Uncle Oojah, known at the time as ‘Flip-Flap The Great Oojah’, first appeared in the Daily Sketch newspaper on Tues 18th February 1919. Don, a young boy, bearing a passing similarity to Christopher Robin, is nonchalantly strolling through the garden sucking on his chocolate cigarette when an elephant appears leaning over the fence.
A discussion ensues about cigarettes (mostly of the chocolate and rhubarb varieties) and then the Great Oojah announces he is looking for a little boy to be his Hum-Jum-Jarum. They take off at 365 miles per hour to ‘Never-Mind-Where’. One cannot help noticing that much of the rest of the paper is given over to a competition launched by the Daily Sketch imploring British motherhood to look after their babies better (a lot of young men had just been slaughtered in the trenches, although I don’t think it was the fault of British motherhood). It seems that the Great Oojah was not really on message that day, and of course, no-one would have heard of stranger danger in 1919. Don takes off with Flip-Flap, The Great Oojah, without so much as a goodbye, and as far as I can tell from subsequent stories, never sees his mother again.
This story appears again in the 1920 book, ‘Flip-Flap The Great Oojah’. Don is subsequently abducted by a kangaroo, dumped on an evil one-eyed elephant by an eagle, hides in a snail shell and… well, you’ll have to read the book. For me, the great appeal of Uncle Oojah, is his kindly, presumptive arrogance. He pompously assumes that he can do what he likes whilst actually being quite benign.
I’d love to find other editions of the Daily Sketch newspaper featuring Flip-Flap (or Uncle Oojah, as he was known later) but sadly they seem to be a real rarity. In ‘Flip-Flap The Great Oojah’ there is a list of other books by Flo Lancaster but I have so far only seen and acquired two other titles, the Pigmy Pirates and the Children of Funbeam. I am, however, delighted to be in possession of an original copy of the Daily Sketch for 18th Feb 1919, featuring the first ever Oojah story, soon to be celebrated at Uncle Oojah’s 100th birthday celebrations in 2019. If you have copies of other Oojah stories from the Daily Sketch , or any of the above books (if they were ever actually published) please do get in touch!
It seems the Twilight titles were published as separate volumes and some also in other annuals. This colour plate is from ‘Once Upon A Time – Children’s Annual 1920’. It appears with some additional pen and ink drawings by Thomas Maybank and the full story of ‘Flip-Flap The Great Oojah’. This annual also contains ‘The Pigmy Pirates’ mentioned above in the Twilight series. The ‘Once Upon A Time – Children’s Annual 1921’ contains a couple more Oojah stories, ‘Flip-Flap in Wangletown’ and ‘The Wonder-man’. Not clear whether these are additional stories or alternative titles to those mentioned in the Twilight series above. I have been offered a copy of ‘Flip-Flap’s Wonderground’ in a new binding with most of the original pages but the price was too high for me, especially as it appears in the 1923 Oojah Annual anyway. I have yet to find any examples of ‘Dear Uncle Oojah’, ‘Flip-Flap and Lady Eliza’ and ‘The Outcasts of Oojahland’ either in the Twilight series format or in annuals.
I also discovered that you can read a microfiche version online of ‘The Children of Funbeam’ (follow link for this). It was filmed from a copy of the original publication held by McMaster University, Mills Memorial Library, Hamilton in Canada. There are a few other libraries in Canada where you can access this title and a couple that seem to have the actual book. You can also access a microfiche copy of ‘The Pigmy Pirates’ here in the original Twilight Series via The Library of Congress.
I do now have my own copies of ‘The Children of Funbeam’ and ‘The Pigmy Pirates’.