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Les Lumsdon, a life in cartoons

During his long reign as The Newcastle Morning Herald’s resident cartoonist, Les Lumsdon became a household name. His daily drawings of blue-collar families grappling with the issues of the day captured the spirit of a city that liked to laugh – especially at itself.

In the 1960s visiting American servicemen were making dating a tough job for local boys.

Born in Abermain in 1912, Les Lumsdon had an early ambition to be a newspaper cartoonist. His first jobs, however, were in retail, first at his parents’ corner store then in the advertising department at the Hustler’s store in Maitland. He married his lifelong wife Vera in 1939.

During World War 2 Les signed up to fight, spending two years in New Guinea where he made pocket money drawing postcards that were highly prized by cashed up American troops.

Les Lumsdon in New Guinea during World War 2.

After the war he trained at East Sydney Technical College and soon found work decorating the covers of girlie magazines of the 1940s and 1950s.

When The Newcastle Morning Herald advertised for a cartoonist, Lumsdon was among 50 applicants, ultimately landing the job that occupied him for the next 30 years and turned him into a household name in the Hunter. He published five slim volumes of his collected cartoons, and these occasionally turn up at second-hand sales.

The black cat, Caspar, that figured in his cartoons was as popular an identity as its creator. When Lumsdon punished the fictional cat for its failure to pick a winner in the Melbourne Cup one year by drawing it being drowned in Newcastle Harbour, the public outcry forced the artist to reincarnate his creation. It is said, perhaps truthfully, that he once emptied 17 pens signing autographs at a Newcastle Show.

Lumsdon retired in August 1977 and he died later that year. He and Vera had no children.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. John Burgess

    Toronto High had a lack of lighting in the class rooms. So Lumsdon drew a cartoon for our school. Did you know P & C stood for paraffin and candles.

  2. M. R. Reid.

    My mother-in-law went to school with a Lumsden ( Cessnock area ) and I have her autograph book with some of his cartoons in it, This would be mid thirties I think, I don’t know wether it’s the same Lumsden though.

  3. Neil Sills

    From a little kid I loved Lumsden. It was a daily game between my grandfather and me to find the cat. Perhaps my two favourite cartoons were when the second of the Coutts (?) priests joined the rugby team and the graphic was of the team running onto the field preceded by an altar boy carrying a lighted candle, and after a prolonged bout of rain, a little kid running inside and shouting “Mummy, the sky’s gone a funny blue colour!”

  4. Ian Rigby

    Wonderfull memories many thanks

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