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'FRANK RICHARDS'
(Charles Hamilton)
Creator of Billy Bunter, the Famous Five 
(that's the
original Famous Five, of Greyfriars, not the later Blyton 5), 
Tom Merry, Jimmy Silver and many others.

Page updated 19th September, 2014.
Just ONE page on the Collecting Books and Magazines web site based in Australia
Any problems or questions? E-mail John - chiefchook@gmail.com
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'Frank Richards' was just one pseudonym of Charles Harold St John Hamilton (CH from hereon), born in Ealing, Middlesex, England on August 8, 1876. The most prolific boys' fiction author of all time (you'll find him listed in the Guinness Book of Records), Charles attended a local private school, Thorne House, His first story is said to have been penned in 1885, possibly for one of the Trapps Holmes boys' story papers. Using in excess of 20 pen-names, he wrote not only school stories but, adventure, travel, crime - every genre imaginable.
Pen-names listed in 'The Men Behind Boys' Fiction' (see 'Recommended Reading' further on): Harry Clifton, Martin Clifford (St Jims), Clifford Clive, Sir Alan Cobham, Owen Conquest (Rookwood), Gordon Conway, Harry Dorian, Frank Drake, Freeman Fox, Hamilton Greening, Cecil Herbert, Prosper Howard, Robert Jennings, Gillingham Jones, T Harcourt Lewelyn, Clifford Owen, Ralph Redway, Ridley Redway, Frank Richards (Greyfriars and Carcroft), Hilda Richards, Raleigh Robbins, Robert Rogers, Eric Stanhope, Robert Stanley, Nigel Wallace and Talbot Wynyard.
 

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Comments from readers
A GREYFRIARS MOVIE? Suggested cast and types.
The
INDEX and LINKS will be found at the end of this page.
THE FRIARS site for concise and useful information on the works of CH.
The
GREYFRIARS INDEX site for just about everything!
FULL LIST of Howard Baker facsimile volumes. Rarity ratings and an invitation to rate volumes.
GREYFRIARS - Fine overview with interactive content (New Zealand)
FRIARDALE BEST site making CH material available in electronic format.

THE BOY WITHOUT A NAME and RIVALS AND CHUMS | THE HOUSE-MASTER'S HOME-COMING
BOUND VOLUMES of ORIGINAL MAGNETS and GEMS SOON FOR SALE.

Charles Hamilton is most remembered for his school stories, the most famous of which were those centred on Greyfriars School, a fictitious private school in Kent. These stories, penned for THE MAGNET, an Amalgamated Press weekly paper which ran for 1683 issues (1908 to 1940), featured history's most famous schoolboy, Billy Bunter. With the arrival of WW2 and the closing down of most juvenile STORY PAPERS, Bunter may have disappeared from public view but publisher Charles Skilton had other ideas. He commissioned CH to write a series of books around Bunter's adventures and these rapidly became bestsellers in the years after the war and through the 1950s. 38 books were written in all with the last few, published after CH's death on Christmas Eve, 1961, being finished by other authors. Cassell took over publication from Skilton early on.

Certainly the most popular and arguably the finest school storywriter of all time, CH is said to have written well over 5000 full-length stories (of 25,000 words or more). He was ahead of his time, being one of the very few early 20th century writers to have championed non-Anglo Saxon characters in his stories as well as giving snobs and the uppers classes short shift. Self-opinioned critics, few if any of who have ever read his stories, have been quoted in the press over the years, as saying the opposite was often true. The self-evident affection for CH from all classes, colours and creeds of people, both male and female following his death, put these statements into perspective. A number of books have been written on CH. He also wrote an autobiography in the early 1950s but this wasn't very revealing of the real CH.

For a remarkable insight into CH's life around the 1900 period, read 'Champagne Charley', a report on a talk given by Una Hamilton Wright at the London Old Boy's Book Club in September, 1999. You'll find it in the Collector's Digest (don't know the issue but assume late 1999), details of which appear on the Clubs page. Thanks for the information, Bill.

RED MAGNET MAGIC! A page on the very early issues of 'The Magnet'.

