petermorwood: (Default)
[personal profile] petermorwood
Diane spotted someone’s Twitter enquiry about the skool uniform colours of that admirable educational institution St Custard’s, but when she asked my advice, to mutual surprise I couldn't produce an answer straight away. So I went looking. Well, you do, don’t you?

It would seme that Skool uniform colours aren't described anywhere in the text, at least nowhere I spotted during an admittedly cursory flip through my copy of The Compleet Molesworth. The interior black and white line drawings by Ronald Searle most frequently show a light blazer with dark lapels, light piping and a badge on the breast pocket.

How to be Topp (Armada and Armada Lion, also Puffin, all early-1970s paperbacks) represent it as a yellow blazer with black piping, which is also the colour scheme used on at least one (the US?) version of Back in the Jug Agane, an edition of The Compleet Molesworth, (Pavilion 1985) and a retitled compilation simply called Molesworth (Penguin Modern Classics 2009.) The most common cover for Whizz for Atomms shows Molesworth 1 in a bubble-helmeted space-suit, though it does have a school badge on the chest, but lurking in the depths of Google Images (it was lurking, not me) I found a tiny cover image of an Atomms cover where once again he is clad in yellow-and-black. This colour scheme is not only the one most recently and frequently used, it's probably the most easily recognised, and also most closely represents the light-blazer-with-dark-piping of the monochrome drawings.

The above fakts are correkt for a change. I had all of the above books when I too was but a mere skoolboy, but after the passage of many years, had cause to check my recollections in the aforesaid Google Images. (Posh prose eh? Go it, Morwood.)

However Searle's drawings also show a light blazer with light lapels and dark piping, a dark blazer with dark lapels and light piping, and a "Henley Regatta" striped blazer suitable for both Fotherington-Thomas and that rather unsettling pupil whose "developing individual character" evidently includes Resurrection, and not the kind taught in Divinity. These are all in Down with Skool, so it's not a change of uniform between different books. Long trousis are usual, with shorts for new bugs. The school cap is always represented as being "hooped" – horizontally striped – light and dark, with a badge at the front.

The Down with School cover of the Armada and Armada Lion 1970s paperback shows a red blazer with yellow piping and a red and yellow hooped cap; these colours also appear on the cover of Back in the Jug again (same publisher, and when viewed alongside Down with Skool, very clearly the same cover designer.) The red blazer also appears on a reissue (or possibly US edition) of The Compleet Molesworth but when compared to the frequency of the yellow-and-black colour scheme, the red-and-yellow is no more than a temporary aberration.

Or hav I missed something…?

(And I note that [ profile] miss_next is looking for some information about Radio Malt. I shall go looking for that, too. Funny that two questions about Molesworth would pop up on the same day... It must be an omen.)

Date: 2011-01-10 11:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
How to Be Topp?

Didn't I see this book quoted in Kingdom of Champions at least a decade and a couple of versions of the Champions role-playing game ago?

Date: 2011-01-11 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Anything is possible with Molesworth: "as any fule kno" has slipped quietly into British usage, the books first came out in the 1950s, and at least a decade before, the character was commenting on the progress of the war and the Home Front from the pages of Punch. I have a couple of extracts photocopied from the collection in my Uni library.

For example:
May 11 1942. Gran take us to weedy concert at happy home canteen chiz chiz chiz as she sa i am to do famous imitation of hitler. i sa no dash it all but gran repli imitation is super and admired by all who haf seen it gosh am i that good? All soldiers browned off at thort of concert they eat sossages dejectedly. Start off fercely shake fists moostache tremble all hairs stand on end but chiz as i friten baby in second row. Does real hitler haf this problem? Soldiers remane browned off until moostache drop off chiz then pandermonium and all cheer. molesworth 2 blub he haf not been asked to pla faire bells on piano and all soldiers agane sunk in misery. molesworth 2 begin to pla mightily sossages fly into air mashed potates leap like pancakes ham sandwiches fly apart and soldiers deeply impressed it is like the noise of battle. Gran leave note that she unable to make final speech. Also she doubt whether anyone else will be able if molesworth 2 pla faire bells anything like he ushually do.
Not a bad wheeze aktually.

