Tag Archives: Swimming

The Gold Medal [1966] /Slave of the Watch [1978]

  • The Gold Medal – Judy: #329 (30 April 1966) – #336 (18 June 1966)
  • Art: Paddy Brennan
  • Reprinted as Slave of the Watch – Debbie Picture Story Library: #05 [1978]
  • Cover Art: Ian Kennedy

Plot

June Laing lived with her strict guardian, Miss Sharpe, who didn’t allow her to have any close friends, as that could interfere with her swimming training. She was determined June would be a British champion and she trained her in secret in a pool at their house. Miss Sharpe had some secrets, and spent time in the attic, where June was not allowed go. One day June is alone in house and finds Miss Sharpe has not locked the attic door properly. There June finds magazine scrapbook about another June Laing and Olympic gold medalist, but all the photos are scratched out! Some of the ceiling of the old house falls,she is knocked unconscious, and Miss Sharpe finds her. She is not pleased to find Jane was in attic, but thinks she doesn’t remember what she saw. A few days later June collapses going home from school (Miss Sharpe has not let her recover from her injury enough). A man Colonel Blount helps June, and insist on bringing her home. He recognizes Miss Sharpe but she cuts him off before he can say too much.

This mystery has spurred June to stand up to Miss Sharpe more, she thinks the other June Laing was her mother but she wonders how Miss Sharpe is involved.  June does well at her first swim competition and she finds out the older June, lost her gold medal because she took money for advertising swim wear and was no longer considered an amateur. She also finds out Colonel Blount’s daughter Jessica was June’s biggest rival, but Miss Sharpe hurries her away before she can talk to them. When June asks if someone could lose their medal for taking money for advertising, it brings on a headache for Miss Sharpe. Soon after a coach interested in June, sneaks in to the backyard to see June swim and offers to coach her. Normally Miss Sharpe wouldn’t consider it, but as her headaches are getting worse she relents. Mr Shefford is right that competition spurs on June and her timings improve. June becomes friendly with her rival Anne Clifton, while at her father’s store one day, June. After finds the advert that caused Laing to be disqualified. Mr Clifton tells her more of the story, that Laing claimed to have been tricked by her rival Jessica, but Mr Clifton suspects that it was actually the work of her sister, Janice Sinclair. Miss Sharpe finds them in the shop and after some harsh words, the girls fall out,  but they make up again, when they are both chosen for British team.

Between swimming training and competition, Jane does a bit more investigating into her namesake. She finds out more about Janice who apparently was jealous of June, despite being famous as a first class glider pilot herself. June begins to suspect Miss Sharpe is Janice (especially as Mr Clifton thought she resembled her), but then she sees she is afraid of flying. At the international competitions, Miss Sharpe continues to push June hard and doesn’t allow her to socialise with the other competitors. June barely qualifies for  next stage of the  competition,and Miss Sharpe blames Coach Shefford for being too soft on her. But he tells Miss Sharpe that she’s too hard on June and has never made her feel wanted or loved.  Miss Sharpe seems surprised at this. That night someone sneaks into June’s room to wish her luck and it spurs her on to win her next race. While Miss Sharpe dismisses the visitor as superstitious nonsense, June’s mystery friend is what keeps June going.

June’s is becoming quite famous and offers start pouring in, but she won’t make the same mistake as the older June and she burns them all. While doing this she notices one letter is a personal one, she rescues it and although it is half burnt,  she gathers that it is from her aunt Janice and she wants to meet at the international championships.  When June turns up, it turns out Janice wanted to meet original June to ask her for forgiveness, as it was indeed her that was the cause of the medal loss. June tells Janice, her mother is dead, but then later that night Miss Sharpe arrives and tells her she is her mother!  She confesses that she wanted to make Jane into a champion, to make up for her own disappointment.  She was also her secret visitor, showing that she did care about June, and she forgives her. With the truth out in the open, Miss Sharpe’s headaches go away as they were caused by tension. Her mother now openly affectionate and encouraging June is motivated to do her best and she wins the International gold medal.

