Cartoonists and Casterton

Two separate enquiries this month regarding Timothy Birdsall (E 1949-54) has prompted further investigation into the life and works of this Old Sedberghian. One enquiry included a donation from the family of an Old Castertonian of what is believed to be cartoons by Timothy Birdsall.

Timothy was a talented cartoonist, who went on to illustrate for the Sunday Times, Spectator and Private Eye. In 1963 he became the resident cartoonist drawing live on the BBC TV show, ‘That Was the Week That Was’. Timothy died of leukaemia on 10 June 1963, aged 27.

During his time at Sedbergh, Timothy received his school colours for Art, and won the Sterling English Verse Prize for his ‘Sedbergh Revisited’ (published in The Wasp, 1954). He also won the Murray Craigmile Art Prize in 1954, and the Art Exhibition of that year included a whole room dedicated to his work, comprising ‘a large and varied selection of black-and-white work, ranging from cartoons to life-class drawings and book illustrations, and water-colour’.  

We are very proud to have some of Timothy’s cartoons in the Sedbergh School Archives dating from his school days.

The recent donation has raised questions over how Sedbergh schoolboys would have known Casterton girls in the 1950s. In Geoffrey Sale’s The History of Casterton School, Sale writes:  

“For Casterton at any rate, there was little of that mingling of the sexes which, from a trickle in the 1950s, has become a torrent in later years. One Old Girl recalls being threatened with expulsion (no less) for talking to a Sedbergh boy in the middle of a field near Barbon. Six girls talking to one boy, but what a to-do! But properly controlled contacts were just possible, and members of the Sixth form (like Calpurnia, above suspicion) were invited in 1951 to the annual school dance at Giggleswick.”

The merger of Sedbergh and Casterton in 2013 was not the beginning of the schools’ relationships, and I would love to hear of any memories of Old Sedberghians and Old Castertonians of collaborations between the two schools. Please do contact me on stephanie.carter@sedberghschool.org or 01524 239410.

Additionally, if you can help us by identifying the individual in this photograph, taken c.1951, please let me know.


Dr Steph Carter
Acting Archivist
Sedbergh School