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John ‘Scribe’ Fraser

by Shauna Mackay

John Fraser was a printer, stationer, bookbinder, newsagent, writer and publisher of the Blyth & Tyneside Comic Almanack. If it's true that laughter is the best pesticide, then John ‘Scribe’ Fraser had it sussed when it came to dealing with things that bugged him. Of course, the satirist always presents it masked, deadpan, then if someone doesn't get the joke, there's no harm done, for anarchy and socialism in the 1880s alarmed the twitchy middle classes of the not-so-United Kingdom. Evangelical ideology had a grip on the people. The notion of fun was radical in itself. Having a pop at the sacred cow of monarchy was tricky stuff.

John Fraser His shop, known as Fleet Street Hut, looked like one of those places small children like going into with Grandma. Sunlight streamed into the wooden building, warming up the smell of tobaccos, alighting on snippets of print, and on mouths in conversation about the news. How busy he was. Selling an ounce of snuff to some canny body while his mind moved quicker than his typing fingers, trying to work out the latest JF slant on some political event.

He published a Punch style paper weekly (no mean achievement). His satire was fuelled by frustration and he saw through the fog and fantasy of what was the only Victorian medium - print and visual culture. He held potent sway on the minds of Blyth. And he told them in his own way: Why Big Up the Queen?

Read John Fraser’s Jubilee Programme

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