Tag Archives: boarding school

Looking for Lucy / Distant Cousin

  • Looking for Lucy – Nikki: #10 (27 April 1985) -#19 (29 June 1985)
  • Artist: Guy Peeters
  • Distant Cousin – Bunty: #1919 (22 October 1994) -#1931 (14 January 1995)
  • Artist: Ron Lumsden

Plots

These are two different stories but have so many similarities I decided to look at them together. Both stories revolve around a protagonist going to a boarding school where her cousin is also meant to attend. Both have not seen their cousins in years and when they arrive they find some mysterious cover-up about said cousin. Everyone is hiding something and they can’t get the truth from staff or pupils, so it’s up to the protagonist to investigate, solve the mystery and find their cousin.

Although there is a common plot thread, there are differences in how the stories are told. In Looking for Lucy, Shirley Wright arrives at the school where everyone claims that there is not and never was, a Lucy at the school. Shirley  tries to find evidence of her cousin’s existence in the school, but every time she finds a clue, someone destroys the evidence.  In Distant Cousin, Jenny Clayton, has kind of the opposite problem as everyone claims the her cousin Claire is at the school but she believes the person who claims to be Claire is not her cousin. So she is out to prove “Claire” is not who she says she is and find her real cousin.

looking for lucy-Distant cousin

Firstly Looking for Lucy  – Shirley is surprised that no one has heard of her cousin, Lucy Semple, but surprise turns to concern when she soon suspects a cover up. She starts hunting down evidence of her cousin, such as trying to find her name on the class register. She finds one register is brand new, with no Lucy in it, in the same classroom she finds a table with L.S. carved into it with hockey sticks.  As this is early in her investigation and the girls in her dorm seem friendly, she tries to enlist their help. She tells one of the girls, Janet, about the desk but when she goes to show her the desk, it is gone. She then decides it’s best to talk to an adult and goes to the headmistress, Mrs Bull, but even she denies Lucy’s existence! Knowing that Lucy liked hockey,  she tries to track her down checking old school magazines, only to find the sport pages have been torn out. She does manage to find an old team list with the name L Semple on it. Again Janet pops up and Shirley suspects she is destroying any evidence she finds, but  but when the list goes missing at a time Janet couldn’t have took it, Shirley realizes she can’t trust anyone!

looking for lucy 2

She writes to her parents for advice, she receives a letter  from them but it seems they didn’t get her letter. On a trip to a place the school have visited before, she finds photo with someone she is sure is her cousin. She confronts the girls that were in the photo and they first claim not to remember the other girl, then later say she was an old school girl Jane Smith, a common name that would be hard to track down.  She tries writing again but with her parents are moving around a lot she doesn’t know when they will receive the letter.  At a hockey match she thinks she has a good opportunity as she can ask opposing team about Lucy.  She also believes she may have found an ally in Ruth, who seems sympathetic. But then during half-time when she wants to talk to  the other team, she is tricked and gets locked in a shed. Knowing that Ruth was the only person with opportunity to lock her up, she decides to be even more careful collecting evidence and keeping it secret.

She tries to throw the girls off by saying she’s lost interest and that her parents have told her not to worry. Late during a party game she is hiding, when she overhears some pupils saying they are glad Shirley stopped asking questions, as they hate lying. While trying to see who is talking. she slips and hits head. She recovers and is more determined then ever to find out what happened to Lucy. She finally finds solid evidence, when she gets one of the girl’s old photo album, she finds a photo of her cousin in front of school with her name on the back. She goes to police only to be stopped by teacher with Lucy! Mrs Bull explains, that Lucy has been sick with an infectious disease and had to be kept quarantined.  They didn’t want people to know about Lucy’s illness in case parents pulled their children from the school and they were afraid of financial disaster. As it is a happy school everyone pulls together to keep it secret and since Lucy is fully recovered they hope Shirley can be happy at the school too.

