Kindly Sir Osbert, proud NUJ man

osbert lancaster

By JAMES DAVIES

Recollections in the Drone of Osbert Lancaster reminded me of the time I was FoC in the early eighties.

Osbert stopped me in the corridor one morning and said he thought he ought to be in the union.  Though we did operate a closed shop at the time, Osbert was one of the gilded few who through some quirk of management were outside it.

I explained he had no need to be but he insisted "You chaps take all the risks yet I get the rewards you earn for us.  Not fair really."

I have to say I was somewhat surprised by this degree of collective comradeship from such an august quarter but I duly approached NUJ headquarters and they were only too happy to take his money.

Osbert was delighted when I presented him with his press card and said: "We are having a rather posh dinner at home this evening.  I am going to wait for a suitable pause in the conversation and then produce my card and say: 'I'm a trade unionist you know’." Knowing that most of his guests would be hyphenated and associate Covent Garden with Puccini rather than potatoes, I could only guess at the stunned reaction to that.

Osbert was, though, a very kind man. When my daughter's school were desperate for funds and had asked for parent contributions to an open day auction, he cheerfully donated a Maudie Littlehampton cartoon when our other principal cartoonists of the day refused!  And he was genuinely thrilled when I told him it had raised several hundred pounds.  


© 2005-2019 Alastair McIntyre