Boss of Bash Street

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In an unassuming location, just down the road, the faces and characteristics of some of the most celebrated cartoons in British history, come to life.

Set in the quiet, well kept back roads of Broughty Ferry I wound through a pristine garden to the very ordinary front door of artist and cartoonist David Sutherland.

I don’t know what I expected. Perhaps Plug’s nose as a door knocker, or ten garden gnomes loitering amongst the well kept turf.

But entering the comic world of David Sutherland, you quickly realise the fun, cheeky and unique characteristics emanate not from the perfectly ordinary surroundings, but from the man himself.

Humble but with the never faltering glint of a joker, David’s joy for drawing is unwavering despite a career spanning five decades.

At the time of my visit David had penned 2281 strips, a record for any Beano artist for a single strip and he is not about to quit. “They’ll have to shoot me to stop me,” the 81-year-old said. “I semi-retired in 1998 but I still do a number of hours a week. I do enjoy it, sitting drawing the Bash Street Kids.”

Returning from National Service in Egypt, where he spent his 21st birthday, there was no doubt in David’s mind what he wanted to do. “I had this line drawn in my brain from an early age that I wanted to paint, draw. I always wanted to do that no matter how much or how little money I made.”

Starting with commercial art, David successfully entered a DC Thomson competition which brought him and his wife Margaret from their native Glasgow to Broughty, where they have stayed since. “We like this area here,” they put simply. David and Margaret’s daughters Lorraine and Fiona, moved out and they down-sized but ‘you can throw a blanket’ to how far they’ve gone.

And there was where David began to steer the Bash Street Kids ship. The unruly antics of Danny, Plug, Sidney and Toots, ‘Erbert, Spotty, Smiffy, Wilfrid and Fatty have peppered many a Scottish childhood and it doesn’t look like David will be handing over the pencil anytime soon.

Getting up close to his drawing table was mesmerising in its very detail. Spreads of already pencilled Erberts and Smiffys were coming to life, capers taking shape and I had to stop myself from becoming engrossed.

“Plug’s my favourite,” David admitted when pushed. “Because of his face, I can distort it in any which way and get many weird expressions from him. Any glass he looks at breaks! He’s great.”

Working straight to paper, the joy of the work still evident with every stroke, it is the truest meeting of man and career. In a life spent at the drawing table David has left a legacy of hilarity and sweet nostalgia, which, after only a brief time in his company, is not hard to see how.