 

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Number 1, 1953

Number 2, 1954

Number 3, 1955

 

bc My favourite story from THE MAGNET.
From 1931 comes a 2-part story involving Vernon-Smith and Mr Quelch which switches back and forth from riotous fun to drama. 'Bluffing the Beaks' and 'The Impossible Schoolboy', issues 1222 and 1223, can be found in Howard Baker facsimile volume no.63, 'Bunter's Orders'. The pace is fast and furious, the drama brilliantly handled, the characterisation without equal in any other school story. Also included in this volume is the only lengthy example of a story featuring the mathematics master, Larry Lascelles. Larry's past comes back to haunt him - he used to earn his living in the ring. There are some great action sequences in this collection, even if you don't (and I don't) like boxing.
Another favourite (well, it's hard to pick just one from 1683 issues!) is 'The Fellow who wouldn'd be Caned!' issue 1042 from 1928. You'll find this in facsimile volume no.64, 'Billionairing with Bunter'. It stars the remarkable Horace Coker and his long-suffering master, Mr. Prout. For anyone interested in the Greyfriars Fifth Form, this is a 'must read' and contains some information on the actual layout of the school I've not previously noticed anywhere else.

THE BOY WITHOUT A NAME and RIVALS AND CHUMS
Re-published by the Museum Press, this duo of stories about the boys of Highcliffe School is a reprint from "The Boys Friend". Justly famous for the quality of the storytelling, this concerns the arrival of Frank Courtenay, later captain of the Fourth, and his uphill battles with the so-called "nuts", led by the arch villain, Ponsonby.  Recommended; rating 8/ 10. (JT 7.12)

THE HOUSE-MASTER'S HOME-COMING
Re-published by the Museum Press, originally published in 1915, in The Gem. Talbot, Crooke and Railton feature in this yarn. Another expertly written story from Charles Hamilton which compares more than favourably with the above Highcliffe duo. St Jim's was a far more interesting school with a rich array of both pupils and teachers. Highly recommended: rating 9/10. (JT 8.12)

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bc The 'Bunter Books' in order of publication:
(First published by Charles Skilton)
1. Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School, 1947
2. Billy Bunter's Banknote, 1948
3. Billy Bunter's Barring Out, 1948
4. Billy Bunter in Brazil, 1949
5. Billy Bunter's Christmas Party, 1949
Bessie Bunter of Cliff House School, 1949
6. Billy Bunter's Benefit, 1950
7. Billy Bunter Among the Cannibals, 1950
8. Billy Bunter's Postal Order, 1951
9. Billy Bunter Butts In, 1951
10.Billy Bunter and the Blue Mauritius, 1952*
(*This is alleged to be the rarest title.)

(First published by Cassell)
11.Billy Bunter's Beanfeast, 1952
12.Billy Bunter's Brainwave, 1953
13.Billy Bunter's First Case, 1953
14.Billy Bunter the Bold, 1954
15.Bunter Does His Best, 1954
16.Billy Bunter's Double, 1955
17.Backing Up Billy Bunter, 1955
18.Lord Billy Bunter, 1956
19.The Banishing of Billy Bunter, 1956
20.Billy Bunter's Bolt, 1957
21.Billy Bunter Afloat, 1957
22.Billy Bunter's Bargain, 1958
23.Billy Bunter the Hiker, 1958
24.Bunter Out of Bounds, 1959
25.Bunter Comes for Christmas, 1959
26.Bunter the Bad Lad, 1960
27.Bunter Keeps it Dark, 1960
28.Billy Bunter's Treasure Hunt, 1961
29.Billy Bunter at Butlins, 1961**
(** The dust jacket came in two designs,
one promoting Butlin's Holiday Camp.)
30.Bunter the Ventriloquist, 1961
31.Bunter the Caravanner, 1962
32.Billy Bunter's Bodyguard, 1962
33.Big Chief Bunter, 1963
34.Just Like Bunter, 1963
35.Bunter the Stowaway, 1964
36.Thanks to Bunter, 1964
37.Bunter the Sportsman, 1965
38.Bunter's Last Fling, 1965

Memorial reprint of the autobiography

Howard Baker Magnet facs #100
The final of the regular Magnet reprints

 

bc FRANK RICHARDS and 'THE MAGNET'

A number of you have asked for more on 'The Magnet' and the works of Charles Hamilton 'Frank Richards'. It will take a while to give CH the coverage he deserves. There are numerous books about Hamilton, 'The Magnet' and Greyfriars which you'll find listed on the REFERENCE page. There are also LINKS to the branches of the English Old Boys Book Clubs. However, as 'The Magnet' is one of my favourite interests, I will run reviews of series read recently and articles previously included in 'Golden Years', but will not reveal any parts of the stories which will spoil it for those who haven't yet read same . We now have a separate page on The Magnet and Greyfriars. Your comments will be appreciated via the visitor's book.

