The news that Megan, a border collie from Northumberland had become the world’s most expensive sheepdog may have reminded The Dandy comic fans of “Black Bob“, the endearing canine created by writer John Hunter and artist Jack Prout.
A number of news outlets, including ITV News, reported yesterday that real-life collie Megan had been sold at auction in Yorkshire to an American ranch owner for £18,900.
The Dandy publishers DC Thomson were clearly ahead of the game when it comes to the recognising the undoubted popularity of a good shaggy dog story.
Although canny canine character Black Bob, who made his debut in 1944, had long departed the weekly comic before its demise in 2012, there’s no doubt his popularity has endured through collections and occasional merchandise.
Black Bob (“The Dandy Wonder Dog”) was a fictional Border Collie from Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, owned by shepherd Andrew Glenn, who originally appeared as a text story in The Dandy Number 280, cover dated 25th November 1944.
That first story saw Black Bob following his owner’s nephew who is playing truant and trying to bring him back to school.
The “Black Bob” illustrated stories were the work of writer John Hunter (1903-1984), illustrated by Jack Prout, and published by Dundee-based publisher DC Thomson in The Dandy until Issue 2122, cover dated 24th July 1982; and The Weekly News between 1946 and 1967.
The character clearly took inspiration from the popular Lassie character created by novelist and screenwriter Eric Knight. Lassie Come Home was first published in 1940, expanded from a short story published in 1938 in The Saturday Evening Post. In 1943, one year before Black Bob arrived in The Dandy, Knight’s Yorkshire sheepdog story was brought to the big screen by MGM in 1943, with a dog named Pal playing Lassie.
(That Black Bob is still remembered may owe something to “Black Bag, The Faithful Border Bin Liner”, the scurrilous send-up in VIZ, drawn by Aberdeen- based Graeme Murdoch, of course).
While The Dandy may seem an increasingly distant memory for some, the Friends of John Hunter & Black Bob are determined to keep the the comic canine star alive, and ensure recognition for his creator.
A group of people centred on Selkirk, their aim is to ensure John Hunter gets due recognition for creating the stories about Black Bob and his shepherd Andrew Glenn (who lived just west of Selkirk).
John, originally from Hawick, came to live in Selkirk, and ran a shop in Market Place where the Post Office is now. Many of the Black Bob stories were written there.
‘The Spirit of Black Bob Walk’ celebrates John’s memory, and routes that John would have walked with his own dogs can be downloaded from the Friends of John Hunter & Black Bob website.
A commemorative plaque marks the shop where John Hunter penned the Black Bob stories.
Black Bob copyright DC Thomson Media