Famed cartoonist and Radio Times illustrator Ronald Searle died on 30 December, aged 91, his daughter Kate has announced. “He passed away peacefully in his sleep, with his children and grandson by his side,” she said.
Searle is best known for his St Trinian’s and Molesworth series of cartoons, the latter set at St Custard’s boys’ prep school. His publisher, Simon Winder, said: “He gave Britain, in the 1950s particularly, a sense of anarchy. He was extraordinarily sceptical about all forms of authority and there’s something just astonishingly anarchic about Molesworth and St Trinian’s. That’s why they have appealed to so many generations.”
During the Second World War, Searle was captured by Japanese forces in Singapore and from 1942 was kept as a prisoner at Changi, where he was forced to work on the Burma railway by day but by night secretly continued his cartoons.
He created St Trinian’s while a prisoner and though he had been drawing professionally since he left school, it was after the war that his career brought him fame – and then in 1947 the accolade of drawing the Christmas cover for Radio Times.
His work for Radio Times included many sketches accompanying dramas such as the first play by John Galsworthy, best known now for The Forsyte Saga, in 1948 and productions of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in 1949. But he also illustrated documentaries and talks, of which the most striking was 1947’s The Enigma of the Japanese (left): Searle drew the Radio Times billing and appeared in the programme itself to discuss his wartime captivity.
Searle’s drawings were collected in The Art of Radio Times, published in 1981, and many of his wartime pieces are held at the Imperial War Museum in London.