Chalkie White and Lobby Lud were once regular summer visitors to Bournemouth and Weymouth sea fronts; but who were these curiously named characters?
‘To my delight, it’s Chalkie White’ was all you had to say to Chalkie to win a £50 prize. This was providing, of course, you were holding a copy of the Daily Mirror. This was a scheme to boost newspapers sales when circulation traditionally fell during the summer months. The Mirror would announce which days the mystery man would be in town and readers would be challenged to seek him out. To help his identification, a picture of Charlie’s eyes would be published daily.
A forerunner of Chalkie was Lobby Lud created in 1927 by the Westminster Gazette. Like Chalkie, Lobby would also visit Bournemouth and Weymouth. Prizes equivalent to over £300, in today’s money, were on offer which led to a sort of Lobby Lud mania. Holiday plans would be changed at the last moment in an attempt to catch him. There was even a Lobby Lud train which would take Londoners to the resorts that Lobby visited. Its locomotive would carry a big, bold sign the ‘Lobby Lud Express’. He would also leave post cards at various places around the town which would pay out ten shillings if sent to the newspaper company. There was, however, a downside to the scheme as Lobby was sometimes punched by holidaymakers who thought they should have won the prize. He was once hit over the head with a handbag by a woman who thought it unfair he was wearing a false beard. Innocent look-a-likes could also suffer abuse when they denied being the mystery man. There was even a popular song written: Lobby Lug - Mystery Man.
Bournemouth plays a key role in Lobby Lud trivia history as Bournemouth was the first resort where Lobby Lud was identified. More precisely, it had been announced he would be on Boscombe pier after 11.00am on the 15th August 1927. So London builder, George Rowley challenged every similar looking man who entered the pier’s only working entrance turnstile for over an hour until successful. His £150 prize was a significant amount of money in the 1920s. Afterwards and jumping on the publicity bandwagon, Mayor of Bournemouth, Thwaites announced:
‘I have always said that invigorating air and delightful surroundings produced clarity of vision which enabled one to be detected at once.’
(Image: Mystery man, Chalkie White.)