Friday, 1 November 2013

Sex, Sin and That Saucy Seaside Saucepot - Donald McGill

Before I begin, and as by way of explanation to those who hail from somewhere other than the British Isles, the word 'cock' has, as far as I know, three meanings. The first is the obvious one shared by the UK, USA and probably every other English speaking nation and is RUDE. The second is a male chicken or rooster and the third is almost certainly unique to the English, specifically Cockney 's, and that is a greeting given to other people. "Alright cock?"  If I am teaching you to suck eggs then I apologise.  I promise that is all I am teaching you to suck.

Right then, Donald McGill- dirty old man or fun loving geezer?. For me, these naughty but nice postcards are a memory. They remind me of summer holidays spent in Somerset, dodging the English rain, waiting for the sun to come out, reading Anthony Buckeridge, popping along to the corner store to buy Marvel or DC comics and seeing these postcards on the rack. They are the visual version of a song by Marie Lloyd - "She sits among her cabbages and peas" - all harmless fun but slightly risque. Here is one of his delightful, rather ribald works of postcard art. which uses that word, cock, masterfully,

Salty humour: One of the five McGill postcards that was banned in 1954

The saucy seaside postcard is one of the English people's longstanding idiosyncrasies. These days of Silvia whatserface Day and her pale attempts at erotica and with T-shirts declaring 'Cool as Fuck' these items will appear rather lame but in the fifties the man who created them was charged under the obscenity act. 
For me they are inextricably linked to the bawdy nature of the 'Carry On' films; of John Cleland; of 'The Two Ronnies;' of Henry Fielding and of the irrepressible Benny Hill. They are also linked to the London Music Hall and American vaudeville. They are a very working class, very silly and oooer missus, very naughty. 

Subtle? Fans of McGill say his humour passes the test of time

Of course, Don McGill was not the only artist who drew these risque methods of sending greetings but he was the best. As with The Rolling Stones, The Beatles kept them from the top spot, as with Richard Nixon, he had to wait until JFK wasn't in office. McGill's work sold more, was better produced and created the greatest stir. So large was his living legend that George Orwell published an essay on the man entitled "The Art of DonalMcGill."

A recurrent, almost dominant motif in comic post cards is the woman with the stuck-out behind. In perhaps half of them, or more than half, even when the point of the joke has nothing to do with sex, the same female figure appears, a plump ‘voluptuous’ figure with the dress clinging to it as tightly as another skin and with breasts or buttocks grossly over-emphasized according to which way it is turned. There can be no doubt that these pictures lift the lid off a very widespread repression, natural enough in a country whose women when young tend to be slim to the point of skimpiness. But at the same time the McGill post card — and this applies to all other postcards in this genre — is not intended as pornography but, a subtler thing, as a skit on pornography” 

Bawdy: McGill's postcards were always loaded with innuendo

Let's be honest, the humour wasn't subtle. Clever perhaps, often double enterede but never subtle. The jokes were never meant to be. They had to catch the punters eye, make them laugh then make them buy. And buy them they did - by the truckload. I bet the postman had a giggle when he delivered them.

‘I like seeing experienced girls home.’
‘But I'm not experienced!’
‘You're not home yet!’
‘I've been struggling for years to get a fur coat. How did you get yours?’
‘I left off struggling.’
JUDGE: ‘You are prevaricating, sir. Did you or did you not sleep with this woman?’
CO-RESPONDENT: ‘Not a wink, my lord!’

Suggestive: McGill's characters didn't have to be in a state of undress for the censors to get offended

The cast of characters was, of course, attractive young women, fat old ladies, drunken middle-aged men, honeymoon couples and yes, the flustered, red-faced vicar. Eyes bulged as lewd remarks were passed in apparent innocence. Eyebrows raised, mouths agape as fat bottoms paraded and breasts of impossible sizes wobbled. And who was this dirty old man intent on destroying the Brits stiff upper lip only to replace it with something far larger and equally as stiff? - Donald McGill.

Donald Fraser Gould McGill was a Londoner born and bred. Nice one geezer, stick another tanner in yer skyHe arrived in 1875 in South East London. He lost a foot at a young age. He didn't leave it somewhere then forgot it, not in the privy or local  shop, he lost it after being injured in a game of Rugby. It was a minor setback in a career that would start one way and finish another. 

Generally thought of as being the man who drew smut his qualifications are too easily overlooked. He first worked as naval draughtsmen, a technically demanding job that needed requisite qualifications. it was a job he did and did rather well until 1904.when he drew and painted a get well card to a nephew in a hospital that read 'hope you get out!'  The card was sent to a publisher who gave McGill his first job. It was, as they say, the start of something rather special.

"No wonder they call you Long John Silver," said the actress to the sailor.

And what did Donald McGill look like, well, your average Granddad to be honest...

Prolific: Artist Donald McGill designed 12,000 postcards during a career spanning almost 60 years
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers then hangs his knickers out to dry.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog