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Saturday, September 15, 2018

W Lindsay Cable

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

W. Lindsay Cable is best-remembered today for illustrating several of Enid Blyton’s girls’ school stories, including her St. Clare’s series. He also illustrated several books by Rita Coatts, and several boys’ adventure stories.

Some sources, for example Brigid Peppin’s and Lucy Micklethwait’s Dictionary of British Book Illustrators – The Twentieth Century (1983), have referred to Lindsay Cable as a woman: “Illustrator, mainly of girls’ school stories, in pen and ink, brush and ink and pencil. Initially, her work was rather reminiscent of fashion plates, but by the 1940s it had become more independent in style, employing a good range of textures and shading.” Taking his cue from this Alan Horne, in The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators (1994) also refers to Lindsay Cable as being female. Both sources were wrong.

W. Lindsay Cable was born on 30 March 1900 in Lochee, Forfarshire, Scotland, and christened William Lindsay Cable. His father, Thomas Cable, was a cabinet-maker and undertaker, who had married Mary Ann Mortimer, a milliner, in Lochee on 2 March 1888. They had five children: Thomas (born in 1889 – he went on to become a well-known comedian in Scotland), Mary Black (born in 1890), John Mortimer (born in 1897, died aged just 4 days), William, and Annie Ogilvie (1903), all born in Lochee. At the time of the 1901 census, the family was living at 67 High Street, Lochee; ten years later they were at 142 Albert Street, Dundee.

Cable developed his artistic talent during a boyhood illness, teaching himself to draw and paint in oils and watercolours. After leaving school he worked for The Dundee Advertiser and The Dundee Peoples’ Journal, providing cartoons and sketches. He subsequently moved to London, where (according to an obituary in The Dundee Courier in 1949) he opened a studio which he maintained for ten years. Unfortunately, it is not known where this was, although it is known that between 1928 and 1936 Cable was living at 26 Mecklenburgh Square, St. Pancras.

It is likely that he came to London shortly before 1925, when his earliest recorded work as an illustrator for national periodicals appeared. He contributed, albeit only minimally, to The Boy’s Own Paper and The Red Magazine, and he went on to contribute to The Bystander, The Passing Show, The Strand Magazine, The Golden West, Pearson’s Magazine, Cassell’s Magazine and, between 1931 and 1936, to The Novel Magazine. He also went on to work for Punch in the 1930s.

At the same time he was also working as a commercial artist – it is known, for example, that he designed posters for the Great Western Railway in the late 1920s//early 1930s. He later occasionally exhibited as a painter, in particular with the Royal Scottish Academy and the Dundee Art Society.

In the late 1930s he moved to Devon, and lived for a while at Taunton Cross, Shute, Axminster. In 1938, in Weymouth, Dorset, he married Minnie Skinner Hamden, born on 9 December 1902, the daughter of William Richard Hamden, the manager of a mineral water company. They settled at 22 Park Lane, St, Thomas, Devon, with Cable describing himself in the 1939 Register as a “Freelance Artist, Humorous and Serious, Educational Book Illustrator.”

His first book illustrations had appeared in 1931, in a story by May Wynne published by the Religious Tract Society, and then he began providing illustrations for dustwrappers (for example for two novels by Richard Starr, The Fifty-Fifty Marriage and Bachelor Girls, published by Herbert Jenkins). However, it appears he didn’t establish himself as a book illustrator until the late 1930s, when he illustrated a handful of girls’ school stories for Thomas Nelson & Sons and Wells Gardner, Darton & Co. Having moved to Devon, he also worked with local publishers, illustrating a book of biographies of Cornish characters written by Clara Vyvyan and published by the Channing Press in Dawlish, Devon, and two series of “early reader” books published by A. Wheaton & Co., of Exeter.

In 1939 he illustrated a re-issue of Angela Brazil’s Monitress Merle for Blackie & Son, and he went to specialize in girls’ school stories. He became closely associated with Enid Blyton in 1940, when he illustrated The Naughtiest Girl in the School (and its sequel, The Naughtiest Girl Again in 1942) for George Newnes, and in 1941 when he began illustrating what turned out to be her six stories set at St. Clare’s, published by Methuen & Co. In 1943 he illustrated The Secret of Cliff Castle which was published by Newnes in 1943 under Blyton’s pseudonym of Mary Pollock.

He also illustrated three more school stories by Angela Brazil, for Blackie & Son, and five books by Rita Coatts, published by Wells Gardner, Darton & Co. For the same publisher he also illustrated re-issues of classic novels such as Coral Island, Lorna Doone, Treasure Island, Mr Midshipman Easy and Robinson Crusoe. Between 1945 and 1949 he also worked for the Huddersfield publisher Schofield & Sims, illustrating a handful of children’s adventure and school stories.

He also occasionally contributed to annuals and similar volumes. Including The Sketch Book and Winter’s Pie Annual in 1927, and children’s books such as The Big Book of School Stories for Boys, The Girls’ Budget, Blackie’s Children’s Annual and The All-Story Wonder Book.

Many of his illustrations were in pencil, and were little more than quick sketches, some looking distinctly amateurish while others had a certain deal of verve.

