THE WOPSY STORIES

The White Fathers published various books over the ages, and none were more popular than the Wopsy series for young children.

At one point, they could proudly boast that over 80,000 copies had been sold.

Their author, Fr Gerard Scrivens WF, was a gifted storyteller who had a talent for writings stories that could also be read aloud to children. Consequently, the books were very popular as bedtime stories for the very young, or for reading to Infant / Junior school children.

Each of the four books was beautifully illustrated with the simplest of line drawings by Sister Mary Barbara CRL — such as this little devil:






Below are some front covers and short extracts



(source : John & Margaret Morton and Tony Smyth)


7th September 1943 (Price 4/-)

Chapter One

"Taking Charge"

Now at that time there was in Heaven, a very small angel whose name was Wopsy. It wasn't really an angel's name, for they have to be long and beautiful, but even the Archangels were hard put to remember Wopsy's real name, for it had fourteen letters and was pronounced differently from any of the fourteen.

Ever since Wopsy could remember, and he had a very long memory for such a small angel, he had spent all his time loving God and had never had even two shakes of a cat's tail to do anything else. Then one day (as a matter of fact it was just at the end of the Bishop's Novena) God called him by his long and beautiful name and Wopsy paid attention quickly because it was so unusual. And God said : "Wopsy, you are going to be a Guardian Angel and watch over people as well as loving Me."

When Wopsy heard this he just couldn't help clapping his hands, which were angel's hands of course, and made a beautiful sound like little silver bells tinkling. You see he had always envied, in quite an angelly sort of way, of course, the important angels who guarded people from harm and big and little devils and so on. Wopsy wasn't a bit afraid of devils, for whom he had a great contempt, quite out of proportion to his size.



Then God told Wopsy that because he was only small and without any experience of guarding people he would start with a very small person. Just a baby it was to be and . . . .


(source : John & Margaret Morton and Tony Smyth)

Seventeenth Impression, Nov 1967 (Price 4/-)


(Taken from the back cover of "Wopsy Again")
(source : John & Margaret Morton and Tony Smyth)

Seventeenth Impression, Nov 1967
Price 4/-

(source : John & Margaret Morton and Tony Smyth)

Ninth Impression, Undated
Price 4/-

"Over 80,000 Copies of the Wopsy books
have already been sold"

Below is the first chapter of "Wopsy and the Witch Doctor"

Warning : these books were written decades ago and therefore reflect the culture of that time. Whilst they are to be commended for their wonderful story-telling and inspired illustrations, some of the language used and attitudes shown would be wholly unacceptable in modern times. In other words, they are no longer suitable as bed-time stories for young children !

Chapter 1
SHINY AND THE CHIEF EXECUTIONER




MARGARITA-MARIA did not often leave her own village of Matongu. One reason was that she could not trust Bugomi to behave himself for long without her. True, he had improved of late, for he attended regularly the catechism classes held by Father Christopher, and the old missionary had a way of putting things that made even Bugomi think. But he was still only at the beginning, and he had been heard to say that catechism was all very well, but there was a lot to be said for banana beer.

It was very queer, Margarita-Maria used to say, how Bugomi always knew when someone was making banana beer, he seemed to smell it from a great distance, and it was always then that he pretended he had some important business to do with a friend of his. But when he said this, his wife would look him straight in the eye and ask what the business was, and then Bugomi would roll his great white eyes and say: "It is not the business of women-folk." To which Margarita-Maria would answer grimly: "If it is not the business of women-folk, then it is a bad business. "

In a village not very far away, however, called Bikonda, there lived a sister of Margarita-Maria called Njunaki, and one day Njunaki sent a message saying that she had a pain, a bad pain, and that she wanted to see her sister. So Margarita-Maria went to see Mama Teresina, and said to her, "Mama Teresina, my sister Njunaki has a bad pain inside her, and I must go to Bikonda, but Bugomi is not yet a good man, he is still more than half bad, so I shall take Johnny with me, and Mulaya will keep two eyes on Bugomi and cook his manioc and his bananas for him if he is good. But if he is not good then Mulaya will not cook for him and Bugomi will grow thin and die.”

Mama Teresina agreed that this was a good plan, and added that she would also ask Father George to keep two eyes on Bugomi, and that Margarita-Maria must take great care of her little boy, because it was not good for little boys with God in their souls to go to places like Bikonda. "However," she added, "he must have a very good Guardian Angel to take care of him, so I am not afraid. "

Wopsy happened to be listening just then, and he felt very pleased and kissed Mama Teresina on the top of her white veil so that she felt very happy. And MargaritaMaria packed some things in a piece of bark-cloth and set off with Shiny-John through the forest.

