Posts Tagged ‘Bulleteer’

John Bull and its famous Bullets prize competitions

October 24, 2015
'Dictionary of Bullets' published by John Bull to mark the 1000th competition in 1935

‘Dictionary of Bullets’ published by John Bull to mark the 1000th competition in 1935

Ian Cowmeadow has started a blog based on his dad’s entries to the Bullets competition that ran for half a century in John Bull magazine. The magazine itself is now remembered for its colour illustrations and covers after the Second World War – a thousand of which can be seen at the Advertising Archives – but the game was one of the magazine’s most popular features in the days before crosswords when John Bull was published by Odhams with the great swindler and MP Horatio Bottomley as editor.

Ian’s ‘Bill the Bullet’ blog explores the notes and memorabilia kept by his dad, who won many prizes and regarded himself as a ‘Bulleteer’. Ian sums up the competitions by quoting Alan Bennett:

The playwright Alan Bennett, whose father was a Bullets obsessive, described the successful attempts as ‘verbal cartoons’. Even so, he still ‘couldn’t see the point or the humour of the entries that won; they seemed like Tommy Handley’s jokes – everybody said they were funny, but they never made you laugh’.

The John Bull Bullets competitions may be largely forgotten now, but I reckon it’s the reason Britain developed cryptic crosswords – the Bullets are really cryptic crossword clues in reverse and must have been fantastic training for composing crosswords.

Another example of the influence of Bullets can be found in Liverpool, where the Mahatma Magic Circle has had cause to be thankful to John Bull for 80 years:

In 1933, Oscar Paulson won the popular Bullets word competition in the John Bull magazine and, with his prize money, he bought and presented to the society the ‘Oscar Paulson Cup’, to be awarded in annual competition for the most entertaining act. We still hold this competition to this day.

John Bull may have closed in 1960, but even so, Long Live John Bull!

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)