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A Hawkes Bay man has been revealed as the inspiration for British comic book character Dennis the Menace - and he couldn't be happier.

Robert Fair, 62, emigrated from Scotland nearly 40 years ago, but as a child in the early 1950s he would accompany his parents on visits to the home of family friend David Law.

The young Mr Fair provided Mr Law - a cartoonist - with an unlikely muse.

The comic strip was created in The Beano in 1951.

Mr Fair only learned of his place in literary history after Mr Law's daughter, Rosemary Moffat, revealed the secret identity to the British media at the weekend.

Her father had never told Mr Fair's parents because he didn't want to offend them, she said.

But the Porangahau mechanic, who grew up in Dundee, said it was magic to find out the secret.

"I can remember reading the comic all those years ago, but I had no idea. I do remember getting up to a few little tricks. We used to wait for mum and dad to come in and we'd put books on top of the door and jump out the window. We were just getting up to mischief, it was nothing malicious."

Ms Moffat told London's Sunday Times that Mr Fair was a bit of a devil. "Robert was a little brat when he was a boy and my father based Dennis's energy, movement and sense of mischief on him when he was doing his drawings."