looking for lucy 6

In Distant Cousin Jenny Clayton is excited to get a scholarship to Larchwood, and her mother calls Aunt Mary, who doesn’t seem enthused about Claire looking out for Jenny. They have never had much to do with that side of the family and Jenny has never met her cousin, so she is unsure of what to expect. Still on the day “Claire” greets her and shows her to the dorm. She seems friendly, but when Jenny talks about other family members, she seems to shut down, Jenny thinks its her snobbery. She begins to suspect, there is something strange about her cousin, and that she is keeping secrets.  “Claire” is secretive about the letters she receives and appears to lie to the school to get a weekend away (She goes home for a grandparents golden anniversary, but Jenny knows there are no family anniversaries happening). Jenny tries to settle into school and does make some other friends. One time down town with some of her new friends, Sandra points out Alison’s gang and Jenny is confused as she doesn’t know anyone named Alison but does see Claire. Then later another girl calls “Claire”,  Alison, she then claims that Alison is her middle name and she uses it a lot. Jenny doesn’t buy this story and quizzes Alison about their family, trying to catch her out but she seems to have brushed up on her information as she is able to answer most of her questions.

distant cousin 2

Later the girls are planning Alison’s birthday, this is further proof for Jenny as she knows Claire’s birthday is close to hers. After  this she does some investigating, she finds an old receipt  of Claire’s for shoe repairs. She collects the shoes and tricks Alison into trying them on.  After this Alison owns up that she is not Claire but won’t tell her why the deception. Jenny tries to talk to the head but she is away at a conference, she then tries the art teachers but she dismisses her. She them rings her Aunt Mary who claims that Claire is at Larchwood and only phoned her yesterday. Jenny thinks maybe Claire has been kidnapped, she wonders if Alison and her friends are too scared to speak out,  but then she overhears them saying they’re glad Claire is gone.

During games she sees someone watching from a window of an isolated part of the building. She sneaks up to see her, thinking that she may be Claire, but she is actually a girl named Sophie with measles, and the matron quickly ushers Jenny away. One evening, when the girls are looking at an old photo, they avoid letting Jenny see it but she manages to sneak a look later. One of the girls Pippa catches her,  but  she tells her she understands, she”d like to help, but she promised not to tell. At least Jenny now knows what Claire looks like. She also gets a hint from a head girl, that Claire got into trouble but is interrupted before she can ask further questions.  When Sophie is released from sick bay, Jenny gets to talk to her and she mentions that no-one liked Claire and she remembered the day she left, but then Alison pulls her away. Jenny finds a letter addressed to Alison from Aunt Mary. Watching her later, she sees Alison read the letter and share out the money that was inside, among friends. Jenny tries to ring Aunt Mary again, but instead gets the housekeeper who tells her Claire’s at school and be home shortly. Jenny confronts Alison telling her what she already knows. Alison fills in the gaps, it turns out Aunt Mary bribed her to pretend to be Claire so Jenny wouldn’t find out she was expelled. Everyone is glad everything is out in the open as they like Jenny and glad they can all be friends now.

distant cousin 5

Thoughts

Both stories are really good at building up the mystery and they are quite engaging. Their downfall is the endings. In both stories it felt like they didn’t know how to end it, Looking for Lucy felt particularly rushed at the end as Lucy appears in the last few panels, just as Shirley is about to enter the police station, then there is a very long expository speech bubble. Despite this I think Looking for Lucy is the stronger story over all. Shirley is really dedicated to her investigation and therefore the tension and urgency can transfer to the reader. Whereas in Distant Cousin Jenny can sometimes be a bit halfhearted, she is annoyed when she messes up her chance with a boy as she goes to ask another boy about her cousin, also she only asks one teacher about Claire and then gives up asking any adult. Although the Headmistress was away first time she wanted to talk to her, she doesn’t attempt to talk to her again after she returns, even when she finds out the only teacher she asked about Claire is new to the school!

distant cousin 3

In Looking for Lucy it is clear that everyone in the school is part of the cover up which makes things more difficult for Shirley and again builds on the mystery and distrust, there seems to be no one she can turn to for help. She does well in her own investigations, tracking down any scrap of information she can, even if the others foil her progress. But all the build up leads to not much in the end.  At least all the school have a combined motivation, but it makes little sense. Why not tell Shirley, Lucy had measles or was spending a term away, anything other than destroying all evidence of her existence! The ending might make more sense if Lucy had an accident at school and they didn’t want to ruin their reputation,  that it turns out the school wasn’t at fault. Really the disease, that she picked up abroad during holidays, seems like a flimsy reason to hide everything from Shirley.

