A Dog’s Age – Fred Basset is 60

Fred Basset by Alex Graham debuted in The Daily Mail on July 9, 1963.*

From that Daily Mail newspaper celebrating the birthday:

There’s a big birthday ambling our way this week — and it belongs to someone with long floppy ears, short waddly legs and a tail wagging in anticipation. Not that Fred Basset, 60 on Sunday (or 420 in doggy years), will be making a big fuss.

He’s just not the sort…

Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to marvel that this simple comic strip, which began on July 9, 1963, about a couple —whose names we never know — and their quiet, cosy life dominated by a dog who ‘thinks like a human’, has endured and delighted us all for so long.

above: the first Fred Basset comic strip from July 9, 1963

Alex Graham, who had been cartooning for years before creating the comic strip, hit pay dirt with Fred Basset. Two years later, on June 28, 1965, Fred crossed over to The States where he continues to appear distributed by AMS.

above: the United States debut of Fred Basset on June 28, 1965

‘Goodness knows why he came up with a family cartoon strip about a dog!’ says Alex’s daughter, Arran Keith, 74, who with her husband Alistair Keith … keeps the legacy going from a home in East Sussex, fairly stuffed with Basset memorabilia.

Since at least 1964 (possibly 1963) Fred Basset has been collected every year in book form

The BBC also tells the history of Fred Basset:

It is now 60 years – and still going strong – since the first strip appeared in the Daily Mail in July 1963.

The cartoonist produced thousands of them prior to his death in 1991 and his daughter, Arran Keith, has carried them on, working in tandem with artist Michael Martin.

After his creator’s death, the family had a decision to make on Fred’s future.

“We found 18 months’ worth of strips in my father’s studio after he died which gave us the time to think whether we would stop Fred Basset or rerun old ones or have a new artist,” said Arran.

“Michael Martin was the best, he happened to live locally which was sheer fluke and we have worked with him for over 30 years.”

above: the July 8, 2023 Saturday birthday strip drawn by Michael Martin (signing “MBM”); below: the July 9 celebratory strip
© Alex Graham Ltd.

*There seems to be disagreement about Fred Basset’s first appearance – some of the more common reference sources give July 8, 1963 as the debut date (even a couple very reliable historians go with July 8). But we are going with The Daily Mail date backed up by The Political Cartoon Society and Denis Gifford and Allan Holtz.

3 thoughts on “A Dog’s Age – Fred Basset is 60

  1. Fred Basset was one of my early favourites. Still recall my 8-year old thrill and delight when my grandpa took me to England and I was able to find a few of those reprint books, which were (as far as I know) not available in North America.

    So is Arran Keith claiming the writing credit? I didn’t know that. Also, when did poor Fred’s ears succumb to elephantiasis?

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