Classic Cartoons

Martin Plimmer on John Leech
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The Independent Culture
TIMES CHANGE. Nowadays Arthur Scargill stands as a London MEP candidate and the pits of the North have become heritage centres staffed by blacked-up actors, authentically re-creating what they once were for the entertainment of strangers lured off motorways.

These two chaps, rather crudely drawn by John Leech for an early edition of Punch, wouldn't know what an equity miner was if one came up and tried to sell them a Yorkshire pudding key ring. An unexceptional draftsman, Leech was Punch's biggest draw in the 1850s by virtue of his reliable wit and his rejection of Georgian ribaldry. If Leech's view of a typical 19th-century miner is at all accurate, then it would seem that the amiable, heart-of-gold characters currently charming coach parties into visitor centres have got the tone completely wrong.

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