J.B. Fullarton and the Bearsden Beauties

Janet Neill
Janet Neill

The stable of models went on growing steadily for the next ten years or so, but from 1963 to 1966 there was a dramatic change in the familiar faces – and bottoms. The sale of the company to Fullerton & Lloyd in late 1963 brought about a shake-up, and although the operational headquarters remained in Croydon, ownership transferred to the affluent Glasgow suburb of Bearsden in Scotland.

It not impossible that the Fullerton (with an e)named in the partnership was also the photographer J.B. Fullarton (with an a) who dominated the pages of all the titles for the next few years. A handful of Scottish models had already graced the pages of all the mags, but he introduced a bevy of new girls who became our all-time favourites – of the 33 girls occupying the Top 20 rankings by numbers of appearances in ToCo titles, no fewer than 13 are Bearsden girls. Spick 127 (April 1964), for example, featured five of them – Annette French, Ruth Cavendish, Adrienne Houston, Anne Scott and Jacqueline Blair.

Over the next couple of years, new faces arrived that were quickly to become familiar – Staples’ staples you might say − Helen Candlish, Cherie Scott, Jane Rennie, Janette Goodman, Anne Scott, Mary Graham, June Cook, Susan McKay, Leila Scott, Jackie Leyton and Diane McCall. It is impossible to imagine they were all spotted, signed-up and photographed in such a short time. So JBF and the Bearsden studio must have been recruiting local girls for some time – and occasionally managing to persuade the then owners in Croydon to put them among their pages. Indeed the one shot of “Janet Neill from Saltcoats” (where Fullarton lived) as early as May 1956 in Span 21 might have been the first contribution by a photographer who changed the very essence of the ToCo magazines.

Annette French
Annette French

Along with the new faces came a new style of photo shoots. From photos focusing on petticoat frills, bikinis and underwear – the epitome of innocence and fun – JBF moved inexorably to the more smutty side of glamour photography, never going as far as flat-on-back, no-knickers and legs-spread stuff but definitely away from coy Readers’ Wives pin-ups. And he seemed to have no trouble in attracting willing models — perhaps still seduced by the possibility of acquiring the status of “TV or stage starlet” of their renowned predecessors. Fullarton certainly recruited more new girls than any other photographer prior to him. Sometimes he may have got lucky and got two for the price of one, as it were – as with Jackie Leyton and Diane McCall who were said to be cousins. But perhaps his strategy was one as simple as “do you have any friends who might like to join us?” As Tocofan points out, “Vicki Campbell was described in a 1964 edition of Beautiful Britons as a friend of Fiona Stuart (with whom she appeared), who, in turn, was the sister of another Bearsden recruit − Sara Stuart.” And both the Stuart sisters appeared with Vicki (also known as Janet) Munro. Today, we would call this networking.

To reinforce the ‘girl-next-door’ image that ToCo had strived for from the beginning, he put his models not in a dreary, clinical studio but in the Scottish countryside and his own home. His car, garage, kitchen, bathroom and sitting room must be the most photographed in the kingdom – certainly every Bearsden Beauty saw the inside of that house many times. We could even follow the home improvement schemes his success must have financed.

At first, he came up with sequences verging on the silly, with props, locations and situations that became a hallmark of the Bearsden style. He put his girls into prams and car boots, into the countryside with skipping ropes and into ice skates and directoire knickers. He put them into ridiculous combinations of clothing and settings – tennis skirts, with stockings, suspenders and high heels − and footballs in the Ayrshire countryside; you know, just the sort of stuff anyone walking their dog was likely to stumble upon. And the entirely innocent school dorm pillow fight sequences of earlier publications metamorphosed into ‘pretend’ spanking sessions, with knickers pulled halfway down, and hinted-at bondage sessions. It might seem humdrum fare nowadays but, in those days, it was pretty racy stuff and, as a ‘reader’, you get the impression he was photographing what turned him on – not you. This is reinforced by sequences taken by him that were never published but whose negatives have survived, shots of his favourite girls going a little further than usual for his lens. They must have known Fullarton quite well by this time and they must almost certainly have realised that these end-of-shoot snaps were not going to end up as a centre spread. But it is doubtful they considered they were getting into production of porn – just a few dirty pics. Perhaps the incitement was a little extra cash – or even repaying a favour for the randy old letch.

In the mid-1960s, this input of Scottish girls dwindled dramatically. The reason has been the cause of great speculation among ToCo historians. Tocofan states that at least three James Fullartons from Ayrshire died around that time, one of whom came from Saltcoats, home town of the publishers.

An era had come to an end. And the baton was passed to another photographer who could hardly have been further in the UK from Bearsden.

Some additional research from my friend Dude.

I did a trawl around Google looking for more info on that leading light, James B Fullarton, who arguably was single handedly responsible for the Golden Age of Spick & Span from the early to mid 1960s.

He was the guy who found Jane Paul, Annette French and a fabulous bag of lovelies from this corner of Scotland.

Saltcoats Harbour

What you may not know is that he was an acclaimed painter and a scion of the local gentry, as these searches suggest.

Fullarton Auction Prices

Doing a poor imitation of Sherlock Holmes, I’ve speculated on what all this might mean, and welcome alternative interpretations if you’re interested.

It shows a picture of a son of the local Ayrshire gentry, who had time enough to learn to become a proficient painter, and who was good enough to still fetch a price many years after he died.

Not many painters can get a grand for their work, but JBF did – and years after he died, which is an achievement. Most painters get instantly forgotten.

The fact he also had access to posh tennis clubs to take his photos (see Liz McEwan pics and similar) also suggest he was well placed locally.

Bearsden is quite a posh place too, especially back in those days when a Glasgow outskirt was practically in the country ( Bearsden today is considered the best place to be a woman in UK)

And he had a secret glamour photography hobby.

Photography costs money, more so in those days when disposable incomes were less.

Possibly he was funded by a family stipend given to their artist wastrel offshoot?

Or maybe he was a really successful businessman in his own right?

Or maybe they gave him start-up funds for his business in Bearsden? Who knows?

Either way it takes money to get started photographing girls the way he did.

Cameras, developing, film, girls fees, outfits – all quite big money in an age when £10 a week was a wage, and even doctors only earned 30 quid a week.

At the same time, I can’t imagine he ever made a proper living from his glamour photos.

And on top of that he had the time to learn to become an accomplished painter and run a business?

So did his family or his business provide the money support his photography and painting required?

My unprovable suspicion is that he was a Bertie Wooster in his day, maybe the last of a dying breed.

Your thoughts welcome on this. Please leave a comment.