It Came From Behind The Shelf No.6

Reading & Writing

When Punch magazine folded after 150 years in 1992, a raft of familiar cartoonists vanished with it. A handful of artists, like the wonderful surrealist John Glashan, also evolved stories as well as one-off panels. The most epic and peculiarly English of these is Bill Tidy. His strip ‘The Cloggies’ gently ribbed Northern customs through the adventures of a championship clog-dancing team, and ran in Private Eye for years. However, his magnum opus was ‘The Fosdyke Saga’, which appeared in the Daily Mirror and was eventually published in fourteen volumes, in a once-popular oblong paperback format which has now disappeared.

I seem to have all but two of them stuffed down the back of my shelves – and I’m only missing the last two because they’re now so rare that they’re over a hundred quid each.

In a demented epic parodying Galsworthy and Wilkie Collins, the Fosdyke books chronicle the trials of a poor Lancashire tripe-making family rising to heights of wealth and fame through the late Victorian period into the early 20th century. The Fosdykes made their money by finding new uses for tripe, and their adventures took them through every major national event, from Mafeking and Flanders to dogfights with the Red Baron, through peace rallies and zeppelins to the deck of the Titanic, and a valiant Lancastrian attempt on Everest by the Accrington Stanley Expedition. Along the way, all the major historical characters who caught the public attention make guest appearances, from Elliot Ness to the Loch Ness monster. It’s one of the most sustained pieces of British comic humour ever produced.

Tidy wrote and drew all his marvellously energetic work, but what stands out is a strange mindset that avoids obvious jokes and goes for something which doesn’t quite make sense while still feeling entirely right. ‘Stay,’ begs an Arab sheik, clasping a portly harem girl, ‘the night is young and you are enormous!’ Comedy doesn’t always need explanation. About time, then, that a publisher packaged these lovely works into a single collection that sits tidily on a shelf.

6 comments on “It Came From Behind The Shelf No.6”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    I’ve read about the Fosdyke Saga, but never seen the drawings before. And I remember the oblong paperback format. Gave my son a large number of Peanut books, and others, decades ago.

  2. John Howard says:

    Admin, I have to know. I can see twelve in the picture but do you have all fourteen? I’ve got a number of The Perishers which I cherish (who can I forget “the eyeballs in the sky” – point of grammar here, does a rhetorical question, as preceding, have a question mark at the end of it?). You can see how well I did in my English Grammar O level. I’ve also got the first Fosdyke book but didn’t realise that there were 14 of them. Ah well another hunt round the second hand book shops is in order I think.

    Ah Dan, Peanuts. Wonderful stuff. Weirdly enough, over here the little collections came out in regular paperback format. I also have a number of those along with The Peanuts Golden collection which gives a background to how it all came about and includes examples right from the beginning of the strip.

  3. Alan G says:

    “The night is young” Ah me – I used that line offstage during a performance of a very intense Spanish play. The laugh it got was completely out of proportion – and upset the Director for spoiling the mood…

  4. Dan Terrell says:

    I believe the regular paperback books came later, both here and your side, so the “collectors” price on the oblongs now is pretty nice.
    When in middle school a friend of mine, with promotional help from yours, created a Charlie Brown Fan club.
    He drew and designed a color membership card, which I got printed and numbered – 500 cards – and sold for 25 cents to classmates. Then I read everything I could on which celebs had said they liked Peanuts and I sent them a letter explaining what we were about and a free membership card. Got a number of nice thank yous with autographs – somewhere. Finally my friend’s father wrote Charles Schultz and sent him some cards. They got back a terrific letter saying Schultz had heard about the club, but hadn’t been able to find out who was doing it. Unfortunately, the original Charlie Brown drawing he sent was one of a kind, so my buddy kept the drawing, but still I have several nice celeb. autos – somewhere. Amazing who read Peanuts then.
    And this was all before the Charles Schultz Peanuts machine took off – way before – and has the comic made Money? When my son was born he got a huge Snoopy doll from my buddy.
    I understand one of the membership cards is in the Peanuts museum, wherever that is. I found a couple of cards several years ago going through stored school stuff!
    Getting any ideas Admin? A B&M club card. A handshake and password: Merry?

  5. John Howard says:

    Good call Dan. Am liking the idea of a B&M club card. Of course admin will be happy to do all the work necessary. (Smiles winningly)

  6. Ken M says:

    Bill Tidy also had a comic strip in New Scientist which ran for 24 years. I still have fond memories of the Grimbledon Down government research centre, where they produced modified fruit to feed the world (but not ready for release yet because the fruit cannot take spin and is therefore useless for playing cricket) and baffled divers try to work out how an abandoned bedstead got into their water tank.

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