Ballyscunnion, by Bill Glenn (1/1/1955)
Ballyscunnion (1/1/1955)

William St. John Glenn, nicknamed "Bill", was a Northern-Irish/British painter, cartoonist and occasional comics artist. He is best remembered for such daily comics as 'Oscar' (1926), 'Dorothea' (1936-1939) and his 'Ballyscunnion' (1938-1969) cartoons. He was also the final artist to draw 'Teddy Tail' for the Daily Mail.

William St. John Glenn was born in 1904 in Belfast. He studied at the Belfast School of Art. By the time he was 16 he saw his first illustrations being published in the sports paper Ireland's Saturday Night. This motivated him to not choose for a career in medicine, but go ahead and draw cartoons. For a period of five years he was employed as an illustrator for publishing house Graham and Heslip Ltd. In May 1926 he created his own daily comic strip 'Oscar' for the Belfast Telegraph which was syndicated to newspapers in Australia and South Africa too. 'Oscar' starred a little bespectacled man with a long nose who walked around in baggy trousers. Later that year Glenn met his future wife, Dorothea, which inspired him to give Oscar an attractive female partner named Dorothea too. On 31 August 1936, Glenn published a spin-off of 'Oscar' but in a different newspaper: The Daily Mail. Titled 'Dorothea', the comic revolved around Oscar's wife. Six months later Glenn left The Belfast Telegraph permanently and joined the Daily Mail. 'Dorothea' was popular with readers and published in South Africa, Scandinavia and Australia too. The protagonist was often seen wearing new styles of fashion, which led some readers into believing that Glenn was a woman, since he appeared to know so much about the topic. 'Dorothea' furthermore gained praise for its experimental lay-out and ran until 1939.

Oscar, by Bill Glenn

Glenn was staff artist, photographer, columnist and editor for The Belfast Telegraph from 1926 until 1936. His written pieces were published under the pen name "The Gay Philosopher". From 1928 on Glenn drew cartoons and magazine covers for the Irish satirical monthly magazine Dublin Opinion, which he signed "William St John" with a diamond-shaped "o". However, his best known feature for this publication was 'Ballyscunnion' (1938-1968), a cartoon panel set in an average but fictional Irish village. The villagers were often commenting on whatever was in the news around that period. Glen drew the cartoons with use of a scraperboard covered in white china. He inked this black and scratched it, which gave the illustrations the appearance of a woodcut. The cartoons ran for more than 30 years until the Dublin Opinion was disestablished. In the early 1930s his one-panel gag cartoon 'Simple Simon' (1931-1934) ran in Ireland's Saturday Night. It starred a simple-minded blond young boy who often asked and made stupid question and remarks. His illustrations furthermore appeared in Judge, The Passing Show, Modern Girl, the London Opinion, Radio Times and Scout.

Dorothea, by Bill Glenn

In 1940 Glenn was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He underwent surgery, which interrupted his graphic career for a long time. Around the same time, World War II took away most of his time. He went to work for the Ministry of Information, where he edited photographs and newsreel footage for public release, as well producing educational films. After the war Glenn returned to the Daily Mail as editor of the comics and cartoons section. He initiated the Strip Cartoons Department and commissioned artists and photographers. He also succeeded Arthur Potts as the artist of the 'Teddy Tail' strip, a funny animal strip originally created by Charles James Folkard, for The Daily Mail from 1954 until its cancellation in 1962. Glenn furthermore illustrated The Daily Mail Annual for Boys and Girls and designed covers for the Teddy Tail Annuals. A more ambitious project was his comic strip adaptation of the 18th century classic 'The Diary of Samuel Pepys'. The rest of his career was spent at The Observer, Punch, Everywoman and Autocar. Glenn also provided photos and articles to the Chelsea News.

Glenn enjoyed a certain prolific status during his lifetime. He was a member of the Institute of Journalists, the Ulster Academy of Art and saw his work being exhibited numerous times. Glenn even managed to be elected as Vice-President and later Honorary Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy. Unfortunately his health started to decline. He underwent two more brain operations in 1951 and 1961 and eventually passed away in Chelsea in 1974.

Teddy Tail, by Bill Glenn

www.william-stjohn-glenn.net

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