Rhodri Marsden's Interesting Objects: The saucy postcard

 

* Sixty years ago this week, a 79-year-old man stood trial at Lincoln Crown Court for a breach of the 1857 Obscene Publications Act (OPA). That man was Donald McGill, Britain's pre-eminent saucy postcard artist, who by the time of his death had drawn some 12,000 nudge-wink pictures. One of the offending postcards featured a young man holding a gigantic stick of rock protruding from his groin. McGill claimed that its phallic nature had never occurred to him.

* McGill and three other defendants were victims of a crackdown on publications that supposedly threatened Britain's moral fabric. The election of a Conservative government in 1951 had seen prosecutions under the OPA increase substantially, and saucy postcards bore the brunt. Local people set up regional committees to censor postcards, with varying levels of strictness; Eastbourne, for example, implemented a total ban on McGill's work.

* A 1951 article in the Daily Mirror revealed how plain-clothes officers would ask local shopkeepers if they would be prepared to send a particular postcard to their daughter; if the answer was "No", it would be removed from sale. In 1953 alone, some 32,000 postcards were destroyed. With the industry under threat, double entendres began to tread far more carefully. "Have you cotton wool balls?" asked a generously-proportioned woman of an embarrassed male chemist.

* McGill was found guilty and fined £50 with £25 costs. "I'm not proud of myself," he said in interview later in his life. "I always wanted to do something better." Six years after his trial, the collapse of the prosecution of Penguin Books over Lady Chatterley's Lover saw restrictions on postcards eased, but the Isle of Man's regional postcard committee didn't disband until 1985. When it did, it issued a saucy postcard to mark the event.

@rhodri

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific