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Sauce for the seaside!

July 2016

Summer – and that means it is time for the seaside!  The beaches, the seafront cafes, the piers, the fun of paddling in the waves..some things never change. But there is one aspect that used to play a big part in summer holidays of the past but has now all but disappeared…and that is the saucy seaside postcard by Donald McGill.

Certainly in the days of our parents, and also in the days of some of us, almost every seaside shop around the nation would display a range of the wonderful Donald McGill postcards showing busty women, flirtatious men and all sorts of funny comments and situations. They sold in their millions.

Often children were shushed aside as the grownups chuckled outside the newsagents’ stands looking at cartoons that wouldn’t have been published elsewhere...

Some were quite gentle really…

While others were definitely getting a little near the limits…


But they all raised lots of smiles and laughter. Donald McGill became Britain’s most famous postcard artist and had a career lasting over 60 years during which he produced over 12,000 postcard designs.

No one predicted this when Donald was born in London in 1875; art did not play a big role in his childhood. But then he lost a foot in a school rugby accident, so followed a sedentary profession as a naval draughtsman. His new career started in 1904 when he drew a get well card for a sick nephew. A relation saw the card and encouraged him to do more drawings…and the McGill Seaside Postcard was born.  McGill spent most of his life not by the seaside but in the Blackheath area of south east London and there is a plaque at 5 Bennett Park, London SE3 where he spent many years of his life.

His postcard featuring a bookish man and an embarrassed pretty women under a tree holds the world record for selling over 6 million copies:


But in the 1950s, with McGill approaching 80, a newly elected Conservative government became concerned about the deterioration of British morals and decided to crack down on this craze of risqué postcards. This culminated in a major trial in Lincoln in 1954 which found McGill guilty of breaking the Obscene Publications Act 1857. McGill was fined £50 and this marked the end of the saucy postcard business. Quite a few cards were destroyed and while the level of censorship eased off a few years later, the end was in sight. While some of the cards were considered to be works of art, generally changing attitudes meant interest in the saucy postcards  dropped.

Today though there is increasing interest again and many of the original postcards are becoming really valuable collectors’ items.

There is also now a Donald McGill Museum which is attracting increasing numbers of visitors every year plus they offer an online shop selling lots of related books and products including the newly published biography of Donald McGill, a great idea for a gift.

The museum is at Atlas Works, 37 Union Road on the Isle of Wight and is open 6 days a week.

Check all details here or call 01983 568 568.



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