Tuesday, November 21, 2006

H. M. Talintyre

An interview with Dave Gibbons has just appeared on the Comic World News website in which he discusses his early family life and his introduction to comics. Interesting reading in itself but I was pleasantly struck with something he mentioned about his father. Dave's grandfather was a customs officer and used to move around the country. To quote Dave:
During my dad's formative years, when he was nine or ten, they were posted to Dundee, where they used to live in the big Customs House, which had lodgers. One of them was an artist who used to draw for D. C. Thomson. He was a guy called H. M. Talintyre, and he drew their nursery comics... he drew the adventures of Oojah, a circus elephant! My dad was clearly very impressed with this guy, who was something of a bohemian type and quite unlike a customs officer. he actually gave my dad one of his paintboxes, which I still have.
Why this particular passage jumped out was that, a couple of months ago, I tried to dig out information on Talintyre without any great success. When Look and Learn magazine picked up the rights to Jack and Jill last year, one of the strips was a licensed strip entitled 'The Wonderful Adventures of Jerry, Don and Snooker' which ran for 203 episodes between 27 February 1954 and 11 January 1958. The character of Jerry the elephant continued in the form of 'Jerry's Jolly Jingles' for another seven months before the strip finally came to an end.

Jerry, Don and Snooker were all characters from a newspaper strip that dated back to the early 1920s when the Daily Sketch launched a 4-page children's supplement called The Oojah Paper. Oojah had originally appeared in a single-panel cartoon as early as 18 February 1919, but expanded to a full page on Saturday, 8 October 1921. 'Uncle Oojah, Don and Snooker' were the front page stars of the Saturday supplement which, the following week, became The Oojah Sketch and was to run until 23 November 1929, although the original pull-out section became 3 pages from 29 April 1922 and 2 pages from 22 July 1922.

Uncle Oojah was an elephant. More precisely he was the king of Oojahland who shared his adventures with a small boy named Don and a black cat named Snooker. As the strip developed, many other characters were introduced to Oojahland, including Fatherwangle, the Mayor, and his two sons, Jerrywangle and Jimmywangle. It was Jerry who was to survive to become the main star of the Jack and Jill strip, although both Don and Snooker accompany him and many other original characters, like Lord Lion, the head of the Armed Forces, Pa Piggins, the Prime Minister, and Furdiston Foozle, an inventor of marvellous, if unpredictable, devices.

Oojah, who was occasionally also known as Flip-Flap in the early days, survived the demise of the children's supplement in the Daily Sketch. As early as 1922, Oojah was the star of Oojah House by Flo Lancaster and soon had his own annual. A piano suite entitled Oojah-Land was composed by Montague Ewing in 1922 and a number of light orchestral pieces such as Uncle Oojah's Frolic and Uncle Oojah's Party were popular in the early 1930s. Oojah was also the name of a pigmy elephant who, in 1925, had his crooked front legs splinted to get them back into shape, and the name of a number of racing horses.

(An 'oojah', incidentally, is slang for a whatsit, a thingumabob or an oojahmaflip... something you've forgotten the name of. Uncle Oojah was meant to be a forgetful elephant. Later expansions on the word included 'oojah-cum-spiff', a phrase meaning all right or well ordered which was used thus by P. G. Wodehouse. I've got a feeling that it was also a dance step in the late teens, early twenties.)

The original artist of the Oojah tales was Thomas Maybank, actually a pen-name for painter and illustrator Hector Thomas Maybank Webb, born in Beckenham, Kent, on 28 February 1869 [often given as 29 February, but see comments below], the son of William (a glass and china dealer) and Annie Webb, who began his career as a surveyor's clerk but turned to illustration in magazines like Pick-Me-Up and Punch around the turn of the century. Maybank died on 27 March 1929.

Maybank was the artist for the first five Oojah annuals. With Uncle Oojah's Big Annual for 1927, a new artist was introduced in the shape of H. M. Talintyre, who would draw the annual for Collins throughout the 1930s (a new artist took over in 1940 and the last, in 1942, reprinted material drawn by Thomas Maybank many years earlier). A number of books published in the 1940s kept Uncle Oojah's name alive but a brief run of a new annual in the late 1940s, once again drawn by Talintyre, was to be the end of the characters.

