Gordon Brewster
& his cartoons

Dublin City Library and Archive

5 November 2016

You can re-run the talk online. The blue arrow advances the slides and the commentary button activates the sound appropriate to that slide.


I have previously given this talk in the National Library of Ireland (November 2014) and to the Howth Peninsula Heritage Society (January 1916). In both those cases I took the initiative in offering to do the talk. On this occasion, I'm pleased to say, I was actually invited by Máire Kennedy and here we are.

Gordon Brewster's daughter, Dolores, attended the National Library talk and was looking forward to coming over again from England for this talk but unfortunately she passed away in May last. May she rest in peace.

More than twenty Brewster descendants, with spouses and partners, came over for this talk and I hope it will give them a well deserved good impression of Gordon and his work.

The Presentation

You can view a re-run of the talk here. The blue arrow advances the slides and the commentary button activates the sound appropriate to that slide.

The Powerpoint presentation can be viewed separately with the Microsoft Powerpoint Viewer. If you don't have the viewer, you can download it from here

I don't have a "text" but this is the "running order" which is effectively my script for the presentation. It is simply a table listing the slides and the points I want to make while the slide is on the screen.


In the presentation I have referred to the caricatures contained in some of Brewster's cartoons and you can see the full range of these on this page.

The Cartoons in the National Library of Ireland

It is well worth browsing through the collection which is now online. There are slightly different ways of approaching this depending on what you want, so I have done a brief guide to accessing the cartoons. If you want, you can go straight to the collection itself here.

Blog posts

Collection of Blog Posts
I have done a number of separate blog posts in recent times which either directly treat matters relating to the Brewsters or include references to members of the family. There is some repetition of material between the posts as they were done at separate times and designed to be more or less stand alone.

Death in a Sweetshop (NLI blog)
I was very taken with them and was contemplating doing a blog post on the collection when Honora and Carol Maddock, who ran the Library's oneline presence, suggested I do a post for the Library's own prestigious blog. I jumped at it and Death in a Sweetshop was the result.

Homer nods ... again
Cock up in the Independent's art department. Wouldn't happen in Brewster's time.

Blythe Spirit
When Ernest Blythe cut the shilling off the old age pension

Our Oil under Your Land?
Brewster's cartoon on the USA response to Mexico nationalising its own oil in 1927. Timeless.

Polyester Poppies
Commemorating the deaths in WWI of two very different men, my uncle John and Richard Brewster.

Abraham Feldman
Post on the Man on the Bridge projects to which I had forwarded two street photos of Gordon Brewster received from the family.

Out in Montrose recording some pieces for the History Show, including a one minute memorial of Richard Brewster.

Gordon Brewster
Remembering Gordon Brewster in the run up to Bloomsday.

The Grove
Brewster's own house in one of his cartoons.

St. George's
Beautifully renovated church in which Richard is commemorated on a magnificent stained glass window and elsewhere.

A rant against the increasing rate of typos in the national press, illustrated by one of Gordon Brewster's cartoons.

Richard Gardiner Brewster
How Richard is commemorated in various locations throughout the city of Dublin.

Judging WT
Michael Laffan, in his new book, has used five of Brewster's cartoons. A fitting tribute indeed.

Alfie Byrne
Alfie appears in one of Gordon's cartoons

Felix Larkin's talk on Dublin Opinion in which post I mention both Brewster's and Ernest Forbes's cartoons.

The Law's an Ass
Felix Larkin uses two of Brewster's cartoons in his talk on the law

The Foggy Dew
Mick O'Dea's exhibition on the RHA and the Easter Rising when some of Gordon's art was lost.

Gordon Brewster and the Easter Rising
Shelling of the Royal Hibernian Academy and the loss of Gordon's art.

Disturbances in Howth
Chaos and arson follow the talk to the Howth Peninsula Heritage Society.

Gordon Brewster and the General Election
Politicians promising the earth. The relevance of many of Brewster's cartoons to today.

Dolores Brewster RIP
Fond memories of Gordon's daughter Dolores who died in May 2016

Gordon Brewster & the Flu
Combatting the 1918 Spanish flu and its later manifestation

A Ha'porth of Tar
Gordon's cartoon of the Hugh Lane Gallery included in talk on the Ha'penny Bridge

Gordon Brewster - In Memoriam
Short memoriam piece on an anniversary of his death

The Ha'penny Bridge
One of Gordon's cartoons in this book

Brewster and his Martellos
Martello Towers recur in Brewster's cartoons.

