Lightening sketches

Last week we were very lucky to have Nicholas Collins, Liz Pilkington and Paul Gallifant visit school and share with us their family pictures and stories of artists Henry Collins and Joyce Pallot.  During the visit Paul also shared his knowledge about another North School ex pupil William or Pat Rooney and an article he had written for the Dedham Vale Society.  You can see the full article here. Many thanks to Paul for allowing us to reproduce his work here.

The Rooney family was already known to us through our We Will Remember Them work.  Claude Vincent Rooney was a former pupil from North who died during the First World War and his name can be seen on the roll of honour in the Junior Hall.

Claude had seven brothers and sisters all of whom attended North School.  This included his older brother William who, by the late 1880’s, was employed at Benhams printers in Culver Street as an office boy.  His artistic skill was noticed by Gurney Benham and he began to provide sketches for the local newspaper.   On the 1911 Census William was living with his family in Albert Road and described his occupation as ‘artist’.  It’s likely that once the war arrived in 1914 all three Rooney brothers, William, Hugh and Claude would have had some part but its not clear what this was for William and Hugh.

After the war William began to use the name Pat and by the late 1920s this name begins to appear in newspapers across the country as a travelling caricaturist.  He advertises himself as a Fleet Street artist implying he had spent time working in London possibly just after the war.  As a travelling artist, he would take up residency in a department store for a week or two at a time offering “lightening sketches” of people and even of their pets.  Each time he arrived somewhere new he would be sure to advertise his arrival in the local press.  

When the Second World War broke out Pat was living in Blackpool with his wife Frances.  By now he was 55 so too old for service but its seems that he was a popular caricaturist around the local RAF bases.  He was described as nearly 6 foot tall with white hair and a large white moustache. Many of the sketches he drew for airmen at this time can be seen online.

Pat and Frances retired to Boxted, where Frances, as a retired mezzo-soprano singer sang with the village choir.  Pat died in 1966 and is buried in the local churchyard.

With thanks to Paul Gallifant for his research.