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Ronald Searle

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 10 July 2005

Sue Lawley travels to Provence in the south of France to meet the illustrator and satirist Ronald Searle in his first recorded interview in more than 30 years. Ronald Searle is arguably Britain's foremost graphic satirist, though he has not lived in this country since 1961 and likes to comment that most people in Britain now think he's dead. He is best-known as the creator of St Trinian's, the horrible, suspender-wearing schoolgirls who devote more time to gambling, torture and arson than they do their lessons.

Ronald Searle was born in 1920 in Cambridge and drew obsessively from an early age. At the age of just 15 he had his first cartoon published in the local paper, The Cambridge Daily News and his career blossomed in the mid-to-late 1930s. However, in 1939 he joined up and after two years of training he was posted to Singapore. He says that for a month they were 'running backwards' through the jungle before being captured by the Japanese and he spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W. They were traumatic years - he felt driven to draw as a way of recording what was happening around him - but his work led to him being singled out as a trouble-maker and as a result he was assigned to work on the infamous 'death railway' that the Japanese were building between Thailand and Burma. Ninety-five per cent of those working on it died but, despite coming close to death on several occasions, Ronald Searle survived.

In 1961 he left Britain for a new life in France - one where he was not known as the creator of St Trinians - but where he could concentrate on his political, satirical drawings and reportage. Now aged 85, he still regularly produces cartoons and illustrations for The New Yorker and Le Monde. His work can currently been seen at the Imperial War Museum in London.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Favourite track: The Champagne Song by Johann Strauss
Book: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography by Lawrence Goldman
Luxury: Champagne (the best possible)

Music Played

8 items
  • Image for Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

    Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor: Sir Adrian Boult

    A London Symphony: Vaughan Williams, EMI

  • Image for Herbert Howells

    Herbert Howells A Spotless Rose

    Soloist: Gareth Morrell Choir: Choir of King's College, Cambridge Conductor: Philip Ledger

    Carols for Christmas Eve, HMV

  • Image for Harald Paulsen

    Harald Paulsen Moritat - the opening of The Threepenny Opera

    Die Dreigroschenoper (original recording), Capriccio

  • Image for Richard Strauss

    Richard Strauss Im Abendrot (from Four Last Songs)

    Soloist: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Orchestra: The Philharmonia Orchestra Conductor: Otto Ackerman

    Strauss: Four Last Songs, EMI

  • Image for Louis Armstrong

    Louis Armstrong What A Wonderful World

    We Have All the Time in the World, EMI

  • Image for Johnny Mercer

    Johnny Mercer Moon River

    Artist: Henry Mancini and his Orchestra and Chorus

    The Johnny Mercer Songbook, RCA

  • Image for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major - 2nd movement

    Soloist: Daniel Barenboim Orchestra: The English Chamber Orchestra

    Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 21 & 27, EMI

  • Image for Johann Strauss II

    Johann Strauss II Champagne Song (from Die Fledermaus)

    Soloist: Regina Resnik, Erika Koth and Waldemar Kmenett Choir: The Chorus of Vienna State Opera Orchestra: The Vienna State Orchestra Conductor: Herbert von Karajan

    Decca

Credits

Presenter
Sue Lawley
Interviewed Guest
Ronald Searle

Broadcasts

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