Posts Tagged ‘Oor Wullie’



Glasgow should be a city state — its own country; it’s so completely different from Scotland.  Now, it has to be admitted that I was born and grew up in Renfrewshire, which is near Glasgow.  However that’s a mere detail; Glasgow is not restricted to political boundaries.  A good way to determine whether somewhere is in Glasgow or Scotland, or whether someone is Scottish or Glaswegian, is to listen to how they speak; Glaswegians do not say “Ken”, instead they say “y’know” (which means the same thing).  In Glasgow, something is “Big” where in Scotland it is “muckle”.  A ‘weegie will say something is “good” or “great”, while a Scot will say the same thing is “braw” or “bonnie”.

The Scots have a passion for comics and cartoons, mainly the city of Dundee — the home of “The Beano”, “The Dandy”, “Oor Wullie”, and “The Broons“.

The characters in “Oor Wullie” and “The Broons” are Scottish — NOT Glaswegian; they say “ye ken”, they say “muckle” and “braw” and the chat is closer to Swedish than English. (Swedish for “Muckle” is “Myket”, “Brå” is “Braw”).

Glasgow was once the second city of the British Empire (after London, of course).  As the British empire was the biggest empire in history, it therefore follows that Glasgow was once the second biggest and most important place on planet Earth.  It was MASSIVE — five football teams and millions of people — in tenements marked out on a North-South-East-West road grid system.  It had trams, buses, ferries, bridges, tunnels, trains, and was the first place outside of London to have an underground train system.  in fact, Glasgow has a subway as well as low level trains!

Naturally, the people had an ATTITUDE — a swaggering approach to life — and a very famous sense of humour.  Comedians used to be afraid to play Glasgow as the hecklers were funnier than the acts!

Stanley Baxter and others used to make fun of the Scots — especially regarding how measly Scots were with money!  This native Scottish thrift is forever remembered in Glasgow by virtue of a bridge — the train bridge going south over Argyle Street from Central Station — for it is known as the “Heilanman’s umbrella” (Highland man’s umbrella — making fun of the Scottish misers from “up North” who wouldnt’ spend money on an umbrella, and would instead stand under a bridge to keep dry).

Glasgow was world-famous for it’s city-wide sense of humour — Stanley Baxter, Chic Murray, Francie and Josie, Billy Connolly, Arnold Brown, Rab C. Nesbit, Hector Nicol, and Lex Mclean, and can still raise a laugh today  — Rory Bremner, Frankie Boyle, John Sessions, Jerry Sadowitz, Armando Iannucci, Chewin’ The Fat, Karen Dunbar, Alan Cumming,  and Still Game.

Classic Glesga music hall “Francie and Josie”:

Here’s a wee taste of some recent stuff from the brilliant Chewin’ The Fat…

Making fun of the famous gangland culture — No mean City, with “The Big Man” —

— and taking the piss out of the Scots is still done — check out Karen Dunbar’s hilarious Teuchter Schoolteacher in a Glesga school (note also: Thomas Devine’s “Gypsy Haircut” LOL)…

And to finish, the (in)famous stonner/ stawner…

For me, the good old days of Glasgow humour was epitomised by the likes of cartoonist Bud Neill and Tom Shields’s Diary in The Herald.




[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 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!