Date: 2011-01-11 12:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That reads just about right for the style of the quotations I saw.

Date: 2011-01-11 12:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That quotation is original Geoffrey Willans, but as I discovered when I wrote a couple of mock-Molesworth pieces for SF con books years ago, getting the style, the tone and (believe it or not) the spelling right is harder than it seems.

I think those are still floating around somewhere, I suspect on a (gasp) 3.5 floppy; must find them. Then find something to read them on...

Date: 2011-01-11 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Further to my own con-book ventures into Molesworthiana (is that a word? It is now!) and that I didn't know where to find them: it turns out that someone on the Interwebs has saved the first, which is about general SF and Fantasy (

The other, more specifically about Star Trek, was never posted anywhere except in a UFP-Con convention book, and is going to be harder to track down. But it's here somewhere (he said, looking at a stack of boxes like the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

I am just going up to the attic and may be some time...

Date: 2011-01-11 06:13 am (UTC)
uitlander: (Default)
From: [personal profile] uitlander
I inherited a 1950s edition of Down with Skool from my parents. The dust jacket clearly shows the skool uniform to be yellow and black. The illustration is by Searle. I view that as Canonical.

Date: 2011-01-11 06:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That confirms something I had begun to suspect: that the two red-and-yellow cover illustrations I mentioned (though also by Searle...) were coloured to that particular cover-designer's preference, nothing more.

Since the interior drawings are B&W only, it leaves them open to...let's say 'interpretation' anyone with a box of crayons or a packet of coloured pencils, except for the blazers printed in solid black - and those could be interpreted as black, blue-black, navy, dark blue, purple, crimson or even the bottle green of my own Oflag.

The 1950s DJ colour scheme is canonical enough for me, too; evidently that's where its reappearances originated. So Molesworth 1 was the same colour as a wasp or yellowjacket; I wonder (and rather doubt) if that was an accident. :-)

As any fule knos....

Date: 2011-01-11 06:30 am (UTC)
uitlander: (Default)
From: [personal profile] uitlander
I shall see if I can find where my copy is (I'm still not sure of where all the books are after the move last year). Assuming the DJ is intact (which I think it was) I'll get it scanned for you. There are also B&W illustrations on the inside cover (Nigel had 'personalised' it) which I don't think have made it through to later editions. Again I'll see if I can sort out a scan of that for you.

Re: As any fule knos....

Date: 2011-01-11 06:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oo, oo, yes please!

I've actually seen this 'personalisation' and would love to get a better look; it's on the homepage of a Molesworth fansite, and also appears briefly in an odd animation of Down with Skool on YouTube. I'll try to find the URLs of both...

Re: As any fule knos....

Date: 2011-01-11 08:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Is the Molesworth illumination to the inner cover of Down with Skool anything like this? (

And furthermore, here's the strange YouTube stop-motion thing (

I've been wondering why Rupert ("Ron Weasley") Grint keeps popping up in searches involving Molesworth and his book titles; it turns out he did a reading of "Down with Skool" for the BeebBeebSee.

At least I think it was a reading, because I can't imagine how you'd start to dramatise something like this, and since a large part of Molesworth's dotty charm is his idiosyncratic approach to spelling, any vocal version is going to have to work harder than usual. Must download one of the several versions and give it a listen...

Re: As any fule kno....

Date: 2011-01-11 11:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
SO I've listened to "Down with Skool..."

It really is a sort of semi-dramatisation, with Grint voicing Molesworth (and, equally importantly, his "reel thorts".) There's a small additional cast of others playing "everyone else" - teachers, parents and a tribe of rebellious prunes (yes, really) - and a generous sprinkling of sound-effect stings from the BBC SFX archive (often misplaced or not needed: the equivalent of saying "this is a joke" in case people don't get it.)

