I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Ginger Meggs the Role Model

GINGER MEGGS, Jimmy Bancks’ brilliant Australian comic strip character, was my hero when I was a little girl.

The more I think about it the more I’m convinced that my love of reading and writing began when I followed Ginger Meggs from a very early age.

Ginger was a raggle taggle schoolboy who led his pack of mates and pets into all sorts of adventures. They stole fruit from the neighbourhood orchards, played tricks on other kids and their Mums and had an ongoing hate relationship with the headmaster at their school.

I suppose I was about six when I began looking forward to Ginger’s adventures each week-end in the Sydney Sunday Sun. My Dad would divide up the pages when the paper arrived. He’d read the news section, Mum the recipes and my sister and I would get the comics.

The colourful strips with the lively loose sketches of the red-haired hero were wondrous to me, and it wasn’t too long before my thirst for the written word took in books as well as comics, and I began to write little stories myself.

I was just twelve when I did a rewrite of Cinderella and sent it into the Sunday Sun children’s pages, then called 'Sunbeams'. In my story Cinderella morphed into ‘Jetrella’ and rode off to the ball in a space ship. It won a 'Sunbeams' certificate and a few shillings.

I became one of those lucky people who developed a hobby as a child that was to remain important to me for the rest of my life. By fifteen I had a full time job doing it and worked as a journalist and corporate public relations manager for the next 45 years.

After retirement I did my first degree, choosing a BA with Creative Writing and Australian History majors, and have been writing short and long fiction ever since. See my writing blog here.

Ginger Meggs himself is still very much alive, albeit his founder Jimmy Bancks died in 1952 from a heart attack. Bancks’ little hero first saw the light of day when the artist worked for the famous Bulletin magazine and at the same time submitted to the Sydney Sun a strip called ‘Us Fellas’ in 1921.

The red-haired Ginger Meggs was one of the ‘fellas’, and soon gained a comic of his very own. This became one of Australia’s most popular strips. A string of other cartoonists have drawn the strip since Bancks’ death, and today Melbourne comic strip artist and comedian Jason Chatfield creates the drawings.

See Jason's comment below which corrected a former remark of mine. Sorry Jason! Have a look at some of Jason's work and here at the official Ginger Meggs site where Jason has been kind enough to feature 70 Plus and Still Kicking.

Ginger Meggs illustrations from

Do you think comics can play a role in encouraging children towards reading better quality literature?

Were you lucky enough to have a hobby as a child which later became a full blown career/interest for life?


  1. Our daughter was about 11 when she asked her father to get her a copy of Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven' when he was next in Sydney. Startled and overjoyed at her precocity, I asked where on earth she'd heard of it. Apparently it was used in The Simpson's Halloween special! Bart was the annoying Raven. So I then used it for my very clever English students when I was teaching the concepts of Postmodernism. As Matt Groening, its creator said, the more you read the more jokes you get.
    So, yes, I do believe that comics or cartoons can lead to some very interesting literary journeys.

    I reckon any reading is far better than no reading.

  3. My son became easily bored with the 'early readers' given to primary school chldren so I gave him my 60s & 70s MAD magazines to read.

    He read and re-read them because he found he missed a lot of punch-lines the first read through.

  4. Hi June,

    A terrific read - thank you for sharing this lovely story.
    Sadly, Kemsley passed away in 2007 of Motor Neurone Disease, however Ginge is still going strong at 88 years old at my drawing board. Do keep reading, and I hope Ginge still inspires you today as Jimmy's incarnation did back then.

    All the best,

    Jason Chatfield
    (Your post has been featured on the official Ginger Meggs blog at: )

  5. The comic pages were an important part of my early childhood reading when I was growing up. The newspaper was divided up among family pretty much the way yours was, especially on a Sunday morning, when the comics were in color and there were four pages of it! My siblings and I had to take turns getting those pages.

    When my older brother left home to go off to college, we missed him terribly. I remember we sent him a care package of what we thought were very important things. In it, we included, the Sunday comics from our local newspaper. I haven't thought about that in years!

  6. Hi June, Another great blog idea and great read... and even getting mentioned in dispatches... Good for you missus !
    Up the Oldies !