looking for lucy 5

Distant Cousin does a nice job in adding new mystery halfways through the story. At first the mystery seems to be that “Claire” is hiding something and sneaking away from school. When she is revealed to be Alison, this changes to Jenny trying to find out what happened to her cousin. This change is slowly developed as we begin to suspect “Claire” is not who she says she is. Unfortunately the characters here have less motivation to lie then in Looking for Lucy. Nobody liked Claire, Alison wasn’t been blackmailed, her family seem to be well off so it’s not like she needs the money. It does seem that Alison’s friends  seem to encourage her to go along with charade and she does share the money with friends, but it really doesn’t seem to be a big enough reason to go along with it. In fact she’s relieved when the truth finally comes out. This might have worked better if Alison was a scholarship girl and needed the money or if Claire was blackmailing her. Whatever about Alison’s side of things, how long did Aunt Mary think the secret was going to last? None of the teacher’s are in on it, just some girl’s in Claire’s old class, realistically unless the whole school was involved like in the other story, something was going to slip out eventually!

distant cousin 6

While the endings leave too many questions as I’ve said the rest of the stories are well done an the art in both is gorgeous. I like Ron Lumsden’s  art, he does nice close ups of characters, filling the panel and capturing different expressions. Guy Peeters some has great details in some panels, such as when Shirley visits a church, and the light shines through a stained glass window or  nice wide shots of school.

Looking for lucy 4

 

Look After Lobelia

Plot:

A little girl called Lobelia had arrived mysteriously at the home of Professor Peterson. Nobody knew where she was from or why she was abandoned. Later at boarding school, Lobelia amazed everyone by winning the most awards on prize day and being selected school captain. However some of the girls believed Lobelia was an infant at heart  and hoped to get rid of her.

looking after lobelia

Notes:

Appeared:

  • Look After Lobelia –  Bunty: #1184 (20 September 1980) – #1214 (18 April 1981)

 

The Best of Enemies

Plot:

Carol Parker and Alice Redfern were totally different girls, but their mothers had been very close friends when they were young. When they found out their daughters were going to the same boarding school they assumed the girls would be close friends too. Unfortunately the girls couldn’t stand each other and when the Head tries to bring them together, it was like trying to mix oil and water!

The Best of Enemies

Notes:

  • Art: Selby Donnison?

Appeared:

  • The Best of Enemies –  Bunty:   #1472 (29 March 1986) – #1480 (24 May 1986)

 

“Don’t Speak to Me, Mum!”

Plot:

Shirley Weston had lived at Bunbury Castle where her mother was cook to Sir Charles Merrywill. When Shirley won a scholarship to Rossdene, a private boarding school, she found most of the girls were from wealthy families. When Shirley’s friends mistook her for Sir Charle’s niece, she didn’t deny it, but problems arose when Shirley’s mother took a job  as a cook at the school.

dont speak to me mum

Notes:

  • Art: Carlos Freixas

Appeared:

  • “Don’t Speak to Me, Mum!”–  Bunty:  ? – #1291 (09 October 1982)

 

Katy at St. K’s / Sara at St. K’s

Plot:

Follows a group of girls at a boarding school, St. Katherine’s. Firstly new girl Katy joins the school. Later the story returned with a different new girl Sara.

sara at st ks

Notes:

  • Photo Story

Appeared:

  • Katy at St K’s –  Bunty:  #1756 (07 September 1991) – #1761 (12 October 1991)
  • Sara at St  K’s–  Bunty:  #1818 (14 November 1992) – #1823 (19 December 1992)

 

The Four Marys

 

  • The Four Marys – Bunty: #01 (18 January 1958) –  #2249 (17 February 2001)
  • Writers: Maureen Hartley (2 Stories: “Creefy’s Rival” and “The Mystery Virus”)
  • Artists: Bill Holroyd (#01-#15), James ‘Peem’ Walker, Manuel Cuyàs (#434 – #436), Selby Donnison, Jim Eldridge

Plot

Four girls all named Mary attend a reputable boarding school, St. Elmos. They become firm friends and usually go by their nicknames Raddy, Simpy, Fieldy and Cotty. Throughout their time they have many adventures and solve some mysteries.

Thoughts

This is one of the most well remembered stories, and that has to be partially due to its longevity. A 40 year run is quite impressive. The strip appeared in the majority of the issues but wasn’t a continuous run from first to last issue. There was a couple of breaks particularly in the 80s, though they never went away for too long. There were some reprints over the years particularly towards the end of Bunty.

