Caption – ‘Pardon me miss – could you possibly turn SIDEWAYS? I want to close the doors!’
The ever-popular saucy seaside postcards of Donald McGill raise more of a chuckle than a moral backlash these days but back in the 1950s the emphasis was on prude rather than rude. It seems incredible now that they fell foul of strict morality laws.
The director of public prosecutions, Sir Theobald Mathew, waged war on the saucy postcard industry and the 79-year-old McGill was even hauled into court and 21 of his designs were banned in 1954 for breaching the 1857 Obscene Publications Act. The mood suited the moralistic stand taken by the Conservative government elected in 1951, leading to the censorship of 167,000 books. Although the restrictions faded several years later as attitudes changed, McGill was found guilty at that Lincoln Crown Court case and fined £50 with £25 costs.
His instantly familiar designs are now highly collectable and while original watercolours by him have often come up at auction recently, a rare chance to buy 18 original McGill pencil sketches, on which the colourful postcards were based, is coming up at Cirencester auction house Moore Allen & Innocent on Friday, January 9.