In 1940 he courted some controversy when, while working for the Ministry of Information, he illustrated a series of booklets for children which were blatant propaganda. One, Ahmad and Johnny, written in Arabic, featured two young boys, Johnny, from England, and Ahmad, from Sudan, who had been brought to England by Johnny’s father. These were distributed in the Middle East and North Africa, while another series, Hussein and Johnny, written in Farsi, was aimed at an Iranian audience. Both series set out to show how enlightened and powerful Britain was, and how the country was pulling together to fight fascism.

In 1941 Cable left the Ministry of Information and returned to Dundee, where he spent two years working at the Dundee College of Art during the war-time teacher shortage, whilst still illustrating children’s books.

William Lindsay Cable died at his home at Thorngarth, 39 Navarre Street, Barnhill, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, on 12 April 1949, and was buried in Shanwell Cemetry, Carnoustie, on the 15 April. He left an estate valued at £3,098. His wife died at 72 Elwell Street, Upwey, Weymouth, Dorset on 17 October 1994, leaving £125,000.


Books illustrated by W. Lindsay Cable
The Secret of Marigold Marnell By May Wynne, Religious Tract Society, 1931
Nora O’Flanigan, Prefect by Maude S. Forsey, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1937
Jane Emerges by Margaret Ironside, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1937
Cornish Cronies by C.C. Vyvyan, Channing Press, 1937
Ghosts at Stark Hall by Rita Coatts, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1938
Jim the Dandy by S.M. Williams, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1938
Merry-go-Round Readers ed. by C. Bradham, Wheaton & Co.:
1.    Swing High! Swing Low! 1938
2.    All the Fun of the Fair 1938
3.    Roundabouts and Swings 1938
4.    Carnival! 1939
5.    Helter Skelter 1939
Wheaton’s Rhythmic Readers ed. by Belle Rose & M. Gallagher, Wheaton & Co., 1938-1940 (5 books)
Mary Todd’s Last Term by Frances Greenwood, Blackie & Son, 1939
The Caravan Holiday by Eileen Brook, Schofield & Sims, 1939
Monitress Merle by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1939 (re-issue)
The Mystery House by Jessie Leckie Herbertson, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1939 (re-issue)
Tom Sawyer Grows Up by Clement Wood, George G. Harrap & Co., 1940
The Saturday Club by Elizabeth Leitch, Blackie & Son, 1940
The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton, George Newnes Ltd., 1940
Jane Emerges by Margaret Ironside, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1937
My Picture and Easy Reading Book, Frederick Warne & Co., 1940 (with other artists)
Running Deer by Geoffrey Trease, George G. Harrap & Co., 1941
Spies Over France by James Stewart, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1941
Five Jolly Schoolgirls by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1941
The Twins at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1941
The Naughtiest Girl Again by Enid Blyton, George Newnes Ltd., 1942
The Mystery of the Moated Grange by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1942
The O’Sullivan Twins by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1942
Summer Term at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1943
The Secret of Cliff Castle by Mary Pollock (i.e. Enid Blyton), George Newnes Ltd., 1943
Second Form at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1944
Don and the Meadscourt Mystery by V.B. Charlesworth, Hollis & Carter, 1944
Claudine at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1945
Fifth Formers of St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1945
A Nautical Weekend by Charles Constant, Schofield & Sims, 1945
A Feud and a Find by Bertha Leonard, Schofield & Sims, 1945
The School on the Loch by Angela Brazil, Blackie & Son, 1946
The House Next Door by Ethel Nokes, Ward Lock & Co., 1946
Flying Films by Robert Hawke, Schofield & Sims, 1946
Aircraft Carrier by S.T. James, Schofield & Sims, 1946
The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1946 (re-issue)
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1946 (re-issue)
The Secret of Arrivol by Frances Cowan, Schofield & Sims, 1947
Tales of the Tyrol by Shillingford St. George, Schofield & Sims, 1947
The Serpents by Amy Woodward, Schofield & Sims, 1947
Chu Tafu by Athol Harcourt Burrage, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1947
The Cruise of the Kingfisher by H. De Vere Stacpoole, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1947 (re-issue)
The Heather Moon by Hetty Davey, Schofield & Sims, 1947
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1947 (re-issue)
Jim Davis by John Masefield, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1947 (re-issue)
Mr Midshipman Easy by Frederick Marryat, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1947 (re-issue)
Little Christian’s Pilgrimage by Helen L. Taylor, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1947 (re-issue)
When the Sea Boiled by Leslie Savage, Hollis & Carter, 1948
The Jewels and Jenny by Winifred Barnes, Schofield & Sims, 1948
The House with Dark Corners by Rita Coatts, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1948
Jane Sets Out by Rita Coatts, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1948
Lisbet Leads: A Story for Girls by Rita Coatts, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1948
Round Fairyland with Alice by Brenda Girvin, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1948 (re-issue)
Trouble at the Grange by George Pumphrey, Schofield & Sims, 1949
Jenny at St. Julien’s by Winifred Barnes, Schofield & Sims, 1949
The Redgold Guineas by Susan Mary Williams, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1949
The Silent House Which Held a Secret: A Story for Girls by Rita Coatts, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1949
The Three Elizabeths by Jesse Margaret Page, Blackie & Son, 1950
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (abridged), Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1952

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