But does it work?

No, not really. Obviously all the visual stuff - eccentric spelling, sudden EMPHASIS, breathless run-on sentences and a cavalier approach to punctuation - is gone, as well as Searle's artwork.

What remains is pretty leaden stuff, mostly because it sounds like Rupert Grint phoned in his performance. No, something phoned in would have had more animation; this, delivered in a flat, seldom-varying monotone not far removed from a good speech synthesizer, was texted* in.

(*Discuss Molesworthian English as an ancestor of modern chatspeak - five pages, begin...)

The studio director is equally to blame for accepting such a lacklustre reading. In fact the whole thing sounds oddly more like the first read-through than a finished production, as if they ran out of time and had to use a rehearsal recording.

I wanted to like it. There were so many places where a bit more spark - "Let's have that again, Rupert, and this time let's hear you really hate the prospect of a Botany walk" - would have made the lines funnier, and maybe even audibly simulated the visual humour of the spelling, punctuation and so on. So many chances, and every one of them missed.

It's a real shame.

Date: 2011-01-11 06:32 am (UTC)
uitlander: (Default)
From: [personal profile] uitlander
Of course, the other thing to bear in mind is the concept of the 'winter' and 'summer' uniforms. My school (which took St Custards as it's role model) was very keen on having two mutually exclusive (and stupidly expensive) variants. So there is certainly wiggle room for interpretation.

Date: 2011-01-11 07:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We had Junior and Senior uniforms; there's not enough difference between Summer and Winter in Northern Ireland (the rain is warmer or colder as appropriate) to justify seasonal changes except in sports kit.

Date: 2011-01-11 06:29 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I would have thought that with a name like St Custard's, a yellow blazer would be the logical choice.... but then, some schools did have more than variety of uniform, for Upper and Lower school or Sunday best sometimes.

Date: 2011-01-11 06:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
(Forehead slap)

Sometimes things are so obvious you don't see them until they hit you in the face...
The Klingon captain stood still for a moment, custard streaming down his boiled shirt front. There was a maraschino cherry in the middle of his forehead...and then, like magic, there was a pie in Kaden's hand.

Blueberry, thought Kirk instead of ducking.
Splat. Blueberry it was... (from John M. Ford's How Much For Just the Planet?)
or until they don't hit you at all...
Vetinari inspected the captured custard. He dipped a finger in it and tasted the blob thereon...He cast his eyes upward...and then said, pensively: "I do believe it is pineapple." (from Terry Pratchett's Making Money)

Date: 2011-01-11 07:35 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile]
---- [|}


Date: 2011-01-11 07:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The two separate enquiries are no coincidence - the person on Twitter was, in fact, me! Thank you so much for this. I will explain what I want with this information in a separate comment which I will then delete, because I don't want one particular individual seeing it. :-)

Date: 2011-01-11 08:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Aha, a speshul sekret surprise! (like the "Trap for Dere Santa" - a massive bear-trap right in front of the fireplace.)

I grew up with these books. Can you tell...?

Date: 2011-01-11 09:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Precisely that, yes!

I didn't grow up with them, which I think is a great pity, but I made up for lost time later. We did keep getting snippets of them quoted in other books, usually in English classes, and I always told myself I would get hold of the originals at some point, because they always made me laugh. I did... and then made the mistake of reading the complete set on the tram.

Oh well. I expect people think I'm strange anyway. :-)

Date: 2011-01-11 12:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For some reason, I have always pictured the uniform as maroon with yellow piping. I have, now I think about it, no idea why I think this.

Date: 2011-01-11 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Long-ago recollections of those three variant covers, perhaps? (The ones with yellow-piped red blazers.)

Until I checked Google Images, I thought I'd once seen a cover showing a mid-blue uniform with white piping; I think I was getting confused with the mid-blue background and white lettering on my Puffin copy of How to be Topp.

Memory is a peculiar thing.

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