The Story Of Billy Bunter

Billy Bunter, dubbed by his companions at Greyfriars School ‘the Fat Owl of the Remove,’ but introduced by himself as William George Bunter, of Bunter Court, is perhaps one of the best known schoolboy fictitious characters in the British Empire. School-age readers first met him more than thirty years ago through the medium of the boys’ magazine the ‘Magnet’. Billy Bunter, at first quite a minor character, grew so much in popularity that the ‘Magnet” soon had a sub-title, “Billy Bunter ‘s Own Paper.”

Grotesque in appearance, as you can see by the illustrations on this page, he is the owner not only of a large pair of spectacles over which he continually blinks, but also the tightest trousers in Greyfrairs, which, for some reason, are checked, unlike the vertically striped ones worn by the other boys. In all the stories Bunter never walked like the normal boy; he rolled. His hands were called paws; he bleated instead of speaking. Where all his chums laughed ‘Ha! ha! ha!’ Bunter laughed ‘He! he! he!’ He was always expecting, but never receiving, postal orders, and trying to borrow on credit, mostly so that he could retire to his favorite haunt, the tuckshop, where he would consume large quantities of jam tarts, doughnuts, cake and ginger pop.

Always in trouble of some sort, frequently being booted by his companions, Bunter was doomed to be the object of all japes. His friends felt it was a fellow’s own fault if he was ever taken in by Bunter’s tricks because all his affairs were so barefaced.

For years he has ‘yaroohed,’ ‘yarooped’ and ‘whooped’ through adventures, the number of o’s depending on the amount of pain inflicted on him by the different sized boots of his comrades. He had few praiseworthy qualities other than his power to incite mirth, so that no-one ever felt sorry when dogs ran away with his food; when he bit into decoy pies full of pepper; or slipped or was thrown into puddles, streams, fountains or horse troughs. Withal he was never really unpopular, because he was so harmless and the working of his brain so transparent.

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 – 1954), Thursday 30 December 1948, page 30

There is a great online repository of ‘The Magnet’ here

Here’s how the figure of Billy was depicted from 1908 through to 1940. Most of the fabulous illustration is the work of Charles Chapman. 1930-1934 are regarded as the Magnet’s ‘Golden Years’


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