John Cuthbert Walker was a popular interwar cartoonist whose work became much coveted by Fleet Street. However, he chose to spend his career working in his native Cardiff, shunning what he termed the ‘rat race’ of London.
John Cuthbert Walker was born in Cardiff. Between the ages of six and fourteen, he spent his summers living in the Glamorgan countryside with his aunt, where he first developed his desire to become an artist. At the age of 16, on his father’s insistence, he was apprenticed to a marine engineering firm, before joining the army at the age of 19 and training as a rifle marksman at the National Shooting Centre at Bisley. He continued to draw regularly and a few months before the outbreak of the First World War, he entered and won a sketching competition to design an advert for Cherry Blossom Boot Polish.
This strengthened his resolve to become a cartoonist, and he began contributing to the monthly regimental paper. During the First World War, he served in France and Belgium, but still continued to draw, producing work that was published in Royal Magazine and Blighty.
Following the Armistice and finding no jobs available as a cartoonist, Walker returned to the engineering firm at which he had apprenticed, working there from July 1919 to July 1924. During this time, he began contributing sporting cartoons to the South Wales Evening Express and the South WalesDaily Echo. Between 1924 and 1926, he produced a single cartoon a week, whilst producing advertisements for lantern slides shown at local cinemas. On Christmas Eve 1926 he accepted the post of sporting cartoonist and reserve political cartoonist at the Evening Express. He also produced cartoons for the Western Mail until the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1939, he produced his first political cartoon for the News of the World. In May 1941, he began drawing the News of the World’s front-page cartoon, initially using the pen name ‘Marksman’. During the Second World War, Walker worked as an instructor of musketry to a Home Guard Battalion in his native South Wales. Following the war, he had the option to move to London and work on Fleet Street, but instead chose to remain and work in Cardiff. In 1949, he published A Cartoonist at Work, an autobiographical study on how to become a cartoonist. He continued to contribute to the South Wales Echo andEvening Express until his retirement in the 1960s. He died in Cardiff in 1981.