At least for a few years. In the early 1950s, Basil Reynolds was involved in the creation of Jack and Jill, a new colourful nursery paper to be published by the Amalgamated Press. He was approached by an elderly gentleman who introduced himself as H. M. Talintyre and who wondered whether Oojah could not be revived again. Reynolds, who had been fond of Oojah as a child, supported the idea and new stories by the original author, Flo Lancaster, were commissioned and Talintyre went on to draw the new series for another four years.

Despite a career that lasted at least thirty years, almost nothing is known about Talintyre. I believe he was Henry Matthew Talintyre, born in Gateshead in 1893, who died in 1962, aged 69. To take us back to the beginning of these notes, Dave Gibbons offers enough clues in his interview for me to state that his father met Talintyre around 1922/23 in Dundee, at which time he would have been in his late twenties. He began working on the Uncle Oojah stories at around the age of 33, at which time the annuals were still published by the Daily Sketch. In 1930, Talintyre was living at Brierdene, Sedgecombe Avenue, Kenton, Harrow where, I believe, he remained until his death. (Talintyre is a relatively uncommon surname, derived from "of Tallentire", a township in the parish of Bridekirk, Cumbria.)

A final word about the author of these stories. Flo Lancaster was a pseudonym; the British Library list her works under the heading of "Ellen Wallis, later Lancaster" but I'm pretty sure this is not correct as I think it refers to Ellen Wallis (1856-1940) who was an actress and stage manager. 'Flo Lancaster' would appear to have been the working name of Mrs. F. Edwardes-Jones. She was, apparently, a prolific author of stories for girls' and women's magazines who began writing before the Great War and she was writing Oojah stories for Jack and Jill in the 1950s when actress Ellen Wallis had been dead for some years.

Oojah Books (by Flo Lancaster)
Oojah House. The story of Flip-Flap's little mansion, illus. Thomas Maybank. London & Manchester, E. Hutton & Co., 1922.
Oojah's Treasure Trunk, crammed with pictures, stories and games. London, Daily Sketch and Sunday Herald, 1926.
Uncle Oojah's Travels (series):
__The Princess of Persia, illus. Thomas Maybank. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1938.
__Uncle Oojah's Ostrich Farm, illus. Thomas Maybank. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1938.
Uncle Oojah, illus. H. M. Talintyre. Glasgow, Collins (Silver Torch ser. 47), 1944.
The Uncle Oojah Books. London, Haverstock Publishers, 4pts, 1946.
Uncle Oojah's A.B.C., illus. H. M. Talintyre. London, Haverstock Publishers, 1946.

(* Some of the above history of Oojah is derived from an article by Will Costain from Golden Fun 13, 1983. Illustrations are from Jack and Jill, 6 July 1957 and 5 January 1957.)


  1. I am H M Talintyre's son. I can confirm that what you say about him is essentially accurate (although I am puzzled by Dave Gibbon's apparent recollection that he was drawing Oojah whilst at D C Thomson some years before he took over the Uncle Oojah work with Flo Lancaster - can that really be correct or has Dave Gibbons conflated two bits of history?).

    What sort of further information would you be interested in?

    Douglas Talintyre

  2. I've only just discovered this blog post and I'm very pleased to find out more about the man who my father so much admired and whose influence more or less led me to where I am today.

    My father was born in 1913 and moved away from Dundee when he was about twelve, so clearly he knew HMT before he started Oojah.

    I imagine that my father followed his career with interest and, when he told me about him, must have meant that HMT went on LATER to draw Oojah.

    It must now be over forty years since he and I had that conversation, so even MYmemory is untrustworthy on the details!

    1. I have just dipped back into this blog to refresh my memory. Shortly after these exchanges in 2007 I changed my email address and later wondered whether anyone might have tried in vain to contact me about these recollections. I would certainly like to hear further from Dave Gibbons to see if there is anything we can add to information about our respective fathers but do not have an email address for him (I'm afraid that in these days of a multiplicity of social media platforms I have never managed in my old age to get much beyond emails!).

      Douglas Talintyre

  3. Useful information, thanks. I have an Uncle Oojah Big Annual which I have dated to 1928 based on the fact that it contains calendars for 1929 within the text. However it was illustrated by Thomas Maybank, so maybe the dates in the article are not quite right. What do you think? Thanks, Katharine

    1. Hi.Do you have a picture of this annual? I am trying to get dates right for my website www.uncleoojah.com Would also be interested in buying this if it is 1928, if you are interested. Thank you.

