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Thursday, 13 October 2016

Comic Railway Postcards: Sepia Saturday - Here to There 3

Two railway cartoons feature in my post this week - but the humorous content has a sad ending. The postcards are from  the collection of my local heritage group Auld Earlston in the Scottish Borders. 

 The caption reads:

Our Local Express -
The Good Old Berwickshire Railway Acceleration of Trains along
the Greenlaw  Corridor makes the journey from Greenlaw to Earlston  
and back in twenty four hours. 

To give you some background to the satirical caption  - just  10  miles separates the two villages of Earlston and Greenlaw.  The postcard was franked 1906.

The Last Train from Earlston 

These postcards, however,   are not, however original to Earlston,  but penned by a Fife born artist  Martin  Anderson - you will see his pseudonym signature of Cynicus  at the foot of each card. Many of his railway cartoons were overprinted with different captions and town names, as here.  So you will find the same illustration purporting to come a range of diverse locations.

Martin Anderson, (1854 –1932)  studied  at Glasgow School of Art, set up the St. Mungo's Art Club and exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.    In 1880 he joined  the publisher of  The Dundee Advertiser, The Evening Telegraph, People's Journal, and People's Friend - the first  such staff artist to be employed by any daily newspaper in Britain, for until then daily newspapers were not illustrated.

He turned increasingly to satirical and political cartoons and comic postcard illustrations setting up the "Cynicus Publishing Company".   After initial success, the company was forced to close.  Martin Anderson returned to Edinburgh in 1915, leasing a basement shop.    Nine years later it  was destroyed by fire, everything inside it was lost, and he did not have the funds to repair and restock it. 

He retired to Fife to live in increasing poverty.  He died in 1932  and was buried in Tayport Old Churchyard, in an unmarked grave.  

A sad end for such a prolific artist who was a forerunner in  the  field of humorous postcards.  His work is still regularly available in auction houses and online

The Berwickshire Railway through Earlston  ran from 1863 until its closure in 1965.  

With thanks to Auld Earlston for permission to feature these items from their collection. 


Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers head  "Here to There"
 with this month's theme   


  1. Both postcards are fun, but the second one has some rather fine detail. Such a shame the artist's creativity was cut short. I wonder if the fire was purposely set by folks who didn't appreciate his particular style of humor?

  2. Lovely cards and I like the cartoonist's subtle humour, unlike a lot of today's crude offerings.

  3. Wonderful cards from a bygone era. Sad that these cards are no longer in vogue. I can remember as a child what fun it was to be allowed to choose a postcard to send back to family while on holiday.

  4. These cards are full of detail and I can see why they would be so popular - as well as transferable to different named locations, without the humour being lost. It’s always sad to read of an artist who died in poverty though.

  5. Like Marilyn said, Martin Anderson's story is a sad one. It is gratifying to know that his work is being appreciated today though.

  6. Thank you all for your sympathetic comments.

  7. I really appreciate knowing the history of an artist and his illustrations in print. My uncle was a staff artist for a Wisconsin insurance company. I've dabbled in some print work on a part time basis...mainly making posters and self-publishing a couple of booklets. Now a retired and not-too-affluent potter artist, I'm grateful to have security of benefits that come with age, such as they are.

  8. Beautiful postcards -- and I enjoyed the satirical caption. Humor has always been with us, for sure.


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