“The humorous drawings of the late Dyke White need no introduction to the Glasgow public, nor, indeed to most people throughout Scotland. For a good many years Mr White’s cartoons in the daily press delighted many in all part of the country.” This quote is from Dyke White’s obituary. Unfortunately the cartoonist’s art is ephemeral. It serves only to lighten a passing moment so the art of Dyke White has been quickly forgotten.
Dyke White was not his real name. He was Charles Gordon McClure (1885–1933) and took his pen name from the farm where he was born, ‘White Dyke Farm’ outside Garlieston. He was the youngest of the seven children of William McClure who was originally a shopkeeper in the town. The family moved to Glasgow around 1900.
Attending Glasgow School of art McClure won the Haldane Travelling Scholarship which enabled him to travel and study in Spain and Italy. He was initially a painter, and continued to exhibit oils and watercolours throughout his life at annual exhibitions throughout Scotland but it was his talent as a cartoonist that he made his living from.
Newspapers started publishing his work from about 1910. His obituaries refer to him as a ‘political cartoonist’ but these have suffered as the particular historical moments the cartoon refer to have past from memory.
It is his observations on everyday life that appear more compelling today.
His cartoons featuring women are finely observed social documents capturing the fashions of the time and the rise in women’s suffrage in taking to the air and to football. He was obviously particularly aware of the social class that would be reading the newspapers and magazines his cartoons appeared in.
Sometimes the cartoons are realistic drawings, given the prominence of a full page in the publication. Of course, the easy joke about mean Scotsmen is repeated several times.
McClure joined the Glasgow branch of the National Union of Journalists in November 1917. Even a union man could find fun in that.
He spent three years working in South Africa for the ‘Rand Daily Mail’ but the politics of the country drove him home. He moved to London in June 1926 where he worked freelance before returning to Glasgow in January 1929 to become cartoonist on the staff of the ‘Daily Record’ followed by an appointment at the ‘Scottish Daily Express’. He must have produced many hundreds of cartoons in his lifetime. While some may have dated and the jokes become obscure, a thorough search through newspapers of the time would find more than enough for a new publication and reassessment of his work – a lighter look at the human condition.