15th July 1954. Saucy Donald McGill.
The action was brought resulting from the publication and sale of his postcards when he was unwillingly persuaded to plead guilty to four charges laid against him.
D. Constance and Company Ltd the publishers were fined £50 with £25 costs. McGill was fined £10. Half a million postcards had to be destroyed.
For many years Seaside Censorship Boards had banned any postcards thought as unfit for sale to the public.
McGill himself was an outwardly conventional family man and his neighbours knew little of his daily work. However the area undoubtedly had its share of parlour-maids, nannies, and charladies, city gents, policemen, curious postmen and innocent clergy, all of which were to feature in his postcards.
On a TV programme in 1957 McGill confessed that his postcards were ‘vulgar sometimes, but just a bit of fun.’ But whilst spending his working days designing comic postcards, he was to spend his leisure time in the local library studying anthropology!
McGill always said he didn’t understand the double-entendre, but then he said he never went to the seaside!
However a relative later interviewed in 2006 said she remembered his frequent visits to the sea-side, so no doubt he spoke with tongue in cheek.
On 20th September 1977 there took place the unveiling of a blue plaque in memory of Donald McGill at his Victorian House 5, Bennett Park, Blackheath, London, where he lived from 1931 to 1939.
At the ceremony young men in striped blazers and straw boaters paraded with scantily dressed bathing belles, saucy maids, crestfallen curates and the sort of red nosed characters which McGill made his own. He died on 13th October, 1962 at 87.
Penguin Books acquittal for obscenity in the publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960 showed the absurdity of censorship, and by 1962 the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Postcard Index ended. The Blackpool Committee disbanded in 1968, with the Isle of Man persisting until 1985.
Any visit to a book shop now is a reminder of how things have changed in matters of vulgarity and demonstrates how ephemeral is so-called taste.
This is particularly true in an age where newspapers, TV and social media reveal uninhibited licence.