February 2017: Political cartoons

PRONI's Document of the Month for February has a special election theme.

political cartoons by a 19th century cartoonist and political satirist, William Mecham It is a volume of political cartoons by a 19th century cartoonist and political satirist, William Mecham, who worked under the pen name, Tom Merry. The cartoons were printed in The St Stephen’s Review, a weekly magazine of political comment, 1886-88.

Colin Shaw, from the Public Services team, said:

"I was inspired to suggest this document because of the current election. I found this particular volume of cartoons mesmerising. It depicts the political leaders of the day, particularly Charles Parnell leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party; Conservative grandee and Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Randolph Churchill;  Liberal Party Leader, William Gladstone; and the then Conservative Prime Minister, The 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. In August 1886, a general election took place across the United Kingdom and Ireland. Tensions had also been exacerbated that year following William Gladstone’s attempts to introduce the first Government of Ireland Bill.

We think of elections today as being particularly brutal, but as these cartoons show, 19th century elections were just as fierce and certainly as visceral. One of the images is of Parnell and Gladstone, both on horseback, with their hands choking one another, whilst falling off a cliff-face. Another is of a hunt which features Randolph Churchill shooting a game bird with the face of Parnell. A third cartoon portrays the aftermath of a shipwreck where Churchill and Salisbury are floating in a barrel, whilst Parnell and Gladstone sink beneath the waves.

political cartoons by a 19th century cartoonist and political satirist, William Mecham

"This volume of cartoons can be found amongst the papers of the Ulster Unionist Party which are deposited at PRONI. I am also intrigued by the story of the cartoonist, William Meacham, who enjoyed a colourful career as a professional caricaturist, music hall perfomer and was one of the first celebrities to appear in a British film”.

  • The volume is part of the Ulster Unionist Archive, D1327/21/1

 

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