Ronald Searle, creator of St Trinians, dies at 91

  • @johnhenrywalsh

The man who gave the world St Trinian's and St Custard's, who depicted the anarchy that lay beneath the English school system, and whose satirical pen skewered a throng of national stereotypes is no more.

Ronald Searle, perhaps the greatest British graphic artist of the last 100 years, died on 30 December, aged 91.

To the post-war generation, in need of reassurance that British values of decency and fair play continued unscathed, Searle was a bracing shock.

In a flood of cartoons, collected in five books, from Hurrah for St Trinian's (1948) to Souls in Torment (1953) he offered the prospect of a girls' boarding school where schoolgirls smoked Woodbines at late-night poker sessions, where cheating was endemic and authority was long abandoned for pragmatism.

This was a brilliant attack on the old public-school system and how amoral, ingrown and septic it could become. It was also, of course, a reversal of the image of young British girlhood, no longer innocent and demure, but newly worldly-wise and frightening. It was a Zeitgeisty blast; just a year after the last St Trinian's book came out, William Golding published Lord of the Flies.

Searle was immensely prolific, supplying cartoons and drawings to scores of magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, including Punch and The New Yorker. His unmistakeable figures, now in Edwardian garb, could be found in the credit sequence of the movies Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) and Monte Carlo or Bust (1969) and he published several books of drawings – his favourite subjects were cats and Paris.

Obituary, page 14