Foreword by Bob Bloomfield
When I first met John Wernham over twenty years ago I understood that he was a distinguished osteopath – as he still is, very actively, in his eighties. I learned too that he did not suffer fools gladly, whether it was a fellow osteopath, a member of the medical profession or indeed a patient. He has not endeared himself to some of his colleagues, and there have been one or two notorious differences of opinion about osteopathic technique, education and political approach. Yet he is greatly admired, even loved, by some who will never agree with him. At an international gathering of osteopaths a couple of years ago everyone present stood up and cheered him to the echo when he entered the room – friend and foe alike. He pretended not to be too touched by this.
But there is another side – or two or three or more sides to John Wernham. First, he is a printer with his own graphic arts set-up. He has used his skills and experience as a printer to re print valuable and historic works on osteopathy which had long been out of print until Wernham brought them back into the daylight again.
Then I discovered that the printing press was used for a totally dissimilar purpose – bringing into being, or back from obscurity, a large number of books about the fat boy Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School and his schoolmates. There is a considerable cult around these characters and John Wernham is president of what is called the Old Boys’ Book Club which meets from time to time ‘to keep the spirit of Greyfriars alive’.
John has many bits and pieces of Greyfriars memorabilia including the desk, pipes, tobacco jar, magnifying glass, biscuit barrel, etc. belonging to the creator of Billy Bunter and much else, Charles Hamilton. Also known as Frank Richards, Hamilton actually used 28 pen names and it has been estimated that he wrote over 72 million words. Wernham has had to be extremely conservative about how many Bunterish words he has written, and edited, and published and printed, all inspired by the Greyfriars ethic. Yes, there was a certain morality written into the Bunter stories. Perhaps that is what appealed to John Wernham. He is not what you might call hide-bound either. The latest effort printed and published by Wernham’s Museum Press is a 160-page A4 paperback entitled “Sexton Blake, A Celebration of the Great Detective”!
So in these various ways John Wernham exercises his writing, editing, publishing and printing modes. But that’s not all. John is, perhaps not so much lately, a brilliant photographer. After ten years in Fleet Street, where he learned the art and technology of press photography and process engraving, he joined the army at the out-break of the 1939–1945 war, as a photographer, of course. He was sent abroad in the spring of 1942 and returned home on New Year’s Day, 1946. In the army he reached the rank of sergeant and was generally known as the ‘Prof.’
In Africa and elsewhere he clearly came into his own, resisting all attempts to turn him into a disciplined soldier. He was a photographer, he had been hired as a photographer and that is what he did.
On one occasion a ‘pukka’ sergeant tried to get John Wernham into a drill session on the parade ground. Wernham demurred on the grounds that it was undignified to shout at people and that seems to have been the end of it.
There are some beautiful photographs in this book – and some remarkable ones. They were taken in the Western Desert, Kenya, Uganda, Palestine, Tanganyika, Egypt, and many other places. As John puts it, ‘One picture is worth a thousand words’, which is indeed a suitable point for me to stop.
- The Prologue
- School and Fleet Street
- Temple Bar
- Badger Hall
- The Parliamentary Bill
- The Professor Goes to War
- East Africa
- The Maidstone Experiment
- The Mechanics of Movement in the Spine and Pelvis
- The Missing Cake
- The Family Album
- The Text for Littlejohn Day 1994
- The Ashford Clinic