J.B. Fullarton and the Bearsden Beauties

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 Jacqui Blair.

Janet Neill

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.

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.

Annette French

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 setting – 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.