The strange ways of Fleet Street: Jack the Ripper expert paid in unused £1 notes

October 12, 2016
Weekend magazine cover in 1959 (jan21). At this time it was published in a tabloid format

Weekend magazine cover in 1959, when Richard Whittington-Egan began working there. At this time it was published in a tabloid format

A recent obituary in the Telegraph for Richard Whittington-Egan, mentioned an interesting tit-bit about Fleet Street practices. Whittington-Egan was known as a ‘towering authority’ on Jack the Ripper, but earned his living as a journalist on Weekend, a popular general interest magazine.

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1964, soon after it had taken over Today. Alexandra Bastedo, star of The Champions TV series, is on the cover

He worked at Weekend‘s offices at Northcliffe House off Fleet Street  between 1957 and 1986 – in ‘a job he detested’, but it must have paid the bills and gave him the time to indulge his passions. And a condition of his contract was that ‘he was paid weekly, every Friday, in unused £1 notes’!

In that time, Weekend moved from a tabloid newspaper format with a colour cover to an A4 magazine, a strategy also used by rivals John Bull (which became Today in 1960) and Tit-Bits. Weekend took over Today in 1964 and Tit-Bits in 1984, but closed down itself five year later.

The obit makes him out to have been quite a character whose work ‘was as remarkable for its singularly convoluted style as it was for his probing, almost obsessive, research’:

A kinsman of Dick Whittington, the 14th century Lord Mayor of London, Whittington-Egan, with his signature pipe, stiffly starched collar and lined cape, cut an old-world figure of studied manner and speech. To some, however, his rich prose was no less fussy and idiosyncratic: a contemporary marked him out as ‘one of the last surviving and most expert exponents of the broderie anglaise style of writing’…

But despite the stylistic curlicues, Whittington-Egan was a shrewd analyst of the criminal mind. He developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Jack the Ripper killings in the East End of London in the autumn of 1888, and was a dissenting voice when, in 1965, the American author Tom Cullen identified the Ripper as an obscure barrister, Montague John Druitt. ‘It won’t do,’ complained Whittington-Egan, ‘it simply won’t do.’

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov19) with Felicity Kendall on the cover

Weekend magazine in 1985 (nov 19) with TV actress Felicity Kendal on the cover

His 1975 study, A Casebook on Jack The Ripper, tackled the theories about the Ripper’s identity and dismissed them all: ‘The verdict must remain undisturbed: some person or persons unknown.’

Associated Newspapers – part of the Daily Mail group – owned the magazine. Its offices, Northcliffe House, were in Tudor Street, off Fleet Street and are today occupied by a law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The building name – after the Answers magazine and Daily Mail founder Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe – is also used for the Daily Mail‘s office, in Kensington, today. The name Weekend is now found on the Daily Mail‘s Saturday magazine supplement.

Of course, it’s no wonder Whittington-Egan developed an interest in the macabre, for he worked yards way from Johnson’s Court, the alley that is supposed to be the site of the barber shop of Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.

Liverpool-born Whittington-Egan broadcast frequently on BBC Radio Merseyside and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, investigating ghosts and poltergeists. He was 91 when he died. Read the Telegraph obituary.

The week in magazines

October 9, 2016

Town magazine ran a cover and several pages of the Monroe photos by  George Barris in 1963

It’s been a interesting week for magazines. There was the death of George Barris, the US photojournalist whose pictures of  Marilyn Monroe in her final weeks were published in Town magazine in the 1960s. A decade later, the Sunday Times Magazine made a cover of the ‘last pictures’; and again after that. And again in 2005.

sunday_times_1973_10oct1_monroe440 sunday_times_1982_9sep5_monroe660 sunday_times_2005_6jun12_monroe660

Then there was the mega spat at the venerable Burlington magazine, which saw the editor resign, along with her deputy, after just a year in the chair following a staff rebellion against her changes.

Over at Teddington, the Heseltine’s family plaything Haymarket sold Autosport, F1 Racing and Autosport News, along with the rest of its motorsport division to US group Motorsport Network. Not a big deal, but another example of the hollowing-out of British magazine publishing.