Thoughts

While the reader may hope that June will win her swimming competitions and go on to win gold, the real drive of the plot is the mystery. The mystery of Miss Sharpe and June’s mother is quite intriguing, with some good red herrings throughout. Good pacing, means we get more snippets of information inter-weaved with June trying to become a swimming champion. With the case of many of these shorter stories, the end with the explanations and quickly forgiving protagonist, doesn’t work as well. Miss Sharpe/June Laing told her daughter she was dead and didn’t want to show her affection for fear she would lose control of her and she wouldn’t become a swimming champion, and June is very quick to accept that! I think it might have worked better if Miss Sharpe turned out to be the aunt trying to make up for her mistake through misguided means! I do appreciate the story did show us some of Miss Sharpe’s thoughts throughout, showing that all the lies are causing her headaches and her genuine surprise  when Shefford tells her June feels unloved. It makes her a bit more sympathetic and that she started visiting June unseen, showing more affection. Though I still think June is a bit too happy with the revelations of all the lies!

It’s funny that Laing chose the name Miss Sharpe, as she does embody the name with her sharp and harsh demeanor.  The artist (in Slave of the Watch) does a good job  showing the change from her usual stern face to her softer affectionate face when she reveals the truth. June is a sympathetic character throughout, her isolation makes her all the more vulnerable. It is good to see when she gains a friend, she begins gaining confidence and is able to push back against Miss Sharpe’s methods more. Of course while Miss Sharpe has taught her a lot, in the end she wouldn’t have become a champion without encouragement, some affection and a life outside of swimming!

Updated: Reading through some old Judys I realised this is actually a reprint of The Gold Medal, reformatted into a picture story library size with new art. Surprisingly the story is pretty much word for word despite restrictions in the smaller size, a few small things may have been changed but otherwise a pretty straight forward reprint. It wasn’t a long serial but would have been nice to see a few things expanded on, like I mentioned above, perhaps the original story could have down with an extra episode to wrap it up.

No Swimming for Sarah

Plot

When Sarah, a promising young swimmer, was adopted by the rich Mrs Jones she thought her dreams had come true. That was until Mrs Jones told her the real reason for the adoption was to stop her swimming ever again. But Sarah was determined to keep swimming no matter what the obstacles.

Notes

  • Art: George Martin

Appeared

  • No Swimming for Sarah – Debbie: #419 (21 February 1981)  – #430 (9 May 1981)

Stella Who? [1965]

Plot

Stella is a mystery girl, with even her last name a mystery. She lives alone with her cat Minty at a disused mill. Stella is a brilliant swimmer and her talent is spotted for the British team at the Empire Games. Welfare put Stella in Fairbridge Park, a school for crippled and backward children, and separate her from Minty. Stella runs away to find Minty and has an accident. She gets reunited with Minty, but is sent back to Fairbridge. Mrs Thorne, who is on the Welfare Board, takes Stella in, but this is to stop her being a swimming rival to her daughter Marion. However, Stella’s selector, Jean Roxham, knows about Marion’s hatred of Stella and suspects what is going on.

Notes 

  • Artist: Peter Kay

Appeared

  • Stella Who? – Bunty: circa #375 (20 March 1965) – (?)

Dina’s Desperate Days [1973]

Plot

Swimming coach Mary Driver, obsessed with training a champion, blackmails Dina Taylor into a merciless swimming regime to turn her into that champion. Things take an unexpected twist when Dina’s art teacher Mr Wright becomes a more kind-hearted second coach to help Dina with her butterfly stroke, and Driver is forced to agree to it.

Notes

  • Artist: Peter Kay

Appeared

  • Dina’s Desperate Days Debbie: #12 (5 May 1973) – #31 (15 September 1973)
  • Reprinted – Debbie: #388 (19 July 1980) – #407 (29 November 1980)

Clumsy Clare [1978]

Plot

Clare Dodd is a clumsy girl, but when she and her father go to live on a canal barge, she discovers she has a talent for swimming. Nellie Lee, who lives on a neighbouring boat, is a former swimming champion and offers to coach Clare. But Clare’s clumsiness causes problems, a lot of which are on the amusing side.

