Oration for Ed McLachlan

By Professor Gordon Campbell

Ed McLachlan is a cartoonist, illustrator and designer, perhaps best known for his cartoons in Punch and Private Eye. You will have seen some of his cartoons on the screen in the entrance lobby, and you will see more as you leave. Ed McLachlan is a native of Humberstone (on the northwest side of the city), where he attended the village school before going on to Wyggeston Grammar School, next door to this University, for what he describes as 'five very undistinguished years'. He had an ambition to go into the building trade, but a month of bad weather after he left school with three O-levels discouraged him. At this point, aged 16,  he had a lucky break in the form of a grant to fill the last place on the graphic design course at the Leicester College of Art and Technology, now De Montfort University. Ed's first printed cartoons were in Lucifer, the College Rag Magazine,

On leaving College, armed with the then equivalent of a good degree, he sought his fortune in London, but his luck and his money both ran out. Returning to Leicester, he took a job with a local printing company for what he describes as 'three mad years'. One day, for a bet, he sent a scrapbook of cartoons to Punch, and they bought one for seven guineas. A payment of that magnitude struck Ed McLachlan as a lot of money for two hours' work, especially as he was being paid £5 and ten shillings for a 42-hour week. This was a career defining moment. The next week Punch took two cartoons, and the following week they bought seven cartoons. He was launched, and thereafter he had steady cartoon work.

In 1964 Ed married the most beautiful girl in Leicester. Shirley is here today, as are their four children. Two years later he gave up regular employment and went freelance. As a newcomer, Ed had to hustle for work, mostly in London, and with the help of an artist's agent, banged on the doors of many agencies.

As his reputation for creativity and reliability grew, so did the number of commissions. In 1967 Ed began a long period contributing to Private Eye, which bought more commercial success and a string of awards. He did not, however, fit comfortably into the national press: he was repeatedly hired, but editorial changes meant that the sack soon followed. He soon found that his ideal niche was magazines. He continued to work with Punch and Private Eye, but also contributed to  The Spectator, The Oldie, Saga Magazine, Investor's Chronicle, The Salisbury Review, The Cartoonist, the New Statesman, Housing Today, and Reader's Digest as well as magazines abroad. He also produced many calendars for companies such as Saga, Bass, Shell and the chemicals multinational BASF.  In the world of advertising, he has mounted campaigns for Walkers Crisps, Dewar's Whisky and Volvo trucks, and posters for clients ranging from Dyno-Rod to the Lord Mayor of London's Show.

Ed McLachlan is also a book illustrator, with work for publishers such as Longman, Macmillan, Pearson, Penguin, Corgi, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Hodder, working with authors such as Gyles Brandreth, David and Ben Crystal, Jonathan Porritt and Bill Beaumont. His work in this sphere has included some 80 Bangers & Mash books (which became a television series) and more than 100 volumes of the 'For Dummies' series. He has also designed for animation many TV commercials.

And as if this would not fill a busy life several times over, Ed McLachlan also writes and illustrates children's books, a strand in his career that began in 1969 with Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, which became the inaugural volume of a four-part series and then became a series of 26 films for ITV. He is still active, and most recently he has designed menus and menu cards for Lime Wood, Angela Hartnett's restaurant in the New Forest. His original cartoons are exhibited regularly at the Chris Beetles Gallery in London, and can be purchased there.

Ed McLachlan has been widely honoured by his profession, whose professional bodies have voted him Illustrative Cartoonist of the Year, Advertising Cartoonist of the Year and Gag Cartoonist of the Year; more recently, he has received a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr Chancellor, on the recommendation of the Senate and the Council, I present to you Edward Rolland McLachlan, that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Letters.

Delivered by Professor Gordon Campbell on 12 July 2016

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