 

bc THE REMOVE (Our guess, compiled from issues of the Collectors Digest.)
According to contributor Tommy Keen, the following members of the Remove were present when Harry Wharton arrived in issue #1.
Frank Nugent, George Bulstrode, Peter Hazeldene, Dick Russell, Harold Skinner, Trevor and Treluce, and Billy Bunter. Bob Cherry arrived in #2, Inky in #6, David Morgan in #8, Micky Desmond in #15, Smith Minor in #32, Stott in #35, Wun Lung in #36, David Ogilvy in #43, Mark Linley and Sidney Snoop in #45, Tom Brown in #86, Smithy in #119, Alonzo Todd in #125, Fish in #150, Johnny Bull in #151, Percy Bolsover in #182, Mauly in #184, Dick Penfold in #194, Monty Newland in #216, Dick Rake in #258, Oliver Kipps in #268, Peter Todd in #271, Wibley in #322, Squiff in #343, Delarey (a sub invention) in #432, Jimmy Vivian in #471, Tom Redwing in #517, Napoleon Dupont in #540 and Richard Hilary in #559. A total of 38, but who really knows?

RECOMMENDED READING

McCALL'S GREYFRIARS GUIDE: A Comprehensive Who's Who,What's What and Where's Where by Peter McCall, Howard Baker London, 1982
SIX OF THE BEST! David Bathurst, Romansmead Publications, Chichester, 1994
THE MEN BEHIND BOYS' FICTION W O G Lofts and D J Adley, Howard Baker, London, 1970
FRANK RICHARDS-THE CHAP BEHIND THE CHUMS Mary Cadogan, Viking, London, 1988
THE CHARLES HAMILTON MUSEUM Roger Jenkins, London Old Boys Book Club, Maidstone, undated, post-1961
GREYFRIARS FOR GROWN-UPS Lawrence Sutton, Howard Baker, London, 1980
THE ROAD TO GREYFRIARS George Samways, Howard Baker, London, 1984
THE WORLD OF FRANK RICHARDS W O Lofts and D J Adley, Howard Baker, London, 1975
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF FRANK RICHARDS pub'd by Charles Skilton, 1952, reprinted in a memorial edition, London, 1962

Visitors write

29/03/2001
I was in  Queensland in 1985 and met aman who claimed to have been one of the models for Billy Bunter - He said that his father was William Hutton Mitchell (a presbtyerian Minister) who illustrated Bunter -this man and his brother would have their cheeks stuffed with cotton wool  -to be used as models for his illustrations.

Steve answers - The man your chap met was Alexander Mitchell who lived in Brisbane for many years. His father was the first Greyfriars artist, drawing the first 39 or so issues of The Magnet. Hutton Mitchell (1870-1934) had four sons in all, and all four were used as models -- with a pillow stuffed down the trousers to emulate Bunter when necessary. One of the sons, Capt. Alan Mitchell later wrote for The Gem and a few other papers before moving with another brother, Bruce, to Canada. Alan Mitchell died in 1980 but I've not managed to trace any birth/death dates for the other brothers, although it seems unlikely they are still around.

