The late Charles Grigg, who drew Korky the Cat for The Dandy for 20 years and had a saucy sideline in seaside postcards, has been honoured at his old school, Rood End Primary School in Oldbury.
The school has just unveiled a blue plaque remembering him, at an event attended by his son, Steven, after a long-running fund raising campaign organised by Black Country poet and musician Brian Dakin (aka Billy Spakemon), who also works at Black Country Radio, where he does a weekly Omma ‘n Chain show.
“Comics when you were a kid were all you wanted to do really,” Steven told BBC Midlands Today, “And then finding out it was him doing the drawing.”
Talking about the blue plaque plans last year, Brian told Midlands paper The Express and Star he believed a blue plaque would provide the recognition Mr Grigg deserves in his home town. Originally, he had wanted the honour to be on the outside of the artist’s birthplace in Vicarage Road, Rood End, Langley, Oldbury, but the owner wasn’t keen on the idea – but Charles’ old school came to the rescue.
“His son Steve said nobody knows who he is,” he told the paper. “He influenced generations of children with this big volume of work.
“In Langley, most people have no idea but when you tell them they say ‘wow’.”
Brian told the Black Country Bugle the idea started when he interviewed Steve who told him that his biggest regret was that his father’s life and work had gone unrecognised.
“I thought Steve was right and we came up with the blue plaque idea.”
When Barbara Carter, the head of Rood End Primary School where Charlie was a pupil in the late 1920s and early 1930s, read about the blue plaque idea in The Bugle back in May 2016, she immediately offered to have the blue plaque put up at the school entrance and to stage events to help raise the necessary funds.
“We enjoy celebrating the achievements of past pupils as it encourages the present pupils to show what can be achieved,” she told the paper last June.
“Another of our ex-pupils is the children’s author Allan Ahlberg and together with Charlie Grigg we will be incorporating their work across several disciplines at the school.”
An exhibition “The Life of Charles ‘Chas’ Grigg (Our best kept secret)” accompanied the unveiling and the news item reveals a book about his life is being planned. (His obituary in the Daily Telegraph notes he wrote down his life story, which he would read through regularly to help with his memory. For the same purpose he browsed his artwork from the 400 copies of The Dandy which he had kept – each image serving as an aide-memoire).
Charlie, who originally worked as an engineer in the Midlands andlived in the Black Country all his life, never had a formal art education. He chronicled the colourful and amusing adventures of Korky for The Dandy from Issue 1052 in January 1962, taking over the strip from the character’s retiring creator, James Crighton. His run on the character continued until Issue 2116 in June 1982, although he occasionally filled in for David Gudgeon, his replacement, thereafter.
Maurice Heggie recalled in The Art and History of the Dandy that “The in-house colourists found his open style a joy to colour — during the 1960s these Dandy covers were amongst the best in the field.”
Grigg also freelanced for Bamforth’s, the makers of seaside saucy postcards, for more than 20 years from 1975, drawing 180 pictures of hen-pecked husbands and their larger-than-life wives.
He was well into his 70s before he ceased sketching full-time and died aged 97 on 4th December 2013 after battling Alzheimer’s for some time.
“Charlie’s version of Korky became the definitive one,” notes Lew Stringer, noting his passing back in 2013 “and the artist’s marvellous ability with colour led to him producing some memorable covers for The Dandy Book and The Dandy Summer Special.”
• Charles Grigg Obituary (Daily Telegraph)
• Brian Dakin talks about the work of Charlie Grigg on his podcast here
(With thanks to Philip Rushton)