The dark nature of the Troubles in Ulster would be of such mortifying scope as to quite effortlessly infuse itself into the already grim black humour that characterises hard industrial working class life by default. Little would be ethically off-limits in this regard such as the naming of loyalist interrogation locales after a globally-franchised children's television programme Romper Room for example. The author once appeared on Ulster Television's own presentation of this broadcast brand around 1970.
While the aforesaid generic wordplay was clearly constructed with considerable native wit and ribald urban savvy the dynamics of the usage itself remains yet so puerile and crass in historical context and consideration- let alone shockingly malign and depressing.
Another strange interplay of humour with the unrelenting political conflict in Ireland would be the presence in the second half of Belfast Telegraph editions during the worst years of the Troubles of a particular cartoon strip that also appeared contemporaneously across the world in different press outlets.
Whereas Rowel Friers' renowned cartoon commentaries on sectarian violence and constitutional collapse in the same journal were so unique and insightful as to warrant compilation at the time into no less than four volumes of Blackstaff Press publications between 1971 and 1974 - Pig in the Parlour, Riotous Living, The Book of Friers or The Book of Yells and The Revolting Irish - by comparison Fun with Bunion seems to have been lost to time and space. This despite I assume having been seen by the vast majority of the Northern Ireland population at some point due to the newspaper's national reach across the River Bann.
There is little information about the cartoon character online but the artist who drew the two-to-four panel Bunion strip in the Sixties and Seventies was George Martin and it was also a regular feature of other newspapers in Britain, Northern Europe and North America - such as apparently the Bath Evening Chronicle, Birmingham Daily Mail and Stockholm's Aftonbladet. Martin produced other children's strips for the classic DC Thomson British comics The Dandy, The Topper and The Beezer from the Fifties through to the Eighties. I gather from some public commentary on websites that Martin is now deceased.
Bunion was a small rotund middle-aged man and the strip basically recounts events in his married life at home, in various work scenarios and at play on the ubiquitous golf course for example. The wife is a typical angry harridan figure of vintage comedy presentation, his extraordinarily impressive CV ranged from vicar to trawlerman to astronomer to liontamer and there are also some fantasy scenarios where the character is shipwrecked on an island, engaged in nefarious criminal endeavour, riding an Indian elephant or getting lost in the desert.
On a Flickr compilation of strips I found there seems to be no suggestion that Bunion was ever physically resident in Belfast when I saw his japes and pranks in my youth there - this bar launching a ship, employment as a prison officer, fixing a broken window, tossing a coin in despair in a voting booth and briefly watching a UFO land and leave as soon as possible.
There appears to be nothing sidesplittingly funny about Bunion and in hindsight it is not even touched by any particular wry charm or unique spin beyond perhaps the fact it is dialogue-free in modernist style and of course there is some residual analogy to the BBC childrens' TV classic Mr Benn. Yet like the Ulster Television transmission start-up music discussed in an earlier post, Fun With Bunion definitely triggers deep memories of both happy and tragic times alike - let alone some of the strangest days ever yet lived by any group of people anywhere in post-war Europe.