I was born in the City of London Maternity Hospital within the sound of Bow Bells, so I qualify as cockney. I have an older brother, Tony, and a younger brother, David. In 1962 we moved to Glasgow, where my father, Edward, hailed from. When he was a child, both of his parents died from tuberculosis, after which he was sent to Smyllum Orphanage with his brother and two sisters. One sister died at the orphanage, also from tuberculosis. Understandably my father was reluctant to return to Glasgow, though it did turn out to be a good move for all of us. My mother, Mary, was from Warrington in Lancashire. She was one of ten children. The government shifted the county boundaries in the 70's, so Warrington is now in Cheshire, but my mother refused to acknowledge such high-handed behaviour.
Three of my grandparents were Irish, my dad's father was an iron worker on one of the Clyde shipyards, the fourth was Lancastrian. Allowing myself some latitude with the accents, I'm a Glaswegian /Lancastrian/ Irish /Cockney. Counting a Welsh great grandfather, I'm pretty much a typical British Isles mongrel. I like mongrels. They're less inclined to take themselves too seriously, or go barking mad.
In London more than one teacher had told me that I was a fool. From exam results this was, strictly speaking, true. Within a few weeks of moving to Glasgow, a teacher at St. Charles Primary School realized I was short-sighted and couldn't see the blackboard, or much else. It had never occurred to me that I was seeing things differently from other people. The fact my sight was so poor made sports, and team sports in particular, an unhappy experience. In London I sought solace in drawing, painting and reading. I read countless comics; 'The Beano,' 'The Dandy,' 'Hotspur,' 'Lion,' 'Tiger' and 'Look and Learn.' In Glasgow my ability to draw was recognized and encouraged. My parents sent me to Saturday morning classes at Glasgow School of Art.
My brother, David, and I delivered milk every morning before attending St. Augustine’s Secondary School in Possil. Upon leaving school I joined a local advertising agency - I worked within the advertising and design industry for over twenty years - though in the early years I applied annually for admittance to Glasgow School of Art without success. I did, however, attend evening classes there, studying life drawing and oil painting two nights a week.
While continuing to work as a finished artist, I began sending single panel cartoons on a freelance basis to a variety of publications. Anticipating initial rejection, I built up a large body of work that was split into batches of six cartoons. I prepared a hundred or so envelopes into which I placed stamped, return-address envelopes. When the rejections arrived, I had the next batch ready to go. It was something akin to a war of attrition. Gradually, some of the rejection slips contained comments, observations and constructive criticism. My first acceptance, in 1991, came from 'Private Eye.' I was genuinely surprised to receive a large cheque in the post. Up until then I didn't know if unsolicited cartoons warranted payment. Private Eye published more of my cartoons over the years and I had work printed in a variety of publications, including, 'The Spectator' and 'Reader’s Digest.' I also got regular weekly spots in 'The Glaswegian' a free local newspaper and 'Scotland on Sunday,' a national broadsheet.
In 1990, Steve Way, the cartoon editor of 'Punch' had written to me, saying that he liked my work but couldn't persuade his superior to publish it. He thought my cartoons were more suited to the American market and suggested I send samples to 'King Features Syndicate' in New York. I assumed it was a gentler let down than usual, so I filed the letter and forgot about it. Four years later I was clearing out my files and came across the letter stapled to 'The New Breed' mailshot. The New Breed was a showcase feature King Features began as a way to discover and stay in touch with cartoonists who showed potential. Single cartoons were bought and syndicated on a freelance basis.
In 1994 I sent off a batch of 50 cartoons and four months later King Features took five of these for syndication. More importantly, they asked me to send 20 new cartoons each month for consideration. Sometimes as many as seven were accepted, sometimes only two. Over 24 months, 100 of my single panel cartoons were syndicated under The New Breed title. In 1996 I received a phone call from Jay Kennedy, the Comics Editor-in-Chief of King Features.
He liked my work and wanted to guide me in a different direction - a cartoon strip with regular characters as opposed to single panel cartoons. His advice over the next two years was invaluable. I worked on several ideas including 'The Works' and 'The Family Tree of Bob Ptolemy' before coming up with 'Meehan Streak' in 1998. The concept was quite simple, the stand-alone comics I had been producing but in strip format. Jay liked Meehan Streak, but he wanted to hold out for a concept with regular characters. The fact Jay thought seriously about syndicating Meehan Streak encouraged me to approach other syndicates and Tim Lange, at the 'Los Angeles Times Syndicate' offered me a contract. The strip was launched in 1999. In 2001, Los Angeles Times Syndicate was taken over by 'Tribune Media Services' who continued to syndicate the strip until 2005, when I called it a day.
I became self-employed in July 2004 and the following year I began producing a daily single panel cartoon for the 'Evening Times' a popular Scottish tabloid newspaper. After I stopped producing Meehan Streak, Jay Kennedy offered me a development contract to work on an idea he'd been considering for some time. In September 2005, King Features launched my new comic, 'A Lawyer, A Doctor & A Cop.' It's based loosely on three characters/scenarios which appeared regularly but independently of one another in Meehan Streak. Apart from the concept and development of the strip, Jay and Brendan Burford also made an enormous contribution to the appearance of the characters. I've never enjoyed drawing cartoons more than I do now, thanks in no small part to their suggestions. Jay's premature death in 2007 was tragic, a very sad loss to everyone who knew and worked with him. Brendan, now the Comics Editor for King Features, has been integral to the 2008 relaunch of the comic strip under the new title, 'Pros & Cons.'