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PUPIL OF THE MILLENNIUM (article first published : 2001-06-28)

Nominations for pupil of the millennium could cover literally thousands of former pupils who progressed through Grangemouth High School, UK, to become leaders in their chosen field. People like Professor Sir David Tweedie, former school captain and now chairman of the Accounting Standards Board in London, or Jim Cockburn, former school captain now Head of Longbenton Community College Newcastle; Jim McAlpine, Rector of Bannockburn High School, Kaye Adams the television presenter/journalist or Harvey Stalker, Chief Inspector of Schools and Sandy Ross now the Producer of Programmes for STV.

Doctors, dentists, engineers, accountants, football players, successful people from all walks of life have come to the High School but the accolade of Pupil of the Millennium has been settled on a local lad who grew up in the town to become a cartoonist of world renown.

Born John Leyden in Grangemouth on November 21, 1908, Jock started drawing “almost as soon as he could draw breath.” He was educated at Grangemouth High School between 1922-24. At Grangemouth High School he was greatly influenced by his art master, James W Davie for whom he retained the greatest respect and admiration.

His family moved to South Africa and Jock was apprenticed in Durban in 1926 as a lithographic artists in the printing trade. His talent for drawing caricatures of his fellow workers attracted the attention of the Natal Advertiser, which published his cartoons in 1927.

After a spell in Britain in the 1930’s during which he captured many of the then world famous motorcyclists at the TT races in his drawings, he returned to South Africa. In 1936 Jock joined the staff of the Durban Daily News with whom, in his own words, “he lived happily ever after.”

His work as a fearless and extremely talented commentator on the apartheid years in South Africa marked him out as one of the most important cartoonists of his time. He met many of the political figures who shaped the history of the Republic of South Africa, and in company with the brave editors on the Daily News, used his skills as a cartoonist to lampoon the Nationalist Party under circumstances which put him at risk of reprisal.

Jock Leyden became the most famous South African cartoonist of his time. His work has been exhibited throughout the world; he published several books of cartoons and has work in the collections of the Johannesburg Africana Museum, Durban Art Gallery and the University of Natal.

His cartoons were best summed up by Ian Willie, editor of the Sunday Tribune in 1966 when he described them as expressing “his kindness and humour, sensitivity and understanding, his compassion and uncompromising intolerance of humbug.” In 1980, Jock wont he Gold Medal at an International Convention for Cartoonists in Berlin.

Jock retired in 1995 at the ripe of age of 87, and died peacefully in his sleep in April 2000. His theatre cartoons live on in the Wellington Tavern walls in the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.




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