Walrus and Carpenter

Here’s a fantastical image – the walrus and the carpenter, from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, taking a stroll on Scarborough’s South Bay beach.

Whether or not the North Eastern Railway, which produced the poster, sought permission to use the characters from Carroll’s estate is lost in the mists of time – can you imagine the hoo-ha that would ensue today if, say, East Coast railways decided to use Disney characters in their advertising without jumping through all the necessary, and very expensive, hoops?

The poster is credited to two very different artists – Frank H Mason and Noel Pocock. There are other paintings by Mason in the collections at Scarborough Museums and Galleries, and it seems clear that he painted the background, and Pocock provided the figures.

Mason (1875-1965) was born in Seaton Carew, and clearly loved the North East coast. Known as a ‘light impressionist’, he had no formal training, and started his career at sea, both in the navy and commercially after training as a marine engineer. He came to live in Scarborough in 1894 and studied at the vibrant Scarborough School of Art under Albert Strange. He also became involved with the increasingly active artistic community up the coast at Staithes, and in 1901 became a founder member of the Staithes Group.

Less information is available about Noel Pocock (1880-1955), but his cartoony style, as seen in this poster, was well suited to children’s book illustration – he was well known for illustrating Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Robinson Crusoe.

The pair’s signatures are below ‘acknowledgements and apologies’ to Sir John Tenniel, who illustrated the original Alice books.

And there’s a line there from the poem: ‘They cheered like anything to see such quantities of sand’ – the word ‘cheered’ underlined to emphasise the difference from the original ‘they wept like anything’.

The poster exhorts people to contact the Passenger Manager at the North Eastern Railway, York, to get a free copy of the booklet Alice in Holidayland, ‘containing a New Version in Picture and Verse of a Story Beloved by Children’.

We’d love to know how this poster was put together – did the two artists meet and confer? Or did they just give permission for their two images, in very different styles, to be put together to slightly bizarre effect?

A copy of the image can currently be seen at Woodend Gallery and Studios in the Sitwell by Eat Me café. This, and other posters from the collection, are available to buy. For more information call Woodend reception on 01723 384500.