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The Increasing Fame of St Trinian’s
Originally appearing in Lilliput from 1941, Ronald Searle’s cartoons about St Trinian’s girls’ school were gathered by Macdonald & Co in mixed collections of cartoons, beginning with Hurrah for St Trinian’s! and Other Lapses (1948). Though Searle began to tire of his creation by 1951, a year later he allowed his News Chronicle colleague, ‘Timothy Shy’ (D B Wyndham Lewis), to write a narrative about the school, and illustrated the resulting comic romance, The Terror of St Trinian’s. The great success of this jeu d’esprit – published by Max Parrish – was fuelled by a publicity stunt in which a group of young women, dressed as schoolgirls, invaded Foyle’s bookshop. From that point, Searle attempted to bring his involvement with St Trinian’s to an end, even publishing Souls in Torment (1953) as ‘a funeral rite’ (Russell Davies, Page 101). However, once Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat were allowed to produce a film inspired by Searle’s drawings, in 1954, St Trinian’s developed a life of its own, making it impossible to quash. Starring George Cole, Joyce Grenfell and Alastair Sim, The Belles of St Trinian’s immediately entered the popular imagination and, for many people, remains the point of entry to exploring the best-known girls’ school in the world. Furthermore, Searle was directly involved in the film and its three most immediate sequels, providing drawings for their title sequences and designing posters to advertise them.