Compendium of Posts
This link will bring up all the above posts together. You will need to click "Older Posts" at the bottom of each page as you reach it.


There are a large number of people I'd like to thank for making this talk possible. There was only time to mention a few at the talk itself as the timing is tight, so here's a fuller list.

Felix Larkin for introducing me to the National Library's cartoon collection in the first place and for helpful advice in the preparation of the talk.

Gemma Fell, my cousin, for telling me of my mother's role in saving Gordon's soul.

The National Library of Ireland, for giving me access to the cartoons long before they went up online and for giving me permission to reproduce a selection of the cartoons in this talk.

Within the library I'd like to mention:
  • Honora Faul for giving me access to the originals
  • Carol Maddock for inviting me to contribute a post on Gordon and the cartoons to the National Library's prestigious blog.
  • Brid O'Sullivan for taking me on faith and agreeing to let me give the talk in the National Library.
  • Mary Broderick who had by then become the custodian of the cartoons
Dr Margarita Cappock tracked down the only known extant piece of Gordon's fine art, the painting in the Hugh Lane Gallery.

The Oval Bar who confirmed to me that there was no caricature of Gordon among their collection of PYKE caricatures of Independent Newspapers personalities. They even climbed up into their attic to check those caricatures not on display. Needless to say I was very disappointed.

Michelle Burrowes & Alan Phelan in High School Dublin. Alan is the resident archivist and Michelle is a teacher who is doing an ambitious project tracing all those pupils who enlisted in the armed forces in WWI. Gordon's brothers, Richard & Theo, were two such.

Eugene O'Connor the owner & James O'Connor Heritage Architect, who gave me access to St. George's former church in Hardwicke Place.

Gillian Dean for access to St. Thomas's church in Cathal Brugha St. which has taken over the parochial responsibilities of the former St. George's.

Rev David Pierpoint who gave me access to the memorial in All Saints church Phibsborough to Richard and Theo.

Doug Vaugh who has researched the South Irish Horse regiment and gave me Richard's and Theo's military records.

Johnny Bambury for the wonderful photo of Dolores, taken at the launch of Michael Laffan's book Judging WT Cosgrave.

Máire Kennedy who invited me to give this talk in Dublin City Library and Archive.

Brewster Family for photos, stories, and encouragement. And for their attendance en masse at this talk.

Contributions to Other Publications

Agallamh ar Raidió na Life
Ní raibh Cian in ann freastal ar an gcaint sa Leabarlann Náisiúnta agus thug sé cuireadh dom teacht isteach sa stiúidió labhairt faoi Gordon Brewster agus na cartúin. Cárthach Bán Breathnach, mac le Seán Bán, a chuir agallamh orm agus a chuid obair baile déanta go maith aige. Tig leat éisteacht anseo.

Cian couldn't make it to the talk so he invited me into studio to talk about Gordon Brewster and his cartoons. The interviewer was Cárthach Bán Breathnach, son of Seán Bán, and he had done his homework. You can listen here.

A transcript in English is available here.

Death in a Sweetshop
This is just another link to my guest posting on the National Library of Ireland's blog.

Third Party Sources

Herald Boot Fund
I had some items in an earlier draft of the presentation which I had to drop due to time constraints but there is no reason not to refer to them here.

In the earlier draft I referred to the Herald Boot Fund. This was a charitable fund established by Gordon Brewster's father. Its initial purpose was to buy boots for the barefoot newsboys he had observed in the street. I think it may well have broadened out in later years and have not seen any reference to it in modern times. Bill Cullen grew up in Dublin and his family was one of the beneficiaries of the fund. He has an interesting discussion of aspects of its operation in his book.

Tower of London
In that draft I also referred to Richard Gardiner Brewster's name being read out as part of a ceremony at the Tower of London in the run up to Armistice Day. The relevant roll of honour has been put up online and you can check out the entry for 2 November 2014 where Richard appears as No. 78. (While listed under 2nd, the name was actually read out on 1st November).

High School Dublin
Michelle Burrowes, who teaches in High School, Dublin, has undertaken a fascinating project tracing all the school's pupils who served in WWI, with particular emphasis on those who died. In cooperation with Alan Phelan, the school's full time archivist, she has unearthed some very interesting material in the school's archives. You can see her page on Richard Brewster here. It also refers to his brother Theo who served with him in the South Irish Horse regiment, and includes a family photo of the four Brewster boys which I passed on from the family.