I collect the Magnet volumes detailing the exploits of Billy Bunter, with a particular preference for the Howard Baker volumes, and a mild aversion to the substitute writers collections, although I admire and respect the integrity of Howard Baker in keeping these apart from Charles Hamilton's' writing. I have Cassell and Penguin editions, as well as the Greyfriars Book Club collection series. I avoid any editions edited by Kay King, and lament at this lady's' failure to see the point in retaining the original style, politically incorrect as that style may be.
In reviewing Richmal Cromptons work, Mary Cadogan noted, correctly, that Charles Hamilton (Frank Richards) made no concession to changes in styles and patterns of behavior in a Magnet period which spanned 33 years, while Richmal Crompton's characters adopted the vogues and expressions current to the times in which she wrote. Ms King obviously saw this as a correctable anomaly. I would argue that this is the selling point of the stories. Predictable, formulaic and repetitive, my heart still beats faster when, on those rare occasions, I find another to add to my collection.
Callum MacLeod
England

Steve: Re printing of the facsimile editions
The chances are that Baker did have access to the original copies held by I.P.C. but probably not a full run.
I believe three sets of the originals were bound, one for the editor himself, one for the editorial office and one for "Bear Alley" which was the stock room.
A lot of these went walkabout and it is quite common to see "Bear Alley" bound copies (in red) for sale of various old Amalgamated Press papers. Editors took volumes home, or the stock room copies were taken away so that editors could research stories for reprinting and the volumes were never returned... there were lots of ways the volumes leaked out of Fleetway House over the years!
Baker was very friendly with Bill Lofts and various other people connected with the collecting field, so would have had access to any missing issues via them.
The quickest way to see what wasn't reprinted is George Beal's book on Baker's Magnet reprints (which I don't have). His Magnet Companion (which I do have) also indicates where stories were reprinted, so that's also a good guide. Somewhere I did have a figure for the total number, but I can't remember where it is. I know he reprinted over 1,000 of the 1,683 total. Probably 1,200-1,300.

There are some peculiarities of Frank Richards' writings that I have never seen comments on.
*He seems to have had an obsession with line 305 of Book 1 of the Aeneid ("
At pius Aeneas, per noctem plurima volvens"). Time and again in the Bunter stories this line crops up as one that Bunter makes a mess of construing, or Mr. Quelch explains to Bob Cherry etc.
*He also seems to have had an obsession with hat-tricks in cricket. In the first-class game they are rare. Even in club and school cricket, where wickets tumble more rapidly, they are seldom seen. But almost every report of a match at Greyfriars has at least one.
*He seems to have had something against the Geralds and Gerrys of the world; there are several in his stories, most notably Gerald Loder the prefect, and Jerry Hawke the bookie. They are all bad characters!
*He never seems to have made up his mind whether Harold Skinner's crony was William Stott or Frederick Stott.
Do you know of anyone that could offer enlightening remarks on any of these observations?
Gerry (see comment above) Taylor, Scotland

8/10/2012
Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the article you wrote about the Magnet, incorporating the Howard Baker facsimiles, and the Billy Bunter novels.

I personally enjoy all three ways of reading these stories, and like you, I feel one of the endearing strengths of them is that the characters ARE always from the same snapshot in time. Having said that, I do notice that the world around them does show some signs of change when early issues are compared to, say, 'Billy Bunter at Butlins', which has a much more contemporary feel to it, even today. Even though I'm now a manager in my 50s, married with children, I still like to regularly read and re-read the stories. In a sometimes unpleasant world, I feel that there is no better place to be than the universe of Charles Hamilton!

Probably my favourite is either the Butlins one, or The Phantom of the Towers, or the Magnet Christmas stories around Wharton Lodge. I'm currently trying to get a reasonably-priced copy of the Bunter in China run (any advice welcome), or the Egypt or India stories.

Anyway, once again, well done on the article.
Best wishes,
Jake Nelson

COLLECTORS REVEAL HOW THEY DISCOVERED BILLY BUNTER and GREYFRIARS

Steve Holland
My discovery of Billy Bunter was at the age of 11 when I moved up from primary school to the local Grammar School. The importance of the move was two-fold: the Grammar School was in town, close to the large town-centre library, the second I'll get to in a minute.

Since the bus time-table allowed me to spend half an hour every afternoon after school in the library, I found myself reading a lot of books that weren't available to me in our little local library (which was only open a couple of evenings a week, anyway). For reading matter, I'd often had to rely on my family, so from the age of 8 I'd been reading whatever came to hand -- and it was a diverse crop. Since I only had a children's ticket for the library I was reading everything from the juvenile section: a few I remember with huge amounts of nostalgia (although I've not read them for thirty years) are the Adventure series by Enid Blyton, the Famous Five and Secret Seven; reprints of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew stories; the Lone Pine adventures from Malcolm Saville; a smattering of Biggles; Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge; Swallows and Amazons.