    It was a book about a wee girl called Heidi that I received for my 7th Birthday ( I think, mind you it was a looong time ago) That started me off reading and enjoying books and therefore being transported to different worlds via the written word... I was never clever enough at school to make a career in writing or even go on to college or university.

    For the 9 years before I retired I worked in an office where I was checking out letter queries and then dictating replies to customer letters and attempting to give customers explanations of the interest rates charged on their accounts.

    The funny thing was that my supervisor at work and I went to visit a fortune teller a few years before I retired and she seemed to be under the impression that I was a writer or a novelist heeeheee... She had thought I would be in just the right line of work whereby I would be able to tell fairy stories in my work ..... come to think of it I did have to give a few stories and stretch facts a bit to explain how the retail part of our company operated at times.

    In the land of make believe (in my mind )I would have loved to have continued my art classes and gone on to make something of that but the real world intervened as I was the oldest of five children and had to come down to earth and find a job... That's life !

    Hugs Kate x.

  7. Ginger Meggs appears in quite a few newspapers here in India as well.

    I had a childhood hobby of writing, which has now become an alternative career option as a copywriter.

    And comics are great in teaching the art of witty repartee and quick humour. My favourite is the Peanuts series, and, as an overburdened mother of two, I just adore the Baby Blues strips.

    An honour to have the current Ginger Meggs artist visit 70 Plus! Sorry about my error Jason. I've corrected it in my post, giving you your rightful place.

    I also loved visiting Jason's blog where he displays some of his drawing methods. See

    Love it! There are many paths to success aren't there?

    I had a primary school teacher who asked us to read every sign we came across, as reading practice. Being the good little girl I was, I tried hard to do this. All grist to the mill.

  10. ROBIN
    There - we've brought back memories for you. Comics are certainly a universal matter for kids - and thus for the memories of adults.

    What a wise and caring decision to send some to your brother ...

  11. Ohh yes, I do believe comics encourage children to read. The question is how do we get people to pick up a paper again instead of turning on the tube. For us I think it was a ritual much like yours. We got the Sunday paper, and Mom got the coupons and business sections, Dad the news, and us kids shared the comics.

    Wonderful article.

    Yes, Peanuts is a very great favourite of mine too. Charlie and the gang are irrestistable.

    They were of my children's generation and we absolutely shared our love for their comings and goings.

    I'm pleased you were able to morph your childhood love into a life long enjoyment.

    So you have 88 years-old Ginge in India as well. How universal is he eh?

  13. ERIC
    Yes - switching off the tube ...
    Computers and tele are so very valuable, but there is a huge danger that they may swamp our more individual self-propogating pursuits. More's the pity.

  14. I remember Ginger Meggs too and strangely the Sunday paper was divided in a similar fashion to yours. We got all the childrens pages and competitions and things. Love the memories June. I am with Kate I loved Heidi too - oh so many hours reader about her adventures.

  15. Hi LILLY
    And then there was Blinky Bill! And The Magic Pudding of course ... and and and and ...

  16. One of my hobbies as a child was to create complete worlds in plasticine. I'd make courts with kings and queens and all the supporting cast. Space colonies complete with spaceships with living space and a lot more.

    I'm now in the middle of a redraft of my novel which has - created a whole imaginary world.

    A sort of parallel. But still a hobby.

  17. Hi June,

    I found the details of 'my' Heidi in Wikipaedia.. I thought it was a great story and I kind of put myself in the position of being like Heidi - I was always a Daddy's girl when I was wee you see. I was always day dreaming and would spend hours drawing and sketching and I was very shy and quiet when I was young - I found my Mum very hard and quite strict and in Heidi's relationship with her Grandfather I saw it being very like my relationship with my Nan (Grandmother - the other Kate Barr).

    Heidi, is a novel about the events in the life of a young girl in her grandfather's care, in the Swiss Alps. It was written as a book "for children and those who love children" as quoted from its subtitle in 1880 by Swiss author Johanna Spyri. I wasn't so keen on the two sequels, Heidi Grows Up and Heidi's Children, were not written by Spyri, but by her English translator, Charles Tritten. The Heidi books are among the best-known works of Swiss literature..

