Reginald Smythe ( 1917-1998)

Reginald Smyth (profesional name Reg Smythe) was a British cartoonist who created the popular, long-running Andy Capp comic strip. He was born 10th July 1917 in Hartlepool, County Durham, England, the son of Richard Oliver Smyth, a shipyard worker, and his wife, Florence, née Pearce, the oldest of five children. With his father chronically unemployed, he grew up in poverty, and often referred to himself as a "canvas shoes kid." He attended Galley's Field School on the Hartlepool Headland but left at fourteen to take a job as a butcher's errand boy. In 1936, after a period of unemployment, he joined the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and was posted to Egypt. His father died during his service. He served during the Second World War in the North African Campaign. Promoted to sergeant, he was demoted to corporal for a minor disciplinary offence, and was ultimately medically discharged after a stint in an Edinburgh hospital in 1945. He was awarded various wartime medals during his service. During this time he developed his talent for drawing, designing posters for amateur dramatic productions] and selling cartoons to Cairo magazines. After the army, he took a job as a telephone clerk for the General Post Office in London. He married Vera Toyne in 1949; they had no children. He continued to design theatrical posters in his spare time, and was advised to become a professional cartoonist. While retaining his day job, he was soon drawing sixty cartoons a week. He contributed to minor publications and drew sketches of council meetings for local newspapers. In 1950 he went freelance and contributed cartoons for the London Evening Standard, Reveille, Punch, and the Daily Mirror. In 1954 the Daily Mirror's art editor, Philip Zec, gave Smythe a regular daily cartoon. Then, in 1957, he was asked by Mirror editor Hugh Cudlipp to create a cartoon character for the paper's Manchester edition. He thought up Andy Capp, a stereotypically lazy, selfish working-class northerner in a flat cap, and his long-suffering wife Flo. Capp's headgear was inspired by a fellow spectator at a football match Smythe had attended when young, who took off his cap when it started to rain, because he didn't want to wear a wet cap at home that evening. Originally commissioned for the Mirror's northern edition, Andy Capp was soon appearing in all editions nationwide. The first collection of Andy Capp cartoons was published in 1958. The strip became internationally popular, appearing in at least 700 newspapers in 34 countries. Smythe returned to his hometown of Hartlepool in 1976. His first wife, Vera, died in 1997, and in 1998 he married Jean Marie Glynn Barry, but later the same year he died of lung cancer. Smythe was honoured with numerous awards, including Best British Cartoon Strip every year from 1961 to 1965 and other major awards abroad. Died 13th June, 1998

Produced artwork for Unissued 'Railway Engineers' 1955 series.

Back to Artists

Travelling Art Gallery