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Billy Bunter fans tuck in to the exploits of comic schoolboy 100 years on
Enthusiasts devoted to the most prolific author in the world will be celebrating this weekend when Billy Bunter, his most famous creation, turns 100. But few outside of the Bunter fan club will have heard of Charles Hamilton.
Guinness World Records estimates that Hamilton published about 75 million words in his lifetime. In his prime he was producing up to 80,000 words a week for boys’ magazines, but he hid his talents behind 28 pseudonyms.
He created Bunter, the archetypal “Fat Owl of the Remove” for Magnet magazine under the name Frank Richards. Today Billy Bunter would probably be classed as clinically obese rather than fat and his classmates would find themselves in trouble for mocking him. Despite his large bottom, self-centred behaviour, undisguised greed and the postal order that never arrives, Bunter has become such a favourite that he has his own fan club known as the Friars, after Greyfriars School.
His debut in the first issue of Magneton February 15, 1908, was followed by 1,683 episodes, of which Richards wrote 1,380. The Magnet closed in 1940 as a casualty of the war but Bunter did not die with it. The character went on to appear in books and a popular 1950s television series, also written by Hamilton.
Under that and other guises Hamilton is believed to be the most prolific author in the world. Bunter is the one creation for which he is still remembered.
The bespectacled William George Bunter, aged about 15, was the bane of generations of overweight schoolboys who were inevitably nicknamed Bunter.
Among those joining the centenary celebrations at a restaurant in Covent Garden on Saturday will be Peter McCall, the president of the Friars Club, a thin, retired GP who warns young people today against following the example of Bunter.
Mr McCall said: “Of the seven deadly sins he is the living embodiment of pride, envy, avarice, greed, sloth, wrath and gluttony. His name has endured and is used to describe obesity by people who might have no idea about who he was. Bunter’s selfish, self-centeredness is a prominent feature throughout the Greyfriars saga. His needs are paramount and any chap not concerned with them alone is a selfish rotter.
“He is deluded and has a firm belief in his own superiority, which is reinforced when he speaks with foreigners.”
Bunter was also a racist, using taunts that are unsuitable for a family newspaper. Mr McCall said: “Bunter is a lazy coward who thieves, blackmails, has an aversion to washing, is poor at games and will do anything for his own ends. Bizarrely the only thing he is really good at is ventriloquism.
“Despite all these faults he is very popular with readers.”
The centenary dinner will be attended by 20 members of the Friars Club. Brian Simmonds, who is organising the event, said: “It is a traditional English restaurant and I’m sure Billy Bunter would have loved the menu. We will certainly be tucking into the pies and sweets. We call it food but Bunter would have called it tuck and wouldn’t have been satisfied until he had gorged on everything on offer.”