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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Frank Insall

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Frank Insall was a minor illustrator of children’s fiction in the 1930s, largely associated with Blackie & Son and the Oxford University Press.

He was born on 2 February 1882 in Bristol, the last-but-one of ten children, and christened Ernest Frank Insall. His father, John (1829-1917) was a grocer and a commercial traveller; his mother was Mary Elizabeth (neé Cave – 1842-1902).  As a child, he sang at local concerts and in church choirs, and his name often appeared in local (Bristol) newspapers between 1889 and 1895. After leaving school he became an apprentice at Mardon, Son & Hall, a Bristol printing and packaging business (later acquired by the Imperial Tobacco Company, becoming responsible for the production of most its cigarette cards). At the time of the 1901 census, living at 38 Longfield Road, Bristol, with his parents and four od his siblings, he described himself as an artist, although he was still an apprentice, albeit a senior one.

On 4 September 1909 he married Eva Mary Lewis (born in Newport, Monmouthshire, in 1883), the daughter of John Lewis, a cabinet maker and upholsterer, at St. Martin’s Church, Newport. They went on to have one child, Valerie Joan, born on 6 November 1910. Frank appears to have been living in Kensington, London, at the time of his marriage, but he and his wife almost immediately settled at “Imvari”, Water Lane, Brislington, Bristol (1911 census).

On 15 November 1915 Frank (recorded as 5 ft. 6 ins. tall) enlisted in the Army Reserve, and on 23 May he joined the 1st S. Midland Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, as a gunner. He was posted to France on 14 September 1917, returning to England in February 1918 before going back to France a month later. He was transferred to the Army Reserve on 5 March 1919, and he left the army in March 1920.

Throughout the war he maintained his membership of the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers, which he had joined in January 1907, giving his craft as a designer. However, he resigned from the Society in July 1920.

In the late 1920s he was living at 9 Edith Villas, Fulham, and had begun his brief career as a children’s illustrator. He had already, in the early/mid 1920s, contributed a few illustrations to The Strand Magazine and Cassell’s Magazine, and he now began working for the Oxford University Press, illustrating a handful of boys’ school stories by Richard Bird, Gunby Hadath and Charles Turley. He also supplied black and white drawings for some of the O.U.P.’s annuals, such as The Big Book of School Stories for Boys (1930-1935), The Great Book of School Stories for Boys, and The Oxford Annual for Boys. He then turned to Blackie & Son and again provided black and white line drawings and the occasional cover for some of its annuals, including A Real Girl’s Book, My Favourite Book, My Own Big Book, The Big Budget for Girls, and Blackie’s Girls’ Annual.

He also supplied illustrations for a handful of books published by Hutchinson & Co. (including Hutchinson’s Girls’ Annual and Hutchinson’s Children’s Annual) and Cassell & Co. In the late 1920s and 1930s he illustrated the occasional story in The Windsor Magazine and The Novel Magazine, and supplied the odd illustration to The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News and The Boy’s Own Paper, as well as the occasional colour plate and black and white illustration for Chums.

His career after the 1930s is a mystery. In 1930 he was living at 36 Hayne Road, Beckenham, Kent. His wife Eva died in September 1936, and he re-married very shortly after this, his second wife being Florence Dorothy Josephine Hugill, who lived in Brentford, Middlesex. Three years later, when the 1939 Register was taken on the outbreak of the Second World War, Frank was recorded (with his wife) as an “artist, commercial and illustrating,” living at 45 Forster Road, Beckenham.

There are no records of any illustrations or pictures by him after 1940, so if he continued his career as an artist he worked anonymously, possibly in advertising, packaging, or design. He did produce the occasional painting, mainly it seems in watercolour, although whether he exhibited any of these is not known.

As far as can be ascertained, he died in Honiton, Devon, in 1965. His wife Florence died in Brentford, Hounslow, in 1978.


Books illustrated by Frank Insall
School House v The Rest by Richard Bird, O.U.P., 1928
Carey of Cobhouse by Gunby Hadath, O.U.P., 1928
The Wharton Medal by Richard Bird, O.U.P., 1929
The Left-Hander by Charles Turley, O.U.P., 1930
Happy Pictures by (Anon.), T. Nelson & Sons, 1930
Biddy’s For Ever by Michael Poole, Cassell & Co., 1931
The Quest of the Sleuth Patrol by Vera Marshall, Cassell & Co., 1931
Madcap Petrina by Pat Gordon, Hutchinson & Co., 1934
Betty of Turner House by Joanna Lloyd, Hutchinson & Co., 1935
Jane of the Crow’s Nest by Ierne Orsmby, Hutchinson & Co., 1936
The School in the South by Angela Brazil, Blackie (re-issue)
Treasure Island by R.L. Stevenson, William Clowes, (re-issue)

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