  4. It could be that the original source I referenced got it wrong -- perhaps 1927 is in error for 1929 [i.e. the 1930 dated annual] since that was the year that Maybank died.

  5. Carol Gardiner17 Dec 2009, 23:25:00

    Hi Douglas, good evening.

    My name is Carol Gardiner & I work as a volunteer for 'The Big C' a cancer charity shop in Sheringham, Norfolk.
    I'm emailing you Douglas because we've had a donation of some old childrens books - 1 of which is 'Oojah House, the Story of Flip-Flaps Little Mansion.'
    We're an 'old fashioned' genuine charity shop Douglas, with good stuff & cheap prices! How-ever we do check sometimes on the internet if we have an item which we may get a few more pounds for!
    So we're just asking you if you know that this book has any monetary value? I hate to disturb you regarding this, but any info you have may be of help.
    I don't know if you still monitor this site but it's worth a try. xx
    Thankyou for your time & consideration.
    Have a lovely christmas.
    (On behalf of The Big C)

  6. Ellen Wallis Lancaster had a daughter Florence E Lancaster b 1878.

  7. Thanks, Cas. A quick check shows that she was Florence Ellen Lancaster, born in Buxton, Derbyshire. She was christened in 1877 (rather than 1878), the daughter of John and Ellen Lancaster.

    I'll see if I can dig out some more.

  8. You say Thomas Maybank was born on 29 Fen 1869 but was that a leap year?

  9. Mike,

    You're absolutely right! 1868 and 1872 were leap years but not 1869. I did a bit of checking and found that Webb was baptized on 28 March 1869 in Beckenham, Kent, and his birth was registered in 1Q 1869, but I cannot find a source for his actual day of birth, although the 29 February seems to be the date most quoted on the internet. The date of death is confirmed by probate records.

    If I turn up the source of the 29 February birth date, I'll let you know. I did turn up another mystery: The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators has a cross-reference from Thomas Maybank to Hector Thomas Maybank Webb, but there's no entry for Webb!

  10. Hi
    I've just come across this blog and can confirm Thomas Maybank's birthday was 28 February 1869, so presume there's been a typo along the way. Thomas Maybank is my Great Great Uncle and Thomas Maybank was his pen name, whilst he was actually Hector Thomas Maybank Webb. Hope this helps!

    1. Hi. Its a long time since you wrote on this blog. I am researching all things related to Uncle Oojah. I am creating an Oojah website.... see www.uncleoojah.com I would love to have photos of Thomas Maybank and any other ephemera associated with him and his work. I love his artwork. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Happy to interview family members if they have relevant info. Regards, Harvey Taylor

  11. Hi There, Just come across your blog. I'm Flo Lancaster (Jones) only grandchild so I've found your post very interesting.
    I was only 6/7 years old when she died so don't have many recollections of her. I have a number of Uncle Oojah Annuals and a letter containing the publishing rites of her work.
    I was told that she had been adopted by a minister and his wife (poss a Quaker family) and lived in Somerset before moving to London.
    She married Paul Jones and had a daughter late in life, circa 40 years old. (My mother Pauline Flo Lancaster Jones) Paul Jones was in the 1st world war and when he came home became her 'manager', so in effect Flo was the only bread winner in the family. He died quite young as a result of a flu epidemic.
    I'd be fascinated to know if she was involved in the later publishing of Oojah stories as she would have been getting on a bit.
    She died in around 1963 when I was about 6 years.
    Best Wishes

  12. Sandy,

    Good to hear from you. Do you recall where your grandmother lived? I may be able to use that information to confirm the year of her death. It would also help establish how old she was and, therefore, when she was born.

    Thanks for taking the time to share information... gold dust to a site like Bear Alley!

  13. Hi Steve
    I'm not entirely sure where my grandmother lived. Wembley and Hammersmith were both mentioned, I think she was probably living in Chiswick towards the end of her life. I may be able to trace the village in Somerset if that's of help but it sounds like you are looking at her later years. From working out the ages my mother and grandmother were when they had their daughters, I believe that she would have been around 81years old in 1963, around the time of her death.
    Best wishes



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