Farther north, in Scotland in fact, today’s Sunday Mail reminds us of the power of magazines to hold up newspapers. The paper is offering readers a free copy of The Scots Magazine – ‘the world’s best-selling Scottish-interest publication, covering topics from the contemporary to the historical’. It’s a similar story in Ireland, with the Irish Mail on Sunday spearheading a revamp with a new supplement:

JUST LOOK WHAT YOU GET! Today we are adding our new Irish Mail on Sunday MAGAZINE to the package of delights you pick up with your favourite newspaper. Already Ireland’s best-value Sunday newspaper, from today it’s getting even better AND bigger with the MAGAZINE, our superb new bumper celebrity, culture, home & garden magazine.
Every week, we’ll have an in-depth look at – and interviews with – the celebrities from at home and abroad… including the new SHRINK WRAP, where we get inside the head of a well known personality every week. Today, take your pick from Sarah Jessica Parker, new RTÉ star Seána Kerslake from Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope and international singing sensation Sophie Ellis Bextor.
Ireland’s top columnist, FIONA LOONEY’s weekly take on the world… from her kitchen sink!

And ancient jokes from Punch kick off the final episode in ITV’s costume drama series Victoria this evening. Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) reads aloud two jokes to the queen, the second of which is: ‘Who is the greatest chicken-killer in Shakespeare’s plays? Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.’ To which Victoria (played by Dr Who’s former sidekick, Jenna Coleman) replies: ‘We are not amused.’ This follows the trend in ITV’s Downton, which was forever mentioning The Lady in connection with advertising for domestic staff.


Gym Class, the magazine about  magazines, last issue

Finally, the latest – and last! – issue of Gym Class, the magazine about magazines, is out. I have to confess an interest here, having written the pieces about the rules of cover design (on the cover) and a visual about the price of vintage magazines.

The latest – and last – Gym Class is out. And it Rocks!

October 9, 2016
The 15th issue of Gym Class is the last, by Steven Gregor September 2016

The 15th issue of Gym Class is the last

The 15th issue of Gym Class, the magazine about magazines, is out and it will be the last. As the issue says:

Magazines have their moments.
Gym Class has had its.
And it was great!

However, founder Steven Gregor is working on a new project for 2017, and is determined that it won’t be a one-man show.

Gregor tells It’s Nice That that North America has been the biggest single market for Gym Class, mostly as online sales, with the latest issue getting into Barnes & Noble bookshops.

The rules of cover design in Gym Class

The rules of cover design in Gym Class

The cover feature, The Rules of Cover Design, was by yours truly, taking in the unwritten habits that dictate the way magazines look (though independent magazines like Gym Class are forever looking to subvert them!).

Other features include:

  • dealing with self-doubt;
  • the ten commandments of independent publishing
  • Japanese magazine publishing
  • photographer Christopher Anderson
  • Andrew Diprose of Wired Magazine

As Gregor himself says, ‘You Rock!’

If you see an issue buy it – they’re running out wherever I look.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

Burlington editor quits after clash over ‘brio’ with ‘entrenched’ staff

October 9, 2016
Cover of the latest issue of The Burlington Magazine

Cover of the latest issue of The Burlington Magazine

Frances Spalding, editor of The Burlington, has stepped down after staff rebelled against her planned changes at Britain’s oldest art magazine.

Spaulding quit along with her deputy after less than a year in the chair because she lost a battle of wills over over whether the 113-year-old publication was stuck in its ways. She wanted to bring in more ‘intellectual brio’ to the title, which combines high production values with detailed photographs of sumptuous works and an academic attitude.

The Times quoted former editor Richard Shone as saying Spalding had ‘made a complete mess of it’ leading to a vote of no confidence by senior editorial staff, who could be ‘very entrenched’ in the way they worked.

Spalding retorted that ‘There had been no change among the senior editorial team for almost 20 years. There had been no new voice, no fresh ideas. The existing team were entrenched in their way of doing things, and some of the editorial practices were slightly eccentric.’

Spalding wished to eradicate ‘dry Burlington prose’ and that she ‘wasn’t someone who was going to encourage high theory of an abstruse kind with jargon-ridden language’.

Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

Retro artwork for The Lady magazine from 27 March 2015

The Burlington‘s owners should have been alert to the risks after well-publicised similar problems at an even older title, The Lady. In 2009, the owners discovered that average reader of the weekly was 78, so journalist Rachel Johnson was brought in to update that venerable title – and the clashes were portrayed in a television series, The Lady and the Revamp. She lasted less than two years.

The Lady was founded in 1885 by Thomas Gibson Bowles, who also set up Vanity Fair, and is still controlled by the family, from offices in Covent garden, London, that probably date back to that time. Today, the Lady describes itself as ‘for elegant women with elegant minds’, though its website is one of the tackiest around.

Candidates for the Burlington editorship were interviewed last week.

Marriner’s parrot in the New Yorker

October 9, 2016
Neville Marriner obituary  on The Times website in October 2016

Neville Marriner obituary on The Times website in October 2016

The Times had a nice reference to The New Yorker in its obituary for the conductor Neville Marriner on Monday:

If ever a pocket cartoon summed up a man’s achievements it was the celebrated drawing carried by The New Yorker magazine that showed a parrot listening to the radio. Out of the airwaves came the announcer’s voice: ‘That was the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields …’ Quick as a flash, the parrot chirps in: ‘… conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.’

Shame the cartoonist isn’t credited.

BBC marks 50 years of Resurgence

October 4, 2016
Resurgence magazine in 2007 - 'at the heart of earth, art and spirit'

Resurgence magazine in 2007 – ‘at the heart of earth, art and spirit’

BBC Radio 4 has marked the 50th anniversary of Resurgence, Britain’s  longest-running environmental magazine, with an episode of Costing the Earth entitled ‘Spiritual Greens‘ in which:

‘Tom Heap talks to some of its most famous contributors – and their critics – to take stock of what the last half century of green activism has – and hasn’t – achieved in Britain’

The programme includes an interview with Satish Kumar, who stepped down as editor in May after 43 years in the chair to run the Resurgence Trust, which now publishes the magazine and its websites.

Kumar, now 80, is a former Jain monk, who in 1962 started out on an 8,000-mile walk from India to Moscow, Paris, London and Washington to promote nuclear disarmament.

Mathematician, philosopher and peace activist Bertrand Russell on the cover of Newsweek in 1962

Mathematician, philosopher and peace activist Bertrand Russell on the cover of Newsweek in 1962

The idea for the walk was sparked by the philosopher Bertrand Russell whose promotion of civil disobedience to protest against atomic weapons was influential in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in the late 1950s, through to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp that was set up in 1981 and lasted though to 2000.

The magazine was founded in  May 1966 by John Papworth but has struggled for most of its life. Three years ago, it took over long-time rival the Ecologist, which was founded in 1970. The titles merged in 2012. The alternative technology magazine Undercurrents was taken over by Resurgence in 1982.

Resurgence started out in the peace movement and has been described as the artistic and spiritual voice of the green movement with a list of contributors that ranges from EF ‘Small in Beautiful’ Schumaker to James ‘Gaia’ Lovelock and the Dalai Lama.

All 634 issues of Resurgence since May/June 1966 are archived at Exact Editions.

Gawker and the ‘crude crunch of global litigation’

August 28, 2016

Gawker has joined the News of the World as road fill, cosmic particles or wherever it is that dead media go. Peter Preston of the Guardian (and one of its past editors) has written about its closure and his worries about the potential effect of legal busybodies on the media in print and online:

Hear the crude crunch of global litigation bent on obliteration, not arbitration. Trump issues writs as heedlessly as he massages statistics: 1,900 of them filed already. Silicon Valley is flexing its muscles. I know many readers here still see press freedom through a Murdoch prism. I know that Leveson’s followers hold his words as holy writ. But the internet – instantaneously, inevitably – gives news a different dimension. It isn’t just another great-and-good opportunity for the regulatory classes … we ought to care, deeply, about its fate.

When you find Private Eye and the world’s oldest English language magazine, The Spectator, on the same side against Leveson’s press regulation, that’s a big worry. Moneyed Silicon Valley, loud-mouthed celebrities, lawyers and their super-injunctions – a dark combination for press freedom.

