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Minutes of the 339th meeting held at 10.00 in Stokesley Town Hall on Tuesday16th February 2016: Speaker – Tony Daniels ‘Some Cartoons are Funny (1940 – Present Day)’


Tony Daniels worked as a research scientist for ICI in Cheshire until 1987, when he moved to Wilton. After early retirement, he took a degree and became Vice Chair and Chairman of U3A. He gave an entertaining and amusing talk on cartoons from 1940 onwards.

Tony explained that a cartoon was originally a drawing on a large sheet of paper or card.

The word is of Italian origin and a famous early example is the Leonardo cartoon of the Virgin Mary, now in the National Gallery. It was first used of a satirical drawing in Punch in 1843.

Cartoons became very important in the First World War as a way of keeping up morale and  ridiculing the enemy. David Low who arrived from New Zealand in 1920 was perhaps the finest cartoonist of the 20th century. He produced many outstanding drawings in the Second

World War including ‘All behind you, Winston’, ‘Very Well Alone’ and ‘To fight another day’.

Other very successful cartoonists in the War years were Sydney Strube, Leslie Illingworth George Butterworth, Graham Paul and Philip Zec. The Ministry of Information was not slow in seeing the effectiveness of the cartoon as used in the ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ campaign.

After the war, there came the Cold War and a new generation of cartoonists, including Victor Weisz (Vicky), Carl Giles and Michael Cummings. Vicky particularly liked Churchill as a target. Giles spent all his working life with Express Newspapers and portrayed contemporary life with Grandma usually featuring prominently. Cummings’ target was often Clement Attlee.

Others who entertained the nation included Thelwell, Gerard Hoffnung and Ronald Searle.

Searle had been in Changi prison during the war and his drawings gave an important insight because there were no photos of the Burma campaign.

In the late 1950s, Harold Macmillan was prime minister and for a time, unemployment was low and the country seemed to be content. Vicky drew him as Supermac. Within a few years though, the government was overwhelmed by scandal and the cartoonists had a field day.

Gerald Scarfe drew Macmillan in a pose used by Christine Keeler. Trog amended the catchphrase ‘You’ve never had it so good’ to ‘We’ve never had it so often’. Macmillan’s successor, Sir Alec Douglas Home foolishly mentioned that he used matchsticks to help him understand economics. Cummings did not miss the opportunity.

In the 1960s, cartoons fell from favour in the broadsheets, but they returned in the 1970s, with Heath, Wilson, Callaghan and Thatcher all being lampooned in turn. Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon of Thatcher was bought by the National Gallery in 1988 for ú4500.

Every leading politician was the subject for satire by one of the cartoonists. Leading practitioners included Steve Bell in the Guardian and Peter Brookes in the Times. Neil Kinnock, John Smith, William Hague, Michael Howard and Tony Blair were all made to look foolish. David Cameron, who tried to portray himself as Green, was shown cycling to work with a car following carrying his papers. This was after a journalist had discovered that this happened regularly. Nick Clegg was drawn as Cameron’s fag at Eton during the early days of the Coalition government.

The satire continues, but it is true that what politicians dread most is not being depicted at all.

In reply to questions, Tony said that Matt in the Telegraph is very highly rated. Cartoons are sold and often buyers are the subjects. Generally, copyright is owned by the cartoonist, not the newspaper.