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George Gale

George Gale, cartoonist

Born: 11 June, 1929, in Leven, Fife

Died: 17 September, 2003, in Edinburgh, aged 74

GEORGE Gale was a cartoonist with a refined and courteous style. Not for him the savage drawings that lampooned his subjects or made fun of unfortunate facial characteristics. He certainly poked fun - but in a subtle and poignant manner that made its mark without offending.

For many years he had been a freelance contributor to various newspapers and magazines and agreed to join the staff of the Daily Telegraph in the late 1980s. However, it did not prove the most satisfactory career move and Gale soon returned to freelancing.

He remained a proud and determined Scot throughout his life, returning to live in Edinburgh two years ago.

George Paterson Gale was born in Leven, where his father was a civil engineer. After attending the local school, he had planned to become an engineering draughtsman, but instead he moved to England and went to St Martin’s School of Art in London. But in 1954 he returned north of the Border to marry Elizabeth Watson in St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle.

About this time, Gale started submitting cartoons to editors, and his pen and ink drawings - displaying a fondness for skilful composition and a witty caption - were seen in many national papers. In the 1970s, he was supplying cartoons to the Times, the Economist and the left-wing magazine Tribune. In the 1980s, he was one of the first cartoonists to be used by the Financial Times.

It was in the Times that Gale produced one of his most thought-provoking drawings. In January 1973, when the UK joined the EEC, he produced a pastiche of the Bayeux Tapestry running across six pages of the paper. Many of the individual drawings echoed the original - including the flying meteor - and catalogued in some detail the lengthy saga of Britain’s entry to the Common Market.

It was in 1988 that he produced another of his most evocative cartoons. He spent some time over a drawing he titled West Belfast and it was widely praised. It was a take-off of Picasso’s famous anti-war painting Guernica and Gale, with much subtlety, populated his cartoon with menacing and forbidding characters.

In 1989 he was offered the post of political cartoonist on the Telegraph, succeeding Nick Garland, who had become popular with readers in his 20 years at the paper but had quit to join the new Independent.

Gale felt his relaxed and well-executed drawings would suit the Telegraph’s style, but from the outset there seemed to be something of a clash with the editor, Max Hastings. Whoever was to blame, Gale was not happy at the Telegraph and, even worse, found his cartoons were being lampooned in Private Eye.

After some unpleasant months, Gale returned to being a freelance and picked up work with his accustomed zeal. A notable new publication, the parliamentary weekly House Magazine, asked him to make regular contributions. Gale’s style remained as pert and lively as ever. He did not follow the fashion of the 1990s to distort facial expressions or mannerisms. Instead he gave a dignified impression of his subject, often adding a dash or a quip that spoke volumes.

Many of his drawings and cartoons found their way into public (Edinburgh University) and private collections. Some of those whom Gale had drawn over 40 years bought the original drawings direct from the artist, and his work can be seen in the homes and offices of Baroness Thatcher, Lord Callaghan, Tony Benn and Lord Heseltine, among others.

Gale, who never lost his Fife accent, bore a striking resemblance to Sir Sean Connery. He was often approached by members of the public for his autograph, only to say, with a wry smile, that he wasn’t who they thought he was.

Gale died after a short illness in Edinburgh. Appropriately, the last drawing he did was of his doctor who had tended him with much care and attention. His funeral will be held at St Giles Cathedral this afternoon. He is survived by his wife and their son.

 
 
 

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