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Saying goodbye to Billy and Bunny

Saying goodbye to Billy and Bunny

Today we received a visit from a young member of staff from another department. She wanted to know when The Courier stopped carrying adverts on the front page and put news there.

It just seems like yesterday but we pointed her in the direction of the editor’s office where a framed copy of the first Courier with front-page news hangs.

We made the change on March 30, 1992. It was a complete re-design and modernisation of content.

A few years before that we had refreshed the design of the paper and parted company with our long-running comic strip, Billy and Bunny. I say long-running because no-one ever seemed to know when it started.

It had been there throughout my childhood and into adulthood and my parents never knew the paper without it.

I recall my mother reading it to me as a very small boy. I also remember a sense of unease that bordered on alarm.

Billy was a boy and Bunny was a rabbit. But Bunny was a rabbit as big as a large boy. He also dressed as a schoolboy in top hose and short trousers. Yes, short trousers revealing furry legs. Floppy ears too. And he wore mittens. This over-sized rabbit shared a room with Billy but no mention was ever made of hygiene issues.

The comic strips were accompanied by rhyming text in a meter hinting at a whispered mystery. Even as a child, you knew something was not right. A bit like your first introduction to pantomime.

But what kept you on the edge of your seat was the ever-present fear of the appearance of Puck, the villain.

As boys went, he was a particularly bad one and dressed the part. A black suit and jester’s cap. His appearances were infrequent but the effects were long lasting.

It seems that Bill and Bunny were part of this newspaper’s history from the very start. As you may know, the two daily newspapers in this part of the world, The Courier and The Advertiser, merged in 1926 and it looks like this is when the pair bounded on to our pages.

From what I can find, they hopped across the pages from another publication, Fairyland Tales, a children’s magazine populated by goblins, imps, piglets dressed in lace hats and plenty of rabbits in their Sunday best.

Fairyland Tales were published throughout the 1920s and 1930s and, in terms of technology, they were ahead of their time in being printed in colour.’Well Pulled, Willie’Some of the characters would not pass PC muster today and other story headlines, like Well Pulled, Willie, may sound quaint to us today.

Even more disturbing than Billy and Bunny was Harry and Hornie, a comic strip about a girl called Harriet and her friend, a goat who dressed as a man. Their adventures were curious to say the least.

See the carousel above for a selection of photographs of Billy and Bunny, Billy and Bunny in colour, Well Pulled, Willie and Harry and Hornie.

In the weeks ahead, I hope to capture Puck on camera.

After all, he has not seen daylight for close on 25 years.

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