Creating Comics: Beano Editor Harry Cramond, as remembered by artist Steve Bright

Beano Editor Harry Cramond, by Steve Bright
Beano Editor Harry Cramond, by Steve Bright

Writer and artist Steve Bright, co-creator of Bananaman, recently posted a touching memory of The Beano’s second editor Harry Cramond on social media. Steve worked for Harry on The Beano for some 18 months and came to know the idiosyncrasies of his boss and, with Steve’s full permission, we present his memories of both Harry Cramond and The Beano office.

Over to Steve, as posted earlier this month (on 4th July 2017)…

Almost four decades ago, I watched the man I had not long before come to know as my boss, rise from his editor’s desk mid-morning, and quietly leave the office, having been summoned to the Vista Room above the top floor of DC Thomson’s tower block building in the heart of Dundee. I had no idea where he was going, nor gave it much thought at the time. Neither, I suspect, did any of my colleagues in the small office of five men who produced The Beano comic each week.

His name was Harry Cramond, affectionately known (to some, not all) as ‘The Grizzler’. To me, as an 18-year-old fresh out of school a few months before, he was a giant of a man, commanding great authority and respect, and occasionally an amount of unwarranted fear from all those around him. You might imagine that the office which produced the The Beano would be a veritable fun factory, full of laughter, anarchy and chaos. Not under Harry’s watch. I served 18 months before moving to the far giddier heights of the top floor (just below the Vista Room) and the relative Pleasure Dome that was the Nutty Office. The Beano, was a serious office in which to learn the serious trade of creating kids’ comics, and Harry’s reign as Editor was the reason why. He ruled the roost, filling the air with the sweet tobacco aroma of his briar pipe, which he would lovingly scrape out between smokes, into his brass dish, with the Three Wise Monkeys as its centre piece, upon which Harry used to tap the pipe in order to loosen the stubborn ash.

The Beano staff in 1978. From left to right, Steve Bright, Alan Digby (later a The Beano editor), Andy Sturrock, Kirsten (we wonder what she's doing now - probably anything that doesn't involve comics!), Dave Donaldson (former Nutty editor and Managing Editor) and Harry Cramond.
The Beano staff in 1978. From left to right, Steve Bright, Alan Digby (later a The Beano editor), Andy Sturrock, Kirsten (we wonder what she’s doing now – probably anything that doesn’t involve comics!), Dave Donaldson (former Nutty editor and Managing Editor) and Harry Cramond.

I loved my time in The Beano, and learned so much in those formative months, much of which still holds me in good stead to this day. It was the best and most fortuitous of starts for me, that I can only truly, fully appreciate in hindsight. Back then, it was a quiet and sober atmosphere… until Friday afternoon, when it was a quiet and drunken one (tradition!). But it worked, and Britain’s best-selling comic never failed to flow from its hub each week.

Harry must have been in his late 50s by then, and the rest of us were mere striplings, with a chief sub editor in his early/mid 30s, two subs in their 20s, and me, yet to leave my teens. And we found many times and ways to let our hair down (we certainly had plenty of it back then) when Harry wasn’t in the office. But when he took his seat, the fun stopped and the… er…”serious fun” began, as we all set about writing scripts, and processing our respective weekly pages, once the comic artists had worked their magic on our words. In my case, it was Billy Whizz, Biffo the Bear, The Nibblers, and Pup Parade, as well as the office junior’s “privilege” of compiling the letters page for Dennis the Menace’s Fan Club. It was quite a workload, and all new to me then, and Harry guided me through it all with great patience and (often) humour. He may have steered a sober ship, but he could also show great warmth and kindness when needed, and was fiercely loyal to his staff.

On the day in question, however, there was very little evidence of humour as he shuffled out of the office door that morning. He told us he’d be back in an hour. He returned within the hour, shuffling more slowly than when he left, and sat in his chair, surrounded by silence (although we were all watching). In his hand was a brand new shiny gold watch, which I was later to find out was given to him by the directors in the Vista Room (with buffet) as a thank you for his 40 years’ service with the company. Like my office mates, I pretended to be checking over a page of artwork as I watched The Grizzler hold his watch in one hand, whilst tugging at his not-inconsiderable left eyebrow with the other (Harry’s habitual stress-buster). He stared at the watch for about 30 seconds, before grunting, opening his deep side drawer, and throwing it with complete and utter disdain into the bowels of his desk, never to be seen again.

To this day, I have no idea why, although I’m fairly certain it wasn’t a reflection on the quality of the watch.

Today is American Independence Day, and I’d like to wish all of my U.S. friends a joyous celebration. It’s also exactly 40 years to the day when I first entered the Courier Building in Dundee as an 18-year-old, on July 4th, 1977, to begin my own four-decade long association with comics and cartooning.

Beano Editor Harry Cramond's Ashtray
Beano Editor Harry Cramond’s Ashtray

When Harry died some years back, I was unable to attend his funeral. But not long afterwards, I received an unexpected package through the post from my ex-flatmate and former Dandy Editor, Morris Heggie, who had also served as a Beano sub-editor during Harry’s reign in the years before I joined the company.

Inside was The Grizzler’s brass dish, complete with Three Wise Monkeys, which was found in his old desk and has now become a permanent fixture on my drawing board. A touch of real class from Mr Heggie that I will always treasure.

I still do freelance cartoon work for DC Thomson, but I’m not expecting a watch. Unless you also found Harry’s lurking in the bowels of that desk, Morris…?

• There are more details of all Steve Bright’s work on his website – www.brighty-art.co.uk

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News Team

This account features guest posts by a wide variety of comics industry professionals, often cross posted with permission from their web sites. Our thanks to them for their support.

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