Giles’ working day as a cartoonist.
A snowy home. To the left a woman hangs out a window, phone in hand, on the right a man works under a car in a garage.
©Express Syndication Ltd. All rights reserved.

GA0161, 'Its for you, dear - the Editor wants to know when the something or other he's going to get a cartoon...', Ronald Carl Giles, Daily Express (08 Mar 1947)

Giles was unusual among national cartoonists for seldom visiting London. “I see him only once a month on average”, wrote Christiansen, editor of the Daily Express, in 1947: “For the rest my business is conducted by telephone. And Giles in turn telephones to say that his cartoon has been despatched by a train that will eventually arrive at Liverpool Street Station.” A huge sign in the Daily Express office read “MAKE IT ON TIME”, but Giles’ drawings were often late for, as a journalist noted, he liked to spend six hours or more on a single drawing, “mainly because of his love of realistic detail and authentic settings”.  

Hugh Cudlipp, who became managing editor of the Sunday Express in 1950, recalled the tension in the London office as the deadline approached. “It would be a Saturday night and there would be this huge blank space on page three waiting for the Giles. Carl would have called and told us it was on the 2.10 from Ipswich. At four or five o’clock it still won’t have arrived. Carl would have said: ‘Send a messenger. The guard’s got it. He’s a friend of mine.’ The cartoon somehow always made it - no one knew quite how.”

Giles eventually established a daily routine. An insomniac, who considered four hours a good night’s sleep, he would get up at 6.00am on what he called “cartoon days” - generally three days a week. He listened to the radio news, and read the local and national papers, asking himself always the question “What will they be talking about at the bus stops tomorrow?” He discussed his ideas with his wife Joan, who might check the files to see when he last used a particular theme. As one interviewer noted, Giles would then “moon about the house waiting for an idea to gel”, before again checking the radio news at noon.

By 1.00pm Giles would have left by car for his Ipswich studio. He had three hours in which to draw his cartoon, in order to get it on the 4.00pm train to London. While Giles was hard at work in the studio, a secretary in the outer office would fend off all enquiries. If the drawing missed the 4.00pm train, it would be returned to the studio where Giles would do more work on it, before sending it to the next London train. As Joan explained, “Carl can never leave a cartoon alone.”

This routine remained largely unchanged to the end of Giles’ career, although the train was eventually abandoned in favour of a taxi, which left Ipswich at 3.30pm to be certain of reaching the Express by 6.00pm. On those weekdays without newspaper deadlines the atmosphere in the Ipswich studio was much more relaxed, although the work was still intense. Giles undertook a lot of charity work in addition to his cartoons for Express, and even on these days he could be working from early morning until nine at night.

Black and white photo of Giles sitting in the back garden of Hillbrow Farm, holding sketch and drawing board, with his dogs
©Express Newspapers. All rights reserved.

GAPH00061, Black and white photo of Giles sitting in the back garden of Hillbrow Farm, holding sketch and drawing board, with Butch and collie dog (05 Jul 1966)

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