Punch Library of Humour

In my childhood going to the dentist was never a pleasurable experience but I did like looking at the Punch magazines that were always in the waiting room. I knew a bit about the Punch magazine for its founder, Mark Lemon had been a local man. Indeed, he was buried in my village churchyard. So, too, was a relative of mine which I wrote about here.

So it is not to be wondered at, that at some point I acquired a book called the Punch Library of Humour – Railway Book.

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I think this came from my sister who trades in collectables and antiques. Thanks, sis.

It staggers even me that Punch, in its early days, seemed to feature railways a great deal. This book is not by any means a miniature, and it is crammed, cover to cover with railway stories and, of course, cartoons.

This one is the frontispiece and it raises a smile.

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One can see trouble ahead for the man who chose that spot to sit and read his paper as the train comes towards him.

Of course, Punch was satirical and it took opportunities to take a swipe at aspects of life it thought might not be as good as they could be. But my otherchosen cartoon manages more than one swipe.

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We could, perhaps, be making a comment about ignorance of the Somerset rustic who clearly has no idea what a railway signal is (or rather I’d better say was now).

But note the name on the station name-board. The word we can read is SLOW. The fact that the location is Somerset and that place name is not just chance. The old Somerset and Dorset Railway (which I have commented on before on this blog) had the initial S and D. This, in popular life, was said to stand for Slow and Dirty. People looking at this cartoon would have known this. It would have raised yet another wry smile.

But the cartoon also shows aspects of a way of life now long gone. One is the idea of stations having staff on the platform – people who might be able to assist passengers with enquiries or with luggage. Under the station name we see milk churns. Many a local farm used churns and trains to get their milk to dairy or market. They did so well into current living memory. Churns have now been relegated to garden ornament status.

This lovely book really brings home a past way of life.

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