Different Olympic numbers show Croatia and New Zealand joining Jamaica (and Yorkshire!) as star performers

August 22, 2016
Country  G S B Total/country/population
  46  37  38  121   US (324m)
  27  23  17  67   GB & NI (65m)
  26  18  26  70   China (1,382m)
  19  18  19  56   Russia (143m)
  17  10  15  42   Germany (81m)
  12  21  41   Japan (126m)
  10  18  14  42   France 65m)
  21   S. Korea (51m)
  12  28   Italy (60m)
10    11  10  29   Australia (24m)

Everyone’s raving about how well the GB team has done in the Olympics, but it’s a big country, both by population and level of development. It should do well. Playing with the table from the BBC Olympics website can show up the results on a different light. The UK population is 65 million – but, in fact, that only ranks 21st in the world; China comes top with 1.3 billion, followed by India, the US (324 million), Indonesia and Brazil (the host nation, which came in 13th by gold medals).

So, to come 2nd in Rio is really good by Britain’s population size. But, in terms of population, who are the runaway successes? Well, Jamaica is the one, whether by golds per head of population or overall medals, it’s first or second. Of course, Jamaica has Usain Bolt so it comes to mind as a small country that’s done well. But its great rival in the medals per head of population stakes was a surprise to me. Australia? No. Hungary? It’s up there, at number 4. It turns out that Croatia and New Zealand (that’ll makes the Aussies wince!)  join Jamaica in the top three, whether by golds or total medals.

Rank by golds Country Population Gold Silver Bronze Total Golds/100m pop
1 16 jamaica 2,803,362 6 3 2 11 214
2 17 croatia 4,225,001 5 3 2 10 118
3 19 NZ 4,565,185 4 9 5 18 88
4 12 hungary 9,821,318 8 3 4 15 82
5 11 Neths 16,979,729 8 7 4 19 47
6 18 cuba 11,392,889 5 2 4 11 44
7 2 GB 65,111,143 27 23 17 67 42
8 24 switzerland 8,379,477 3 2 2 7 36
9 10 australia 24,309,330 8 11 10 29 33
10 26 greece 10,919,459 3 1 2 6 28

By golds/head, Britain (7th, 65m pop.) is the only big country (in my definition, population over 50 million); and again is the only big representative  (7th) in terms of total medals/head. It seems Britain has been able to do in Olympic terms what it does so successfully with mobile phone chips, books, jet engines and Formula 1 cars.

Rank by golds Country Population (m) Gold Silver Bronze Total Medals/100m pop
1 19 NZ 4.5 4 9 5 18 394
2 16 jamaica 2.8 6 3 2 11 392
3 17 croatia 4.2 5 3 2 10 237
4 12 hungary 9.8 8 3 4 15 153
5 10 australia 24 8 11 10 29 119
6 11 Neths 17 8 7 4 19 112
7 2 GB 65 27 23 17 67 103
8 18 cuba 11 5 2 4 11 97
9 22 kazahkstan 18 3 5 9 17 95
10 24 switzerland 8.4 3 2 2 7 84

Another potential measure is GDP per head – gross domestic product or the amount of goods a nation makes every year divided by its population. Here, the top five nations are Qatar, Luxembourg, Macau, Liechtenstein and Bermuda. All no-hopers at Rio – you’d have thought being rich would help you be good at sport because you can pay for the kit and training, but it looks like it just makes you lazy. The only top 10 medal country near the top by GDP is Australia (14th by GDP, 10th in Rio). The US comes in at 19 (1 at Rio); Germany 28 (5 at Rio), Britain at  39 (2 at Rio), New Zealand at 49, Croatia 83 and Jamaica 140. So there again, Jamaica, Croatia, Britain, New Zealand and Croatia are all punching well above their GDP weight.

One surprising statistic concerns the county of Yorkshire in England. It has a population of 5.4 million people, but Olympic athletes from there have won 5 golds and 14 medals overall at Rio (5/5/4). That would place Yorkshire 17th in the overall Olympics medals table, just below Jamaica but ahead of Croatia and New Zealand. In terms of golds/head (95), it would displace New Zealand in third place, and by medals/head (265) it would displace Croatia to take third place again. At the London Olympics, it would have come an incredible 12th had it been a separate country!

China is the massive loser given that it is such a massive country, but then it is down at 113 in GDP/head – but still well ahead of Jamaica.

