Q&A with Grantham Journal cartoonist Terry Shelbourne

Grantham Journal cartoonist Terry Shelbourne.
Grantham Journal cartoonist Terry Shelbourne.
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Grantham Journal cartoonist Terry Shelbourne is one of the most popular and instantly recognisable figures in Grantham.

But how did he become a cartoonist?

Q) When did you first realise you had some artistic skill?

A) I did a sketch of my dad when I was a boy which I still have on my wall. But really it was the headmaster at the original Boys’ Central School, a man called Mr Thorpe. I took some of the cartoons I had drawn in to show him and asked what he thought. He got me a place in Nottingham College of Arts. He was a wonderful headmaster and a veteran of the First World War. Following that I went to work as a cartoonist for John Coxworth. We were all employed by Grantham MP Dennis Kendall who was the boss of BMARC. I was just one in a team of cartoonists.

Q) Why did BMARC want so many cartoonists? Was it for their in-house publications?

That’s exactly what it was. They had their own magazine. I’ve still got one or two. Immediately after that I joined Grantham’s second newspaper, the Grantham Guardian, which was owned by Dennis Kendall. Then I went on to National Service.

Q) How did you find National Service? Did you go far?

A) Gladly, I only went as far as Scotland. I didn’t enjoy it. I cried a lot and wanted my mum. It was 1949 and I was 19. They asked me what trade I had and I told them I didn’t have one. They asked me what I was and I said an apprentice cartoonist. He said “in that case you can be a batman” which was an officer’s servant. That lasted two years and I hated every minute of it.

Q) What did you do when you returned home?

A) When I finished National Service I went to work for John Coxworth again. He was a lovely man and he’d set up in the painting and decorating business. By then I was sufficiently competent and I painted pictorial pub signs. In my time, and I’m not bragging, I painted the pictorial sign for every pub in Grantham. And there was a lot in them days. I retired in 1988 thinking I’d had enough of climbing up shop fronts. I started with the Journal in 1988 and I have been drawing cartoons ever since.

Q) How did the job at the Journal come about?

A) Malcolm Scott was the editor and I sent him a cartoon of the Mayor of the time and he wrote back and said: “Dear Mr Shelbourne, of course at any time I would be pleased to use one of your caricatures in the Grantham Journal and trust a fee of £10 will suffice.”

Q) Did you enjoy coming up with cartoons for the paper?

I always wanted to do it. It was my greatest ambition, to be a cartoonist and the dear old Grantham Journal employed me. I started in 1988 and until a year or so ago I did it every week without fail. That’s about 1,300 cartoons.

Q) I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been to someone’s home to interview them and seen a Terry Shelbourne cartoon on the wall...

That’s so nice to know. They are all over the place. I have been a lucky lad really. I was just saying the other day, it’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself because you forget about all those wonderful years and one of the best things that has happened to me as an artist and a cartoonist is the Grantham Journal. I truly mean that.

Q) You have also combined your artistic work with some of your interests...

A) Absolutely. I have a life-long love of the military, the First World War, the American West, and over the last 40 years steam locomotives. Over that period of time I must have painted 50-odd paintings of steam locomotives. There’s a lot in the news about the Mallard which I have painted countless times. I painted it breaking the record at Castle Bytham and that painting hangs in the council offices.