Bugomi had indeed offered to accompany them to protect them from danger but Margarita-Maria had laughed very loudly and told him to stay at home and do some work which, she said, was much better for him. Just to be on the safe side, however, she went with Shiny-John to the church on the hill and asked Our Lord in the tabernacle to take care of them both. And Wopsy, kneeling so happily, too, before the tabernacle, knew that Our Lord was telling him to look after them, and he felt both proud and pleased.

The path to Bikonda was very narrow, as were all the paths made by the black men, being made for people who walked not one beside the other, but behind each other. On either side the great trees of the forest rose as high as church steeples as if they were fighting each other to get to the sun. From their high branches great creepers hung down and trailed over the ground. Now and then Shiny-John saw little monkeys climbing up and down them and it seemed to him that they sometimes chattered to him as they rested for an instant. He would have loved to stay and watch them, but Margarita-Maria hurried on with her rosary in her hand. She knew that the great forest was the home of other animals, larger and fiercer than the little monkeys.

Wopsy flew ahead for some distance on either side of the path looking for anything that might be a danger. Now and then he did see something that moved quietly through the undergrowth, in and out the thick tangle of creepers, but he had a way of dealing with such things. Now it was a crafty looking snake slipping along and making a hissing sound, but Wopsy patted it on the head, for he wasn't a bit afraid even, of the most wicked snakes, and made it go to sleep until Margarita-
Maria and Shiny were a long way ahead.

Another time he came across leopard with Iots of spots on its back prowling about and looking very hungry. Wopsy stood in front of it and without knowing why, the leopard stopped, then turned round and hastened away in the other direction with its tail between its legs.After a time John began to hang behind so MargaritaMaria asked him if he were tired. John, who was a brave boy, answered that he wasn't tired, certainly not, but his legs were. So Margarita-Maria picked him up and carried him on her back as she had done so often when he was much smaller. Very soon he was fast asleep.
When he woke again they had come through the great forest and there before them was the village of Bikonda. It was very like Matongu, with groups of little huts here and there, each in the middle of a banana plantation. Margarita-Maria hastened at once to a hut at one end of the village. It was shaped rather like a funnel upside down with a hole in the side for a door, and there were hundreds of banana trees all round it. It was here that Njunaki lived with her husband, Kibi, and her five children. None of the people in this village were baptised, but some of them had asked Father George to send a catechist.

Wopsy felt strange at first, being so far from the little church at Matongu, with the tabernacle and the fight before it, and he felt rather sad to be surrounded by so many black souls. But he told himself Father George would change all that very soon, and he went to talk things over with some of the other Guardian Angels.

"You seem to be managing things rather well at Matongu," said one of the angels. "We have a terrible time here. There are devils all over the place, they always seem to be popping up, and the black people here are very fond of devils. They actually think some of the devils are the spirits of their grandmothers, and naturally they don't like to be disrespectful so they listen to them."

"I know," replied Wopsy, nodding his head. "It used to be like that at Matongu, but thank goodness there aren't so many about now. I haven't seen the Mid-Day devil for a long time, and the Business has only been once lately, because he thought I was away in Heaven!" "Well, they're just like mosquitoes here!" said the other Guardian. "You find them all over the place. As for the Mid-Day devil, there's hardly a day that doesn't put in an appearance. One day I chased him the way to a concentration camp for devils in Egypt, and do you know, he was back the very next morning!”

"Never mind," said Wopsy, "when I get back I’ll tell Father George to hurry up and send a catechist, and who knows, perhaps one day you will have a Father George too and a little church and all the devils will go away."

"That would be lovely! " said the Guardian with a sigh, "but I suppose we shall have to wait a long time, they don't seem to be sending many missionaries out of Europe just now. They will keep on having wars and making it difficult, they're even worse at fighting than our black men, and they can't blame the devils for it either! What a crowd! "

"But there are lots of good people," replied Wopsy, who was always a cheerful little angel and never depressed. "I know some of them, and I know a boy who might come out here and be a missionary one day! "

All the Guardians cheered up when they heard this, and they praised God together for a bit, to make up for all the black people of Bikonda who never thought of it, then they went off to look after their charges and hunt for devils.

