Hats off to Andy Capp: Cartoon layabout created by Hartlepool’s Reg Smythe turns 60

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum
Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Raise a glass of ale and say happy birthday to Andy Capp!

Today marks 60 years since the lovable cartoon layabout, drawn by Hartlepool’s own Reg Smythe, appeared in print.

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Legendary Daily Mirror chairman Hugh Cudlipp asked Reg to come up with a new character that readers could identify with to boost sales.

The result was Andy, drawn from Reg’s own background and colourful characters back home, including members of his own family.

Flo Capp was based on Reg’s own mum Florie.

Six decades later, Andy is still bringing chuckles to millions of fans all over the world.

Reg Smythe, creator of Andy Capp.

Reg Smythe, creator of Andy Capp.

Relations of the late Reg still live in the Hartlepool area including the Smyth Herdmans. His cousin Ian Smyth Herdman, who has written two biographies on Reg and the Smyth family, told the Mail: “Reg was a very private person, who shunned the limelight but was always aware of his upbringing and of the proud heritage associated with Hartlepool.

“He always during interviews promoted Hartlepool and believed he gained his character and abilities there.

“He was astounded at the international success of Andy Capp, and throughout his life dwelled on his creation and just what was it about Andy Capp that fascinated the whole of the cartooning world.

“Reg was admired by numerous world-renowned cartoonists and indeed won the equivalent of an Oscar for Andy Capp.

Andy Capp, who first appeared in print 60 years ago.

Andy Capp, who first appeared in print 60 years ago.

“As a family in Hartlepool we are as fellow Hartlepudlians very proud of Reg Smythe and Andy Capp.

“Reg always shone Hartlepool in a good light and as we know he returned home to Hartlepool in 1976 from London.

“Reg and Andy Capp has brought tourists to Hartlepool, his creation has achieved a TV series, numerous theatre plays, and interest from around the world, there are appreciation societies throughout the world and his cartoons and memorabilia are very collectable financially.”

In the early 1950s Reg produced cartoons for The Northern Daily Mail, the predecessor to the Hartlepool Mail. He was thrilled to be employed by the Daily Mirror in 1954 and before creating Andy Capp drew a series of cartoons called Laughter At Work.

Andy Capp, on the Headland, picture by Peter Brackstone.

Andy Capp, on the Headland, picture by Peter Brackstone.

A free exhibition of Andy Capp and Reg Smythe is on at the Museum of Hartlepool until September 29.

It celebrates the 60th anniversary of Andy and 100 years since Reg was born. The exhibition features numerous exhibits provided by his family including original artwork, photographs and other Andy Capp memorabilia.

Anna Dodgson, cultural officer at the Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “The exhibition not only allows us to celebrate Andy’s popularity but also gives us the chance to get to know a bit more about the quiet man from Hartlepool who brought Andy to life.”

Extracts from a biography by written by Ian Smyth Herdman and reproduced with his kind permission.

•Reg was at home in Hartlepool lying in bed when a personal telegraph arrived from The Mirror which said, “come back to London sharpish and bring a new cartoon character with you!”

•Reg was asked to produce a cartoon, which should appeal to both of the northerners and southerners.

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

•Fearing that he was getting bogged down and making no headway, he set off for London with his mind filled with images of, cloth caps, greyhounds smoking, gambling, unemployment and beer.

•Reg would maintain that he was toying with many ideas for his new cartoon creation, right up to the day of his meeting with The Mirror management.

•Thoughts and memories of his early life and upbringing in the northeast would contribute to his new creation.

•Reg was overjoyed with the decision of the management to publish this cartoon.

•The name of Andy Capp would be known world wide, in Germany as “Willi Wakker” in France “Andre Chapeau” the Italians called him “Angelo Capello” and in Sweden “Tuffa viktor” in Portugal “Ze Do Bone” and in Holland “Jan Met De Pet”.

Reg Smythe as a young man

Reg Smythe as a young man

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum

Andy Capp exhibition at Hartlepool Museum