Letters, Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

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Comic book literary classics

MICK Brown’s letter about children reading Dickens and Shakespeare brought back memories of my collection of Classic Illustrated books which I had when I was a boy.

Every second Saturday my father dragged me to Kayll Road Library, determined I should read children’s classics such as Treasure Island. Like most boys, I resented this. I felt time spent reading books was time wasted, when I could be doing more exciting things.

But I did enjoy reading my Classics Illustrated comic books (today they’d be called graphic novels). They were produced in the United States from 1949-71, in a number of languages. Most newsagents in Sunderland sold them, especially the bookstall in Jackie White’s Market. They only cost a few pence, so when got my pocket money I went on the search for new titles. I’m sure Echo readers of my age will remember these books too.

When I think about it now, it was an astonishing achievement to reduce the world’s greatest literature into comic strips. So without reading any of the books my dad wanted me to, I knew all the stories and their famous characters. Titles that spring to mind are King Solomon’s Mines, Lorna Doone, David Copperfield, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, A Tale of Two Cities, Kidnapped, Last of the Mohicans and Knights of the Round Table. When we went to see Ben Hur at the Ritz in Holmeside I was able to tell my family the story beforehand.

What happened to my collection I’ll never know. One day when I was 15 they just disappeared. I think my mam threw them in the dustbin along with my toy soldiers. Mothers do that sort of thing, don’t they? At that age boys get interested in other things (football, girls, pop music). You’re not even aware the things you treasured as a child are no longer there.

I’d really be interested now to have a look at them again and examine how they managed to turn literary works into comic book style.

The remarkable thing is I graduated in English literature at university, so the fact I didn’t do a lot of reading as a child didn’t harm me. Classics Illustrated clearly provided the foundation I needed.

Henry Whipple, Coach Road Estate, Washington

Research appeal

I AM researching the history of a now defunct Newcastle-based building contractor, Stanley Miller, which was started by Joseph Fishburn in Sunderland in 1853. He was a descendant of the famous shipbuilding family in Whitby who built Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour in which he discovered Australia.

Joseph Fishburn moved to Sunderland after their shipyard was compulsory purchased to make way for the Whitby terminus of the Pickering to Whitby railway.

In about 1855 they employed a general foreman, James Livingstone Miller, who eventually took over the company.

The company thrived during the inter-war years and built many famous landmarks in Newcastle including the Paramount and the City Hall and, in Sunderland, the Seaburn Hotel.

The company expanded in the 1960s under new leadership, building the majority of high-rise local authority blocks which still stand in Newcastle and Gateshead and most of the Byker Wall.

But it is the Sunderland beginnings which I am trying to trace and wondered if any Echo readers may be able to provide any information.

John Matthews, Email: jandjmatthews@btinternet.com

No cards or carols

AS that time of year approaches, one thing I simply cannot stand is getting a boring Christmas card. You know the type: it will probably have a robin or a Santa Claus on the front, a patronising poem on the inside and it’s usually signed by someone you see every week.

Why do people send them? Is it a obligation or simply tradition?

Another thing I hate about Christmas is carol singers. They come around with the begging bowl, usually wearing a scarf and carrying a lantern. I do my best to ignore them but it’s very hard. They sing the same old naff stuff every year and it’s always out of tune, so I hide behind the door until they go away.

On one occasion I actually told them that they were rubbish and all I got was the reply from the choirmaster “Thank you for your frankness” then they left.

It’s surely time carol singers were banned, not simply because they are poor singers but in this day and age it can be dangerous.

So I suggest that we go back to basics – no more naff Christmas cards and no carol singers.

Mick “The Pen” Brown

Plea over incident

I AM looking for anyone who saw an incident between two females on October 13, at about midday, outside Boots in the Bridges, Sunderland.

In particular I would like to trace a man who inquired as to the well-being of one of the women just after the incident.

Anyone who has any information can contact me on 0191 521 2701.

Name and address supplied