a guest post by Kevin 'Kal' Kallaugher
The lessons from a fallen comrade…
Today, December 31, 2014, a memorial service is being held for a brother cartoonist in the tiny island of Bermuda. Though his name is not widely known in the international community of cartoonists and satirists, Peter Woolcock was certainly a legend to the 67,000 inhabitants of the island.
For three decades he lampooned with great dexterity, the foibles of the Bermudian political class. It was a sad shock to all when we learned last month that Peter had been hit by a car as he was delivering his weekly (and last) cartoon to the Royal Gazette newspaper.
This past summer I had the great honor of getting to know Peter during a 3-month sojourn as Artist-in-Residence at the Masterworks art Museum in Bermuda. Peter, then 88, was a sprite and engaging man with a robust curiosity and a boyish passion for the cartoon arts. We would chat for hours about the benefits of certain pen nibs and the magic of a peer's brushstrokes.
We also talked about the celebrated past and the challenging future of our profession, sharing an enormous sense of gratitude that we both managed, somehow, to eke out livings as cartoonists.
Peter would always note that cartoonists from big market countries like the USA and the UK had it very easy. Try being a cartoonist on an island, he would tell me.
He had to tread very carefully on the subject of the day because there would be a chance he might run into the very same subject (or her cousin) in the supermarket on Saturday or church on Sunday.
As I studied Peter's work, I realized how right he was. Bermuda is a beautiful and fascinating place to visit. Yet as a resident, you get a very different perspective on the island. What at first seems like a vacation paradise soon becomes a small village surrounded by a wall of water. In addition, Bermuda is one of the most densely populated jurisdictions on the planet…If peace is to be kept, everyone must find a way to coexist in a civilized fashion. Boisterous satirical criticism may not always be welcome.
As you can imagine, this is not the natural habitat for your typical editorial cartoonist. But Peter was not your typical cartoonist. He understood the tolerance level of his audience. He opted to employ the needle rather that the hatchet in his work. Over the course of thirty years he knew an artfully aimed needle in the nether regions would certainly get his target's attention.
Today the island of Bermuda is celebrating the career and contributions of one of its unique and beloved citizens. Here in Maryland I am toasting him, as he would like, by hoisting an open bottle of India ink and a saying, with a smile:
For Peter Woolcock, a colleague whose needle was mightier than the sword.