Monday, May 29, 2017


General election September 1927
to cartoon in NLI collection.
Click on any image for a larger version

Sporting analogies have long been used to describe various aspects of life outside the realm of sport itself. They are a godsend to the cartoonist and allow what might otherwise be wise but dull observations to be made in a dramatic and impactful way.

Certainly Gordon Brewster made great use of them and there are nearly forty "sporty" cartoons in the almost five hundred of his cartoons in the National Library collection.

And Gordon was no armchair sports cartoonist. His daughter, Dolores, told me at one stage that
He was no mean athlete. He swam in the island race (Ireland’s eye) and also played water polo. I have the gold medal he won with the Clonliffe Harriers. 

Boxing is probably one of the best sports analogies for depicting conflict whether between individuals or between the individual and hostile forces ranged against him.

This one shows President Hoover, using public works to combat pessimism engendered by a Stock Exchange wobble (or as Brewster puts it "jazz finance on Wall St.") in 1927. However, they didn't know what was coming then and the subsequent crash in 1929 had long lasting devastating consequences.

By the end of 1930 it was clear that Uncle Sam was on the floor.
Caption: "A characteristic of the slump of 1930 in America is that all parts of the country, and all classes are suffering, and not merely sections, which has been the case in some previous depressions".

The area of labour relations was one where Brewster's view had mellowed over the decades from the confrontational to the conciliatory. Clearly he is making an exception here, in 1928, in the case of the moderate militants in the shadow of the bitter 1926 General Strike.
Caption: The General Council of Trade Unions Congress held a special meeting in London to consider the position. The moderates drew first blood. They defeated by 15 votes to 6 a motion by Mr. Hicks to terminate the peace in industry discussions with the Mond group of employers".

By June 1930 some action was called for to clean up boxing itself.
Caption: Owing to the alarming number of decisions on fouls in boxing championships, our artist suggests half-suits of armour for future contests.

Already by 1928 football referees were having serious problems on the field of play and imaginative innovation, however impractical, was also the order of the day.
Caption: "During last weekend there were on three different football grounds and at games played under two different codes, Gaelic and association, disgraceful scenes the referee in each case being violently assaulted because his decision did not satisfy the supporters of one or the other of the teams".

This one from late 1929 suggests that matters had not much improved in the intervening year and a half.

Perhaps the absence of a street ref in 1926, and earlier, might have contributed to the problems on the senior field of play.

I can't look at this cartoon without thinking of Johnny Giles, who, if I remember, started into football in precisely this way on Dublin's northside.

And then there was rugby and the big one in those days was winning the triple crown. The teams playing were England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and any team beating the other three won the triple crown.

There are three Triple Crown cartoons in the collection.This one is 1926 and at this point (7 March) we had beaten England, but had been beaten by Scotland and were to go on to lose to Wales. So we were already out of the running.

This one is 1930 and at that point (1 March) we had beaten England, but had been beaten by Scotland and were to go on to lose to Wales. So we were already out of the running.

This one is 1931 and at that point (7 March) we had already beaten Scotland and were to go on to beat Wales. But we had already been beaten by England and were not in the running at this stage.

Just looking at the cartoons alone you would think all we had to do in those three years (1926, 1930 and 1931) was to beat Wales and we were home and dry. But in all three cases we were already a goner.

So knowing the score when the cartoons appeared what do they tell us? In each case there was the Welsh match still to play, and perhaps that is the only concern of the cartoons. We went on to beat Wales in 1931 and lost to them in the other two years.

As it turned out there was no winner of the Triple Crown in any of the three years. Ireland had not won since 1899 and was not to win again until 1948.

That's enough guff for the rugby afficionados. This one is rugby in the service of politics.
Catption: So strong was the opposition in the Dáil to the Civil Service Regulations (Amendment) Bill that the Government could only obtain a majority of five for the second reading in a division list of 67.

The underlying issue was an interesting one. The Government had discovered that the existing primary legislation - Section 4.2 effectively prohibited recruitment to the Civil Service on a gender basis. The only discrimination allowed was based on age, health, character and whether the appropriate examination fee had been paid.

But the Government didn't want male clerk typists and it didn't want female customs officers. So the word "sex" had to be added to the primary legislation to allow the regulations to discriminate on this basis.

I am including a sprinkling of other sports which figure in Brewster's cartoons below:

Butterfly hunting (August 1929).

I have another example included in my post on Brewster and the Flu.

Bullfighting (July 1931).
Caption: "Not a single Communist has won a seat in the new Spanish Parliament".

Mountaineering (April 1927)
Caption: "In regard to the abolition of redundant departments the Free State Government might take a lesson from the British Government"

Grouse Shooting (January 1930)
Caption: "The various Governments put their names to pacts of peace, but seem to hesitate about honouring their signatures. While the prospects of complete agreement on all points at the London Disarmament Conference are not very rosy, one need not be in a hurry to predict absolute failure".

The remaining sporty cartoons cover a raft of areas, such as: wrestling, fishing, balooning, cricket, greyhound racing, sailing, kite-flying, tennis, ten pin bowling, punting, sailing, and flying.

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