Billy Bunter book, person of mystery

Danny McG

Star Trek is for adults, Star Wars is for kids
Sep 9, 2016
Cumbria UK
I'm currently reading 'Billy Bunter of Greyfriars school' ebook and there is a reference to someone called Sister Anne.
Bunter's classmates see him staring out of the school gates and they call out 'Sister Anne!"
However a search reveals no other mention of this person so I don't think it's a book character.

Relevant Extract:-

His eyes, and his spectacles, were fastened on those gates— he was watching them like a plump Sister Anne.

Is she somebody from some famous work?

A quick googling ["sister anne" bunter] shows that the name is used in more than one book as a term for someone who watches intently, but doesn't seem to be an actual character. It doesn't ever seem to be explained, either in the books or outside. Was it a reference that readers of the period were expected to get, or was it a joke that it was never to be explained? I'm surprised Google turns up no discussion about it.
A quick DuckDuckGo reveals the existence of Sister Ann, a story by Henry Handel Richardson whose first two paragraphs are:
“Sister Ann, Sister Ann, do you see anyone coming?”— from poor cowering Fatima. And from the watcher on the look-out always the same monotonous reply: “Naught but the dust that blows before the wind!”

She was really Edith; but ever since as children they had acted the BLUEBEARD play, she had been Ann to them — Sister Ann. And the name fitted her like her own skin. For Ann quite literally spent her life on the watch — for the next disaster, she being the only one who might ward it off.
Henry Handel Richardson is the pen name of the Australian author Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson (1870-1946).

The second paragraph suggets that the reference comes from the play (which one of the many there are, it isn't clear), in which the sister of Bluebeard's wife is called Ann. From the Wikipededia plot summary of the story (spoilers):
Fearing for her life, [Bluebeard's wife] reveals her husband's secret to her visiting sister, and they plan to both flee the next morning, but Bluebeard unexpectedly comes back and finds the bloody key. In a blind rage, he threatens to kill her on the spot, but she asks for one last prayer with her sister Anne. At the last moment, as Bluebeard is about to deliver the fatal blow, the brothers of the wife and her sister Anne arrive and kill Bluebeard.
In Richardson's short story, Ann and her six sisters are in danger of becoming old maids, so it may be that the connection between this and Ann in Bluebeard is that they are both looking out for a husband (albeit in very different circumstances).

The above is merely to record what I have discovered so far. I'll have to read the rest of the story to see if more information -- or completely different information -- is forthcoming.
After having read the story, the potential husband/s for which "Sister Ann" is on the lookout is/are for her sister/s, so that's another connection.

I won't spoil the ending of the story (which is on the University of Adelaide website) except to say that there is no mention of a room in which the bodies of many dead former wives are found lying in their own blood....
I think Sister Ann is the name given to the sister of Bluebeard's wife in versions going all the way back to Perrault.

I remember that as a child I often came across references to someone playing look-out in a book comparing them to Sister Ann. Since Bluebeard was not my favorite fairy tale, I never made the connection until after I was somewhere in my twenties. The allusion always puzzled me before that. But I think that earlier generations would have caught the reference immediately.

Is Billy Bunter supposed to be Lord Peter Wimsey's gentleman's gentleman as a boy?
Billy Bunter first appeared in 1908, so 15 years before Lord Peter Wimsey.

To quote Bunter's Wiki entry:
As well as his gluttony, he is also obtuse, lazy, racist, inquisitive, deceitful, slothful, self-important and conceited. These defects, however, are not recognised by Bunter. In his own mind, he is an exemplary character: handsome, talented and aristocratic; and he dismisses most of those around him as "beasts".
LPW's manservant is named Mervyn, and since he was a footman in another household in his 20s, he was undoubtedly of lower class stock than Billy, whose parents could afford to send him to private school. His character is also very different -- he has none of Billy's flaws, save perhaps for inquisitiveness (though I'd say Billy was more nosy than inquisitive). Be interesting to know if Sayers pinched the name, though, to rehabilitate it!
I forgot Lord Peter's Bunter's name was Mervyn. I had an idea that his first name was William. I wonder if I am conflating him with somebody else's faithful manservant.

That reminds me of a moment in Quartered Safe Out Here, the war memoirs of George MacDonald Fraser, who wrote Flashman. Just before battle, he recalls a song about several named sisters, which ends with something about the Salvation Army marching. The Salvation Army (a religious charity, basically) often had marching bands. "Sally Annie" might be a reference to the "Sally Army".
Sally Annie or Sally Allie are common names for the Salvation Army.
Not to be mistaken for Sweet Fanny Ann, which has nothing to do with the Salvation Army. :oops:

I would think Ursa major/Teresa are more likely to have the origin as the Bluebeard story is much older than the formation of the Salvation Army. You need to look in an original copy of Perrault and see if Sister Annie is mentioned by name there, and if so, that is pretty conclusive.
As it happens, Perrault's version is available at Project Gutenberg.

The first appearance of Anne in that book goes as follows:
Fatima's sister immediately ascended to the top of the battlements, while the poor trembling girl below, every minute, cried out, "Sister Anne, my dear sister Anne, do you see any one coming yet?"

Her sister always replied, "There is not a human being in view, and I see nothing but the sun and the grass."
It is clear that this is the direct inspiration for the first paragraph of Richardson's story (probably via an adaptation for the stage):
“Sister Ann, Sister Ann, do you see anyone coming?”— from poor cowering Fatima. And from the watcher on the look-out always the same monotonous reply: “Naught but the dust that blows before the wind!”
I always considered Bunter to be low-brow stuff. How wrong I was. The blinds have been lifted from my eyes.
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