Wopsy made up his mind that he would have to take Special care of Shiny-John in this village with so many devils about. The little boy was playing with a new friend, one of Njunaki's children, and seemed quite safe. After a bit, however, they got tired of playing and had a fight to liven things up a bit. Margarita-Maria came out and, not knowing who began it, boxed the ears of both of them to be on the safe side and they stopped being friends for a bit. Shiny-John thought it would be rather fun to go for a little walk by himself, and although Wopsy whispered in his ear that perhaps it wasn't quite the right thing to do he set off all the same.

The plantation was surrounded by a hedge of shrubs, but John soon found an opening that led out into the great wide world of freedom. All around could be seen other banana plantations and other huts, with wisps of smoke curling up from the fires; smoke that smelt to those who were near of stewing bananas and mixed vegetabIes, including such queer things as sweet potatoes.

Shiny looked all round, paying no attention at all to Wopsy who was looking as cross as it is possible for an angel to look. Then it occurred to him that there might be interesting things to see behind some of the other hedges. He could see another opening from where he stood; and he trotted off towards it.

There in the middle of the banana trees, no higher than a tall man, he saw an untidy-looking hut, and seated before it, listening to the bubbling in a stew-pot, sat an interesting looking man. He was old, for his black face was puckered and wrinkled, and he smoked from a long thin pipe quite a foot long. From his shoulders an ancient and very grubby-looking leopard skin was hanging, and round his neck there were strings of beads and cowrie shells. Altogether he looked most exciting, and Shiny-John trotted up to him and stood before him, considering him attentively with his head on one side.
The old man said nothing at first but just smoked away, rather like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. But, of course, this didn't occur to John, who had never heard of Alice. Then the old man took his pipe from his mouth and said, "Ho! " which might have meant anything. He put the pipe back and smoked again for a bit, then once more be spoke, this time in rather a dreamy sort of way; and this was what he said: "When I was your age and the trees of the forest were twigs, small boys minded their own business and sat by their own fires." Then he looked at John attentively and added in a thoughtful sort of way, "There was a time when I should have cooked and eaten a small boy like you, and then come home for a meal! "

Shiny did not seem worried by this piece of information, for he simply replied, "You must be a very old, old man, and I think you must have been very wicked."

The old man bent over to the pot and picked out a banana that was almost cooked. This he handed to John, who seized it greedily and sat down to enjoy it. Then the old man continued as if talking to himself.

"Those were the good old days. There were no Bwana white men then. Ah, King Karagwe was a great King! And he never had a more faithful chief executioner than old Kamanzi. The man of blood they used to call me, and it was a good name. Every morning before breakfast the King used to line up the people of the court, and he would say, 'Kamanzi, this one you will kill this moming because I do not like the look in his eye, and this one you will kill this afternoon because his necklace is round the wrong way, and this one you will fry for supper this evening because it is my wish.' And if anyone sneezed, he would say, 'Kamanzi, take him away and cut off his head.' And sometimes after a battle we would make a great fire and we would bum all the prisoners, and we would dance round the fire and shout 'Ho! Ho! Ho!' "

While he was talking thus Kamanzi's eyes grew large and fierce, and when he had finished he stood up and began to dance round the fire in a horrible crouching sort of way. Then he shouted to John, "Dance! dance I" and John, with a look of fear in his eyes began to walk round the fire, too.

Goodness knows what would have happened if it hadn't been for Wopsy. Quite possibly John would have been popped into the stew with the bananas in no time and there would have been no more stories to tell about him. But while the old man was talking Wopsy had flown as fast as he could to Margarita-Maria and she listened to what he said. That was why just as John began to walk round the fire, Margarita-Maria appeared on the scene. In her hand she held a heavy wooden spoon and with this she made straight for Kamanzi. When he saw her coming he began to dance even more quickly and awkwardly, but Margarita-Maria went after him and began to whack him with the spoon, crying at the same time: "Kamanzi, you old villain, so you would teach my John your horrible dances, would you? Then dance for that, and that!"

At each whack the old man gave a little jump, until he suddenly sat down on the ground and then Margarita-Maria stopped. Shiny-John in the meantime was sitting on the ground with big tears rolling down his cheeks, for he suspected that it would soon be his turn to feel that wooden spoon.



He was right, too, for his mother tucked him under her arm and gave him a good whacking all the way home, and even Wopsy approved for it is good for small boys to be whacked sometimes.

After that, Shiny-John never strayed far from the hut of Njunald, and he was quite glad when after a few days Margarita-Maria. took him back safely to Matongu. Even Bugomi was glad to see them; for he said Mulaya couldn't cook bananas half so well as Margarita-Maria, which pleased her very much.

Wopsy was glad to be home, too, but he didn't forget his promise to speak to Father George.



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