Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Phil Meigh (1926-2008)

Back in January 2007, I wrote a little squib about Phil Meigh, who contributed to a couple of Swift annuals in the 1950s. One featured a character named Fanciful Freddie (Swift Annual 2, 1955) whilst a second strip, obviously by the same artist, featured the same character, but re-named Hopeful Harry (Swift Annual 6, 1959).

I said at the time that I had originally thought 'Phil Meigh' might be a pseudonym for someone filling a space—'fill me'—but I quickly revised that opinion when I found out that he also produced cartoons for Lilliput and Young Elizabethan. Beyond that, he remained a mystery.

I was recently contacted by Phil's son with the news that his father had died on February 7th at the age of 82 having been admitted to Cirencester Hospital suffering from pneumonia a week earlier.

Philip Meigh was born in Rouen, Normandy, the son of a British father and French mother who met during the Great War. The family moved to Cheltenham in 1937 and his older brothers, Harry and Walter, all attended the Prior Park Roman Catholic boarding school in Bath.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Meigh studied art at Wimbledon Arts College—where he met his wife-to-be, Francis—and then at the Royal College of Art in London. Meigh then began a successful as a cartoonist; his work was spotted by the editor of Punch and this led to a 25-year-long association with the magazine. His cartoons also appeared in Tatler, The Times, the Daily Sketch and Daily Mirror. Meigh and his wife also used their creative talents to buy houses and restore and renovate them.

Living in the Cotswolds, Meigh developed a great love of waterfowl, amassing a huge collection, and, in 1974, he approached Prinknash Abbey to run a bird sanctuary. The original nine acres he was offered developed into Painswick Bird and Deer Park, which Meigh remained a director of until his death.

Separated from his wife in the 1980s, Meigh's partner for his last twenty years was Carol Cole with whom he set up Classical Fine Arts, making companion boards and tromp l'oeil paintings.

According to Mrs. Meigh, "Few people leave behind such a wonderful legacy of art and creativity that people can enjoy. Most of us that knew him, however, will truly remember him for his outstanding wit and humour which belied a very thoughtful, multi-talented and unique person."

He was survived by his three children, Beatrice, Melanie and James.

(* My thanks to James Meigh who sent over the photos and the following selection of cartoons.)

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