Friday, 6 January 2012

Ronald Searle 3rd March 1920 - 30th December 2011

A week ago, Ronald Searle died at the age of 91. He was one of Britain's best-loved illustrators, creator of St Trinians and many other humorous works, but he had many other sides to his art, not least the drawings he made of his time as a Japanese prisoner-of-war working on the notorious Siam-Burma 'Death Railway'.

There is an online tribute here, Spitalfields Life, which shows some of his social observation.

To see more of his splendid drawings, just go to Google Images and you can spend all day marvelling at the range of his ability. 

For me though, he will always be associated with Nigel Molesworth, the sardonic, semi-literate schoolboy hero of Down With Skool!, Back in the Jug Agane! and Whiz for Atoms. This tribute comes a little late, but it was only today that I stumbled across a copy of Down With Skool! on my bookshelf. I haven't looked at it for a very long time and as soon as I opened it, I was overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia. The book accompanied me through the hell of Secondary School and looking at all the comments I made in the margins, I clearly empathized with Molesworth.

Here are some scanned pages from the battered book, folded in half to fit into the pocket of my school blazer. On some of the pages, I've added in pencil, the nicknames of the various teachers I associated with the characters in the book. I had completely forgotten most of them, but the drawings have brought back memories of teachers like Pete (Pater) Whitton, our loveable Latin teacher, who wandered around the school in a cloud of chalk dust, dreaming about the glories of Rome.

Then there's this guide to teacher tortures - all so familiar to my generation. 

The entire staff of my old school would be sacked and prosecuted for child abuse now of course, but these were the days when six of the best was standard punishment for getting caught smoking behind the bicycle sheds. To the above I'd add the ear lobe twist  and the Adam's Apple squeeze (particularly nasty, that one).

See how he's set me off...