July 14 2017: Yaroo, you beasts!


Doubtless it says much about the blog’s age profile that the very mention of Campion – home to Bedlington Terriers, FA Vase, September 9 – reminded both Keith Stoker and Pete Sixsmith of Gerald Campion.

Pete’s text message even embraced the anticipated pre-match routine. “It wasn’t me that ate your Wetherspoons breakfast, Amos, and even if I did I didn’t enjoy it.”

Remember Gerald Campion? You’re almost certainly over 60, then.

Campion – memorably – played Billy Bunter, the Fat Owl of the Remove, in 120 televised episodes between 1952-61. When they started, the supposed schoolboy was 29, when they finished almost 40. On all occasions he was well padded.

Bunter, frequently described as an egregious ass, was a pupil at Greyfriars public school in the company of such young gentlemen as Bob Cherry, Harry Wharton and Hurree Ramsit Jam Singh, known for reasons of political incorrectness as Inky.

Bunter, says a website, was “dishonest, greedy, pathologically self-centred, snobbish, conceited, lazy, cowardly, mean spirited and stupid.”

Apart from that, what wasn’t to like?

“The snobbery was as gross as Bunter’s belly,” declared The Guardian when Campion died, aged 81, in 2002.

The series ended when Frank Richards, Bunter’s creator and writer, died. Plans much later for a cartoon version featuring the voices of Michael Palin and John Cleese were abandoned on the grounds that it might be offensive to the obese.

Finding himself typecast – he even played Toad of Toad Hall, a sort of batrichian Bunter – Campion became a successful restaurateur and food critic, particularly delighted when the man most still thought of as the oafish Bunter found his way into the Good Food Guide.

After Richards’s death, he also wrote some Bunter scripts of his own which he sent to the BBC – one of them telling of William George Bunter being captured by cannibals, stuck in a cooking pot and required to eat a clove of garlic.

For some reason the BBC didn’t reply.