Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Scorfield, Edward Scafe (1882–1965)

by Peter Coleman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Edward Scafe Scorfield (1882-1965), cartoonist, soldier and sportsman, was born on 21 April 1882 at Preston, Northumberland, England, son of Joseph Scorfield, insurance agent, and his wife Rebecca Jane, née Taylor. Educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, Ted became a marine architect. An active member of the Tynemouth Amateur Rowing Club from 1906, he was to be made a life member in 1925. He captained (1910-12) the celebrated Percy Park Rugby Football Club, represented (1910-13) Northumberland County and played lock-forward for England against France in 1910. In the following year the Royal Humane Society commended him, on parchment, for his part in the rescue at Tynemouth of a drowning man who was being carried seaward.

In August 1914 Scorfield enlisted in the British Army. He served with the 66th Field Company, Royal Engineers, at Gallipoli (in the landing at Suvla Bay), Salonika (Thessaloniki), Greece, and Palestine. Promoted sergeant, he was twice mentioned in dispatches and was appointed to the Russian Order of St George.

After World War I, while employed in a Tyneside shipyard, he began to draw cartoons for the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle. On the advice of his agent Percy Bradshaw, he came to Sydney in 1925 and joined the Bulletin as a cartoonist and illustrator, replacing Norman Lindsay. At St James's Church of England, Sydney, on 4 October 1928 he married Helen Cecilia Olga Louise Pillinger, a 24-year-old Englishwoman; they were childless.

Scorfield's supple line, eye for detail and kindly humour made him a popular jokesmith. He used, with an infectious flourish, the stock devices of his time—philandering husbands, relaxed gaolbirds, punch-drunk boxers, blackened-eyed wives, devious fortune-tellers, stingy Scots, dopey Pommies, canny Jewish bookmakers, pitiless wowsers, prolific Catholics, 'mine-tinkit' Aborigines, flirtatious flappers and naughty ragamuffins. His comic sketches of animals, especially his cheeky dogs, were famous. He drew with a pen and dry brush, and his settings ranged from city slums to outback farms.

His political cartoons cheerfully followed the Bulletin line of the period, a combination of Australian nationalism and British conservatism. In the desperate days of World War II Scorfield lionized the Digger, exalted the Allies against the Japanese, and lampooned black-marketeers, strikers and 'white-feather conchies'. But he was almost never malicious: even his sinister Hitler, Stalin and Hirohito had a human, almost redeeming, fishiness about them. His acclaimed caricature of Dr H. V. Evatt—short, beefy, bespectacled, with a big head and jutting chin personifying relentless folly—was both devastating and affectionate. He published two collections of cartoons, A Mixed Grill (1943) and A Mixed Grill, No.2 (1952).

A self-effacing man and a generous friend, Scorfield regularly bought the work of hard-up artists for the Bulletin simply to give them an income. He was tall, muscular and slow to anger, but a formidable 'knuckleman' when aroused. Always a Geordie, he retained the regional accents of his youth and decorated his office with a picture of the Blaydon races. He resigned in 1961, soon after Sir Frank Packer bought the ailing Bulletin and began to transform the magazine. Scorfield died on 11 December 1965 in hospital at Mosman and was cremated; his wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • V. Lindesay, The Inked-in Image (Melb, 1970)
  • J. Kerr, Artists and Cartoonists in Black and White (Syd, 1999)
  • Bulletin, 25 Dec 1965
  • Royal Humane Society, London, committee minutes, 10 Oct 1911
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Coleman, 'Scorfield, Edward Scafe (1882–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/scorfield-edward-scafe-11639/text20789, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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