The Children’s Mirror, would love Pip and Squeak. They did, so much so that Wilfred was added to the dog and penguin ménage in the following year. (Opinions vary about his background; it is commonly stated that he was found in a turnip field, but in the Princess Elizabeth Gift Book of 1935, Bertram Lamb states firmly that “Squeak found him catching butterflies in a clover field and he looked so sweet that she immediately adopted him.”)

Wilfred, ‘the perfect Peter Pan of rabbits’, added greatly to the pets’ long-lasting appeal. It is surprising that he became such a vivid personality because, unlike Pip and Squeak, he was unable to speak. His only words were ‘gug’ and ‘nunc’ which, of course, gave the Wilfredian league its name. (‘Gug’ apparently represented pure baby-talk, while ‘nunc’ was his attempt to say ‘uncle’.) The Gugnuncs were a ‘secret society’, with the traditional not-to-be-divulged password, membership cards and badges. Many adults today still treasure their blue and gold Gugnunc badges with a motif based on Wilfred’s very long ears. The club’s extremely commendable aims included the making of the world into a better place, and kindness to dumb animals.

Lamb’s lively pets were drawn from the beginning by Austin Bowen Payne (1876-1956), who had previously been an illustrator for Firefly, Illustrated Chips, Little Sparks and other children’s comics. His Pip, Squeak and Wilfred strips were perfect miniatures of cosy chafrm, wit and whumsy. He and Lamb made a felicitous artist and author combination, meeting almost daily until Lamb’s deteriorating health necessitated his living for some time in Switzerland, and then they frequently exchanged letters. After Lamb’s premature death, his assistant at the Daily Mirror, John Freeman (1905-1972) provided the story lines, and also many of the attractive rhymed adventures of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. Payne continued to be the visualizer of the enterprising trio’s exploits until he retired in 1953. However his friend, H.F. Pothecary (Poth) would help out with the illustrations whenever Payne was on holiday or overburdened with work. After Payne’s retirement Hugh McClelland took over the strip until it ended in 1955.

A.B. Payne’s daily strips in the Mirror were soon supplemented by weekly ones in the Sunday Pictorial. They proved so popular that a weekly four-page pull out Pip and Squeak give-away comic was issued from 1921 to 1925. The Pip and Squeak Annual ran from 1923 to 1939; Wilfred’s Annual from 1924 to 1938, and Uncle Dick’s Competition Annual from 1930 to 1931.

The newspaper strip was halted by the Second World War in June 1940, but restarted in 1947, and a Pip, Squeak and Wilfred Annual was published from 1953 to 1955. Spin-offs inspired by the dog, penguin and rabbit and their associates included other books, games, china, handkerchiefs and ribbons.

Their fans included adults and children from many walks of life. Hugh Cudlipp, the celebrated editorial director of the Daily Mirror, wrote in his book Publish and Be Damned that ‘letters applauding the antics of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred came from bishops, politicians, industrialists and authors’. Apparently too on one occasion the Speaker of the House of Commons sent them a rhyming anniversary greeting.

Other articles by Mary Cadogan in Gateway:

Teddy Tail
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Interview with Mary
Mary is producing the next COLLECTORS’ DIGEST SPECIAL in March 2006. If you would like to receive a copy (for £6.50 inc. postage) please contact Mary at 46 Overbury Avenue, Beckenham, Kent, BR3 6PY

Gateway is published by Paul Edmund Norman on the first day of each month. Hosting is by Flying Porcupine at www.flyingporcupine.com – and web design by Gateway. Submitting to Gateway: Basically, all you need do is e-mail it along and I’ll consider it – it can be any length, if it’s very long I’ll serialise it, if it’s medium-length I’ll put it in as a novella, if it’s a short story or a feature article it will go in as it comes. Payment is zero, I’m afraid, as I don’t make any money from Gateway, I do it all for fun! Should you be kind enough to want to send me books to review, please contact me by e-mail and I will gladly forward you my home address. Meanwhile, here’s how to contact me: paulenorman@yahoo.co.uk

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