Growing up in Glasgow in the 1950s, we children had our weekly comic publications to look forward to. Apart from the Beano and Dandy, there was Girl, School Friend and Girl’s Crystal and the Eagle for boys. ‘Love’ comics were also on the market then, aimed at teenage girls and disapproved of by parents, who felt that ‘Valentine’ and ‘Romeo’ should be banned. They were of course bought and avidly read, passed on and hidden. They were well drawn, all about beautiful women and ruggedly handsome men in situations of unrequited love that all came right in the end. Great stuff.
In the daily newspapers at this time, there were various serialised comic cartoon strips, two of which I remember with great affection.
The first was Angus Og. This was created by Ewen Bain, a Glasgow art teacher, in 1960 and the strip ran in the Glasgow Bulletin, then the Daily Record, for many years.
Angus Og was a Highland beatnik living on the island of ‘Drambeg,’ in the ‘Utter Hebrides.’ He had a host of adventures with girlfriend Mairileen, Rosie the Heilan’ Coo, his mate Lachie and speywife Grannie MacBrochan. It was a gentle, humorous take on island life and never offensive.
And then there was Lobey Dosser!
There is an odd little statue in the Woodlands district of Glasgow. Although most people of a certain age know who it is, it’s strange that it isn’t given more prominence. Perhaps it is because the character of Lobey Dosser is not that widely know beyond Glasgow.
Created by artist Bud Neil for the Glasgow Evening News, where he first appeared on 24 January 1949, Lobey was a contemporary Glaswegian who moved to the wild west of America to become the sheriff of the town of Calton Creek. He befriended that rarest of creatures, a two legged horse, which he named El Fideldo or Elfie, and who helped him combat the nefarious schemes of town villain Rank Bajin.
Every child growing up in Glasgow in the 1950s went to the ‘pictures’ to see cowboys and Indians, so a strip cartoon with a Glasgow character set in the wild west town of Calton Creek seemed as natural as fish on Fridays.
Written for a local audience the majority of the names, as in the English language translations of Asterix The Gaul, were a play on words. A lobby dosser is a vagrant who sleeps in the entrance hallways of Glasgow’s tenement flats, while Rank Bajin translates from the Glaswegian as Really Bad One.
If a two legged horse wasn’t fantastical enough for you, one of the characters was a fairy. Her name was Nuff, as in Fairy Nuff, and she is married to the ex-spy Rid Skwerr. In the days of the Cold War, “Red Square” was a good tongue-in-cheek name for an ex-spy. Did I mention that Rid was dead but as a ghost he had been hired by the town council to haunt the local cemetery? Now you are beginning to get the idea of the kind of surreal world that Lobey inhabited.
With Glasgow being European City of Culture in 1990, Lobey fan Calum MacKenzie proposed a public statue as a memorial to Bud Neill and, with the backing of the Glasgow Herald newspaper, a public appeal for funds began. The statue, designed by Tony Morrow and Nick Gillon, was duly erected in 1992. It shows Lobey sitting astride Elfie with his six-gun drawn, having captured Rank Bajin who is sitting behind him handcuffs. It is located in Woodlands Road, Glasgow, just across from the Halt Bar.
Bud Neil drew the strip in the daily Glasgow Evening Times from 1949 to 1956 and, for a short time in 1958, in the Scottish Sunday Mail (not to be confused with The Mail On Sunday). Lobey Dosser was popular enough in the 1950s for small reprint books to be published of his adventures and in 1992 five of these books were republished in the compilation book by Ranald MacColl, Lobey’s The Wee Boy. This was followed by Bud Neil’s Magic! in 1997, which reprinted many of Neil’s single frame newspaper cartoons, and in 1998 Lobey Dosser: Further Adventures Of The Wee Boy!