1950s/1960s

The first 15  issues were drawn by Bill Holroyd, and each girl had their own distinctive look.  The early years had an Enid Blyton tone to the stories, they had the usual boarding school routines,  as well as chase up some mysterious going-ons.

fourmarys_02

While all the girls had their own personality and talents, Mary Simpson was probably one of the most inspirational to young girls. A smart working class girl, that had earned her place in a good school, yet had to contend with being looked down on by some snobs. Bunty in the late 50s was aimed at a more working class background and at the time it was quite a novelty to put a scholarship girl as a main character.  Overall it seems the big appeal of the story was the relationships and friendship of the girls. (Mel Gibson discusses such things in her essay: What Bunty did next….)

While it’s true that the friendships were very important, probably most people had their favourite Mary. Personally I always had a soft spot for Mary Cotter, the talented but often shy and clumsy Mary. Mary Radleigh was the daughter of an Earl but also hated anyone putting on airs and graces, she was loyal and down to earth. Mary Field was the active sports mad girl, that could be a little too pushy at times. Of course 2 other regular characters were the snobs; Mabel and Veronica, who disliked Simpy for her lower class upbringing and the Marys in general for being popular and goody two shoes!

The boarding school itself was full of traditions. Dr. Gull was the head mistress, sometimes known as the Squawker (and the first years were called the Newts). While the girls were allowed to go to the local town, Elmbury, they were expected to behave appropriately, wear their full uniform and there were certain shops they weren’t allowed visit. Miss Creef was the third form mistress, who held up the various traditions but was also described as firm but fair.

Story arcs from this decade included; a mystery surrounding  a hermit teacher Miss Johnson who turns out to be a former student; Lady Josephine Bramily. She has amnesia after a boating accident. Luckily, Mary Simpson and head girl, Ann Fairlie, help her  recover her memories so she can go reclaim her inheritance. Another mysterious teacher Miss Mandy seems to have hidden past with a young cockney that involves thieving. The girls help a young girl Hilda secure a job as maid in the school, only to discover someone’s out to get her fired.  Mary Cotter damages her eye in a lab accident and  nearly does worse damage when she mixes up eye ointment with a bottle of bleach, luckily Simpy catches her in time, and eventually Cotty’s eyes recover (although by the end of the series, her eyesight declines and she ends up having to get glasses!).  A group of girls dub themselves ‘the avengers’ and punish any girl that has done any wrong doing. Simpy discover that it is Raddy and Fieldy doing such things after they let her join them in dunking a cheating prefect Avril in a bath.

fourmarys_01

Early on the stories usually consisted of 2 pages, though later this got expanded to 3 pages. The girls interestingly didn’t refer to each other by nicknames, for the first few years they continued to just call each other Mary. I’m not sure when exactly the change happened but it made sense to start giving them each a distinctive name to be referred as.

1970s

There was a lot of reprinted stories in the 70s.  It was quite common to reprint shorter serials in these comics and with a long running strip like the Four Marys it may have been hard to keep the weekly turnover of new stories. Presumably it was also thought that readers of the first printing would have outgrown the comic by then.

Some of the new stories included; the school being threatened by a flood. A cycle trip with the cycle club led by Miss Creef, Mabel and Veronica mess with Simpy’s old bike in the hopes of getting back to the school earlier. Simpy manages to borrow an old 3 wheeler bike and enter in a race. She doesn’t win but the winner gives her the prize of a new bike for being so entertaining. Cotty believes she is under a gypsy curse and those close to her are getting harmed, it turns out to be a combination of  Mabel and Veronica playing some tricks and a scheme to take over the school. Raddy has trouble looking out for her cousin Sonia.  A feud between Mr Crowe, a local farmer, and the school starts over the school using the right of way to walk through his land.

4marys_04

 

1980s

Like I mentioned before the 80s saw the Four Marys on some breaks. On one of these breaks the regular ongoing story had some similar themes, involved 3 friends in a ballet boarding school called The Three Imps. Perhaps they were testing out permanent replacements or maybe they just needed a break, but the Marys did return again and with a new artist. At the end of the 80s a new format seemed to settle with the Marys. With them being the first story in the issue, and the more modern School’s Out (which was replaced with The Comp by 1989) as the last story of the issue. Dr Gull had been replaced by the more forward thinking Miss Mitchell, and the girls even got to interact with boys from St. Bartophs boarding school.  The end of 1989 was also when Bunty got a new colour update. While some stories were still in black and white, The Four Marys were now fully coloured.

