Park Engineering

 John Park, 32 the Loaning, Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, Strathclyde, Scotland, U.K. ML1 3HE

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Saucy Holiday Postcards by Donald McGill I've read this story before but I couldn't resist repeating it when it appeared the Weekly News 02 08 2014.

Chances are you've had a piece of art by Donald McGill in your house at one time or another. The likelihood is you might even have a McGill sketch for someone else and just didn't realise. And it's more than likely been at this time of year that you made the purchase. That's because Donald McGill was the most prolific of the saucy seaside artists that was once as Obligatory on the British seaside as a stick of rock and bucket and spade. With more double entendres than a Benny Hill episode, the cards sold in their millions. But the former Naval draughtsman fell foul of the Tory governments aggressive ant-obscenity campaign and on July 15. 1954, he was convicted of breaking the Obscene Publications Act 1857 -even though there was nothing lewd about his images.  Sixty years on, a new book about the talented artist is about to be released, and his original artwork can fetch thousands of pounds at auction. James Bissell-Thomas, who owns the copyright to the images and set up a popular museum in McGill's honour on the Isle of Wight, is happy to see Donald finally having his moment in the sun.  "He was a prolific artist but because it was just postcards, his talents were overlooked." James explained. "It was sad that he was prosecuted." McGill, born in 1875, was a sophisticated Victorian gentleman who'd lost a leg during a rugby match at school. He'd quit art school as he found it too serious and it was only by chance that he stumbled back into the art world. "His nephew was in hospital and Donald sketched him a comical get-well-soon card," added James. "It just so happened the boy's parents in a had shares in a picture postcard company and they offered him work. When others saw his talents, offers came flooding in."  McGill produced a series of anti-German propaganda postcards during the First World War but it was hin innuendo cards for holiday towns for which he would be remembered. "His first saucy postcard drawing was in 19006. He got into trouble for that and some were burned," said James. It was a sign of things to come. "Come the 1950's, when Churchill was back in power, he wanted to tighten up on what he considered loose morals from the war," continued James. "Some of the large resorts, such as Blackpool, had Censoring Committees, where all postcards that would  be sold that season had to be approved. "If a banned card then turned up for sale, the seller could be prosecuted. "But many resorts didn't have a committee, so you could drive down to say, Southport and buy a card there. "The police were obliged to look into complaints and there were numerous letter writers around the coastal towns complaining about the postcards, saying they demeaned women. "Here in Ryde, in 1953, five shops were raided and more than 5,000 cards seized. Around half were deemed obscene and burned under an Order of Destruction. Matters came to a head the following year when a "Show Trial" was called at Lincoln and the publishers were taken to court. "The cases of the two publishers were heard before McGill and the jury was laughing so much at the content of the cards that the companies got off lightly," said James. However the jury was changed before McGill's hearing. "He was told if he accepted a guilty plea, e'd be let off lightly," added James. "He was 79 at the time and still working, so he took the advice, which he later regretted. He was fined £25 and the company, Constance Ltd. was also fined £25. "Four of his postcards were immediately banned and a further 17 were not to be republished. "He should never have been prosecuted -- his artwork was lovely and subtle. It made big news at the time. The witch-hunt was relaxed somewhat by the late 1950's and McGill gave evidence before the House Select Committee set up to amend the outdated 1857 act. "He acknowledged that his saucier postcards sold but he was never vulgar" James added. While he never made a fortune from sketching the postcard images, the father of two lived a comfortable life. McGill died in 1962, with 200 new images prepared for the following years holiday season. He produced a remarkable 13,000 over a period of 58 years. The Donald McGill Museum & Archive is in Union Street, Ryde, on the Isle of Wight.

 

Donald's postcard art, once frowned upon, now goes for big sums of money. James said: "When you look at eBay, printed postcards can go for as much as  £200. "The biggest sale of his originals came in 2006, when a great collection came up at Tennents Auctioneers. What once went in the low hundred were now sold for £1,400 and £1,800. "Michael Winner also had a big collection which he sold, the highest priced one going for £2,500.                                                                   

 

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