The Boy’s Own Paper

As you will see below, this story is two weeks late.  I do apologise for this but I think two weeks now is better than waiting for next January!

Christmas is gone and forgotten; the New Year of 2017 is already in its second month and the British soccer season is in full swing.  Radio, television and the newspapers keep us informed of the ups and downs; the hiring’s and fireing’s; the successes and failings; and all that comes together in the hearts and minds – and the money – of Britain’s football ‘ world.  I’m long past playing and, to be honest, following the game as I once did.  I still keep an eye on Manchester United’s success and failures – I started following them in 1948 when they won the FA Cup!  I also keep a remote eye on my 15 year old grand-son.  He supports United and reads all he can about the ups and downs of the present game.  However, unlike his grand-dad, he’s also a promising young player that trains and plays under the eyes of an English premier league club,

So where and when did this all begin?

Saturday 18th January 1879 is a good probability because this day saw the publication of the first edition of ‘The Boy’s Own Paper’. The idea for the publication had been raised in 1878 by the Religious Tract Society as a means of encouraging younger children to read. ‘The Boy’s Own’ began life as a weekly paper of 16 pages, in a buff-brown cover. It cost just one penny, though many copies of the first edition were given away in schools to ensure a good circulation. What really helped its achievement, though, was its immediate success on the railway system of Great Britain – well actually the one thousand or so railway bookstalls of a Mr. W.H. Smith that had become the central distributing agency for all the towns and cities they serviced. As the ‘Boy’s Own Paper’s reputation grew it was, apparently, quite usual to see a crowd of boys waiting for its arrival at the station on publication day. Much of the early content was typical of its time – science, natural history, puzzles, school and adventure stories, essay competitions, and personal reminiscences – all, of course, delivered with a “healthy moral tone”.

However, amongst the first scripts submitted for the opening edition of this new magazine was a story entitled My First Football Match” by “an Old Boy” – and it had pride of place on the front page of that very first edition. That story was set in a public school environment and was accompanied by a serial “From Powder Monkey to Admiral or The Stirring Days of the British Navy”. Also included was Captain Matthew Webb’s contribution – an account of how he swam the English Channel! As time changed the magazine became less and less in tune with modern interests and the magazine ceased publication in 1967.

So the ‘Boy’s Own Paper’ has gone but the principle carries on – and the bookstores have a seemingly unlimited range of reading for the modern day boy.


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