4marys_05

Some stories in the 1980s include the girls rallying a strike to stop Miss Creef being dismissed after a fall out with Dr Gull. A group of unruly circus girls joining the school temporarily. A new American pupil Lana  gets elected captain of the Bee’s House and wants to hold up all St. Elmos traditions including challenging the village boys to a football match, running barefoot down to the town and raising the house flag on the clock tower. A mystery involving the school’s founder Margaret Carews actual death. A temporary Home Economics teacher who has been secretly keeping her toddler daughter at the school. A competition sees the Marys all split up into different teams, this causes problems but in the end they all come together. St Elmo’s comes under threat of closure when they start to lose students, of course the school is saved with the help of the Marys.

1990s/ 2000s

So the 90s started with the Four Marys in colour and now expanded to 4 pages. The Four Marys was trying to change with the times, with the more up to date Miss Mitchell, continuing to modernise the school, and even Cotty stopped wearing her hair in 2 plaits. The girls were now frequently seen out of uniform as they were able to wear their regular clothes down town and like I mentioned before they were even mixing with boys. Still even with this more modern tone, the girls still has familiar adventures; dealing with new teachers with hidden agendas, threats to the school and tests of their friendships. By the end of the 90s earlier stories were reprinted a lot.

4marys_06

Stories in the 90s included; Mary Field having trouble when her cousin becomes her teacher, causing the other girls to think she’s a teacher’s pet. The girls go on a trip to America with Miss Creef and help foil a jewel thief. The girls try to help a girl they believe is being held captive. It turns out the wheelchair bound, Ailsa, who just has an overprotective aunt, but agrees to let her join St. Elmos. When a famous fashion designer comes to St. Elmos to unveil her new collection, it seems someone is out to sabotage her.  A story set in the past shows the Marys first term in St. Elmos. Raddy gets held captive by robbers who coerce Miss Mitchell into letting them hide out the school. The other Marys soon get suspicious of the new “gardener” and Miss Mitchell’s story that Raddy was sent home sick.

4marys_10

In the final story for The Four Marys, it looks like they will be split up when Cotty fails her exams and will have to leave St. Elmos. Luckily she passes her resit test, Raddy gets elected as form captain and Simpy ends the strip on line “The Four Marys forever”

bunty_2249_4maryslastissue

 

Final Thoughts

The Four Marys certainly had lasting power, although by the 80s/90s I think they were considered somewhat old fashioned, and so there was changes made to modernise them. At the same time the Marys were permanently stuck in the 3rd form, similar story-lines were repeated and in some ways they felt quite worn out. Still they appealed to a lot of readers. Personally growing up I did enjoy the Four Marys but I  was definitely more interested with The Comp. Funnily reading back the older issues even though it was before my time I actually find the 60s stuff appealing to me more, the art was more simplistic and it had a nice charm with the setting and stories. I think sometimes the Marys could come off a little too good and helpful at times, but still they weren’t without their flaws and their solid friendship it seems is one of the things that interested people.

The art changed a lot over the years and while the artists all did well, my personal favourites are  James Walker (60s) and Selby Donnison (80s).  There was a lot of adventure, mystery, fun and characters that you could get invested in.

 

Quick Links:

The Four Marys – Characters                                List of Appearances 

Virginia Creeper – the Sneak of St Kate’s

Plot

The Honourable Virginia Creeper had recently  become a pupil at St Katherine’s, an expensive boarding school for girls, to the great delight of the snobbish headmistress, Miss Agatha Nobb. Pippa Storm and her friends had tried to be nice to Virginia, but she was determined to cause trouble

Notes

Appeared

  • Virginia Creeper – the Sneak of St Kate’s – Mandy: circa #114 (22 March 1969) – (?)

No Teachers at our School!

Plot

When the teachers went on strike at her school, Amanda Roberts persuaded her father, who was a professor, to install computers in each class so that the girls could run the school by themselves. The Education Department agreed to give the girls a month’s trial, but were unaware that the seniors were bullying the juniors. Amanda was determined to show the younger girls that they could outwit the seniors, but she didn’t know that there was a spy in their midst, who told tales to Rachel West, the Head Girl.

Notes

Appeared

  • No Teachers at our School! – Mandy: circa #178 (13 June 1970) – (?)