We were very saddened to hear of the death of Wally Fawkes last week, who passed away at the age of 98 on Wednesday 1st March 2023. Fawkes (also known by his pen-name ‘Trog’) was a revered cartoonist and illustrator with a talent for caricature and an instantly recognisable style. Johanna Fawkes said of her father, “He was warm, funny and thoughtful. Everybody adored him”.
Walter (“Wally”) Ernest Fawkes was born in Vancouver, Canada on 21 June 1924. He moved to England with his mother, siblings, and stepfather in 1931. He loved comics from a young age and from the age of 14 studied at Sidcup Art School for a short time before the outbreak of war in 1939. During the war, Wally worked at Woolwich docks, painting camouflage on factory roofs in an effort to protect them from bombing. This effort was not rewarded as the docks were flattened during the blitz in 1940. Wally did not serve in the war due to a bout of pleurisy, instead working for the Coal Commission tracing maps.
Fawkes’ artistic talent was discovered in 1942 after he took part in an art competition at work that was judged by the Daily Mail’s political cartoonist, Leslie Illingworth. Illingworth was impressed and got him a job drawing for the Clement Davies advertising agency. Then in June 1945 on Fawkes’ twenty-first birthday Illingworth found him a job at the Daily Mail, where he was tasked with creating decorative illustrations and column breakers.
Fawkes married journalist Sandy Boyce-Carmichelle in 1949, with whom he went on to have four children, Johanna, Kate, Sarah and Jamie. Sadly, Sarah passed away at a young age. Wally and Sandy were divorced in 1964, but Wally found love again with Susan Clifford, who he married and had two more children with, Lucy and Daniel.
In 1949, the Daily Mail’s owner, Lord Rothermere, asked Fawkes to illustrate a cartoon strip, ‘Flook’. Originally created by Douglas Mount in 1949, the strip ran for 35 years in the Daily Mail before moving to the Mirror in 1984, and featured many writers throughout its lifetime.The name of the strip was originally named after its redheaded character ‘Rufus’, but this was quickly changed to ‘Rufus and Flook’, before finally becoming known as simply ‘Flook’. By the early 1950s, the strip was one of the Daily Mail’s most popular features, and was syndicated to the United States and New Zealand.
When the news broke that Fawkes was leaving the Daily Mail in 1984, the Daily Mirror signed him up, with Flook transferring to them in that October. They announced the transfer with the following cartoon:
An accomplished clarinet player, the pen name ‘Trog’ comes from one of Fawkes’ early jazz bands, ‘The Troglodytes’. Fawkes went on to play in the ‘George Webb Dixielanders’ with trumpet player and fellow cartoonist Humphrey Lyttleton in 1944. Later they co-founded ‘Humphrey Lyttleton and His Band’ in the late 1940s. Fawkes left Lyttelton’s band in 1956, but continued to play with various groups throughout his life. In the late 1950s he established a jazz club night at the Six Bells, Chelsea with fellow musician Jim Goldbolt that became known as ‘Trog’s Club’.
When Illingworth retired in 1969, Fawkes took his position as political cartoonist at the Daily Mail. However, this position did not last long, with Fawkes being replaced with Stan ‘Mac’ McMurtry in 1971 when David English took control of the paper. During his career, Fawkes drew for many publications, notably the Observer and Punch, but also the Spectator, New Statesman, Sunday Telegraph, Today, London Daily News, and Private Eye.Fawkes was one of the founding members of the British Cartoonists’ Association, established in 1966, alongside Kenneth Mahood and John Jensen. He was twice the winner of Granada TV’s ‘What the Papers Say’ Cartoonist of the Year Award, the US Cartoonists’ and Writers’ Syndicate World Award 1976, International Political Cartoonist of the Year (1976), CCGB Humorous Strip Cartoonist of the Year (1981), CAT Caricaturist of the Year (1997) and the CAT Lifetime Achievement Award (1997). In 2001, Fawkes received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Kent.
Fawkes retired from cartooning in 2005 at 81 as his sight began to fail, after 62 years in the business. His work continues to be popular today; the Cartoon Museum in London held an exhibition of his work in 2013, and the University of Kent’s British Cartoon Archive continue to make his work available to researchers, students and enthusiasts alike. His work was admired not only by the public, but also by his contemporaries.
“…there is an astonishingly sharp focus…particularly in the caricature, which makes the characters seem larger than life, as if seen under a brilliant light and a powerful lens…his blacks seeem to be blacker than black” Raymond Briggs
“Very few artists can see a likeness the way he can, and catch it so completely. He doesn’t develop a hieroglyph for each politician and then simply reach for it each time it is needed. Every Trog caricature is carefully recrafted.” Nicholas Garland
The British Cartoon Archive’s Fawkes Collection includes almost 3500 original artworks, 6600 original Flook strips, over 5000 cuttings and even one of the orange plastic squeaky Flook toys marketed by the Daily Mail. For a full biography, please see https://www.cartoons.ac.uk/cartoonist-biographies/s-t/WallyFawkes_Trog.html.
 Trog : Forty Graphic Years – the art of Wally Fawkes (introduction and commentary by Frank Whitford; foreword by Raymond Briggs), London: Fourth Estate, 1987, 191pp.
 Nicholas Garland “Undimmed, inimitable Trog”, Sunday Telegraph, 20 June 2004, Review p.7.