[Picture of an Oor Wullie Annual]Dudley D Watkins is incredibly important to post-war Britain, and especially to his adopted home — Scotland.

He is the man behind “Oor Wullie” and “The Broons”, which makes him one of the most important cultural figures in Scottish history.  Watkins is far more widely read than Robert Burns or Sir David Lyndsey.

In case you don’t know, “Oor Wullie” and “The Broons” are full page comic strips — “The Funnies” in “The Sunday Post” published by DC Thomson of Dundee.

[Picture of a Broons Annual]“The Sunday Post” was so widely read just after the world wars, that it made it into The Guinness Book of World Records as having the highest per capita readership anywhere in the world. Amazon has The Broons and Oor Wullie: More Classics from the Fifties.

DC Thomson was a powerhouse of comic production — including legendary titles such as “The Beano”, “The Dandy”, “Jackie”, “Mandy”, “Sparky”, “Topper”, “The Beezer”, and “Commando” comics.

[Picture of The Broons with Baby David]

Baby David

Dudley Watkins was born and bred in Manchester and moved to Scotland when he was 18.  Glasgow School of Art recommended him to DC Thomson, and soon Dudley was working on “Rover”, “Hotspur” and other comics.

He invented “Lord Snooty”, “Ginger” and “Mickey the Monkey”, and worked on “Desperate Dan”.

“Oor Wullie” and “The Broons” were never in a comic, they were simply published in the centre pages of a Sunday newspaper, part of “Merry Mac’s Fun Pages”, so they reached a different audience.  The strips were collected together and produced as an “Annual” for Christmas.

Watkins — from Manchester — somehow managed to write these strips in Dundonian vernacular, which is a feat in itself! For example, he would have Wullie talk about playing Fitba’ — instead of football.  Now a Glaswegian would more than likely say this as footbaw, but in Dundee it’s fit-bah, and so while Watkins got it spot on, it was still easily read by Glaswegians — something Robert Burns never managed!

Thomson regarded Watkins so highly that he was — unusually — allowed to actually sign his own comics strips.

Now, being Scotland, there is no escape from sectarianism and bigotry. David Thomson himself was pro-Christian (as long as it was not of the Roman Catholic variety).  This informed everything published; they promoted clean, family values.

DC Thomson as a company was infamous for not employing Roman Catholic Christians or allowing trades unions.

I managed to get some work there as a lad — I started off at “The Weekly News” in Cowcaddens,  manning the phones through Saturday nights in case some important story broke. I cannot recall anything doing that, but at the time I was a bit of a freelance journalist — and this rather boring job gave me lots of time to work on submissions for IPC magazines!

Watkins was a devout protestant Christian who always had a Bible to hand and who gave talks and illustrated a lot of Evangelical Christian publications aimed at children, some of which were published by DC Thomson. (See www.christian comics international.org). Strange to think that he had this in common with Rick Griffin… who knows, maybe Griffin was influenced by Watkins. Now that’s a funny thought!

Although Watkins died back in 1969, in the middle of a “Desperate Dan” strip, “Oor Wullie” and “The Broons” continued each week, only with the old LSD currency references erased in favour of  “New Pence” sums. DC Thomson recycled the originals for a while before getting in a new artist — who was originally pretty bad.  The strips are still going strong, although I don’t know who is drawing them now, but they are every bit as good as the original Watkins’s.

These comic strips are so embedded in the Scottish psyche, they are far more authentically Scottish than tartan, shortbread, bagpipes and haggis!

In a nation of cartoonists and comic artists, Watkins is recognised as absolutely top notch!


4 Responses to “DUDLEY D WATKINS”

  1. […] Strangely enough, another hero of mine — Dudley D Watkins was a huge cultural figure, comic artist and Christian comic artist. Weird. […]

  2. […] The Scots have a passion for comics and cartoons, mainly the city of Dundee – the home of “The Beano”, “The Dandy”, “Oor Wullie”, and “…“. […]

  3. David Gray Says:

    A couple of things to point out – Watkins was born in Manchester, as you say, but was actually raised in Nottingham and his upbringing contributed to his love of historical comic strips, especially those featuring Robin Hood. Although he was an artist of consummate skill (and in spite of what you say, the current artist, Peter Davidson, doesn’t even come close even if he is better than some)with a wonderful eye for detail, a beautiful clarity of line and sense of perspective, he didn’t actually write the scripts, so your comments about his ability to accurately capture dialogue are slightly off the mark. He certainly was a highly significant figure of his era nonetheless.

  4. […] simply a joy!  He used cartoon lines to suggest movement, but I love it when he does a very old Beano trick of lines representing wonder, beeling, astonishment, embarrassment, amazement, and even […]

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