So, there it is – the real Olympic stars are Jamaica, Croatia and New Zealand, with Britain the star among the big states.

bygolds Country pop (m) gold silver bronze total gold/100m pop medals/100m pop
1 US 324 46 37 38 121 14.19 37.33
2 GB 65 27 23 17 67 41.47 102.90
3 china 1,382 26 18 26 70 1.88 5.06
4 russia 143 19 18 19 56 13.25 39.04
5 Germany 81 17 10 15 42 21.07 52.06
6 japan 126 12 8 21 41 9.50 32.46
7 france 65 10 18 14 42 15.46 64.95
8 S korea 51 9 3 9 21 17.82 41.58
9 italy 60 8 12 8 28 13.38 46.82
10 australia 24 8 11 10 29 32.91 119.30
11 Neths 17 8 7 4 19 47.12 111.90
12 hungary 10 8 3 4 15 81.46 152.73
13 brazil 210 7 6 6 19 3.34 9.07
14 spain 46 7 4 6 17 15.20 36.90
15 kenya 47 6 6 1 13 12.70 27.51
16 jamaica 2.8 6 3 2 11 214.03 392.39
17 croatia 4.2 5 3 2 10 118.34 236.69
18 cuba 11 5 2 4 11 43.89 96.55
19 nz 4.6 4 9 5 18 87.62 394.29
20 canada 36 4 3 15 22 11.02 60.63
21 uzbekistan 30, 4 2 7 13 13.20 42.90
22 kazahkstan 18 3 5 9 17 16.80 95.21
23 colombia 49 3 2 3 8 6.17 16.44
24 switzerland 8.4 3 2 2 7 35.80 83.54
25 iran 80 3 1 4 8 3.75 9.99
26 greece 11 3 1 2 6 27.47 54.95

It’s That Man Again’s Tommy Handley

July 31, 2016
1948 Strand cover of Liverpool ITMA comedian Tommy Handley

1948 Strand cover of Liverpool ITMA comedian Tommy Handley

There’s a certain poignancy in this 1948 Strand cover of Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley signing autographs outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House.

Handley was one of the most popular voices on the radio throughout the Second World War in It’s That Man Again, a series that took its title from a newspaper nickname for Hitler and was soon shortened, military style, to ITMA (pronounced ‘Itma’). The first pre-war series in 1939 was set in a pirate commercial radio station (what are the chances that this idea sowed a seed in the young minds of the people who would found Radio Caroline 20-odd years later?).

Once war broke out the setting was changed to the Office of Twerps and various changes were made throughout. Itma also introduced Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap and his catchphrase ‘I don’t mind if I do.’

Inside the Strand, a box credit box explains:

Robin Jaques made this study of Britain’s best-loved comedian as Tommy was ambushed by fans when leaving the B.B.C. headquarters of “Itma.” Autograph hunters are not permitted inside the hall of Broadcasting House, so they lie in wait over the road in Portland Place. And Tommy accepts it all with never-failing humour and kindliness. The tie tommy is wearing is his favourite. The colours are those of the famous writers’ and artists’ club, the Savage.

Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley in a BBC publicity shot from the ITMA series

ITMA’s Tommy Handley

The similarity with this BBC publicity photograph suggests that Jacques – one of the best illustators of the era, who also did covers for Radio Times, Punch and the Listener – might have used it as a reference for Handley’s face. His sister was actress Hattie Jacques, who appeared in Itma from 1947.

The February 1948 issue of the Strand will have been on sale in January that year, 12 months before the last broadcast of Itma on 6 January 1949. Handley died just three days later of a brain haemorrhage,a week . As a BBC Radio tribute to Handley puts it: ‘and with him died one of the most popular radio shows of the forties’.

>>More on the Strand magazine

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

OUP offers cut-price magazine history book

July 29, 2016

OUP revolutions from Grub Street - magazine history

Oxford University Press has a summer sale offering Cox and Mowatt’s Revolutions from Grub Street: A History of Magazine Publishing in Britain for a fiver off at £14.99 for the paperback. The hardback edition is half price at £18.75. OUP has several other titles covering magazines and literature, from literary theory to Playboy, a few of which are also in the sale.