Obituary: Michael Cummings

Arthur Stuart Michael Cummings, cartoonist: born Leeds 1 June 1919; OBE 1983; married (one step-son); died London 9 October 1997.

"The pen is mightier than the sword", a cliche old but true, was dusted off by the late columnist Jean Rook when she did an anniversary interview with her fellow Daily Express staffer, Michael Cummings. This was some years ago when Cummings was already on the way to establishing a record for a cartoonist's spell with a single newspaper. By the time he officially retired from Express Newspapers in 1990 he had worked there for over 40 years, and after several more years of freelancing for both the Daily and the Sunday Express, it was not far short of the half-century.

Michael Cummings was born in Leeds in 1919, in the aftermath of the Great War. His father was A.J. Cummings, a political columnist of the period who would achieve Fleet Street fame as the political editor of the old News Chronicle. Clearly the seriousness of the father was a major influence on the growing boy, who chanced to have an obvious instinct toward drawing.

The young Michael had a good education, starting with The Hall in Hampstead and moving on to Gresham's School in Norfolk. Then he went on to art school, studying at the Chelsea School of Art for three years before he was called up into the Royal Air Force. Able to make use of his artistic ability, the RAF made him a Draftsman and he was posted to the Air Ministry. Here he drew aeroplane parts for the duration, and on discharge promptly resumed his arts studies at Chelsea.

Cummings had been aiming at a career in political cartooning since his school days, and freelanced the odd sketches here and there. His first success came with the left-wing weekly Tribune in 1939, a paper that reflected his own political leanings. He returned to the Tribune after the war where the editor, Michael Foot, gave him steady work as an illustrator for the book review page. Now and then a political picture would get published, and it became increasingly obvious where Cummings's future lay.

In 1948 his father encouraged him to try for a cartooning job on the Daily Express, where he had heard there was a whisper that Giles, the country's leading cartoonist, was seeking some relief from the day-after- day drive of turning out the newspaper's regular editorial cartoon. Lord Beaverbrook, the paper's proprietor and a lifelong enthusiast for cartoons and cartoonists, spotted the young artist's potential and could see that Cummings' style, more serious and more life-like than that of Giles, would make an interesting contrast if the two cartoonists were alternated.

Unhappily for Cummings, his editor did not at first agree, and sacked the young man after a three month's trial. However, Beaverbrook intervened and insisted that the newcomer was given another chance. He was, and this time won through.

Cummings and Giles now drew three editorial cartoons a week each, with Cummings getting the extra one in the Sunday Express. The alternation of Giles' comical cartoon family up to their "Casey Court" capers in very realistic settings, with Cummings' hard-edged caricature of political personalities and parties in highly imaginative set-ups, worked brilliantly, and everyone was satisfied from editor and proprietor down to the reader in the bus.

Despite Cummings' caricatures of everyone from the Queen on down, he was appointed OBE in 1983, and by 1989 had published 5,000 cartoons. Many of these were republished in annual albums which ran from 1954. The first was entitled These Uproarious Years.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chief Engineer

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chief Engineer is required to...

Recruitment Genius: Web Marketing Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading Renewable Energy compa...

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?