Notes

  • Artist: Barrie Mitchell?

Appeared

  • Clumsy Clare – Debbie: # 272 (29  April 1978) – #286 (5 August 1978)

Star of the Silver Pool (1983)

Plot

Invalid Alison West’s mother, a top diving coach, has disappeared in a plane crash so Alison has been sent to live with her cruel uncle and aunt and their selfish daughter, Brenda. Alison discovers a mysterious silver pool deep in a forest. There, with the aid of a mysterious voice, she starts learning to dive, and also begins to secretly use Brenda’s personal gym for the same purpose.

Despite her aunt’s decision to lock her in the cellar to prevent her from getting to the diving championships in the nearby town, Alison manages to escape with the help of a mysterious monk. A neighbour drives her to the venue, where she becomes county champion. Outside the building the monk appears again and leads her to a waiting car belonging to Mr Bundock, the family solicitor. When Alison asks where they are going he says he is to take her to the appointed place, which is an airport. The plane takes her to the very place in the Tibetan Himalayas where her mother’s plane had crashed over a year earlier. There she sees her silver pool and the face of her mother. She feels guilty about letting her mother down but her mother disagrees. When Alison turns round she sees her flesh-and-blood mother who has been cared for by the monks since the crash. A monk tells Alison that her mother had only been able to recover because her daughter had been strong too. The monk tells them that the work of the pool is over, and it is now time for them to return to their own world, time to begin their lives again.

Notes

Appeared

  • Star of the Silver Pool – Suzy: #35 (7 May 1983) – #50 (20 August 1983)

 

Mermaids at War

Plot

Former swimming star Dodie Lamont gave Diana Renton a job as a couch to the Mermaid Swimming club, promising to donate money to save Mermaids swimming pool only if Diana could produce a champion. Anthea Lomax and Maggie Main were the clubs brightest hopes and Diana turned them into deadly rivals to provoke best performance.

Notes

Appeared

  •  Mermaids at War – Suzy: #114 (10 November 1984) – #122 (5 January 1985)

Unfair to Favourites (1985)

Judy Picture Library 271

Published: Judy Picture Library #271.  Reprinted: Bunty Picture Library #428

Artists: Norman Lee (cover); Ana Rodriguez (story)

Plot

Jayne and Jean Gentry seem to have everything going for them in the activities they pursue: ballet (Jean), and athletics (Jayne). They are set to go to the top in their various activities and the school even makes allowances for it. But there is one problem – it has bred favouritism among their parents. Dad favours Jayne because she pursues sport, Mum favours Jean because she does the same with ballet, and neither parent pays much attention to the other girl. The root of the favouritism is that each parent only cares about one activity, which they once pursued themselves and are pursuing again through their respective daughter. Neither is willing to be more generous to the other activity; Mum does not care for athletics (“athletics don’t do anything for me”) and Dad is the same about ballet (“ballet nonsense”). Both say they don’t understand the other activity but neither makes an effort to understand it more.

Favourites

Each parent thinks that the other is too single-minded about the activity they do care about while deriding the other activity unfairly. Neither parent comes to the other activity to lend support to their other daughter. For example, Mum is annoyed that Dad doesn’t come to see Jayne perform on stage because he cares more about an athletics convention. Dad is likewise annoyed at Mum for not coming to watch and support Jean perform at an athletics event because she took Jayne to watch the Royal Ballet Company. This is not the case with the sisters themselves, who make the time to watch the other and give moral support.

Favourites 2

Jayne and Jean decide enough is enough and they need to find a way to change their parents. They start with trying to win something in the other activity, with the other’s help. But they forget that there is a reason that one pursues ballet/athletics and the other not – one has the aptitude for it, and the other not. And they soon find that out the hard way. When Jean tries cross-country running with Jayne’s help, she ends up in such a state that she is not fit for ballet class. When Jayne tries ballet with Jean’s help, she ends up with a foot injury that leaves her unfit for a sports event. In both cases the parents blow up, each blaming the other girl and the other parent unfairly. Each parent ends up quarrelling with the other about how they go over the top with the activity they favour, play favourites with their pet daughter, and don’t pay any attention to the other daughter. When Jayne, Jean and their dog Timmy return home wet after unwittingly using a leaky boat, Mum unfairly blames Jayne, thinking she encouraged Jean again, and this leads to a similar row between the parents. Mum and Dad can see it in each other all right – but they can’t see it in themselves, which is what they must do if things are to change.