I guess that's a fairly normal list for a young boy. But at home, when I couldn't get to the library, I read Agatha Christie (my grandmother, who lived nearby, was a big fan) and my dad's books which meant lots of John Creasy (Insp. West, Department Z, etc.) and James Hadley Chase. The only thing I didn't read were westerns.

I notice now that most of the junior books involve young children going off and having adventures, which is probably what made them so captivating -- we were not well-off as a family and holidays usually consisted of day trips down to the seaside. The only extended (week-long) holidays away from home we had were also to the coast and usually to dull, touristy bits of the coast. In stories, children went to all sorts of interesting places, some of them inland - the Lone Pine Club members went exploring fog-shrouded stones on Dartmoor or mountainous parts of Shropshire. I'd never seen a mountain! (I grew up -- and still live - in Essex which is just about flat as a pancake.)

Back to the big school and the big library. There I found the Magnet reprints by Howard Baker, and devoured all the volumes they had over a very short period. This would be 1973-74. And I suspect what I really liked about them was the camaraderie of the Remove boys, Harry Wharton & Co. I was also a bit on the chubby side, but never felt any anger towards the portrayal of Bunter. He was a bit of a weasel; told outright lies about his forthcoming postal order, stole food, lied and cheated. Not a very nice boy, and certainly somebody I didn't identify myself with.

The other boys, Bob Cherry, Frank Nugent, et al were extremely well-drawn as characters and displayed some very fine qualities, of friendship, of loyalty, of honesty... and this is the second reason that move up to a new school played a part. Nearly everyone I knew went to the local Secondary School in the village. I went to the Grammar School where I didn't know anyone and I was quite painfully shy of making new friends. Reading about a group of young boys who really looked out for each other was a vicarious way of interacting with others and sharing their adventures.

Two other points before I stop. I never found the books to be old fashioned, even tho' I knew (from the dates on the covers of the reprints) that they were forty-year-old stories. It didn't seem to be a problem, especially when the boys were on holiday in, say, Egypt. I had no experience of what Egypt was like, so for all I knew it could still be exactly as Hamilton described it.

Lastly, being a grammar schoolboy in the 1970s reading about private schooling in the 1930s... well, I didn't have a problem with that either. Again, for all I knew boarding schools were like that, with studies and teas and football and cricket matches going on. I imagined that there was probably some modernisation of lessons, but they seemed to be doing much the same stuff as we did, including Latin which I took for three years (without learning much).

Even forty years on, the stories were still able to hold the attention of a new generation despite their age. To me, their age didn't show. What did show was the strength of characterisation in the writing.#

"Herbert Mauleverer"
(August, 2001) I’ve been a fan of The Magnet for only a year or so, having been introduced to it by my 80 year old father, and so am quite a newbie. He was a reader of the comic itself in his childhood who by chance came across a few Hamilton facsimile editions in a local library a couple of years ago. Mentioning to me that he had subsequently tried unsuccessfully to track down any for purchase I suggested I look on abebooks, made the mistake of reading one before giving it to him, and the rest as they say is history! Between us we have now acquired about a dozen books and are buying them as fast as we can read and afford more.

My real name is David (I just thought it would be fun to use a pseudonym), and I am a 45 year old accountant in the UK (Gt.Yarmouth actually), married, with two teenage daughters.

Much as I could imagine myself part of the ‘Famous Six’ I actually attended Gt.Yarmouth Grammar, as it was called at the time, which this year celebrates its 450th anniversary since being founded in 1551. I could not believe the coincidence therefore when I realised recently that the date top left on the definitive map of Greyfriars and surrounding area is also 1551 and is quoted as being when Edward VI restored the former monastery and opened it as a school! I wonder if the current Head of my old school is aware of the illustrious company he is in?

