The Ladybird Book of Nursery Rhymes, and a photograph of Digby the Cat courtesy Peter Hampson

Who knew Dan Dare’s “Digby” was also a cat?

Eagle fans will know Peter Hampson was his father Frank Hampson’s model for “Flamer” Spry in the original “Dan Dare” strip. But Peter was also called on to help his father when he illustrated for Ladybird Books… and the family cat, Digby, too!

“A Ladybird Books fan asked Helen Day of the website Ladybird Fly Away Home whether the cat featured in several of my father’s Ladybird Books was actually our cat,” Peter noted recently on the official Frank Hampson web site.

“I confirmed that it was indeed our cat, named Digby after Dan Dare’s batman.

“I also found this photograph of Digby and myself, aged about six, in the garden of Bruce Lodge in Epsom.

“The photo was taken around 1953 and obviously came in handy in 1967 when my father was illustrating this book of nursery rhymes.”

The Ladybird Book of Nursery Rhymes, and a photograph of Digby the Cat courtesy Peter Hampson
The Ladybird Book of Nursery Rhymes, and a photograph of Digby the Cat courtesy Peter Hampson

Ladybird Books first commissioned Frank Hampson in 1964, to produce illustrations for The Stories of Our Christmas Customs. Over the next six years he worked on a further nine titles, including three books of Nursery Rhymes and two of the Kings and Queens of England, The History of Food, The History of Transport, Christmas Customs, Madame Curie and of course, books in the Peter and Jane series designed to help learner readers, which featured Peter Hampson as Peter.

"Peter and Jane watch the artist" - an illustration by Frank Hampson from the Ladybird Key Words Scheme book 5b, "Out in the Sun". Courtesy Peter Hampson
“Peter and Jane watch the artist” – an illustration by Frank Hampson from the Ladybird Key Words Scheme book 5b, “Out in the Sun”. Courtesy Peter Hampson

“Here, as with all his commissions, he remained a stickler for accuracy,” Peter says of his father’s work. “His historical subjects were always meticulously researched and the love of detail that he brought to ‘Dan Dare’ is very apparent in these Ladybird illustrations.”

The Official Frank Hampson web site

The Ladybird Fly Away Home site

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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