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Monday, July 10, 2017

E F Hiscocks

This post was inspired by an enquiry by Fiona Gray asking whether I knew anything about the artist/cartoonist E. F. Hiscocks. The answer was no, although I recognised the name, as Hiscocks had illustrated a couple of stories in the Union Jack, home of Sexton Blake.

His story begins in Australia to where his Bristol-born father, Frederick Elijah Hiscocks had emigrated. F. E. Hiscocks was a map publisher who, in the 1870s, developed an interest in theatre management and managing touring variety acts with his American partner, Alf Hayman. After losing most of their capital through the collapse of Melbourne's Provincial and Suburban Bank (the two were prominent witnesses in the prosecution of the bank's directors), the partnership split and Hiscocks began managing and promoting the Federal Minstrels in 1883.

Hiscocks married Fannie Marshall in 1875 and their daugher, Fannie Evaline Hiscocks, and son, Eceldoune Frederick Hiscocks – although that first name is also variously recorded as Eceldowne, Eceldonne and Eoddonne – were born in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1877 and 1879 respectively. A third child, Dorothy, was mentioned in the death notice for Fannie in 1922. [For reasons I'll come to, I believe Dorothy is in error and the third child was named Blanche.]

It is worth noting here that a Ebay seller listed an illustration by E. F. Hiscocks giving the dates 1889-1959. I have been unable to track down the source of these dates, but I can be certain that Hiscocks was born in 1879 – indeed, on 19 May of that year at 231 William Street, Sydney – because it was announced in local papers.

The family fortunes were tied in to their father's business, which was buoyant in the 1880s but declined in the 1890s. In 1901 Frederick was laid up after an accident; theatre friends raised money to help him through what was expected to be a long convalescence, but Fred Hiscocks died suddenly in July, aged 59.

E. F. Hiscocks  was employed on the New Zealand Times – the first New Zealand paper to employ a cartoonist on staff. He worked for the Auckland Weekly News until around 1902 and for Weekly Press (Christchurch) between 1902 and 1914. Hicocks ('His' as he signed at least some of his work) was a popular cartoonist who tackled politics and local issues. Some of his work was published in pamphlet form, the best known of which was King Dick Abroad. In 1902, Richard Seddon, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, was well-known for his Falstaffian rotundity and his verbosity, both of which Hiscocks incorporated into his work as he chronicled King Dick's trip to attend the Coronation of King Edward VII.

Saints and Sinners? was a collection of anti-prohibition essays with cartoons by Hiscocks published by the drinks trade.

Hiscocks married Eva Isable Palmer in New Zealand in 1905. Eva was the daughter of Charles Edward Palmer and Mary Ann (nee Sullivan) of Napier, New Zealand, where she was born in 1880.

The two were living at 22 Aurora Terrace, Wellington, in 1911. However, E. F. Hiscocks' address was given in electoral rolls in 1914 and 1919 as Marine Parade, Seatoun, Wellington, his occupation given as journalist. Eva was not listed at the same address and during the war his next of kin was given as his mother in Guildford, Sydney, which makes me suspect that the two had split up, although remained married.

During the war, he served as a driver with the Field Artillery and was part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, drawing cartoons for The Gunner: The Official Journal of H.M.N.Z.T. no 7 aboard the Limerick as it took artillery and troops to the front in 1914. It was recorded that Gunner Hiscocks had disembarked in Malta on 10 September 1915 from the New Zealand Hospital Ship Neveralia "slightly sick".

After the war, E. F. Hiscocks was one of the illustrators who contributed to New Zealand at the Front (Cassell & Co., 1917), which featured contributions from "Men of the New Zealand Division". Shortly after, it was appear that he moved to the UK... although it was not the first time he had been to England, as he had travelled with his family to London and was living at 33 Harrington Square, St. Pancras, at the time the 1881 census was taken. While in London, Blanche Ethel Hiscocks was born. She subsequently married James Henry Thompson on 15 July 1899.

Quite when he moved to the UK is unknown, but he was contributing to The Bystander as early as 1920 and in 1925 he joined the staff of the Daily Mail, although this may have only lasted until 1928. He seems to have remained in the UK for at least a decade, supplying cartoons and illustrations for various papers, including the Blue Magazine (1921), Cassell's Magazine (1927-30), Windsor Magazine (1927), Gaiety (1927) and the Union Jack (1930-31), where he had earlier written a series of articles entitled "The Story of the Australian Gangsters" (1926) about early larrikin types from the 1860-80 era.

What happened to Hiscocks after this, I cannot say. His wife died in Whanganui, Wellington, New Zealand in 1946, aged 65. He may have returned to New Zealand in the 1930s as Britain struggled during the economic downturn, which may have meant that work had become more scarce in the late 1920s. I have found no sign of him in marriage or death records for the UK.

His odd name should make him easy to trace, but if, as it appears, he used only initials and was known to others by his middle name – Fred – it might be the case that his death was recorded as Fred or Frederick; equally, it could simply be the case that not all records are currently available online.

Eceldoune is a unique name which might have come from Thomas the Rhymer, also known as Thomas of Erceldoune, son of a 13th-century Scottish laird who was said to be a great prophet; this subsequently became folk lore and the subject of ballads and was popularised by Sir Walter Scott in his book Minstrelsey (1803).


The “Douk’s” Visit to the Land of the Mao, the Maori, and “the Minor”. A skit, with W. Reuben Watts. Wellington, Tate & Co., 1901.
King Dick Abroad: drawings. Wellington, McKee & Co., 1902.
Saints and Sinners? Concerning Somewhat the 1905 Elections. Wellington, 1905.
Joe Ward Abroad. Wellington, 1911.

Further information:
cartoons at the National Library of New Zealand.

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