The Black ‘Un.

Blitzed Bristolians obtaining a freeview of the Black’Un.

The most popular period for Bristol Sports newspapers was undoubtedly the 1920s through to the 1960s. This was the era of the coloured newspapers such as the Pink ‘Un, the Green’Un and the Red ‘Un….although the latter didn’t last for long owing to the fact its readership thought it contained a lot of bull. This was no reflection upon the standard of journalist the Red’Un employed, it was more to do with the fact that because their words were printed upon red paper it didn’t take long for any purchaser to emerge from the newsagents with a copy before they found they were being pursued by a two ton horned beast snorting hot air through flamed nostrils.

The most popular of all the coloured sports papers in Bristol was the Black’Un. This was a periodical printed in black ink upon black paper. It first seen the light of day in December 1929 on Merseyside (there is a possibility it first seen the dark of night well before this, but nobody could tell). But it wasn’t at all popular as Liverpool and Everton fans couldn’t see results, read reports of matches or see where their respective teams were in the table. So the paper died a death up there. However, the paper was immediately tried in Bristol where it became an instant success, as Bristol City and Bristol Rovers fans usually didn’t want to read scores, match reports or see where their respective teams were in the table.

The Black’Un swiftly gained a reputation for unbiased reporting, and also appealed to illiterates, a group of people previously ignored by the newspaper industry.  It was the favourite read of very depressed people (another term for Bristol sports enthusiasts) and a successful newsstand operated for many years near the Clifton Suspension Bridge, although it was forced to move to below the bridge in the 1930s due to falling custom. Proof, if any were needed, of the Black’Un’s popularity arrived in 1937, when a record seventy-thousand applications were received for the recently vacated position of proof-reader.

In 1938 the Black’Un won the World Sports Press Award For Innovation for its unique photographic coverage of night-time matches in Bristol before floodlights were invented. Even when a mistake occurred, such as in February 1939 when a speck of white appeared on the Black’Un’s front page, they won another prestigious industry award for their picture of Halley’s Comet on its way to Earth, 47 years before it was due.

It seemed like the Black’Un would be around forever – especially as Bristol’s two football clubs did nothing to make their followers desirous of studying League Tables – but then an unforeseen blow occurred that almost brought about the paper’s end. Bristolians found the popular sports paper made excellent black-out material during the blitz in the Second World War. Thus local sports fans no longer needed to purchase the Black’Un as framed copies were available each week in the homes of various neighbours. Indeed, Miss Dolores Vale of Redfield, inadvertently became the first Page Three Girl in January, 1941, when her mother failed to completely cover the window to her bedroom with that week’s Black’Un. It was reported that at least fifteen men fell for her, due mostly to the slippery windowsill.

After the war, another setback virtually did signal the end. In 1947 avid Black’Un reader Peter Druid was run over and killed in his Mangotsfield garden by the London to Cardiff express after the driver mistook the Black’Un he was reading for the entrance to the Severn Tunnel. As a response to this tragedy, the Black’Un’s publishers abandoned the broadsheet size and opted for tabloid, but readers found foxes, rabbits and badgers were attracted to them. So an even smaller paper was produced, but complaints of Black’Un readers being struck by golf balls increased massively; especially if they had long pointed noses. It was a ridiculous situation and could not be allowed to continue. The Black’Un thus folded on March 8th, 1948. Previously it had only ever been folded by Steve McChan the origami expert, who had found it great material to make a batmobile with.

No.6 Will Appear Week Commencing June 27th.


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