Sun. Oct 17th, 2021

Isle of Wight Observer News

The Island's Free Newspaper

Can you help with research into saucy postcard censor?

2 min read

A police historian is hoping Islanders can find a book he needs for research into the work of postcard artist Donald McGill and his problems with the censor.
Michael Gatherar, from Cramlington in Northumberland, wants to find a copy of ‘Donald McGill: Postcard Artist,’ by Bernard Crossley, which is now out of print. He has been in touch with the author, who has been helpful, but does not have a spare copy. However, he told Mr Gatherar that he sold a number of copies at a book-signing in Ryde in 2014.
Mr Gatherer said: “I’m hoping that Isle of Wight Observer readers might be able to help me locate a copy of this book. I know it’s a long shot as only 1,000 copies were printed but it would be amazing if somebody had one sitting on a bookshelf that they have enjoyed over the years but are now willing to part with.”
Sending saucy postcards home used to be as much a part of British summer holidays as ice cream on the beach, and McGill was the undisputed king of jokes and innuendo at the expense of fat ladies, hen-pecked husbands and honeymooning couples.
Described by novelist George Orwell as ‘by far the best of contemporary postcard artists’, McGill’s remarkable career lasted from 1904 until his death in 1962 at the age of 87. He designed more than 12,000 cards, and it is estimated that more than 200 million copies were printed. However, even at the height of his career he was still paid a flat rate of only a few pounds per design, leaving publishers to profit from the huge popularity of his work.
The new Conservative government of 1951 decided to crack-down on declining public morals. In 1953 police raided five shops in Ryde and seized over 5,000 postcards. The next year McGill, now well into his 70s, was prosecuted and fined under the Obscene Publications Act 1457.
If you are able to help please email Michael.Gatherar@outlook.com.