Fringe Box



Parke’s People No.6: Cartoonist Brian Bagnall

Published on: 24 Jun, 2012
Updated on: 25 Jun, 2012

Cartoonist Brian Bagnall.

In the sixth of an occasional series about people who are now sometimes forgotten, but who have a connection with Guildford in one way or another, Bernard Parke recalls architect, businessman and cartoonist Brian Bagnall.

Brian Bagnall

Brian Bagnall was an architect, businessman and later in life a cartoonist who lived at Shalford Mill.

He was born in Manchester in 1921 and after attending Xeveran College served in the Duke of Lancashire’s Own Yeomanry and the Royal Artillery during the Second World War.

He was put “in the bag” just after D-Day and found himself in a prisoner of war camp in Eichstatt, not far from Munich, where he remained until the end of hostilities.

In 1952, he graduated from Liverpool University as an architect. Brian then pursued a successful career in the City of London later joining Bison Concrete with whom he became a director.

He had a gift of being a natural cartoonist and would often make a point with the aid of cartoons to illustrate his thoughts. These were drawn on the nearest material to hand – a napkin. a used envelope or a menu, for example. He always caught the mood of the moment and these simple drawings are still much treasured by his friends.

Brian was noted for his immaculate appearance, often smoking a small cigar regardless of public opinion to the contrary. He rode a bike, wearing not a crash helmet but a bowler hat, and  proudly drove a Sinclair C5 electric car.

So good were his illustrations, that after his retirement at the age of 60 his work featured in many publications including Punch, Private Eye, the spectator, the Observer and the Surrey Advertiser. He was very much applauded for his work on the Dear Bill Column in Private Eye.

A typical Brian Bagnall cartoon.

During the 1990s he provided a cartoon each week for the Surrey Advertiser’s Notebook column, that took a light-hearted and irreverent look at items in the local news.

Each Thursday morning the same drama was played out with, by today’s standards, the limited computer and fax machine technology then available. Once the stories for the column had been submitted by the reporters and typed into the computer system, a proof was printed out by the production department. A runner went and collected it from the newspaper’s main office in Martyr Road, taking it back to the newsroom which at the time was in offices in Pannells Court, off Chertsey Street.

The print-out was then faxed to Brain at his home in Shalford. Even though Brian would have been inspecting a fax to arrive down his phone line without fail each week, he always had the fax option switched off. So as the fax tried to reach its destination with a load of bleeping noises, all the sender in the newsroom got was Brian on the other end saying “hello, hello, hello”.

The call then had to be terminated, Brian was re-phoned and asked to switch his machine to the fax option. Once he had received the fax, Brian then selected one story to illustrate. He only had a short time to complete it before driving into Guildford and delivering the cartoon to the newsroom. The runner then had to dash back down to the print department with the piece of artwork where it was copied and added to the actual page ready for printing.

His work was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery and The Arts Club among other venues. Brian continued to work on commissions from his hospital bed right up until the end of his life. He never lost his drawing skills as well as his youthful sense of humour. He died in 2004 at the age of 83.

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