The headmaster in my day was called Marsden not Locke (and was certainly fond of the cane), and there were several Quelchs and a couple of Prouts, but I cannot recall a Bunter in my year. The teachers were not allowed to administer corporal punishment, and the worst you could get from a prefect was lines or a detention. The school building itself was, like Greyfriars, very old, which helps me imagine some of the scenes in the books. Reading the Magnet takes me back to happier days than we seem to have now, when nobody was really bad (except perhaps Ponsonby), baddies always got their just desserts, whodunit was obvious from page one, and everything always ended up happily ever after.

FRANK RICHARDS' POLITICAL and SOCIAL ATTITUDES
Brian Smith
Some of the remarks about Frank Richards' political and social attitudes are simplistic. I write as a socialist who has loved FR for forty years, and won't be changing.

1. Racism. Despite many foolish epithets, typical of the times, FR seems to have detested it. There is a splendid passage in a Magnet of the 1920s where he tears Fishy to shreds for his racist attitudes. FR deliberately created Hurree Singh, the cleverest member of the Famous Five, to combat racism among his readers.

2. Politics. In the early part of his career FR was interested in socialist ideas, and his treatment of capitalism in the USA is especially negative. In later years his main political idea is that politicians are detestable hypocrites.

3. Snobbery. Arguably, it is FR's least favourite human characteristic. His waifs and strays usually make good, unlike his snobs.

4. Women. Again, despite some foolish language now and again, FR is relatively fair to suffragists. His strong women aren't simple termagents: I find the treatment of Miss Bullivant in the Skip series quite moving.

5. War/violence. The best illustration of FR's contradictory (but generally negative) attitude to war is his treatment of Richard Hilary, with his CO views. This was a remarkable series to appear in a British boys' magazine in 1918. I particularly like FR's scornful treatment of warmongering gents past the age of conscription.

In my view the key to FR's philosophy, in almost every area, is his hatred of bullying - and, especially, cruelty to animals. It explains a lot. If FR had been a dunderheaded Tory he couldn't have created the complex fiction we admire so much.

[This article originally appeared in BillyBunter Digest Number 342 which is accessible via the link below.]

INDEX of linked page contents and external links
Any problems, inoperative links or questions? Please e-mail the page author John .
A GREYFRIARS MOVIE? Suggested cast and types.
Billy Bunter and The Magnet Bill Nagelkerke's Paper, 'Would the real Charles Hamilton please stand up: truth, lies and the recreation of the boarding school story'. Restored to CB&M and corrected 2/2010.
Bunter Books Complete list of the 38 post-war titles
C. H. CHAPMAN A page of memories, photos and artwork supplied by the grandson of the famous 'Billy Bunter' artist
Charles Hamilton and the ALL BLACKS NZ page
CLUBS AND MAGAZINES   Publications dealing with CH's writings
DISCOVERING BILLY BUNTER Collectors tell their stories.
Frank Richards Some biographical details
FRANK RICHARDS' POLITICAL and SOCIAL ATTITUDES
Friars' Club - The London-based club. A useful site for simplified information on all Richards-type publications.
Greyfriars Holiday annual page on this site.
GREYFRIARS; a great page from New Zealand with interactive content (external New Zealand page)
Greyfriars, The Magnet and Frank Richards
HOWARD BAKER FULL LISTING with ratings
Howard Baker facsimiles  Complete list of the regular editions, plus occasional reviews of particular volumes will be found on the The Magnet and Greyfriars page.
Northern Old Boys Club (Boys story papers)  (external English page)
Online Billy Bunter newsletter
Recommended Reading   Reference books
RED MAGNET MAGIC! Our page on the very early issues of 'The Magnet'.
LEONARD SHIELDS Memories of the great 'Magnet' artist, by his son.
The MAGNET The Story Paper in which the Greyfriars stories originally appeared.
THE MAGNET Many issues downloadable as scans (external site.)
The REMOVE   Members of your favourite form (external English page)
The REMOVE Our list
The ROOKWOOD Who's Who
The ST JIM'S Who's Who

Articles of interest
Crickey, it's Christmas! Alex Kernaghan's tribute to Billy Bunter and The Magnet in Mayfair (a UK men's magazine of the late 20th Century), Vol.24, no.12 (special Christmas issue, undated), p37 .

Back to the Collecting Books & Magazines index page.

 

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