A splendid erection (20.07.10)
Ah, the British seaside. It's a giddy world of funfairs and
donkey rides and sandcastles, deckchairs and ice creams and
fish and chips and mobbing seagulls and Mods and Rockers
feuding on scooters.. erm.. well, maybe not the latter,
But the thing is, there are lots of traditional
elements here. We
know there'll be big pink sticks of rock for sale on the
and windmills and Kiss-Me-Quick Hats. And we also know, as
sure as the rain that ruins every Bank Holiday, there'll
revolving stand of saucy seaside postcards for sale.
The king of the saucy postcard will always be the
incomparable Donald McGill (1975-1962). His famous cards
big bathing beauties, besmirched husbands, drunk Scotsmen
bosomy wives and lashings of double-entendre, and they sold
in their millions. Estimates put the figure as high
as 200 million.
He was also put in the dock, charged with breaking the Obscene
Publications Act, in 1964. But that storm in a vicar's
brewed up too late in the day to stop his fame. His
fans included George Orwell, who was moved to write an
on the man in 1941. And in recent years, film director turned
food critic Michael Winner has been snapping up those
originals. Plus, they surely had some influence upon
wonderfully irreverent Carry On films.
So it's lovely to see that McGill's marvellous endeavours
now being celebrated in the form of a permanent exhibition.
On July 10th Donald
McGill's Saucy Seaside Postcard Museum
opened its doors in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. The museum
features a great many postcards, alongside lots of biographical
information and many examples of his original artworks,
highlight being a ceiling display decorated with 2500
postcard images, presented in chronological order (1904-1963),
with a few three-dimensional features hidden within
just for good measure.
Now, a museum alone is something to celebrate. But there's
even more McGill to get excited about, because there's
extraordinary touring exhibition in the pipeline. Or
funnel line, even.
That's because it's going to be contained within a real-life
from a former steamer ship. Yes, you heard that right.
It comes from the Ryde Queen, a paddle steamer commissioned
in 1936 which carried passengers from Portsmouth to Ryde
to the 1960's. The ship was later transformed into a
now, it's being scrapped. Museum founder James Bissell-Thomas
is endeavouring to take the 22' high stack and enable
walk up a ramp and inside, wherein will be housed some
McGill postcards and interactive exhibits. Said funnel will
into three sections, to enable its transport around
stopping off for a week at various university and seaside
prior to an eventual rendezvous with the Edinburgh Festival.
Doesn't it sound terrific? - Well, there's even more.
The Hound exchanged emails with James over the weekend in
which he revealed that he'd just acquired a rather splendid
Bedford petrol tanker which he's going to transform into
shop to accompany the funnel tour. It will also tow
the funnel ramp,
and provide living accommodation as they roam the UK.
Now, all of this will probably take a couple of
years to come to
fruition but when it does, the sight of that big bright
parked on the seafront, with that funnel standing proud
it, well, it sounds like it will be a most fitting
Meanwhile, there's the Donald McGill museum to visit.
it at 15 Union Street Ryde, PO33 2DU, three minutes walk
Ryde Esplanade Station. And you should know that James'
surname is the Thomas half of Greaves & Thomas,
who now own
the Donald McGill copyright. They have over 2000 McGill
available in their library...
Donald McGill Museum