Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Ryde, Donald McGill and the Postcard Police

Those of us who reserve a place in our hearts for the traditional English seaside will be familiar with the cheeky postcard, an ever-present which is every bit as much of our coastline culture as the one-armed bandit, sticks of rock and the lido. Large oppressive women, their diminutive henpecked husbands and the obligatory double entendre bring to life the bawdy, sometimes corny but always saucy message that amuses us from the wobbly spinning rack outside the gift shop alongside the bundles of small paper flags and the brightly coloured buckets and spades.

But the innocent Carry On-esque ribaldry of the busty blonde with acute angina has not forever been a welcome feature of our coastal resorts. Indeed in 1953-4 the government embarked upon a moral crusade which saw vendors of such items up and down the country raided by police and their wicked wares confiscated.

Along the seafront in Ryde stands a monument to this sudden draconian outpouring of Churchillian virtue. A
small shop bearing the name of Thomas Skinner stands unoccupied, though prominently displayed in its window are the contents of a letter of protest bemoaning the removal of its stock of postcards by marauding plods.

The graphic artist whose name had become synonymous with the saucy seaside postcard was Donald McGill. For whatever reason Ryde was targeted with particular vigour by the morality police, seeing some 5,000 of the offending items removed from several of its small shops. Of these 1,087 belonged to Thomas Skinner. Although nearly 80 years of age at the time, McGill was hauled before the beak in Lincoln on 15th July 1954 and found guilty of violating the Obscene Publications Act 1857. He was fined £50 and ordered to pay £25 in costs.

Perhaps for this reason Ryde today hosts the Donald McGill Museum, in the Royal Victoria Arcade, where a large collection of his work can be seen. Supplies are also available by mail order for collectors and traders.

In these days of instant access to every imaginable form of written, spoken, sung and televisual gratification it is perhaps difficult to conceive of a society in which the humble saucy postcard could have been the cause of so much righteous tumult amongst the higher echelons. Even on the Isle of Wight.

1 comment:

caroline andrews said...

Wow I know it's true but thought it a joke at first!' B-)