    Heidi, was an orphaned girl initially raised by her aunt Dete in Maienfeld, Switzerland. In order to get a job in Frankfurt, Dete brings 5-year-old Heidi to her grandfather, who has been at odds with the villagers for years and lives in seclusion on the alm. This has earned him the nickname Alp-Öhi ("Alp-grandfather" He at first resents Heidi's arrival, but the girl manages to penetrate his harsh exterior and subsequently has a delightful stay with him and her best friend, young Peter the goat-herd.

    It was a story that caught my imagination as it unfolded and I enjoyed thoroughly - of course being an imaginative child I could see my life at that time being like Heidi's.... and I will never forget my Aunt Esther giving me the book and encouraging me to read as she said it would open up fantastic worlds and would mean that I would be able to talk to anyone by having a vast knowledge of words and stories... Blimey, you haven't half opened my memory banks and my yakking muscle with this post pal.

    Thanks and Cheers Kate x.

    That's one of the things so exciting about writing fiction isn't it? What power we have!

    We can create people from scratch and ask them to do whatever we dream about ... my blog Journeys in Creative Writing is filled with such dreams.

    Your Heidi was my Heidi too! I loved her and and Grandfather and Peter.

    Good on your Aunt Esther - what a wise woman.
    She led you into a wonderful world.

  20. KATE
    You have earned money as a writer, and you still ARE writer - on your blog! Composing commercial letters is quite an art, even if you don't stretch the facts. Writing has more legs than an octopus my little lassie.

    We also have Heidi in common. She lived in the Austrian alps? Is that the book you loved? I thought she was the greatest when I was a little tyke. You in Scotland and me in Oz ...

    Kate it's never too late ... art or writing. Or almost anything else, I reckon.

    The post just before this one originally appeared earlier in the comments but I've had to make a change. Following your lovely long chat I realised I'd put in a typo - 'Australian' instead of 'Austrian'. You see I was thinking Heidi lived in the Austrian alps ...

    Old timers?

  22. Hi June, My son became an artist due to the comic strips when he was young. He used to try and draw the characters, eventually won a scholarship and majored in art in college. He worked for a comic book company in New York as an illustrator after college for several years. I can remember my dad reading the comic strip to me when I was very young. I remember an English teacher in high school telling us to read, read, read. She said it did not matter what it was, just as long as we read something.

  23. Hi June, I have just returned from two weeks of wonderful vacation and am catching up on my favorite enjoyed this post, your beautiful writing never ceases to amaze me, what a gift you have and I am so glad to be back and able to enjoy it....:-) Hugs

  24. I DO think that comics can be a gateway to literature and creative writing. Thanks for the post!

  25. There you are JUDY - it worked for both your son - and you!

  26. BERNIE
    You are just so good for my ego!
    When you're as fond of writing as I am it's no chore.

  27. JEVE
    We're on the same wave length then ...

  28. I practiced my reading skills by reading the Sunday funnies to my younger sisters and brother when I was in second grade. Doing so made it easier to read literature.

    My grandson is autistic and has great difficulty reading, at age 16. However, since he started reading graphic novels (fancy comic books, to me), his skills are improving and he is more willing to read aloud. His confidence is growing and his reading interests are broadening.

    To answer your question, yes, I think such materials can be of use.


  29. Dear CROW
    What a wonderful story about your grandson. I began to be so very sad about him being unable to share the joys of reading when your story took the twist - that comics are helping him towards that goal.
    These days some 'graphic novels' are very sophisticated indeed!

  30. We used to have "Classic Comics" which put literature in comic book form. They left out just enough of the original that teachers could always tell when a student doing a book review had read no more then the comic version! Lol.

  31. Hello June, I noticed you visited my neck of the woods. I came by to check out your site. I loved to read and write very early in school and entered every contest in writing and oratory I could get in. Had two careers, Radiology and nursing. Married and helped my HH raise 6 children and retired just about 18 months ago. I was lost. Dead tired, bored, done every thing coming and going. Then I discovered blogging. I'm a happy camper, er blogger now. Stop by again. Check our my WOW blog listed in my profile.

  32. DOGWALK:
    Well - just about everything one can think of has more than one reason for existence. Even comics eh?
    Actually, of course, the kids were the ones who were probably being conned. They got to read a great story which could have been a 'should' in book form, but fun as a comic. And then when they truly wanted to know what ended, they had to read the book to do it. Good stuff.

    Blogging is fun isn't it? So long as it doesn't take over ...


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