Ronald Searle

By: Robert Wringham
March 3, 2014


Anyone who has a thing for British cartooning — Dan Dare, The Beano, Cosgrove Hall — will doubtless love its anarchic, knockabout, scuffed-knee style. Looming large in this tradition is satirist RONALD SEARLE (1920–2011) with his girls of St. Trinian’s and boys of St. Custard’s. St. Trinian’s — “a female borstal” — was a boarding school for delinquent girls rumoured to be the daughters of mob bosses. They smoked, gambled and even murdered their way through five books and a series of quasi-canonical films (two of which were made very recently, one with Russell Brand). St. Custard’s prep school, meanwhile, was allegedly built by a madman and home to young Nigel Molesworth and his motley crew of “grate frends.” An enduring catchphrase from the Molesworth books is “as any fule kno,” which still crops up from time to time in Private Eye magazine. Both of Searle’s major series gorgeously satirised the spirit of British schooling, which we can also learn about from people like Evelyn Waugh and Stephen Fry, albeit stripped of any illusion that the reader might actually aspire to have been there. The later St. Trinian’s cartoons were tainted with darkness, a result of Searle’s time as a POW in Singapore, though they became an inspiration for two books of surreal prose and illustration by John Lennon. As any fule kno.

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On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Edward Thomas, David Lindsay, Robyn Hitchcock.

READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).


HiLo Heroes, Literature