Author and Cartoonist - Bud Neill.

Line drawing of Bud NeillThere was an inevitability about Bud Neill's creation of Lobey Dosser.

On Saturdays a young Bud sat in the darkened Troon Playhouse, captivated by Western star William S. Hart's daring exploits on the flickering screen. When he emerged from the matinee gloom to a bright seaside town morning, he harboured secret desires of riding the rolling plains as a cowboy.

Another chunk of his weekend was spent down at the local cabbie's stables where he satiated his other passion, the horse. He would barter some mucking out and grooming for a ride on one of the nags, and for a little while, steely-eyed Hart galloped the roads, greens and beaches of Troon on his faithful steed, Pinto Ben, seeking wrongs to right and heroines to rescue.

Most of us leave childish fantasies behind. Fortunately for us, Bud Neill retained his, and two decades later he spliced them with the stuff of his publicly acclaimed, innovative pocket-cartoons (which tapped the rich resources of Glasgow's mores and vernacular) to create the cultural hybrid, Lobey Dosser. The idea had the hallmarks of many brilliant concepts: simple and, with hindsight, obvious.

When the little sheriff rode across page three of Glasgow's Evening Times on the 24th of January 1949 his exploits delivered a sharp crack to the city's funny bone and over the next six years the dozen or so adventures acquired an unprecedented following across all social boundaries. The Creek's characters permeated the fabric of city life: in the workplace people were nicknamed Lobey Dosser or Rank Bajin or Toffy Teeth or Rubber Lugs; Lobey became a cult figure among the student body, who made him Honorary President of the Glasgow University Lobey Dosser Association; fathers became redundant as mothers threatened their unruly offspring with a visit from Rank Bajin; children broke into a street song to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky. This is one version:

My name is Lobey Dosser,
I'm the Sheriff o' Calton Creek.
My steed is El Fideldo
an' it only has two feet.
My enemy is Rank Bajin
an' I'll get him before I die,
an' then I will become a ghost rider in the sky.

This last accolade, more than any, confirmed Lobey Dosser's place in the city's folklore.

Equestrian statue in honour of Bud Neill at Woodlands Road, Glasgow; featuring Sheriff Lobey Dosser along with his arch enemy Rank Bajin, astride Lobey's faithful steed El Fidelio (Elfie), the only two legged horse in The West. photograph taken on 17 April 2006 by Dave Souza.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

During Bud's earlier visits to the Evening Times art department he would amuse a befriended colleague by tagging journalists on the editorial floor with cutting monikers. Later he used this innate talent for inventive name giving to great effect when he dubbed Calton Creek's characters.

This book's players include: Lobey Dosser, an adaptation of lobby dosser - a term applied to tramps who slept on tenement close landings; Dunny Dosser, his brother; Rank Bajin, the villain, ('a creep wi' a black hood an' teeth like a dozen chipped coffee cups'); his wife, Ima Bajin; Fairy Nuff, the tackitty-booted peri who spoke in rhyme; Rid Skwerr, a former foreign spy employed by the town council to haunt their graveyard; Vinegar Hill, a local rabbit farmer, named after a street in Glasgow's East End; Honey Perz, his niece; Whisk E. Glaur, a rancher and his daughter, Adoda; Watts Koakin, the rustler, and the Red Indian contingent, Toffy Teeth and Rubber Lugs. Other tales introduced the characters Stark Stairn, Breedan Mulk, Roona and Nika Boot, Fitz O' Coughin and Khan Oodle.

The G.I. Bride, forever optimistically thumbing her way back to Partick with her baby, little Ned, under arm, was probably a homage to Tommy Morgan's popular stage character, Big Beenie, the G.I. War Bride. Bud was a regular theatregoer in the Forties and admired the energetic originality of Glasgow's home-grown comedians. He must have absorbed the audiences' generous reaction to the comics' parodying and championing of the city's culture and it was no coincidence that the Lobey strips had more than a little flavour of pantomime (the hammy histrionics of Rank Bajin and the rhyming Fairy Nuff, for example). The process turned full circle in the early Fifties when a Lobey skit was included in Little Red Riding Hood at the Citizen's Theatre.

When some one once remarked that Bud had a rerr lug for the patter, he could have added that Bud also had a rerr ee for the line. His fluid lines and anchoring blocks of lamp-black ink sat on the paper with such exquisite balance that his cartoons appeared, at times, casually rendered. But a great cartoon strip is more than just superlative draughtsmanship; it is a complimentary partnership of the drawn line and strong, inventive narrative.

Bud exploited the elastic visual and narrative boundaries of the boxed two- dimensional cartoon medium to create a tangible, if quirky, three-dimensional world of well-rounded characters. He was the master and the genie of his lamp- black world and he would unceremoniously dump or manipulate historic, scientific and geographic detail in the interests of a good yarn. Moon rockets, 'single-end' rockets powered by sherbet, plutonium plants, nuclear powered trams, G.P.0 telephones, Sherman tanks, aeroplanes, two-legged horses, pirates, barra-boys and bun-hatted wee wimmen sporting six-shooters all co-existed seamlessly in and around the Caltonesque 1880 frontier Shangri-la known as Calton Creek, Arizona.

I regret not knowing Lobey Dosser. 'Knowing' Lobey in the sense of experiencing him the first time around-fresh from the artist's hand, the creative juices still warm on the page-and participating in the collective eager anticipation of turning the page of the evening paper to catch up on the real news of the day at Calton Creek.

The cartoon strip is an ephemeral creature and it is precisely this hit-and-run quality which sorts the wheat from the chaff. Prosaic and glib cartoon art is consigned along with yesterday's newspaper, to the bin and oblivion; the few great strips lodge themselves in the public's psyche. A decade after Lobey's last ride into the sunset Bud was still receiving a steady drip of global correspondence from the little sheriff's aficionados offering what amounted to substantial bribes in return for copies of the scarce books reproduced here. And four decades later the Dosser admiration society flourishes-a testament to the enduring popularity of Bud Neill's Indian ink cowboy character.

Extract from 'Lobey's the Wee Boy!' reproduced with the kind permission of Ranald MacColl