Jean and Jayne then try to talk to their parents about how they carry on in playing favourites. But both take offence, saying they can’t help not liking ballet/athletics. The girls realise how set the parents are in their ways and it is going to be very difficult to change them.

The stress of the failure takes its toll on the girls, and they lose form at ballet/athletics. Their teachers recommend a break, so the parents stop making their daughters spend so much time at their various activities.

During the break, Jean and Jayne try something else. Jayne has a go at Jean’s other activity, which is skating. But the coach says that although Jayne is good, she is not good enough to make competition standard like her sister. When Jean tries Jayne’s other activity by making a bid for the school swimming trials, she fails because of the same thing – good but not good enough.

Then, after the swimming trials, Jayne grumbles at how fed up they are, and still wondering how to change their parents. A schoolteacher, Miss Maybrick, overhears and asks what is wrong. The girls explain the problem, and Miss Maybrick comes up with an idea – an activity that combines athletic and artistic ability.

Favourites 3

So for the next few weeks, the parents are disappointed to hear that the girls are on strike over ballet/athletics because of a school project that they are very secretive about. When the time comes, the school invites the parents to a gymnastics competition, which Jayne and Jean have been giving up everything else to train for. And it is here that both parents watch their daughters together; Dad sees Jean in action for the first time and Mum watches Jayne for the first time. When Mum watches Jayne’s floor exercises, she sees and appreciates the artistic side while Dad grasps the athletic part. When Jean goes on the bars, Dad is impressed at what she can do there, and Mum says it’s due to ballet, which has given her grace and strong muscles. Before long, both parents are cheering their daughters on. They are thrilled to see them win medals, and finally wake up to their earlier mistakes. Afterwards, they take Jayne and Jean out to a celebratory dinner. The girls know that they are both favourites with their parents now.

Favourites 4

Thoughts

 The premise is a refreshing one – two sisters who are the best of friends but suffer because each parent takes favourites over one child while ignoring the other, just because they are not a fan of the activity the other child pursues. It makes a change having two protagonists suffer in this way. Usually it is just one, who is overshadowed and put down because her sibling(s) excel at their various activities and make Mum and Dad proud while she doesn’t seem to shine at anything.

The portrayal of the parents is rooted in realism and real life, which makes their characterisation so effective. They are not intentionally neglectful or mean; it is just that they are both so single-minded about the activity they are interested in and the girl who pursues it to the exclusion of everything else in life. They are also narrow-minded about the other activity. Both parents make disparaging comments about the other activity, neither will give it more of a chance, or at least try to tolerate it enough to come and watch their daughter. They are too wrapped up in the activity they are interested in.

Favourites 5

The resolution is realistic and also refreshing. The girls confide in someone (which does not often happen in girls’ comics) who comes up with an idea that could be the answer. The girls can’t believe they didn’t think of it themselves.

The teacher and the headmistress are so wonderful in the way they bend over backwards to help the girls with their problem: excusing the girls lessons to train for it, and helping to keep it a carefully guarded secret until the parents are actually watching the event as they don’t know how the parents will take it if they had prior knowledge of it. The girls come away with a whole new appreciation for teachers, as do we. Sometimes teachers are not the idiots or meanies that they are in other stories. Sometimes they are the ones with the brains and wisdom to put everything right.

 

 

Kim of the Canals

Plot:

When Kim Barry’s grandfather dies, her horrible Uncle Sam and cousin Laura move into her barge home, the “Northern Queen”. They abuse Kim and treat her like a slave, but she puts up with it because of her love of swimming. She joins a swimming club and is determined to train at every opportunity.

Kim

Notes:

  • Writer: Maureen Hartley

Appeared:

  • Kim of the Canals –  Mandy:  #381 (04 May 1974) – #395 (10 August 1974)